Teacher Journal: Becky
Taught in Thailand
I am enjoying my job here in Phetchaburi. I really like the town, and I live in a really nice house. My Thai has improved, and though I am far from fluent, I have mastered the Thai phrase for "I don't understand". I am teaching kindergarten in the English Program at the school.
Last weekend they held the annual English competition in town and I was one of the judges, and I met a lot of other farang working in the city, though that isn't a huge number, maybe 20. They had all sorts of categories for the kids to compete in and I was a judge for the "crossword" part, which is scrabble, though the Thai rules are a bit different. When I got in there all the rules books were in Thai and the only other Thai teachers there barely spoke English, and they handed me the list of the school teams in Thai. It was a little frustrating at first, but it went okay in the end. I actually had spent time training a couple of kids from my school for the reading competition, and one of them got third for their category, so that was a pat on the back for me I guess.
My job is pretty sweet, since I work in the English program. I only have 15 kids in an air conditioned classroom. I teach two hours in the morning and one in the afternoon, though I am with them all day. So when I am not teaching I have fun having the kids teach me the Thai they are learning. I know my Thai alphabet pretty well, and can read a lot of the words in their workbooks, but I obviously don't know what they mean, I can just pronounce them...badly. There have been a few "kindergarten cop" scenes with kids running around, screaming, standing on chairs, throwing things across the room, etc. In hindsight, it is all very humorous, though at the time….
The best part of the day is when they take their two hour nap, and I usually catch an hour of that myself on an extra mat. I have the feeling that anything I do here is okay, since they seem to have taken a liking to me. They invite me to Thai teacher parties and what not, which the other farangs aren't usually invited to. They told me it was okay to wear flip flops to school, since I have my shoes off for the better part of the day, and since it is kindergarten and I spend a lot time playing games and sitting on the floor with them, I don't have to wear dresses or skirts. All that, and I don't have to turn in lesson plans on Monday like the other teachers, because mine have to be translated from English into Thai by the Thai teacher in my classroom, who rarely cares when I get them to her during the week. She and I are really good friends, and I have hung out at her house. Apparently she has had a succession of really awful farangs working with her (four already before me this school year!) and is relieved to have me with her. She is my main source of Thai language, and I help her with her English, which is so-so, but I realized that I understand more and more of what she says everyday, now that I am used to her accent.
The assistant director of my school gave me an old motorbike of hers to rent for cheap. It is like 15 years old, haha, but in good shape. The throttle was a bit sticky when I got it, and I had some issues with it, and a slight...well not accident, but we'll say mishap, that left me with a bruise about seven inches in diameter and every color of the rainbow on my left calf...but I got the throttle cable fixed and the carburetor cleaned out for 150 baht. It's running well now, and tomorrow I will probably ride it the 15 km to the beach, Hat Chao Samran.
These past two weeks I have been having about half of my kids come in the mornings for a sort of "pre-school" review. Basically, extra lesson planning and less time for me to get work done! I am still living in Phetchaburi, and after spending half of March and April traveling about, I am still glad I chose to live where I am. I don't mind there not being a whole lot of Westerners because, honestly I was sick of them while I was traveling about. It was good to get back into real Thai society where people are always nice and friendly unlike the rude, uptight, and mostly inflexible tourists.
I am taking on more responsibilities this school year. I am still teaching the English Program Kindergarteners, but now I am also teaching art and health class to the first and second graders in the English Program at my school. These classes specifically are taking up most of my time these days, as I have to do various things with the given curriculum to make it all work out in the end. My school only just started last year to have an English program, so there are lots of kinks and such to work out from last year, and with the addition of a new teacher to the English Program staff (which is now 3), it calls for meetings and meetings and more meetings to sort things out. We finally have a translated version of the Thai curriculum, so we are better off then before, but things of course need to be juggled about.
The other new thing I am adjusting to is the rainy season! Everyday it rains, starting around 4:00 in the afternoon most days, but of course, never really predictable. The rain comes in a downpour for about 30 minutes or so sometimes earlier, but the long rain clouds are usually later in the afternoon. So, always have an umbrella or rainjacket with you. Luckily, things dry up quickly, so I am not running through mudpuddles all the time. Last Thursday was a especially long and hard downpour for about two hours which flooded everything around my house. The streets, my whole yard (literally I had a pond in my backyard; the frogs were swimming everywhere). I had left some flip flops outside my front door, which I found floating in the street once I ventured out. Always something new still to get used to.