First Week of Teaching

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November 9th 2007
Published: November 9th 2007
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Well, I have officially made it through my first week as an English teacher in Thailand. I am in a very small town called Takhli in Nakhonsawan province, which is in the middle of Thailand. I'm about 3 hours away from Bangkok and 9 hours away from Chiang Mai.
When Karen and I first arrived we both panicked a bit because there was really nothing around. We had no mode of transportation and we were the only foreigners for miles and miles. But now we have learned to drive a motorbike, which we share and tomorrow we are moving to a decent house near a couple of other teachers who have taken us under their wing. We have explored the surrounding area a bit and it is absolutely gorgeous - fields and mountains, rice paddies and sugar cane fields as far as the eye can see. There is a giant gold buddha statue sitting on the top of a high hill overlooking the town and a decrepid temple that has been overrun by about 3,000 monkeys. It is truly incredible.
I have 20 classes a week each with approximately 55 students. They are all 15 - 17 years old and all the girls are guy crazy and all the boys are girl crazy. The culture is so different here. All the girls must have their hair cut in a short bob and if it is too long, the Thai teachers will take out scizzors and cut it to an acceptable length. So occasionally you'll be walking into a classroom and see a black tuft of hair blow past you. Because teachers are so highly respected in Thailand, the students heads cannot be higher than a teacher's head, so if you are sitting down and they need to talk with you they will kneel on the floor below you. If they are taller than you, they will duck down as they walk by you. They all have different uniforms that are worn on specific days - sports uniforms, boy scout and girl scout uniforms and junior soldier uniforms. When I walk into class, all the students stand up and in unison say "Good morning Teacher." And when class is finished, they stand and say "Thank you Teacher." It is very bizarre to be so revered. There is definitely an air of celebrity status since we are the only two white women in the town and everyone knows us. If we go anywhere, it is reported through the gossip mill of the town. Teachers will approach us and say, "I heard you went to the market last night" - so every move we make is under a microscope. I found that after the first few days of class, my new classes would know all about me before the class even started. I would say "Does anyone know what kind of music I like?" And they would all yell out "Hip Hop and Rock!" They all knew my age etc... etc..
The actual teaching is good and great. My lower level classes are mostly children who will join their parents on their farms and have no need or desire to learn English. They are difficult to keep interested, but my mid to higher level classes are enthusiastic and eager and full of life and laughter. I still maintain that Thai people are the kindest most generous people in the world.
I am having such a great time. I also haven't had a drink in 2 weeks. I don't even have a desire for it. We work from 7:45 to 4:30 and will be working later in the next coming months as we have been deluged with requests for private lessons after school. These kids work their asses off. They want private lessons Monday through Friday after a full school day. I can't even imagine being 15 or 16 and having that much discipline. All in all I think it will be a truly interesting 4 months. I am so excited to see what happens next!


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