Life here isn’t just one big frolic on the beach: there is teaching to be done. And I’d say my first go-around in a classroom was an eventful one.
Our program was bussed out to a local orphanage this morning to begin a full week of teaching practice. Up to this point we’ve been sitting in a hotel conference room from 9 to 4 everyday learning the basics of the trade, with a couple of peer teach sessions peppered in. I haven’t gone into detail about the whole thing because it would probably bore you all to death.
I have learned quite a bit, though, and it’s been good for me, even though I’d rather be sitting on the beach that sits practically meters from the hotel. But running through a lesson in front of your peers is far from what it’s like in front of nine mischievous 4 to 8 year olds.
We arrived at the Ban Sosa orphanage around 9 this morning, all gussied up for the first time in an eternity. Didn’t really matter though, since we had to take our dress shoes off at the door. Once we got in, we met the little buggers who were to sit through lesson after lesson of stuff they really probably didn’t care about. Once my buddy Mike got into a rousing rendition of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and the kids seemed to respond enthusiastically, it was time for business.
Placed in teams of two, the teachers ahead of me performed admirably, even though the kids had an attention span of – well, four year olds. Then it was my turn. And let me tell you, trying to get jungle terms across to these kids was no easy task. Even though they seemed to understand what “monkey” and “banana” meant, they were largely disinterested in what I had to say. They also had no clue how to play charades, something I banked on them grasping.
It was one extreme or the other. They were either going absolutely bonkers or they were giving me nothing. Their collective mood fluctuated like crazy. The whole thing left me drenched in my own sweat after my fifteen minutes in front of the class.
It didn’t get any easier for the teachers that followed me. Despite a valiant effort by my colleagues, the kids just seemed to check out and turn insane. Boys starting sleeping, girls started slapping each other – at one point there was even a dogpile in the middle of the room that essentially included every kid in there. It was utter chaos.
I did learn a thing or two about teaching, though. I learned that when you try to teach Thai kids the word “spider,” they say “Spiderman.” I learned that when you say “good job” enough times, sooner or later a kid or two will repeat exactly what you say, accent and all – “good job, good job” was one kid’s tagline. I also learned that nicknames like Beer, God, Pepsi, Poo – even Fuck – are all commonplace in a Thai classroom. But above all, I learned that you just gotta keep your cool, no matter what.
Even if they mock you with a “good job” or two.