(I’m adding pictures I swear!!)
My first week at Chokchaisamakee (Chokchai high school) was rather uneventful. I had taken the job and been very anxious about what to expect and even once I arrived in Bangkok I still had a few moments of anxiety, thinking about how I was going to deal with the large class sizes of up to or even over 40 students. Not only that I was a bit apprehensive about getting up on stage in front of over 3,000 boisterous high school kids and introducing myself and on top of that having to run to my first class immediately after. It turns out, I needn’t have feared too much.
The teaching agency wasn’t aware that in fact the school was having its midterm exams that week and so I wouldn’t actually start teaching until that Friday. So, instead of the gauntlet of fire I had been expecting I had 4 days of deskwarming! If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to the times a teacher must be at school even if there is no teaching and no actual work to be done, or least no work that couldn’t be done from the comfort of home! A lot of teachers are used to this if they are working in the EPIK program in S. Korea and I’ve done my fair share as well at my first teaching job. You either hate it or don’t mind too much, I can’t think of any teachers who would rather watch movies at a desk than at home.
So I made the most of my time in the office by lesson planning, making class materials, organizing my desk, listening to music, browsing the web, eating, etc. I also got to know my fellow farang (foreign) English teachers during that time and I quickly was made to feel welcome by them and the Thai teachers who also share the office. The only thing that made the time pass slower was the heat. Apparently the ‘winter’ in Isaan lasted a week and now it is regularly high 20s and low 30s. The office has no AC and nothing but open windows and fans to help cool it down…which the fans mostly fail to do and instead serve to just blow all your paperwork across the office much to the amusement of the Thai teachers. By the time Friday rolled around I was just about ready to start teaching.
While I may have still have been nervous a tad bit about teaching such big classes, I was quite excited to start teaching again. But to make the day even more interesting was the fact that it was Children’s Day in Thailand which meant that a lot of kids were unlikely to show up because they’d just finished their midterms and didn’t give a fuck. Not only that, my predecessor had failed to do all the tests for his classes so my very first class in Thailand was a quick introduction to the class followed by me ordering them out and into the class one by one to complete a quick three question speaking test. The following class was better, I was just introducing myself and playing games with them because I didn’t want them to be ahead of the other classes. It was the next class that I didn’t quite enjoy.
On my schedule I’d been told that I had two ‘problem classes’ that the previous teacher had most difficulty with. As my look would have it I had one of those classes my first day of teaching. They were one of my older, less advanced classes and entirely without any girls. As any teacher knows, girls can be your best allies in a class with unruly boys, whether it is them explaining things, having them help other students, or just to arrange the class boy girl boy girl to settle the boys down….even if the girls don’t like it so much since it usually means separating them from their friends (sorry!) So this class was full of boys who really didn’t care to be taught anything that week, about shouting over the teacher, ignoring instructions, etc. I just kept going through the lesson plan as best I could and helped the few boys who seemed interested. The behavior of Thai students vs. Korean students is a post I’d like to do in the future once I gain more experience here. Anyway. By the end of the class I was practically shooing them out that was how bad they were and to be fair I had been warned. My last class after that ended before it even began.
Somewhat anticlimactically not a single student turned up to my last class!! It turned out it was because there were Children’s Day activities on the field they were most likely engaged in but nobody had told me so I simply sat in the big empty classroom using the wifi on my phone to pass the time. I wasn’t the only teacher who didn’t have any students show up so I wasn’t too concerned about it.
So that was my first week teaching in a Thai high school. I’ve started the new week here and writing after my first ‘normal’ day of school and it was pretty much the same. I think already in just 2 days I’ve overcome my worry about the class size. Teaching such large classes is challenging, but in a positive way that I look forward to tackling more in the weeks and months ahead.
Have you ever taught in Thailand? Let me know your thoughts!