Teaching English in Thailand, Traveling, Bone-Dry Humor, Other Stuff Too

My Students

One of the few redeeming qualities of my nokia lumia cell phone was the camera. About four weeks ago it stopped working, so I haven’t been able to take any pictures since then. Perfect for a young traveler in an aesthetically intense land. I’m going to buy a camera soon, so I promise to post some pictures of my students and my school, but for now I want to go ahead and describe them anyways because they’re awesome and they know about four sentences of English (and some random vocabulary).

When I walk into my classes, 45 to 50 nine and ten-year-old kids stand up and shout in unison: “Good morning, teacha.” A few of my classes also say this in the afternoon, which is an easy segue into a lesson or a review of basic greetings. They don’t sit down again until I tell them to, and then at the end of class, they stand up again and say, “Thank you, teacha. See you goodbye.” As I walk out, most students wave, while some of the more excitable ones jump up and down. They wear uniforms most days, and there are at least two different kinds of uniform for each gender that correspond to different days of the week.

My students are easily the best part of the job. They tear around the hallway shouting and playing games, but when they see me they always say “hello,” or “good morning.” Some of them get so visibly excited I can’t help but start laughing. A lot of them jump and clap when I walk by, and if I ever give one of them a high five, a line of other students forms waiting for theirs. One day a girl started chanting “Day-Week” (as in “Derek”) when I walked past, and I felt like I had to do something to match or at least acknowledge her enthusiasm. So I started dancing badly, which she found hilarious. And now every time she sees me, she does the same chant, expecting me to dance. My routine is getting shorter. Some of the kids will just sneak up behind me and bear-hug my waist. With so much energy, behavioral problems in the classroom are inevitable. But if I stick to lessons that involve the whole class doing something as a group, I can generally keep their attention.

They love games. On my first day I happened to have a hacky sack in my backpack, so I used it as a ball to throw around the classroom for speaking practice games. It was such a hit that now I just carry it around the school everywhere to use in lessons. For one particularly popular game I made up, I divide the class into two, three, or however many teams and draw a big, goofy face on the chalkboard for each team. The faces have big mouths with a few giant teeth sticking out, and the object is to throw the hacky sack at the other teams’ faces. Every time they hit one, I erase one of the big teeth, and the kids go nuts. One team wins when they’ve knocked the other teams’ teeth out. I sneak some learning into the game by making them correctly respond to a question before they can throw. In a close game, they get really into it and every student is standing, jumping, and yelling instructions or advice at the one currently throwing. In my spare time I’m teaching the students how to play actual hacky sack, which they don’t seem to have ever seen before. This is barely secondary to teaching them English at this point.

They are also fascinated by my hairy arms. More than most people are. There’s no AC anywhere at the school so I always roll my sleeves up, and the kids like to run up and feel my arm hair. At first I was taken aback, but now I have utilize their curiosity to teach them the words “hair,” “hairy,” and “monkey.” So now when they rub my arm hair, they say, “teacha haily,” “haily monkey,” or some other combination.

I would say I’m somewhere between an entertainer, an educator, and an alien to my students–but I’ve definitely felt that way about many of my own teachers in the past.

1 Comment

  1. nanruesch's Gravatar nanruesch
    November 23, 2014    

    the kids sound adorable and your writing is hilarious.
    You have made a good connection with the students. Learnig can be fun!

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