A Day in the life of Regular Thida Classes

by Mike Rogers

I am not a morning person. When my alarm clock goes off at 7 my first thought is inevitably of the snooze button. This gives me 5 more minutes until the clock rudely interrupt whatever path of thoughts I have gone down, which most of the time is figuring out exactly when the next time I can get back to bed for a longer sleep is. In the states what got me out of bed was the knowledge that a hot cup of coffee and a shower were only a few minutes away. Here those to things have been unceremoniously replaced with a bucket shower, and iced coffee which is approximately one half instant coffee, a quarter creamer, and a quarter sugar (This actually isn’t so bad, bucket showers are surprisingly refreshing and more effective than I would have expected). The alarm clock time is the darkest part of my day. I tell you this, not to scare away other morning people, but rather because from this point on the day tends to improve pretty consistently.

My day begins at New Thida, the home for Anubans (kindergarten), and Ps 1 and 2. The students range from age 5 to 7, this means that these kids represent some of the highest concentration of cute in the world. I usually roll into the parking lot around 8:00 with some breakfast in hand (usually sticky rice with sweet shredded pork on it from a roadside stand on my street) and the fore mentioned iced coffee. I settle in to my seat, take a breath and begin to eat and drink, only to have my revelry disturbed when Tristan, the highly experienced teacher across from me, abruptly stands up at attention. The King’s song has begun playing. I leap out of my chair and spin into position facing the flag and the hundreds of children gathered in the center of the school. The song itself was written by the King (or so I am told. Apparently he is an extremely talented jazz musician), and is a catchy, short song that all of the children sing in that spectacularly off key way that only a few hundred 5-7 year old children can achieve. It is endearing to say the least. The flag is raised during this, and if you are particularly lucky, than it is Exercise Wednesday, and once the song has been sung upbeat music is played and the Thai teachers lead the children in a bizarre calisthenics routine. Many of teachers are about as involved as a high school senior a week after they have been accepted into college, half raising their arms, and looking as though they are mentally closer to my home than the school. A few though are really into it, pumping their arms exaggerating their leg kicks and generally rocking out in a way that seems to elevate the involvement of the children around them. This makes for quite a spectacle, and usually does an excellent job of driving away the last remnants of the alarm clock hangover. Soon the calm down music is played and the kids line up and find their way to their respective classrooms, which means I need to finish eating and get myself to class.

I am the Clark Kent of super teachers, I teach the “regular” classes, meaning that rather than seeing kids on a daily basis, I see my classes once a week for one hour. At fifty kids a class and twenty classes a week I see roughly a thousand children every week. No two days of the week are the same, I have mix of grades that I see, and a definitely a mix of kids. It’s a great way of being kept on your toes, walking to every class you are trying to remember whether this is the class where by minute 40 only one kid is paying attention (the same kid every week) or whether it’s the one where the Thai teacher has managed to corral them sufficiently that you can actually accomplish a full lesson plan. Lesson planning is easier as a regular teacher, I have wide spread of classes, P1, P2, P3, P5 and P6, but really I only need one lesson plan for each of these levels. There a couple classes that have distinguished themselves as either spectacular and needing a more challenging plan, or, shall we say, less advanced and in need of a more basic plan. But for the most part, only one plan is needed for each grade level.

Entering the class room is bizarre experience, about half way between the door and the desk on the far side of the classroom the kids will notice you have arrived and one small voice will belt out, “SA-TAND UUUP, PLEEEASE” and the entire class stands, “Gooood morning, TEAAcher”, to which the proper reply is, “Good morning class, how are you?”, and they will say “We are HAPPY, YAAAY, and you?” and you tell them you are fine and that they may sit down. If you “forget” to tell them to sit and just start teaching than in a few minutes you will be surprised to find them all still on their feet. Whoops. A fifty minute class is short enough so that you only need 2-3 sections, less if there are extended games, so planning for the classes does not present any significant challenge. The difficulty comes in holding their attention for more than 5 minutes at a time. This challenge varies significantly based on two factors, the class, and the Thai teacher. A good class can be good independent of the teacher, but these are exceedingly rare. A good Thai teacher means that the class will at the very least be minimally disruptive if not focused. I have some teachers whose presence is enough to silence the most rambunctious classes, and others that actually contribute to the problem by plopping down in the back of the class and either doing their own work or even actually talking to kids while you try to teach. Sometimes all you can do is find the 5 kids who are interested and teach to them.

