I am up early and the rain is pounding on the roof above. I can hear the birds chirping outside and when I open my curtains they are sitting right on the windowsill next to my bed. It is somewhat enchanting to be woken by the call of a small bird so close to your ear at 6 am.
I have now been in Thailand just under a week and I have taught two days of class. After the first day I was so exhausted that I came home after school, watched one hour of TV on my laptop (something I rarely do) and fell asleep by 6 pm, not to wake up until 12 hours later at 6 am.
I am teaching first, second, and third graders in a program called Mini English Program. The students in this program start taking English classes in kindergarten and have at least one hour (sometimes two hours) of English class every day. The first day I walked into my first grade classroom and had a lesson planned on teaching them “My name is . . . “ for the entire hour. My co-teacher, Teacher Ann, however, quickly showed me that the students knew this very simple phrase. The students greeted me with “Good morning, Teacher. How are you today?”
When Teacher Ann asked if anyone had a question for me. All of their hands shot up into the air and it took every fiber in their being to stay in their seats. We then took the next five minutes going around the room with 35 first graders asking me what my name was and how I was that day (because it was the only two questions they knew).
Now, let me take a minute out of talking about these adorable first graders for to praise my co-teacher, Teacher Ann. Teacher Ann is one of the sweetest people I have ever met and when she walks into the classroom the kids simply light up. A rowdy bunch of second graders suddenly listen and pay attention when Teacher Ann is in the room. And magically, whenever she speaks English, the children almost always understand. Teacher Ann is in my first and second grade classrooms with me to help calm the children down if needed and use a few words of Thai if the children don’t understand what I’m saying. She has already bestowed me with treats after school and is so very supportive in helping me make lesson plans.
After my first day with my first graders I realized that I would be moving much more quickly through the material than I first anticipated. The second day I had a lesson planned for body parts. I was going to go through the entire body with my third graders, but only teach the first graders head, shoulders, knees and toes. When I walked into the first grade class and said we would be learning about the body they all automatically stood up and starting singing the song “Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Well, there goes my entire lesson plan, I thought. I ended up teaching them my second grade lesson plan, which they easily flew through. My third grade class one hour later informed me as I drew a body up on the board which body parts I was forgetting as I did not put up elbow or forgot to label the hip.
“Teacher, teacher, what about the bottom,” one girl chanted from the back.
“Yes, the bottom. We can’t forget about that.”
The first day I walked into class I was also unaware that all of the kids have nicknames. I believe the nickname system is in place for the English teachers to better understand and remember the children’s names as their Thai names are so long and complex that there would be no way I could remember close to a hundred, five syllable names. So much to my surprise on the first day I had children introduce themselves to me as Cake, or Paint, or even Foremost. I have a Heartbeat in my second grade classroom, and a Plankton too (she’s a little girl). But I also have some very Thai sounding names as well. Liew, and Baifern, and Khaofang are a few. The children snicker whenever I say these names aloud and I know I must be saying them incorrectly. When I ask, it takes me about three times to get the right tone and then I pronounce it incorrectly again when I call on the child two minutes later.
I have only taught two days but already it seems like I have been here for a long time. Whenever me and the fellow two American teachers walk onto the school campus in the morning or are on the playground between classes, just about every student turns and points. Everywhere I turn I have a child telling me Hello. And they are so very proud of themselves when they can ask me how I am. I had a student in my second grade class walk into school with her mother today and she kept pointing at me behind her mother’s legs. They smiled at me as they passed. One my first day of class another one of my second graders came up to me during a game and whispers to me: “Teacher beautiful.” Needless to say, I am somewhat of a worshipped goddess here. I do not feel worthy of the praise in any way, shape or manner. But for now I will take it.
There are so many other beautiful, and at times bewildering, things about this country. But I must save those stories for another day as the rain continues to pound on the pavement outside and I can see the lush, green trees outside my window. It is time to start my day, get ready, and head over to the school for what is sure to be another wonderful, yet interesting, day.