I've been looking forward to school starting for a long time, and now that it's finally here, it's even better than I had hoped for. Granted, I'm not even really teaching yet (I am just going to observe my co-teachers for the first week or two to get a feel for the teaching styles to make the transition to team-teaching smoother and also to get an idea for what I might have to offer), but it's really nice to be back in a classroom, working with kids. Anyhow, lemme tell you about a couple rural-ish Thai schools.
My first school is a primary school, equivalent to an American K-6 school. Students appear to show up between 7:30 and 8:00 and spend about half an hour cleaning the building and grounds (um, awesome?!). When the time for cleaning is over, a song is played to signal students to gather at the flagpole where they line up by grade and gender. They sing the national anthem and raise the flag, then they recite a Buddhist prayer. Classes start at 9:00.
The English teacher (my co-teacher) has his own classroom that the kids come to. Grades 1-3 come twice a week, and 4-6 three times each week. The classroom has no desks or chairs for students (by choice, since my teacher likes to play a lot of games and people don't mind sitting on the floor). Classes last 1 hour.
Lunch is at noon, and it is by FAR the best school lunch ever. Fresh, handmade from scratch excellent Thai food. And it's free for teachers and students. We had som-tam (papaya salad), gai-yang (grilled chicken), some kind of kanom jin (that means chinese snack and refers to a whole variety of soup-y dishes with a particular kind of noodles). The head cook (who is also a teacher and my neighbor and one of my mothers) made me a dish of pad pak (stir-fried vegetables) because she knows I prefer to eat vegetarian. They also had ice cream (not free, but that didn't stop the kids. Or me).
After lunch was my co-teacher's planning time, and since it was the first day of school, there wasn't much for me to help with, so I got called into the 4th grade class where the teacher had left the class unattended (this is apparently a very common practice). So, I hung out taught a song/dance in English, played the Thai version of Duck Duck Goose (which involved a student taking off his shirt, it would get dropped on the "goose," then it had to be thrown at the "goose-er" before they made it to the vacant seat), and had them help me practice my reading and writing Thai.
I wrapped the day up by heading home in a downpour, then going for a sweet bike ride with some neighborhood kids after the rain stopped.
Today I visited my other school, an extended school equivalent to a K-9 program. The morning started almost exactly the same as the other school, with students cleaning and singing at the flag. Classes started at 9:00 again. At this school I will be working with the 7-9 students. Like the day before, I was just observing. It was kinda hard to just watch, but I feel like it will ultimately prove to be a good thing. And I didn't just sit there, I interacted with the kids a bit and talked about what I had seen with my teacher during a break. Then I had another amazing school lunch. We had laab (ground pork salad), muu waan (sweet pork), some kind of soup, and my co-teacher brought some fresh veggies that the kitchen ladies let me stir-fry up.
Wow, all the talk about food demonstrates how well I'm being assimilated here. People are really interested in what you eat, how often you eat, and whether or not it was delicious. I mean, a common greeting is, "Gin khao ru yang?" "Have you eaten rice yet?"
Anyway, after lunch there was one more class. The topic for all three classes was focused on greetings and introductions, scaled for the different levels, the older students asking more questions and giving more information. It was good to see how she used the same material for multiple classes and differentiating along the way. Good stuff. I think I will be able to work well with both of my teachers.
When I was finished at that school, I headed over to my other counterpart's wife's (my main mom here) school. I found her class and said hello (she wasn't exactly expecting me, though my counterpart had mentioned that it would be nice if I could go by there some time). Anyhow, shortly after I showed up, I was told to "teach English," and left alone with the kids. They were pretty young kids, and I had no idea what they already knew, but I decided to see if I could get them to respond to the question, "How are you?" with something BESIDES "I'm fine, thank you, and you?" as EVERY Thai student I've met so far seems to say. So we started working on "I am happy," "I am hungry," "I am sad," "I am thirsty." After a few minutes another teacher came by and dropped off her students. We kept practicing, switching between whole-group and calling on individuals ('cause I gots me some teacher skillz), and before I knew it, there were probably 40-ish students in the room (I think it was at least half the school, possibly most of the school). Did I mention I was flying solo on all this? Anyhow, I whipped out some games (and I did a FABULOUS job explaining them with my extremely mediocre Thai/English [because ideally I shouldn't need to use ANY Thai to teach, but it's a lot easier when trying to explain a game]), songs and dances and really had a fabulous time.
Then it was time to go home. I went home with my mother and we made some dinner (awesome pad pak and a stir-fried sweet radish thing that is fantastic!), talked with the fam for a while then headed home. I fed some more neighborhood kids some M&Ms, joked about turning the kittens living OUTside my house into laab (I think it confuses Thai people with I kid around, since despite the fact that they do it all the time, they seem to be under the impression that farangs are WAY to serious).
And then I wrote this blog entry.
I really hope this was a little illuminating. I feel like it might not be at all, but since I'm pretty firmly opposed to proof-reading my posts, I'm not going to sweat it. Once I really get settled into the school routine I'll talk a bit more about the day-to-day whatnots. Anyhow, you should at least realize that I'm really excited to be in school, and I think that's all I was really trying to say.
Jup jup! (Kiss kiss!)