After two classes there is a half hour break which is usually spent in half dazed conversation with a couple other teachers as you try to regain some of the energy that it takes to engage fifty, 7 year olds. The good news at this point is that there is only one more class before lunch. Lunch is free, and varies in quality, but usually provides something that is at least edible, if not enjoyable. This is a fun time of day, because many of the super teachers have this same time off for lunch, and all congregate at one table. It is time for a word about the structure of New Thida. It was built much like a Mario Kart64 battle stage, the so called “Donut”. On this stage there was a circular track on the outside where the players were safe, except from each other, but in the middle is a pit filled with lava. New Thida has 5 floors, each shaped much like this stage, a path surrounding the center of school, which is a vast open space. It is so vast and open that walking across it seems to initiate some long buried evolutionary instinct that makes you a little nervous. Its like you are at the bottom of a ravine with no hiding spaces for you, but plenty for your predators. During class it is like a ravine, after lunch, it is much more like the lava pit. The children are loose and going crazy from an influx of sugar and you are faced with a choice, the relative safety of the outer path, or the most direct route of walking straight across and being pinched, poked, high fived, aggressively hugged and pulled in every direction by hundreds of children ravenous for your attention. Personally, when the pit is filled I enjoy walking through it, it provides quick but fun interactions with many of the kids, and it’s relatively rare that one of them will either straight up kick you, or grab your butt. But make no mistake; the post lunch pit is no place for the meek.

For the lucky few that have no class in the next block they get to drift across the street and get an iced coffee or tea (for 15 baht, it is probably the best iced coffee bang for your baht in town). It’s a pleasant break from being in the schools and is generally very relaxing. Also, if you couldn’t eat the school lunch for some reason than they serve an excellent fried rice here as well. Typically there is at least some free time after lunch, whether you have a class or not, and at this time I am typically either scrambling to fix lesson plans that clearly weren’t working earlier in the day, or if I am lucky relaxing and checking the various sports scores that were happened while I was teaching that morning.

The break inevitably ends, and my next class is at Old Thida. If New Thida is like the “Donut” level of Mario Kart, than Old Thida is more comparable to the “Block World” one, where there are 4 different large platforms, each with three levels, and small tracks connecting them at the top. Each grade has its own hallway, and each hallway has its own floor, and each floor has at least 16 stair cases that, much like Hogwarts, take you to a completely different part of the school than you started in. Ok, maybe the stairways are exaggeration, but when you aren’t used to the school, or are going to a classroom you have never been to before than the layout seems like it was designed to keep grave robbers away from the Pharaoh’s tomb. All of the class rooms are very open on two sides; one wall is windows, and the opposite wall is fully open to the hallway. I’m told this design element is featured because of the crazy hot weather which happens most of the year, though it serves a duel purpose of allowing as much noise to enter the classroom as possible. In the worst situations the windows are facing the street and the doors the center of the school, so that many days you have traffic noise flowing in from one side, and the pleasant sounds of a school assembly, or a raucous gym class on the other. This leads to you have to speak at your loudest, or, if you will, scream in order to be heard. Classrooms like this however are the minority, even if they are the very loud minority. Most of them have reasonable acoustics and don’t leave you hoarse and tired.

Old Thida is also host to a very different age group, P3 all the way to M6’s, the seniors of the Thai school world. Thus it requires a very different kind of energy than New Thida. With these kids it helps to occasionally walk out into the rows of desks and put kids on the spot, with simple questions about what you were just going over. This has two benefits, first it gives you a decent idea of how many kids are actually understanding/ paying attention, and second nothing really pulls the focus of the rest of the class quite like the possibility that they could be called on next. Inevitably, about 10 minutes into any class the students will start raising their hands to say, or perhaps just shouting out, “Teacher, play game, play game!” To which I usually respond by having them repeat it, “Teacher, may we play a game please?” than considering it for a brief second before either saying, “no”, or telling them if they do well in class than we can play at the end. Their favorite game, by far, is 7-up; a game that I honestly believe they could play for a full school day with out getting bored. At the end of class it is often important to have them do some writing that deals with the lesson rather than having them play a game since they will not being seeing me, or likely thinking about what we learned that day for seven more days having it in their own writing is a good way to cement it in their heads.

