School temple visit

It was a bit of a jumbled week last week at Thida. With two days off timetable due to the students taking their Thai midterms, on Wednesday we expected a normal day of lessons. Of course, being Thailand, that didn’t happen. At 8.30 everyone in MEP from Prathom 1 to Prathom 6 walked in unison with a bouquet of small flowers and candles over to the temple opposite school.

When we arrived everyone took off their shoes and continued into a building where a Buddhist monk warmly greeted us. The students sat on the floor and we were guided towards the nicely carved wooden benches near the front. I guess that has something to do with being a ‘farang?’ Can’t really say we understood the Thai ceremony that took place but there seemed to be a light-hearted sense of humor between everyone who did.

After the ceremony took place we walked over to another temple where we placed and handed over our gifts of flowers and candles. Overall, the day was another colourful, unique Thai experience that made a nice change to every day routine. The students had a good time and we were thankful to be included and welcomed on the trip.

Sports Day!

Once again the event this year was a big one on the Thida calendar. With numerous class disruptions the past couple of weeks, on Thursday we were finally graced with the one and only day that is sports day. You’re probably thinking that with all the disruptions and with two whole days off timetable dedicated to this day, there’s a lot of emphasis on sports and exercise. Great right? Actually, no! Instead the students put more emphasis on baton twirling, marching, cheering and dancing.

In the morning we met the students at the pier where we paraded with our class back to Thida. As pointless as all the preparations seem to us, the parents, students and teachers sure do put a whole load of effort into making everyone and everything stand out. The event is like nothing I’ve every seen before in England. Every child in the parade is dressed from head to toe in poofy, frilly, spangily, shiny and somewhat stunning tailored clothing. Every child, including the boys were wearing a full face of makeup including layers of pale white powder and bright red lipstick. It was like a parade of porcelain dolls.

The sooner you accept the craziness of the event, the easier it is to see the beauty in the old Thida tradition. The students absolutely adore the spot light and the parents love to show off their creative skills in glamming up their child. The students really do look beautiful and they become almost unrecognizable. Despite the heat on the day, the orchestra, the synchronization and the glamorous outfits and decorations all made for a memorable day. Certainly a day to remember. Just a few more weeks before we start practicing for the next one! Bring on Mother’s day!


Mondays in MEP are a little different to most days. Period 4 on a Monday is filled with a club period. Art club, music club, football club, storytelling club and speech club are just some of the ones we have to offer this semester. Choosing a club is like a big free for all in MEP. At the start of the semester the students run riot to try and earn 1 of 31 spaces in each club. Typically the younger students go with their favorite teacher in most cases meaning the majority ends up being your own class. In Art club this year, I was privileged to end up with most of the girls from my Prathom 1 class, though I also have some new faces who joined me from Prathom 2. Of course the boys all went straight for football club.

Art club this year has been a lot of fun. We begin most classes with an art related activity that later develops into a class karaoke or dance off. It’s extremely entertaining and it allows the students time to relax, have fun and mix with other students in a creative environment. We have so far looked at artists like Roy Litchenstein and Picasso where the students created works of their own, inspired by these artists and working in similar styles. On other days we got a little more hands on and made things like paper chains and animal masks. The students really love to show off their artistic ability in club. Art isn’t a compulsory subject at Thida so it’s great to allow them time to enjoy it.

The project we are working on at the moment is based on Mehndi designs that are used in countries for festive occasions like weddings and traditional ceremonies. We have been looking at the different forms in the patterns, particularly the paisley design and have begun to create decorative hands of our own. The hands so far look great and I look forward to seeing the end result.

Welcome Back!

And it begins… A new year at Thida, a new energy from the students and a new level of organized chaos amongst all. After clearing out my desk and saying bye to some missed faces only a few months back, it feels great to be back not only in Thailand but at Thida. Returning to numerous overly decorated drawings from my students wedged between the glass pane that sits on my former desk, the first day flooded me with an ore of love, excitement, and nerves. Who would have thought it, for some strange reason I felt more nervous beginning my second year than I did my first. Bizarre.

The same bunch of loveable monsters from last year greeted me that morning chanting ‘Teacher Emma, Teacher Emma’, I felt like I’d never been away. As the proud parents stood peering in through the windows everyone wanted to talk and the energy in the classroom was as I explained before, a fantastic somewhat organised chaos!

It was great to see the students again. Apparently not only I had gained a few pounds over the break, the students looked huge! Compared to the tiny tots of Anuban 3 last year, they now look like Prathom students. Well… of course, Top hasn’t grown much and still only reaches the waist of some of the larger students. Meemee’s growth on the other hand was explained that lunchtime when I saw her completely indulged and stuffing her little cheeks full of a creamed cake. Nevertheless, still a hidden favourite of mine.

It’s great to be back at Thida, with the growing enrollment this year there is even more love, more madness and more students everywhere. It will take some time this year for my students to adjust to sitting at desks, on chairs with bags, books and pencil cases all at their reach. With repetition, consistency, and a regular classroom system slowly but surely they’re getting progressively better and I’m hoping to have this mastered come mid-semester.

With the great bunch of English teachers we have at Thida this year, I’m confident that we can aim high for another wonderful and successful year. I have no doubt that this one will bring as much fun as the last!

Wear the Colors

Right away, I learned to wear yellow on Mondays. I was told we do it for the King, but more so than that, it is Monday’s color and he was born on a Monday. Friday’s color is blue, and the Queen was born on a Friday, so her color is blue. This tradition comes from an astrological rule, which has its influence in Hindu mythology, that assigns a color for each day of the week. The color of the God who protects the day determines which color you should be wearing. Careful, though! A lucky color one day is an unlucky color on another day.

