I am two days into my new teaching positions at Pla Pak Noi and Wang Yang elementary schools and I already feel like I have been working here for weeks. My days have been very fun and eventful but also exhausting. I teach on average only three classes per day but free hours are quickly filled up with lesson planning, Thai language lessons (provided by my fellow teachers) and English Club, an extracurricular program I have started to provide students with fun English activities. It looks as if I will be teaching the basics to the majority of my students, which means lessons will move slowly but at least I can use the same materials with most of the classes. The students seem incredibly eager to learn and (as of right now) give me all their attention. I think they are mostly curious about the strange-looking foreigner hanging out at their school. This morning at Pla Pak Noi a small group of 6th grade girls came up to me and asked me if I had a fan (boyfriend/girlfriend-Note: in Thai the word for bf/gf is the same, which I think is pretty cool). When I said yes, they giggled. When I returned the question, they shook their heads vigorously and became very embarrassed and even more giggly. At least they feel comfortable enough to ask me!
Tomorrow I will meet the 4-6th graders at Wang Yang. I am excited to teach there because I will have my own classroom. They just put on a fresh coat of paint in the room and were installing whiteboards this morning when I stopped by. I will also be able to use that space for lesson planning for both schools when I have downtime, since I don’t have any office space at Pla Pak Noi. Even if I did have an office there, I doubt I’d get any work done because the teachers have taken it upon themselves to teach me how to reach Thai script. Today I was reading a book equivalent to “Thomas the Train” and learned lots of words the baby living next door to me is probably learning.
If we’re not learning Thai, the teachers there seem to be doing many other things besides teaching. Today, for example, all of the teachers (me included) left school to attend a funeral in the village (and yes, we all left, meaning the students were left unsupervised for a good half hour…). It is Thai tradition in poor communities to keep the body of the deceased in the home for three days and the entire village comes to pay their respects and offer money to the family. Wealthy families can afford to have a 100 day funeral and provide the village with a dinner. When we walked in the door I was really nervous there would just be a body on a board, but there was a coffin so I breathed a sigh of relief. After lighting incense and taking a picture in front of the coffin (interesting, right?) we sat down at a table and drank some soda. After about five minutes, I casually asked the teacher next to me what the students do when all the teachers leave (tactful, I know) and that seemed to work, because we immediately left the funeral and returned to school. I still wonder how long we would have sat there had I not said anything….
It’s hard to believe I have only been here since Sunday because my days are so busy. I leave my house at 8:00am and return around 4:00pm. I’ve been practicing with the high school girls’ soccer team after school which is a lot of fun. Their practice field is right across the street from our place so we can’t really hide and I’m afraid I’m in for the season now. Anyways, my roommate Steph and I have a great set-up here. We each have our own rooms and they are huge. We have internet, a full kitchen, a nice showerhead and a washing machine. Plus, our roommate Pi-Yok, another high school teacher, is very kind and an incredibly good cook. Okay, I will try to post pictures of my schools and house soon!