Blissful is not a word that often describes my classes accurately. Today was an exception. I took some advice from a friend of mine and mixed up the boys and girls so there were no hard blocks of either sex. It worked really well and for the first time in a while we have had peace and quiet and a studious atmosphere. The hum of the fan and whispers throughout the room were all I could hear. Amazing.
Most rules cannot be universally applied, and the seating plan experiment was only effective in the first class. The second class, a group of 30 ten year olds, was not impressed. One girl refused repeatedly to move seats. Others were merely disgruntled by the change. There was a lot of noise, indeed, more noise than usual. People were mimicking each other and occasionally me. I had to send one of the students out of the class because he was causing too much havoc. I put him in another classroom at the end of the corridor and checked up on him occasionally. There were a few people who were working but the class was overwhelmingly difficult and I was glad to see the back of them after an hour. At the end I was surprised when some of the kids came up to me and hugged me, and one girl even asked me when we would have another Bollywood Dance session in the staffroom.
By lunchtime I was hungry and tired. Keep in mind lunch break is from 11.30-12.30, so pretty early. My mentor was not eating with the rest of the teachers and it is on days like this I feel particularly isolated. Without her there I understand very little of what goes on and find it difficult to engage well with many of the teachers who are busy eating lunch, making jokes and talking very quickly. For the first time since I have arrived I felt pretty far away from home (and not in an exciting, adventurous way).
My classroom is a place of my own (except when it is filled with students) so I sought refuge there and at the risk of sounding like a drama queen I lay on the floor next to my desk and cried for a while. It was a cleansing experience and in combination with a power nap it helped my mood. When my class came in at 12.30 I was ready to teach, just. A little boy in the front row, who when standing comes up to my waist, looked at me with his big brown eyes and grinned, revealing a pair of false teeth that made him look like a beaver. I’m sure a smile spread instantly across my face and I began to laugh heartily as the other students looked on amused. I’ve included a photograph for your enjoyment. The day got a bit better after this.
Until… the unexpected staff meeting. I hadn’t been told at what time or exactly where it would be taking place, all I knew is that I had to go there. It took me just over half an hour to find my way (although it was technically only a 3 minute walk away). This was due to a number of factors.
- It was very hot and to cool down I nipped into the canteen and got an ice lolly
- Whenever I asked anyone where to go they either didn’t understand the words ‘meeting room’ or where
- People seemed keener to point vaguely in the right direction than take me (even though they were actually all going to the meeting themselves.)
Rant almost over. Excuse me. The meeting, predictably, was in Thai so I understood very little. Even those who are fluent in Thai (EVERYONE) looked bored, some of them even dosing off or clipping their nails beneath the table subtly. Developing a stomachache did not improve my experience of the meeting but there was a high point. Everyone was given an ice cold drink and mine was delicious (honey lemon flavour). I was expecting a phone call at 5pm and asked one of the senior members of staff if I would be permitted to leave early in order to take it. The phone call was my ticket out of there and informed me that my passport is in Bangkok ready to collect, but more on that tomorrow.
The evening, to my surprise, was busy and fun filled. At around 6 I was whisked off to the corner shop and the market to get some supplies to make dinner. I cooked up a quick dinner (rice and mixed vegetables- unflavoured…) and headed to the art room at school that was open after hours. Teacher Tim, Teacher Frenelly and I went to meet Teacher Tak (the art teacher) for ‘overtime’. I helped Teacher Tak painting big blue letters on polystyrene, and painting the inside rims of a frame with black paint, managing to scratch my face with black fingers entertained the others more than it maybe should have. It was jolly sitting around companionably, eating, drinking and listening to music. It makes such a difference being with other people in the evening. There was mention that we might do it again soon (maybe there is something else that still needs painted).
For the first time I was able to use my electric mosquito repellent and had a bite free night for the first time since I have arrived. What a day it has been! Bring on tomorrow…