So that’s my new title — Ajarn Kate. Let me tell you about my first day of teaching in Bangkok!
I arrived in Bangkok on Friday night and started work on Monday morning. I was very fortunate to have had Tik, Sean’s uncle’s driver, take Sean and me to the school yesterday, just to scope it out. He also drove me to school and back today; again, I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful this was! Tomorrow — when I take the Sky Train and a taxi to get to work — I will be wishing Tik could help me everyday!
Tik and I left the apartment at 6:35 this morning, and we arrived at the school around 7:15. (It was very warm and very humid, but the sun was not out. I’ve been surviving the weather for the last three days simply because I’ve only had the sun on me for a second or two. I can stand the heat and humidity, but once the sun comes out, forget it!) From the backseat I saw:
- a lone monk
- people on motorbikes sans helmets, including young kids
- 3 people on one motorbike
- spirit houses
- dozens of food carts
- humongous billboards
- crazy freeway system (think LA, but worse)
- a market…out of someone’s car…driving along the highway
- shacks with corrugated tin roofs, lots of electrical wires
- tropical plants
- air conditioning units in every window
- canal with lily pads
Tik dropped me off outside Building 4 at the K-12 school on the campus of a big agricultural university. Building 4 is home to the International Program, which has one class of 32 for each grade level, kindergarten through 12th. The woman I was meant to meet with did not show up at work until about 3 hours into my day, which was actually fine. I was passed along by a few folks to Joe, a 6th grade teacher with whom I’ll be working. He gave me a tour and introduced me to lots of people. My desk is on the second floor of the building in the International Program 6th grade homeroom (a.k.a. IP6), even though I’ll be teaching more than just 6th grade.
Basics: School starts at 8, and the kids are in homeroom until 8:25. They line up in the [stifling hot] hallway around 7:55, and at 8:00 sharp, “Edelveiss” from The Sound of Music begins playing as the prelude to the national Thai anthem. Standing in two lines (boys and girls), they sing the anthem and then are invited into the classroom. The class leader stands up in the front of the class to lead the surprisingly long memorized recitation of a Buddhist prayer (Catholic kids just twiddle their thumbs). The kids are all Thai, as far as I can tell, except for a couple who are half Thai and half Caucasian (a few are the kids of some teachers at the school). After the prayer, the whole class stands up for the morning greeting. The teachers all greet the students, and the students greet us. It went something like this:
Ajarn Joe: Good morning, IP6.
Class: Good morning, Ajarn Joe and Ajarn Addison and Ajarn Ananya and Ajarn Kate.
Then they sit down, and 1st period begins. For today, that was my cue to leave. Other days…oh I don’t know; it’s a ridiculous schedule for me to memorize! Over the course of a 5-day week, I will teach:
- 2nd grade art
- 3rd grade art
- 6th grade art
- 4th grade science
- 6th grade science
- 6th grade math
- study skills
- extracurricular activity for 6th graders (TBD)
The day is divided into seven periods (eight for grades 10-12), and I teach four or five periods per day, depending on the day. I met all the teachers today, and they are all super nice. Most of the newest teachers are women my age from Colorado. Then there are some men from all over the U.S. and one from British Columbia. They were all super helpful and very friendly.
Lunch is free for teachers, and I might partake because it looks like I’ll be able to request vegetarian/pescetarian meals. Awesome. Lunch was different from I’m used to because the teachers eat in the cafeteria with thousands of students. It’s far too loud; it’s very possible I won’t make a habit of eating in there!
Ajarn Rhoda, the science teacher, helped me a ton today by bringing me to the library to get the textbooks I need. We’re going to switch off leading the classes we co-teach. FIrst semester, I’ll lead 4th grade science and support 6th; then second semester, I’ll lead 6th and support 4th. Joe and I are going to switch off every chapter for teaching math to the 6th graders. From what I could tell today, the students are very advanced academically, which is a tad intimidating when I’ll be teaching 6th grade math and science, but I’m brushing up! Their conversational English is good, but the English teacher was telling me that they really struggle with vocabulary. I look forward to interacting with students more. I was more just watching today. I can safely say I learned zero names. Thai names are very different from Anglo names and often very long. I know Ajarn Addison has flashcards with names and photos…I’ll be borrowing those ASAP! That’ll help me with 32 of the 120ish students I’ll be teaching.
Something I learned about the students that is not immediately apparent is that they are crazy rich. They’re all in the top 10% in Thailand, some have their own cars and drivers, and most have phones that are way cooler than mine. This will be very different from teaching in a Title 1 school in San Jose!
Overall, I’m happy. I’m happy to be in Thailand with Sean and happy to have begun a new job that looks like it’ll be lots of fun. There is a lot to get used to, but I’m happy I have so much support.