By the time the last class ends, 3:30 at the latest, I am usually quite ready to dash for my bike and start pedaling. Most days I swing buy a stand on the way home where a very nice and sociable Thai woman named Nok makes various drinks, the best of which is a mixed fruit shake. No matter how stressful, frustrating, or delightful and surprising the classes were that day there is nothing quite like a fresh fruit smoothie for .60 cents to remind me of some of the most basic charms of living in Surat Thani.

Working for Suratpittaya

by Brian Steinbach

It’s mid-December, and it’s only the second school day in as many months, that I’ve woken to sunlight that’s managed to break through the slowly ending rainy season. It’s six thirty, and an alarm clock is hardly necessary after months of the morning sun’s absence. Hitting the snooze button a couple times as a means of ritual, I hop out of bed, snag a quick hot shower downstairs, shave my long weekend beard, grab my computer and lesson plans, lock up the house, and I’m off to Suratpittaya via motorbike.

It’s Monday, and I don’t have a class until the 9:15 (second period), but I usually like to brave the saturated Surat Thani roads to spend a bit of time on the Internet before my first class. After traversing the “feels safer than it looks” traffic, I pull up the building two and go up to the Super English office on the third floor. I make a passable cup of instant coffee (or two), and do any minor paper work or Internet shuffle-ings I may need/want to take care of before my first lesson.

There’s also a flag raising ceremony and general assembly every day at eight o’clock. It’s a quasi-mandatory event that has everyone hanging out by the flagpole as the band plays the King’ s song (he wrote it). After the song, we’re free to go back to the office while they proceed with another fifteen minutes of assembly stuff.

Mondays have an average class load of five periods (of eight). Today’s schedule is:

1st period – off
2nd period — M6 (12th graders)
3rd period– off, 4th period EIP (I’ll explain later)
5th period off,
6th period M1 (7th graders),
7th period M1
8th period M6

Heading off to second period, I grab my notebook, and my bag of whiteboard markers. Even if I have back-to-back classes, it’s a rarity that I might be in the same class (or even the same building). This means that I move a lot throughout the day. Some rooms have air conditioning, but most do not. It gets hot sometimes, and there’s little to do other than bear through it and make sure to wander under one of the room fans from time to time while teaching.

2nd Period—M6

My first class is composed of mostly seventeen and eighteen year olds. There will be anywhere between thirty and forty of these students, unlike the M1 classes. Like most high schools, some students tend to matriculate out of the program. It’s bad for them, but good for those who stick around to enjoy smaller (slightly) classroom sizes. These students are track two of twelve. This means that they’re supposed to be one of my worst classes, academically, according to a standardized test they took when entering the school six years prior. They are in fact one of my better classes, and thus I take little stock in the tracking system as it applies to my classes. Judging any of your classes based on their tracking level is generally a bad idea. This week we’re working on concepts revolving around permission, prohibition, and obligation. All of the M6 students graduate soon, and will either move out into the working world, or move on to university. After I throw them a few words and full sentence examples on the board for them to write down, I have them write and say their own examples to share with the class. Most students take a reflective look on what they were allowed to do when they were younger, or write a sentence or two about obligations they have, or had in the past that are going to disappear soon. After everyone appears to have a pretty good grasp, I usually try and pull off a kind of review game, though point games don’t usually work with this age group as motivation. For them to have fun requires getting them to use their imagination over information regurgitation. For example, last week I wrote half a sentence on the board, and had a student finish the sentence, and write the first half of the following sentence, allowing them to choose who finished it. This cycle continues and students end up trying to write a funny sentence, or trying to set up their friends. It broaches on the juvenile sometimes, but if they grasp the content and demonstrate it in a creative way, it allows them to have fun, while showing me they have got it.