Sunday red blue Sun Surya
Monday yellow red Moon Chandra
Tuesday pink yellow and white Mars Mangala
Wednesday (day) green pink Mercury Budha
Wednesday (night) grey orange-red None Rahu
Thursday orange purple Jupiter Brihaspati
Friday light blue black and dark blue Venus Shukra
Saturday purple green Saturn Shani

Old Thida Renovations

Thida is separated into 3 campuses – Old Thida (or Thida 1 as many Thai teachers call it), New Thida (Thida 2), and MEP. The MEP students in all grades go to class in the MEP building, adjacent to New Thida. The building is brand new, just now in its second year, and is well-designed and pleasant-looking.

Students in Anuban 1 (3 year olds) through Prathom 2 attend class at New Thida, the giant building that looks like a bit like a spaceship ready to launch a colony to a distant solar system. It was built less than 10 years ago and still looks nice and new.

Then there’s Old Thida, about a 3 minute walk down the road. It is, as the name would suggest, quite old. It looks it too. You walk in and feel like you’re in a typical schoolyard built in the 1940s with a bit of Thai style mixed in. It’s not exactly an eyesore, but it’s definitely not the building they show off to parents, either. But over the last month, Thida has decided to spruce it up a bit, maybe to catch the attention of people driving by on the street. They built a fancy new glass facade and have remodeled the entryway. Supposedly, Old Thida’s getting a full makeover throughout the rest of the year. Just another example of Surat looking more and more modern.

Old Thida Front Entrance

MEP Restaurants

This semester I’ve been trying to do a lot of projects. I have a very difficult class of prepubescent girls and motivation and positivity is not their strongest attribute. I’ve found that doing a lot of projects and independent work has improved the students English as well as motivated them.

Here’s a rundown of my current English Project:

Teacher Dave (P6) and I are working together to coordinate this project. Students from both of our classes will work in groups of 4 to create their own restaurants. Each group was given a cuisine to learn about. Each group will think of a restaurant name and create a menu with 5 meals, 2 appetizers, 2 drinks, and 2 desserts; the students will also need to include descriptions and prices for everything on the menu.

Cuisines include countries such as Italy, Korea, Japan, and Greece; 15 cuisines in total were given but Thai food was excluded. Students work together in class and at home researching their cuisines on the internet.

Once the students have finished creating their menus, they’ll write, rehearse, and record short 30 second long commercials for their restaurant. Commercials should be funny, yet informative. Teacher Dave and I will record and edit the commercials. Once the commercials are finished, we’ll have an in-class showing so the students can see each restaurants’ video.

Next, we’ll have the P5 and P6 classrooms turned into mock restaurants. Students will operate their restaurants by taking orders, describing dishes, and delivering meals to the other students who will be playing customers. This is meant to be a fun activity that gives students the opportunity to use meaningful language in a pretend restaurant environment.

Finally, once the project is completed, we’ll have a food day in our classes. Groups will be awarded extra points for bringing real food into class. For example: The Italian restaurant group should bring a dish found in Italian cuisine, while the group with Japanese cuisine should try to bring a Japanese dish. This is of course not mandatory and only for fun. This will give the students an opportunity to try some of the different cuisines we have been discussing. It’s also a fun way to finish the project. Teacher Dave and I also plan to cook some American food and bring it in for the students to try!

Extra help

In the last few months teacher David and I have been helping some of the students prepare for English speech competitions. It’s been fun getting to know students with a bit more 1-1 time. It also makes you proud to see them do well with something they’ve worked really hard on. One student, Vanessa, got 3rd place in a speech competition with 30 different students.

Currently, I’m helping Dave work with Vanessa again, as well as a student in my class, Ploy, who’s also going to be competing in a different speech competition. As of today, I started helping 3 students prepare for an group English quiz competition, in which they’ll be asked Science, Math, and English questions.

It’s been a lot of extra work but I’m happy to help the students and see them succeed.

Thida Lunch Continues…

This school year started with a string of great lunches. In fact, we counted a 2 week streak of great, not just good, but great lunches. Now, as the semester winds down, an unparalleled stretch of bad lunches continues here at Thida. Record breaking numbers of gangsom curries plague the tables, forcing English teachers into hiding, or at least into finding alternative sources for lunch.

Yesterday was gangsom and boiled eggs, while today was salt fish and boiled eggs. When will it end?

Thida Lunch (lately)

Normally lunch at Thida is pretty good, with different curries and chicken and rice. Lately, gangsom has been on the menu far too often. What’s gangsom you ask? Well it translates to orange curry, but that makes it sound less offensive than it really is.

Gangsom is a curry made out of som kaek, a sour fruit, bamboo, shrimp paste, and usually dried shrimp or chunks of fresh water fish. Maybe it doesn’t sound bad but trust me it is. Shrimp paste is made with preserved pulverized shrimp and its flavor permeates the entire dish giving it a flavor that I can only describe as “rotten” or “spoiled.” So far, as of this week, gangsom has been served 3 out of 4 days. To top today’s serving of gangsom off, it was served with an equally bad dish: salt fish. Salt fish is basically a whole salt water fish, which wasn’t been cleaned or de-scaled. It has, however, been left out to dry in the sun and preserve. Then it’s prepared by basically doing nothing to it but frying it.

Needless to say, most of the native English teachers have been skipping out on lunch lately… especially this week.