Ajarn Strat. Day I:
1st November, what a day. After what must seem like an age, our day of reckoning had arrived, the first day of school. For the last 2 weeks we had been working in the office, reviewing lesson plans and checking emails. The working day of 10.00am until 3.00pm had suited us fine, but it couldn't last forever.
My sleep and the easy life was interrupted at 5.50am on Tuesday morning. The journey to work is relatively easy and I have much respect for the bus drivers of Bangkok; they handle those buses as if they were sports cars, weaving and bullying their way through the morning rush.
When I arrived at the school, specialising in music, I was given a warm welcome by Pee Toom, the head of the English department, and I don't think that I am guilty of narcissism when I say she took a certain liking to me. During our introduction she demonstrated her understanding that some words in English can have more than one meaning, "Wow, it's hot!" I said to her, questioning the fact that it's winter here in Thailand. "You're hot, are you?, you know HOT" she giggled in reply. The time crept closer to 8.20am, the start of my first lesson, whilst Pee Toom explained what type of school this was and what she didn't like about my predecessor.
"He was always chewing gum" she explained, I'll be alright on that point I thought can't stand the stuff personally.
"and cursing the children in Thai". I can promise only to curse them in English, would that be ok?
"You see, we are a, how do you say, musical school, some of our children are emotional." Right, now I understand what type of 'music' school this is, can you show me the door please.
But it was too late I was given my timetable and taken to my first class. As I entered, the class 'prefect' called out to the class, "Stand up please." The class stood up.
"Good morning teacher" the class said chorally
Well that's a good start I thought "Good morning class, how are you?
"We are well, thank you teacher, and you"
"I'm very well thank you class, please sit down"
"Thank you teacher"
And that was the last time that they paid any attention to me for that lesson. The next class made the first look orderly and contained. By the third and my last class for the day I was quite happy for them to talk amongst themselves in Thai, as I was busy myself, planning my next career move.
When I arrived home the look on Tanja's face showed that our day had been similar, bloody awful. That night, in-between looking at each other and shaking our heads in disbelief, we discussed tactics. Thai children are different, they will respect you if you smile a lot and play games with them, sing, dance, act like a clown. If you used these techniques in an English classroom you'd be fighting a losing battle straight away. Maybe I'd approached the day all wrong.