3rd period- off:

No surprises here…more coffee in the office.

4th period- EIP:

EIP- English Improvement Program. This was developed as a way to allow students who would like additional conversational practice, to come in during their free time/lunch and practice with one of the three teachers on staff from Super English. This can be anywhere from one student to an entire classroom cramming into the office. There’s a whiteboard in the office, so whether you’ve got one student or thirty, you can do your thing. Today I only have one student. Her name is Pin, and she’s been coming in during EIP two or three times a week for the past few weeks. Today we talked about some common conversational phrases that aren’t explained through understanding simple grammar. For example, what does it mean if someone says, “I can’t go out, it’s a school night”? Nothing really beats seeing an entire classroom enjoy a lesson, but working with students in EIP allows you to learn a few of your two thousand students’ names and see the “I got it” click or the “thank you so much” eyes and smile that will leave you feeling good for hours.

5th period—off

Sometimes I skip lunch (that means more coffee), but today I drove down the road five minutes for some lunch. There is a cantina in the school that offers a wide variety of dishes to choose from. Most of the lunch options only cost ten to thirty baht (that’s thirty to ninety cents). I have about an hour to eat and get back, which isn’t a problem even without a motorbike. There are small shops all around the school, making the first few months sans motorbike quite easy.

6th period- M1

Everyone typically has one or two days with a block of three teaching classes in a row. Sometimes they’re not too bad, but occasionally a new semester will land two or more of your less than ideal classes next to each other. It can make three back-to-back classes a bit of a dreaded entity from week to week. That said, this particular class is definitely one of my poorer classes in the behavior department. With fifty students in the classroom, and the Thai teacher absent for the first thirty minutes, things will be what they will. Today, I had three students leaning out our second door, paying a student with a free period to go get them food while they’ re in my class. There is a large group of boys in the back right corner of the room that consistently choose to not participate, and on a good day (today) they don’t try to usurp the attention away from me onto them. They talk constantly, and if I do establish order, it’s usually short lived. They are one of my smarter classes, and they tend to be the most stereotypical in the “we’re almost eighth graders” attitude department. There are good students in the class, and they tend to try and sit in the front so that they can hear over many of the others.

Another thing to consider with this class, and the same goes for my M6 class earlier, is that this is the first M1 course I’ve seen this week. As I only see each class once a week, and only have M1 and M6 students, I only have two lesson plans a week (which is as nice as it sounds). But this also means that Monday is pretty much the “see what works and what doesn’t with this weeks lesson plan. My first M6 class is a good group, and they get that. However, this period’s behavior on top of it being the first go at the lesson for the week can be a bit frustrating at times. I’ve long since learned to have backup plans on day one of each new week in case things go awry.

7th period—M1

This is the class I wish I had last period. They’re a lower track, and supposedly worse in their ability. But they love English class, and it usually offsets any personal morale damage from sixth period. This lesson goes much smoother. I selected a student to come up and read one part of an A B dialogue, and let them pick the person reading the B dialogue. Now, I obviously can’t have every one of the fifty students in my class come up and do this. Even if I had the time, the rest of the class would want to jump out the window from boredom. Instead, I have the two readers, call on students of their choosing, and ask them questions about the passage. This keeps students focused, or at least accepting of their fate when being called on to answer a question when they weren’t listening.

Next I had students brainstorm about twenty or thirty jobs, writing them on the board, and have students practice another A B dialogue using the jobs picked out in the brainstorming session. I don’t usually do two dialogues in a single class period, but I’ve changed it up enough to keep students interested through the entire lesson. After two students read the dialogue, I have the A dialogue student sit down, and have the B move to A, and choose a new B dialogue speaker from the rest of the class. This turns it into a bit of fun for students, letting them call their friends (or hilariously, the loudest student talking out of turn).

And as a backup, I have a quick review game with either connect four or hangman style points. I don’t need it for this class though, so it remains in the bag for next week if need be. On to the last class of the day.

