What classroom life in Thailand is really like! Part 2

Following on from last week's What classroom life in Thailand is really like! Part one, here’s part two.  

Chill out by the lakes in Bangkok
Worst parts

The Sister
When I first met the Sister at the airport I thought she was a funny, gentle lady, but during my ‘interview’ I sensed how strict she was going to be. She asked me my intentions in Thailand, what I thought about Thai women, if I drank or smoked, if I would get my haircut, if I was religious, if I was going to send money back to my family, and if I was aware that I had to start a week earlier than I’d expected to plan lessons for a class I’d never seen. It was a lot to take in. I considered leaving, but I had no other option. (Photo by eguidetravel)

A negative vibe surrounded the Sister. The farangs hated her, the kids were scared of her, and she made the Thai teachers work longer hours and spoke to them in a derogatory way.
Despite the uncomfortable atmosphere, I got on with teaching and tried to enjoy my time there; until she cancelled our Christmas holiday. I was furious because I had planned to visit my uncle in Phuket. It was a blessing in disguise though. When the Tsnumai struck Thailand I was safe in Bangkok. “God has saved you,” she said when I turned up at work and half the school were crying. It was a tough time to be in Thailand, but also inspiring to see the Thai people show support and passion for their country.

My view of the Sister changed. No one else I knew had the courage to go down and help in the south. She returned calmer and friendlier and I saw her better side. She was still strict, but I could appreciate that she was just a lonely old lady who wanted to make a difference in the world.

Politics and gossiping
There was a lot of bitching going on between the Thai teachers, between the Thai and farang teachers, between the Thai and Philippine teachers. It was nonstop and draining over the seven months. I tried to stay out of it, but there was a lot of negative energy flying about. The reason for the tension was based on pay. The farang earned nearly three times more than the Thai teachers. I didn’t find this out until I’d been there for three months. I couldn’t work out why I’d been receiving so many weird looks. I thought it was my new terrible haircut.

Mad traffic in Bangkok
Witnessing the punishments
During my first week a few farang teachers and a couple of Thai teachers gave me advice.

“If you have any problems with students then just take them to Mr Sirichild.”

Even he told me.

“You have problem, bring to me, then no problem.”

Mr Sirichild was a kind, funny, and popular teacher. Most of the students loved him, now I say most. I was reluctant to take my students to see him because that meant I’d lost control, but one day I flipped. My Thai assistant had a day off and the kids were playing up. The naughty ones were running about or just lying on the floor. Even the good ones were causing havoc. I lost control. (Photo by mikiane)

“Right, that’s it,” I shouted. “Nung, you’re going to Mr Sirichild.” As soon as I’d said Mr Sirichild's name everyone ran back to their seats and Nung started to pee his pants.

“No, no, I no want to go,” he screamed as I took him up the corridor. Mr Sirichild smiled as I knocked on the door.

“Mr Barry, a naughty student?” he said. Nung was trembling. I waited to see what would happen. He made Nung stand at the front of the class and explain what he had been doing. Mr Sirichild picked up his long wooden cane. The sound of wood slapping on the back of Nung's legs was enough for me to never take a student to Mr Sirichild again. Nung was quiet (and couldn’t sit down), for a week, but in my eyes it was too much.

Teaching a mixed level class
Teaching a mixed level class was a nightmare. The main problem was in maths. Some students would finish their exercises before others had even sharpened their pencils. By the end of term I had to give out copious extra photo copies to half the class as we waited for the slower ones to finish. I haven’t taught mixed levels since so I never worked out a solution. If anyone has some ideas then leave a comment.

Perfect beaches in Phuket
Hot Tips

Learn some Thai
I’ve forgotten all mine now, apart from Khao Pat Moo (egg fried rice), which isn’t much use in the class unless you’re doing food. I learnt a few key expressions to control the class: ‘Sit down’, ‘be quiet’, ‘listen to me’, ‘quick the Sister is coming’, and ‘if you don’t do as I say then it’s off to Mr Sirichild’. Thai is a hard language to muster because of the many tones. I tried and was rubbish. I’d recommend persevering though. (Photo by edwin11)

Be firm but fair
Back then I was definitely more interested in having fun with the students than being strict. Mainly because I thought they had enough strictness from the Thai teachers and the Sister, so I allowed them to let off some steam. I started too soft though and it took me a while to gain their respect. Towards the end I was firm but fair. My Thai assistant used to write the names of the naughty ones on the board. They’d  have extra homework or had to stay behind and sweep the floor or put the chairs up.

Make your classes fun
This goes without saying, but try to make your lessons fun for the students. If you get on their level they’ll learn a lot more and you’ll be a better, and more respected, teacher. It’s worth spending the time planning your classes so the kids are moving about and interacting with you and the board. Thai students can’t sit still for long, so it’s all about getting them up and moving about.

So there you go. I loved my time teaching English in Thailand and I’d recommend going there. Try to find a decent school though; there are a lot of cowboy outfits out there with a lot of dodgy directors, and work colleagues, so beware.

Are you living in Thailand? Leave a comment and let me know how you’re getting on? Or maybe you have some hot tips too?

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