Wednesday, October 30, 2013

going back to school

It’s been about two weeks and I’m finally starting to get the hang of things. I’m teaching at a private pre-school working with four and five-year olds which I’ve done before so there’s not a huge challenge there. Kids are kids no matter where they are from or what language they speak. The challenge comes in the differences between the American and the Thai education systems and ways of doing things. And those differences are vast.

The building itself is rather lovely. It’s open with long halls, doors and windows to the outside (though there is no a/c so all that openness also translates into HOT!) and the grounds are filled with a pool, playground equipment, gardens and trees. There’s a separate campus on the outskirts of town where the elementary is housed. My kids are the oldest in our building with another pre-school class (ages 3 and 4) and a couple of day cares (itty bitty 2s) rounding us out. Each class has a head Thai teacher, an assistant Thai teacher and then an English teacher (that’s me). We’ve also got a few specialists who go back and forth between the schools for art, Chinese and swimming. Between all of us and then lunch and naptime I teach about 1 ½-2 hours a day on average.

We’ve already mentioned the lax timetables and schedules that go on with the transportation here. Those bleed into the daily schedules as well. I’ve been given several different versions of the daily schedule and the school calendar, gone about doing some rough planning and laying out the targets and goals for my time here only to have to scrap it and start over when I’ve been handed a ‘revised’ version. This happens on the spot as well. I’ll be getting up to do my chunk of the teaching for the day only to have the other teachers move in and take the kids to something not on the schedule or have them sit down and give me the floor when I have nothing planned. This is a daily (and sometimes multiple times a day) occurrence.

Next is the discipline. On the whole the kids are great, though as I mentioned earlier, they are kids. When the actual teaching is going on they’re relatively attentive (well, as attentive as 4 year olds ever are) but when the teaching is over there is mass chaos. I’m talking screaming, running in and out of the classroom and down the hall, jumping on each other, you name it. And this goes on for 15-20 minutes at a time with the teachers just sitting at their desk doing whatever it is they do until they call things back to order and teach the next segment. It’s madness at an earsplitting level. At first, I tried to quell things. I’d wander from fight to fight pulling kids away from each other and trying to make my ‘shhh’ heard over the din. But as I realized the other teachers were in no way concerned or going to back me up on any of it I decided I’d just let it be. Obviously this is the MO here and I, my little old self, was not going to be able to change that. So, the chaos reigns.

And then there’s nap time! But we’ll leave that for another day. Trust me. It’ll be worth the wait. Suffice it to say, there are some definite adjustments to be made here as there are in all areas of my life at the moment. Hopefully in the midst of all the chaos they’re actually learning a bit from me. That is why I’m here after all!

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