I’ve gotta focus on having them say the “el” sound.
Ok, I survived the first day of school!
Seriously, I almost didn’t make it.
When I was back in Bangkok talking to my employer from the hiring agency I was told that I would be teaching high school aged students who may be fairly advanced and creating my own lesson plans. They also informed me that I would probably be seeing the students only once a week and have maybe two classes, so I only had to come up with two lesson plans a week and the classes would be about 30-35 students on average, sometimes more. They emailed me a sample lesson plan and said the classes lasted for an hour. Oh, that sounds easy! Mostly. Right? Create a grand total of two different lesson plans for the week and see maybe 80 students a week. Yeah I can do this. Piece. of. cake.
This morning I arrived at the school only to be told that I will be teaching 11 different groups throughout the week, all junior high age, all of varying degrees of proficiency, in class sizes of 50, and in two hour blocks. I sat there with a little lesson plan that would maybe last an hour. And I now find out we have to teach each class for 2 hours? And each class has 50 students? And I have 11 classes? WHAT. So let’s just change that conservative 80-90 students a week to a whopping 550 students, and those two different lesson plans into eleven different lesson plans. Oh, and have fun trying to keep the attention of fifty 13 and 14 year old students for two hours.
Martin, a fellow American who has been here a week already, warned Jeneane and I before we left for our classes, “Its not easy teaching here. The first week is gonna break your heart.” Oh that’s just great. “Sometimes its a real nightmare. There are the ones who will want to learn and the ones who don’t. Just ignore the ones who don’t and focus on the ones who want to be there. The first week… *shakes head* rough. The last American couple that was teaching here left when the girl came in and broke down crying at her desk, she couldn’t take it. These students will test your limits.” Well, what an encouraging start.
Some of the classes are in shells of buildings, windows are just cage bars and there is no door, just wide open doorways. As I walked towards my classroom children were leading their arms out from between the bars, yelling, “Teacher! Hello! Hellllloooo teacher!” What is this, a child prison? They reminded me so much of inmates as I walked past the buildings it was almost too eerie to be funny. I walked into the classroom and was greeted by 50 students all standing up and saying “Good morning teacher!” in unison and something else I couldn’t really understand. I had them sit down and taught them the basic commands of the classroom before starting to the lesson. They sat there quietly, calmly…shy little creatures just trying to understand what I was saying.
I put them into groups and asked them to draw a picture of their best friend and introduce themselves and their friend to each other before leaving them to draw for a few minutes. And then all hell broke loose. These children morphed from timid little mice into wild, bloodthirsty, crazed hyenas in a matter of seconds. As soon as I focused on one table for a minute the other groups saw their window of opportunity for creating chaos. The volume jumped a couple decibels and I turned around just in time to see crumpled wads of paper flying through the air. There were about four students chasing each other around the room, running across chairs and desks to escape each other, and two boys were wrestling on the floor. I told them all to calm down but they just weren’t listening. Three other boys were rough housing with each other and pouring baby powder in each others hair, a group of kids in the corner were just playing a board game, and some other kids were listening to music or playing on their phones. I just stood there helplessly, paper airplanes breaking the clouds of baby powder that hung suspended in the air around me; it was like a scene from a movie.
I tried yelling to be quiet, to settle down, to look at me…nothing worked. Then, just as I was walking past the baby powder boys, one of them threw a huge handful of it right into his friend’s face. We were told to not get upset, keep a smile and stay calm; it’s the Thai way. I didn’t. “That is ENOUGH!” I commanded to them as the culprit looked up at me all wide eyed and guilty. “No more.” His eyes reflected fear as and he apologized by giving a wai as he sat back down. All the kids were shocked into silence, but at least I had command of the classroom again. Clearly, group work is the opposite of productive. Lesson learned. I got everyone to put away their ipods, phones, games and cards and focused on repetition for the last 20 minutes of class.
I thought that the classroom I was in was “my” classroom, and so when time was up I said, “Ok, class time is over! You are dismissed!” They looked at me blankly. “Ok…goodbye! See you next week!” I waved. They stared. “Ummm…were done?” No response. “….You can leave?” I looked at one of the girls who had been well behaved throughout the class and whispered, “What do I do?” She yelled something in Thai and then the whole class stood up and recited, “Goodbye teacher! Thank you!” and sat back down. Turns out I am the one that leaves the classroom. Not them.
Thus my first experience with teaching came to a close. I left that classroom wary of what was to come with the students in my next group, but they ended up being an entirely different type of crowd. They got a little loud, but, that’s kind of expected when you have a classroom full of fifty 13 year olds. Until we got really into the games this group was quiet, respectful, attentive, and involved. I spent the time having them write down a couple facts about themselves and draw their favorite animal before having them name animals found in Thailand and imitating how they sound. We ended the class with a competitive game of Pictionary and they got really into it! It was cool actually because instead of being quiet and non responsive they were all eager to raise their hands or yell out answers for me. As a final tie breaker I pulled up two students and had them draw “teacher” for the others to guess. One student drew me as a human female and the other one…he drew a bat. Like, the winged night creature. I could not stop laughing. There were times when the whole class was laughing and cheering and other students were looking in to see what all the fun was, so I think I can at least count one of my classes as a success today.
What a way to start my teaching career.