8th period—M6

This is a good group of kids. They’re usually about ten minutes late, but they’re good kids. Besides having a better grasp on the lesson plan from having taught one class already, things tend to go quite smoothly here. It is the last period of a Monday, and some days have that “students staring at the clock/door/ “we’re almost done” look. So between students being late, and sometimes loosing their attention around the five minutes left mark, you have to be really flexible with the lesson plan. This means either speeding things up, or cutting non-essential material so that you can ensure that students are keeping up with the other classes. You only see them once a week, so missing a day is pretty awful. Sometimes two government holidays pop up on back to back Fridays, which means you won’t see four or five of your classes for nearly three weeks. Those make for tremendously fun catch up days.

Home—3:40 P.M.

I’m done. I head back to the office, drop off my notebook and markers, grab my computer and backpack, and head back out to the ol’ motorbike. I avoid running over all my students as they wave and shout “GOODBYE” and “SEE YOU TOMORROW.” From here, it’s food, rest, coffee shops (yes more coffee), hanging out, or whatever else you might fancy doing. Tomorrow’ s another day, with the same lessons, and all new students.

An American Educator in Thailand

Before I begin, It seems appropriate to let you know where I’m coming from. I taught High School English to 9th and 12th graders. So, here’s a quick break down of what to expect from teaching at Suratpittaya (6th grade to 12th grade), in relation to what I was doing back in the States.

Quick Study Comparison Chart:

That’s hardly everything, but those are a lot of the important ones. The behavioral issues bit is a bit sparse because I wanted to elaborate more than a tiny box would practically allow for.

American High School Suratpittaya
Class Length 90 minute block schedule 55 minute traditional schedule
Number of Hours per week 40 (+grading and lesson planning time spent at home). And administering any detention I have personally given out.

You must be at the school even when you are not with a class.

25 (+ lesson plans).

Your off hours are your hours. If you have a 3 hour break, go home or out for food. It’s up to you.

Number of Periods per day 3 classes a day (so 15 a week), 1 period for office hours. 4-6 classes a day (22 classes a week), 3 office hours for students to come in, and the rest is free time.
Behavioral Issues: Plentiful Varies. Though, in relation to what I’m used to stateside, they’re pretty much non-existent.
Paper Work: 5 page lesson plans for every class, every day. So, 15 four to five page lesson plans a week.

Detention/ behavioral issue forms and corrective actions.

Grading homework.

2 lesson plans per week.

1, one page, monthly report for each class (so 2).

No grading for my classes.

Optional (though paid) articles for the Super English website.

The Students:

The students here are not American students. They have a basic understanding of a second language at the high school level (degrees of conversational skills vary), they have a level of respect for the teacher that still catches me off-guard, and they seem generally happy to be there. By “happy to be there” , I mean they’re usually smiling. I’m often greeted by waves and shouts of, “HELLO TEACHER!” It’s extremely peculiar at first. Especially coming from classrooms back home, filled with students who (in large) come into the class, plop into their seats, and proceed to: sleep, stare out the window, or even go out of their way to disrupt the class (I have yet to have a student in Thailand throw their desk at another student, or erase the board I just finished writing while I had been berating another student out of the class…). Students in Thai classes WILL often be late. But that’s just the culture. It’s acceptable. It’s hard to start with five students who arrived on time, and then catch up the 30-40 students who came in somewhere between ten and twenty minutes late. But all things considered, that’s a very small complaint. Students will talk while you’re teaching. If it becomes a big problem, it’s easily dealt with (I address it some below).

The Job:

Back home, I was mostly in the same classroom, though I know that’s not always common in American schools. My students came to my class, while I stayed stationary. In Suratpittiya, both you and the students will move from classroom to classroom in an awesome display of organized chaos. In the middle of that chaos, you will be passed by students you don’t know are yours (you have 1000 students), and they will cheerily yell, “HELLO TEACHER” or “HOW ARE YOU?” It’s dumbfounding really- that level of excitement in a high school. Who knew?

