There have been a few occasions on this blog where I’ve acted a bit frustrated about not getting a huge amount of independence with teaching. Whilst I’m enjoying what I’ve been doing so far and Bubpha’s style of using me in the classroom works really well, I’ve always been a bit envious when hearing about other ETA’s experiences of being thrown into a classroom and having to make up literally everything as they go along.
After today, I’m not so envious anymore. Watphachi School, like many schools in Thailand at the moment, is well into a week of student tests and exams, which meant that many teachers this morning were either busy with testing their own classes or monitoring exam rooms in other schools around the town. Therefore I was told that this morning I would be monitoring Pratom 1, one of the school’s younger classes who were lucky enough to not to have examinations. Although I thought this would mean I was helping out another teacher in place of my usual lessons, after about 15 minutes of patiently waiting for someone to arrive in a classroom with 20 energetic 6 year olds, I realised that this wasn’t going to be the case.
So, I attempted to start teaching something. Generally drawing shapes or numbers on the board and then asking the students what they are in english is a good way of starting lessons, however many of the kids here have had it programmed into them to repeat everything I say to help them with their pronunciation. Therefore my question to the class of “what number is this?” was met with the whole class saying the same question back to me, word for word, and I realised quickly that this probably wasn’t going to work out as planned. After a bit of time-killing where I got them all to repeat the numbers 1 to 20 to me a teacher did eventually walk in, but only to direct them and me to the workbook we should be studying from before walking out again.
The next hour was spent trying to explain the work to the kids who actually wanted to learn, whilst also trying to think of a way to discipline those who were doing nothing but running around and fighting each other with rulers. I’ve seen Bubpha smack kids before in order to get their attention, and although I’m obviously never going to do that it does make it difficult to effectively do anything when the form of punishment the kids are most familiar with is not an option for you to use. I did shout at some kids to sit down, which they listened to for about 5 seconds, but it was only when two of them tripped up whilst running around and started crying that they finally decided to pack it in and get on with work. As mean as it sounds I had little sympathy for them – if I did then they probably wouldn’t have learnt anything.
That said, I don’t want to give a negative portrayal of the kids here; this was just several members of an admittedly very young class being annoying. I got to see the other end of the spectrum in the afternoon when I started talking with some of the older kids again when lessons were finished, and they asked me some more general questions about me and England. The boys were mostly interested English football teams whilst the girls wanted to talk about One Direction, and whilst I have very little knowledge of either of these subjects I managed to say enough to get them to understand and agree with me.
Following that, we played football out on the field. I’m pretty terrible at most sports but I thought I might be on equal level with primary school kids, an assumption that was proven wrong very quickly. The boys here play after school every day, and whilst they were making some expert shots on target and defence moves I was left squandering open goal opportunities and accidentally giving the ball to the opposing team after forgetting who was on my side and who wasn’t. My one saving grace was a decent pass that led to a goal, so hopefully that’s enough to redeem myself in front of everyone who saw me fail hilariously.
The mid-afternoon Thailand heat also meant that after 30 minutes I was dripping like a faulty tap, so I resigned to near-passing out just off the pitch, with the only thought going around my head being that I’m so unfit it’s not even funny. Still, the kids seemed understanding of me, rushing off to get me water whilst also brushing off the dirt I’d accumulated by flopping down onto what turned out to be a mixture of dry mud and swarms of ants. I’m supposed to be playing tomorrow too, so I have feeling I may turn out to be the ultimate test of their patience.