My first time teaching
So this past Thursday and Friday I taught an entire class for the first time. It was both a terrifying and exciting experience. While it wasn’t exactly a true representation of how my classes will actually be once I find out my placement, it gave me a small taste of what to expect in a Thai classroom. At the end of the two days, I found myself utterly exhausted and with more respect for teachers than I had beforehand. Here are some photographs and some of my initial observations from this new and intriguing experience.
1) Teaching is physically demanding
I’m in Thailand, the daily temperature at this time of year is around 88 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 31 degrees Celsius for my international readers) with humidity ranging anywhere from 60 to 90 percent. When you live in this climate year-round, you’re apparently used to these kind of conditions. When you come from a place that has a real winter, it take some getting used to. The typical Thai classroom does not have air conditioning. When teaching young children who hardly understand a word you are saying, the only way to keep their attention is to move around the room trying to pump some energy into a bunch of kids that don’t necessarily want to be there. This results in a very, very sweaty teacher after an hour long class. Then you move onto the next class and do it all over again.
2) Teaching is nonstop
We were lucky. There are so many people in my training program that we were only teaching every other class. Otherwise, we would have taught 3 hour-long classes before lunch, and 3 after lunch with no break in between. Even so, our breaks in this training period were a luxury that we may or may not have once we are hired. In many Thai schools, the class stays in the same room and the teacher moves to the next lesson without any grace period between lessons. This means no time to recuperate or drink a hefty amount of water to replenish the bullets of sweat dripping down your body.
3) Some kids really want to learn, most do not
I get it, if I were as young as these kids – 10 to 13 on Thursday and 7 to 10 on Friday – I wouldn’t want to try to learn a foreign language from a teacher who didn’t even speak my own. It was the last two days of school for the term for these kids and attention spans were lacking to say the least. On the other hand in almost every one of my classes there were small pockets of students who genuinely seemed interested in the lesson. These students were the minority but they did what they could to keep the other students quiet and were generally just better to have in class.
4) Trying to teach a group of rowdy 7-year-olds right before lunch is like trying to teach advanced trigonometry to Grumpy Cat
Some things just can’t be done. These little kids were fighting, crying, crawling through the desks and generally pretending that I wasn’t in the room. I felt more like a babysitter than a teacher in that particular class. All I did in this class was survive until lunch.
5) Thai children want your autograph
In a Thai school, every Westerner is a rock star. The kids would draw pictures of me while I was teaching, ask me to write my name in their notebooks or their arms, and crowd around me to hang on my arms or give me hugs. One girl had a notebook page of what I assumed were all the teachers she had ever had. Another kid kept slapping my butt. The young boys would grab your bicep and expect you to lift them off the ground. It was fun, but also added to tiring me out.
6) I still want to be here
Being thrown into a class of Thai children by yourself after just one week is scary. But, ultimately, it’s a challenge that will make us better. We got a taste of why we are here and what life for the next year will be like. And despite the sweat and tears (literally), it felt good, it felt comfortable. I now know what challenges to expect and will work to prepare myself that much harder.