Actually teaching in the classroom requires something different than I was ever accustomed to back in the states. Back home my typical class consisted of me sitting or standing at the podium, introducing the topic, and either reading aloud or assigning a reading selection. Whether or not I would lead a discussion or assign in class work depended completely upon the class’s behavior. It was all very…formulaic and dry. You can’t do that here. You are the conversation teacher, and you have to talk. A lot! The Thai students do not just sit idle in the classroom with all patient eyes on you. I said they enjoy our classes, but it’s not so much for the content. We’re fun (I guess? Lol). In any case, on day one, I surprised myself– squashing the first group of students who wanted to talk over me by putting on my best game show voice and calling on them to stand up, and give me (and the rest of the class) the answer. These classes aren’t about being the most informative teacher so much. You do want to come in with a good lesson plan that teaches them what you want them to learn. But it’s about making English fun, and being the biggest center of attention in the classroom.

A Personally Weird Observation/ Anecdote:

Teaching in Southern Illinois, I was fond of explaining to my friends that teaching was a lot like being Clark Kent. You put on your disguise every morning and you go into work. You’re the dull guy that gets the job done. You hide the fact that when you go home, you put on shorts, flip flops, and have a few drinks. But here, the whole thing’s turned on its head. I go into the classroom as a total clown (or, if you will, throw on a cape). I become a goof of epic (for me) proportions. Throw on your best game show voice, dance, make sound effects, and generally be the biggest center of attention or class clown that you can be (which makes me wonder if my students find it weird to see me in a coffee shop quietly reading on weekends). For me, teaching here as been like taking weights off the bat. You make English fun for them, and they genuinely look forward to you and your class.

A day in the life of five IEP classes

by Anneliese Charek

Five days a week, I walk from my home to old Thida. A fact that I am very happy with. I enjoy that I am in one place for all of my classes. Those of you who have ever had to travel all around a city to teach different students understand why this is a blessing. I also enjoy this fact, because I genuinely like the people that I work with and the little people that I teach.

My day starts out with those fellow teachers in the ‘teacher’s lounge’. Each morning we wade through a sea of small uniformed students to get to our teacher’s oasis. I usually arrive about a half hour before my 8:20 class. It’s not really necessary, as I do my lesson planning at night, but I like to have some time to get things together and drink the instant coffee that the magic Thida elves stock the lounge with.

When I deem myself sufficiently caffeinated and my things are in order, I head upstairs to my first P3 class. I have three, count ’em, three, IEP third grade classes pretty much in a row. Upon hearing that information one may think to oneself, ‘Wow. Three classes of +50 third graders first thing in the morning? Yowza!’. But let me tell you, I love these three classes of third graders in a row. They make me so happy.

So, I am going upstairs to meet my first class of third graders. Some classes are usually still having their morning prayer/assembly. My class is waiting for me in their room. They see me coming, and start calling my name ‘ANNELIESE!’. The Thai teacher finishes up what she’s doing and I go in to start my class. Almost immediately one to two students comes up to the board to show me a Doramon notebook or Ben Ten eraser that they have. I don’t know exactly why they want to show me, or what they want me to say. Possibly they just want validation that they are in fact owners of something cool. I happily give them that validation. ‘A DOREAMON NOTEBOOK! WOW!’. I pretty much just say what the thing is in an excited voice, they smile and sit down.

If I come in carrying anything, a few students will jump up and take it from me, and carry it to my desk. Then another will prompt the others to say the daily greeting with a ‘Stand up please!’. Followed by, in unison (students) ‘Goood Mooorning teeeaaacchhhh-eeerrr! How are you?’. (me) ‘I am fine students, how are you?’ (students) I am EXXXXCITED (pause) YEAHHHHHH!). Now tell me if that is not the best way to start of a class. Sometimes my ears hurt from the sound of enthusiasm emanating from each and every student.

After the greeting, it’s time to pick teams. The desks already naturally separate the class into thirds, so the BIG task is deciding team names. And this is not a task taken lightly. I ask what they want to be named, and after much deliberation, they come up with some form of the following ‘Team Super Princess Model, Team Ben Ten, Team America’ really, Team we love teacher Anneliese (for which I give an automatic 5 points). Having the teams, and giving out points throughout the class is amazingly helpful in keeping control of the class. There isn’t even a prize at the end. Just the satisfaction of knowing that they are part of the team that acquired more points than the other team. They are serious about points.

