Published: September 8th 2009September 8th 2009
The class that decided I talk too much
Yes, it is rewarding when I feel as if a student has actually learned something. But the best thing about teaching Thai 15-17 year olds? I get an absolute kick out of them. Here are some tidbits that have made me happy.
Some of my classes are working on what I call “sentence trees.” The class worked together to create two flawless sentences.
Me: “Okay, we need a subject!”
Students: “Teacher Vanessa”
Me: “Okay, we need a verb. What do I do?”
Me: “Great. What about an object? How do I talk?”
Students: “Too fast.”
Me: “Alright, can you come up with another object?”
Students: “Too much.”
Teacher Vanessa talks too fast. Teacher Vanessa talks too much.
I quickly got used to my co teachers missing classes and leaving me to fend for myself with 50 students at a time. Classes are typically more ruckus without my Thai counter parts but I can manage. The first, actually only, time I was left alone with class 4/9 this was not the case. It was only my second time meeting these students. I stood in front of them speaking as slowly as my American self
possibly could and all I got was 45 pairs of deer in head light eyes. But those eyes lasted only a moment and were quickly interrupted by “Teacher! Tattoos!”… me trying to teach…head light eyes… “Teacher! Guitar!”…me trying to teach…head light eyes. Ten minutes into class it became clear that I needed to scrap any plans I had for the day’s lesson. Time to get creative Teacher Vanessa!
One of the naughty boys in the back had a guitar. New plan. Naughty boy, play the guitar. Everyone else, say one word in English when I point to you. We will make a song. It took them a while to catch on. But after ten minutes of me dancing around repeating words they sort of got it. The good girls in the front of the class were mortified. And still to this day look as if they have seen a ghost every time I speak to them. One of the shy good girls finally added the last line of the song with unexpected enthusiasm. And I had only asked for one word. This little ditty has been stuck in my head ever since:
I love music…I want smoking…He is a buffalo…
boy who is excited
He is a duck… I LOVE YOU BABY!
Thai students have absolutely no modesty. Bowel and menstrual issues are far from off topic. Students need to ask before leaving the room. With charades being our closest thing to a common language getting an answer to why the students need to leave the room is outrageous. It turns into the entire class yelling out things like “Sick!” “Pain!” “Stuck!” “Can not go!” “Toilet now!” As one or two students performs graphic charades.
When I gave “excited” as a vocabulary word and asked for vocabulary sentences this is what I got from one student: I have excited for sex first time.
He sent a friend to my office to turn it in for him. When this sentence instantly jumped off the page I looked up to see the boy hiding behind a wall and peering into the office. When our eyes met he flashed a nervous smile and ducked back behind the wall.
Hang man is a favorite among Thai students. The word was Canada but the students had only guessed “a” correctly. Leaving the board looking like this:
Hard at Work
Sleeping in offices and classrooms is normal. Please notice the Thai teacher behind me.
really really hard one game lovin’ student had an answer. He looked at me with hope and guessed “lalala?”
When we play games in my class I always have the students make team names. The first time I did this some spunky little lady boy called out “G-E-G-E and that is pronounced gay-gay. Team Gay-Gay”
That was my first introduction to The Team. As I started to pay more attention it became clear to me that my classes are full of benders. I teach around 510 students and my best guess is that 60-80 of them are gay, lesbian, or lady boys. From what I can tell, they are unconditionally accepted.
The lady boys wear makeup and use the girls’ bathrooms. They would wear skirts if they were allowed, but they are not. The other day I called one of my students handsome and he quickly corrected me with, “Teacher! I am not man! I am beautiful! Not handsome!”
This is a stark contrast to my high school experience where out of 2,500 students I did not have a single out friend. It is a lot for my American mind to grasp. And almost too much for
my American heart, which takes repression and bigotry as the standard, to handle. Watchirawit is a better place for having The Team and all of its honorary members.
Watchirawit, and maybe all Thai schools, is constantly canceling classes for various ceremonies and activities. My personal favorite is the Anti-Drinking Campaign. This involves The Team and a few of their girl friends performing provocative dance routines in front of the entire school. And I am talking pro-voc-a-tive! Towards the end they hold up some signs with pictures of booze bottles crossed out. I am pretty sure I am not alone in feeling like 8:30 AM may be a perfectly appropriate time for a drink by the time they are done performing at the morning assembly.
Sports Day was the Anti-Drinking Campaign on steroids. For weeks students were missing classes as they made decorations and practiced for Sports Day. I had no idea how worth it it would be.
There were many football and basketball games played during the two days of Sports Day, but the main dish was the cheer leading. There were 5 groups competing. All included girls screaming numbers and cheers from
devilish sounding voices and the lucky ones had lady boys on their side.
The green team objectively had the best routine. They had the biggest group that popped their arms around in a way that most resembled American cheer leading. They still did not do any stunts, but their coordination was impressive. I am a junkie for anything choreographed so I was very pleased to watch four cheer leading competitions over two days instead of actually working.
The green team may have had coordination, but the pink team had The Lion Cub. One of the four competitions was a joke competition. We sat and watched from the back which gave us a view of one student dramatically standing with his face covered behind the rest of his team. After a couple minutes of anticipation The Lion Cub unveiled himself. His face was covered in paint and he danced his way to the front doing moves that I have not seen since I left Africa. This kid’s body could move, and he was going to make sure every student, teacher, and administrator knew it. When it was time for the other teams to compete he crawled his way towards them stealing the attention for the remainder of the morning.
These are a few of the highlights. Unfortunately, I can not capture the leap of my heart caused by the various reasons that I hear “Teacher! Teacher!”