First Week Teaching Craziness

Whoa Thailand schools are different! I was warned beforehand that you never can know what to expect on the first day, and that was probably the best advice I could have gotten. My agent said that he would email me the weekend before I was supposed to be starting about what to have prepared for the first day. I didn’t know what age group I was supposed to be teaching, what my schedule was or even where the school was! Well, I never ended up getting an email and had no access to a printer or any sort of school supplies so on the first day, Natalie (the other new English teacher) and I showed up at school very confused. We also managed to get very lost on our mopeds for half an hour beforehand but made it to school right on time. The first thing we did was meet with our boss, Kitty, the head English teacher. She handed us a schedule but said it would probably change next week (which it did). I was scheduled to teach 4th, 5th and 6th grade English, which is what I wanted! Then, she took us outside and told us we were going to give a speech to the school, which has around 1500 students. I just talked about how excited I am to be there, my home, hobbies etc. It wasn’t too bad, but I would’ve liked to have at least known more than two minutes in advance that I would be doing that! (side note- we later found out that the speech was taped and was circulating around the town, our landlady showed it to us and she doesn’t even do anything with the school!) We were both then handed whiteboard markers and they sent us both into a room with about 50 crazy second graders. We had zero plan and pretty much no idea what they wanted us to do, it was absolute craziness! We ended up singing a lot of songs and playing silly games, which they really seemed to have fun with. After that hour was over, they brought us along to another class, this time we were a little more prepared but it was still chaotic. After that, we got separated and I went off to teach 5th graders. At this point, I was feeling much better because I kind of knew what to expect and I managed to keep everyone calm and listening, which felt SO good.

View of "Elephant Mountain" from my classroom
View of “Elephant Mountain” from my classroom

At the end of the day I was more exhausted than I thought possible, but I felt very at peace as well. It was definitely a challenge, but one that I am excited to keep working on and mastering. Managing classrooms crowded with 50+ students, no projectors, very limited supplies, and no air conditioning in 90 degree heat is a pretty tall order, but I am learning quickly how to make it work. It helps that my students actually seem to want to learn. I’ve found that the best way to get their attention is to actually stand there saying nothing at all. Just waiting for them to realize they need to be quiet works so well because they actually do want to hear what I have to say. All of the students seem genuinely so excited to meet me and learn from me, which is an incredible feeling.  I kind of felt like a celebrity walking around campus by the end of the day, all of the kids kept on stopping to wai me (which is similar to bowing) and to say hello. My boss and the other teachers were saying that they were so happy to have me there and kept on asking if I liked my apartment and the town.

Thai teachers LOVE taking pictures together
Thai teachers LOVE taking pictures together

By the end of my first week, I can say confidently that this school already feels like a tight knit community. I constantly have students stopping in my office to say hi, or calling my name as they walk by. It is really hard not to smile while walking around with all those happy faces looking up to you. The teaching part has improved exponentially with each day too. It’s amazing what a little preparation can do…

A little note and gift from one of my 5th graders :)
A little note and gift from one of my 5th graders
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