When every team has decided on the perfect name, we start class. On of my favorite things to do in the beginning of class is a game of good old fashioned pictionary. But I call it ‘Who can tell me-WHAT IS THIS?’. I write ‘What is this? on the board, and start to introduce the vocabulary for the following few lessons. It’s so simple, but it gets EVERY kid engaged. They all want to guess the right answer. They love guessing, and I love honing my animal drawing skills. If it’s something I know they haven’t heard of, I incorporate hangman, and have them guess letters to get the word correct. Hangman is a game that also is very useful, as it will get even the most quiet student to participate.

After building up some vocabulary, we usually move on to our game. The most beloved section of class. A big hit has been a game I call ‘Hide the owl’. Which takes on other forms such as ‘Hide the robot’ and ’Hide the contents of the teachers’s bag’. I’ll use the owl version to explain. I bring in a ceramic owl, ‘owl’ being a word I pre-taught in the pictionary part of class. One of the goals of the class has been describing places in a classroom, and the use of words ‘under, near, next to in, on’. They are all familiar with this concept, so we put it to use in the owl game. I call up two students. One gets the owl, the other gets blindfolded. The one with the owl, has to hide the owl, something that the whole class ends up partaking in. The blindfolded contestant is then told they have 60 seconds to find the owl. They go nuts. Everyone cheers hem on as they race around the classroom. When they do find it, I ask “Where is the owl?’”, they respond, “The owl is under the desk/in the bookcase/in the box/etc”.

The rest of the class includes using their textbook, doing writing assignments, and assigning homework. These classes usually go rather smoothly. It’s lovely how willing the students are to participate. There are the occasional difficulties though. The girls who chat and the boys who never want to sit in their seat. When 55 kids decide they want to talk and walk around the class- it can be mayhem. Luckily they are all good kids, and all they need is a simple countdown, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ZERO!” to get the point. At the end of class, they all stand up ‘Thankkk youuu teaachhherrr AAAnnnneeelliese!’. They are the greatest.

I have my block of P3 classes then a lunch break. If it’s long enough, I take this time to either: grade notebooks, fill out lesson plans, write monthly reports, or plan some of tomorrow’s lesson. That is the other good thing about being at Thida. Luckily there is not too much paper work that needs to be done. But as with every school, there is some. If you stay on top of it, you can get it all done in a reasonable amount of time. I also spend this break time mentally preparing for the next task at hand – the Matthayoms.

So, something happens to kids somewhere between the Prathyom and Matthayom levels. Along with the baby fat, the sweetness melts away, and is replaced by a thick layer of sass. There is a little less high-fiving and hugging the teacher. Entering some of the Matthayom classes is like entering another world. A world where the games and drawings that the 3rd graders love so much have no place. For these two classes of all teenage girls – I need to change gears.

I start with the M2’s. Classes are structure the same way, I pre-teach and introduce the material, play some sort of game, use the text book and do writing and homework in every class. But here needs to be different-much different. The M2’s don’t really want to leave their seats. So games involving people coming up to the board or running around the classroom usually don’t work. But they do love- HANGMAN. For some reason, this and pictionary still gets everyone’s attention. Anything I can do to spark their interest will help in this lessons. Because of this fact the name ‘Justin Beiber‘ often comes up. When working on adjectives to describe a person-‘What does Justin Beiber’s hair look like: brown? short? cute?’.

The M3’s are similar to the M2’s as far as what kind of subject matter is important to them. The best lessons we have had are the one’s that incorporate girl talk. Besides the Beib, Beyonce and Lady Gaga are often used as examples in class-and it works. They suddenly want to pay attention when they can relate via MTV icons. The M3’s are a good class, and there are many girls in there who are extremely attentive. They also have great vocabularies, and are always anxious to learn even more.

The M2 and M3 classes are at the end of my day. I either finish at 2:40 or 3:30. After all of this I once more go to the teacher’s lounge, work on paperwork or lesson plan, then head home, and get ready for my next day of IEP classes.