When I arrived at school this morning there was no electricity. My fourth graders were making fake nails with pointy green flower petals. And my first hour class was 20 minutes late. In other words, it was a typical start to my day.
It wasn’t until the end of first hour did it occur to me that this day might be an exception to the norm (well, a norm by Thai standards, at least). As I was wrapping up the day’s lesson with my sixth graders, I caught the boys at the far end of the room playing with what I thought was a toy bug (why I would assume this is beyond me). Only seeing it emerge from inside one student’s desk again after telling him to put it away did I take a closer look and realize it was a live beetle about the size of my palm. With my hands on my hips, I sternly pointed to the door and told them “No pet bugs allowed in the classroom.”
I wrapped up the lesson and ushered the students out to prepare for my next class. I teach grades one and two second hour, and since my schedule changed and I no longer have any prep time between classes, I was scrambling to set up activity stations for the letters L and V. Lots of hands-on activities usually help extend my students’ attention spans but they do require a lot of monitoring. I’m actually quite proud of my latest station addition, plastic baggies filled with baby powder and water that can be used to practice writing letters when laid flat on a table. My students thought it was pretty cool too, except they found making handprints and punching the bags way more appealing than practicing their letters.
We were just approaching the third (and last) rotation of the day when all of a sudden there were exclamations from a station across the room from me. Now to fully appreciate the story I should explain that this is a letter recognition station, where students are given materials with English print and asked to find certain letters. Over the past several months I’ve collected lots of cereal boxes since they are colorful and easy to come by. I walked over to milk pouring out of a desk. I looked inside to find an empty carton of milk, a soggy notebook, and two cereal boxes. I quickly removed the contents, carried the desk outside, and dumped out the remaining milk. By the time I returned to the classroom to mop up the floor, most of the students were finished with their activities and were wandering around…and this is when the mayhem began. I started to wipe off the cereal boxes, only to realize that the milk I was trying to wipe up was actually a graphic. I had lost my phone in the heap of papers on my desk so I didn’t know how much time I had left (since there is no working clock in the room). Students at the baby powder station were punching their bags and I anticipated an explosion in the near future. And to top it off, I looked over at the handwriting station and one of the boys lifted his socked foot to expose the classroom pet clinging to the bottom of it! For the second time in an hour I point to the door and sent the beetle back out–and for a brief second my classroom was pure chaos.
After that I was never able to fully gain control of the classroom again. We finished the last rotation and then I tried to re-group the class for a final alphabet review, though the next class was starting to come in because I was running late and a small group of students to my left started breaking out in song. Regardless, I ended class with a huge, genuine smile on my face. Mostly because my students seemed to know the letters L and V but also because I was one hour closer to a three-day weekend! I just hope our classroom pet doesn’t make a guest appearance when I return on Monday.