“Teacher very cute” my students exclaim through my classroom door, this never ceases to make me smile. “Students very cute” I respond before continuing with my paper work in my free periods. This time is also interspersed by a small group of boys running in with a plastic gecko, which they hold up to me to try and incite fear. I play along, how terrifying to be confronting by a troop of joyful 10 year olds and a reptile made of plastic.
Yesterday grade 4 was troublesome, to the point that I wanted to walk out and leave them to it. I wanted to avoid a repeat of this at all costs. As a remedy to this today I figured it might be worth using their energy in a positive way as opposed to hitting each other and getting little (no) work done. As such I encouraged all of the students to get out of their seats and to troop into the corridor. All looking surprisingly sheepish, they cautiously exited the classroom and assembled just outside the door, curious as to what was going to happen. First off we played follow the leader, an old favourite, except this time I remained the leader and the students shadowed me in single file. We ran up and down the hall way- forwards, backwards, spinning, hands in the air, crawling… and this turned out to be rather vigorous exercise in the heat of 34 odd degrees Celsius. Afterwards they had to ask each other simple questions and respond to those of their friends as well as lining up in mixed pairs in set grid lines in order to shout out the names of the months in unison which proved to be an entertaining test of teamwork. Heads down thumbs up followed, except I realised that I couldn’t remember the rules so I just got two students to go around pressing the thumbs of some of their fellow students, except they pressed everyone’s thumbs. This went down a treat and they loved it and were all desperate to be thumb pressers; I guess that will have to wait until next time.
Tidying my house/ gutting my room of various things that had been chewed up by rats (e.g. milk cartons that had been in the bin, but had been torn to shreds) and just general dirt took up a fair bit of time in between classes today. I also decided to move my bed away from the window both to prevent mosquitoes and to have a view out of the windows rather than having them behind my head. Moving the bed proved to be actually impossible alone so I beckoned some students in from the ‘stolen bus seats shelter’ to help/ do it. About six 15 year-old boys piled in wearing navy shorts with knee-high socks (mostly with holes in the toes and the heels) and white shirts. I directed them and they obligingly lifted the ridiculously heavy bed, placing it in the exact spot required with only a little wear and tear to the plastic lino beneath. Thinking back to when I was at school I would have been very surprised to be invited into the bedroom, with a group of friends, to move their furniture… like seeing how the ‘other side’ (teachers, older people, opposite sex…) live.
Lunch was large and tasty; so large, in fact, that there was enough to take some home for dinner (saves time on cooking). I was also delivered a surprise letter from one of my best friends who is currently in South Africa working in an orphanage for a month (her only month of holiday from her nursing degree!). I stashed it to read later, to savour every word. It transpired that there were no classes this afternoon, when usually there would have been two. Instead there was an unknown (to me at least) afternoon of activities. This didn’t start until 1pm, I realised this when I got to the hall at 12.30pm to find it empty. A quick Skype chat with my mother sounded like a perfect way to spend my time before the activities but the connection was being slow and we didn’t manage to connect until a couple of minutes before 1pm. Almost as soon as I had started speaking to her I heard the school’s marching band playing ‘Oh When the Saints Go Marching In’ as they paraded across the school grounds, out the gate, doubled back on themselves and proceeded back to the activity hall. The chat was brief and entertaining, I managed to justify it in my head as educational. A number of the students, maybe 5, gathered round and listened intently as I spoke quickly in a Scottish accent. They seemed amazed when my mother put her webcam on and they could see her in person, live, and hear her talking directly to them. I introduced them all and they had a rather charming conversation before all being photographed together (my mother on the screen of course). After saying our goodbyes we trekked across to the hall to join in with the activities, only half an hour late.
Drugs Awareness was the mood of the meeting and the school had invited in a nurse and a policeman to talk to the children and show them a few short videos/ case studies. I would have been interested to understand what they were saying, but didn’t as it was all in rather fast Thai. At one point they had to pray for those who had been affected by drugs. I wrote notes, so from them: “They have closed their eyes, many of them at least. Some pull strained faces, others look at peace, and there are some who squint, opening one eye slyly letting the curiosity of what is going on around them take over while at the same time trying to respect what they have been asked to do, whereas others simply refuse to close their eyes at all. Although they are all technically in the one room for the same thing, the individuals, the pairs, the little groups, are totally distinct, in different worlds: gaggles of older girls leaning on each others’ shoulders, pleating each others’ hair discussing ‘bigger things’; groups of little boys playing rock, paper, scissors; very small girls with dark blue ribbon bows in their hair sitting peacefully focusing on the events in contrast to the older girls with their long hair tied up in complicated and beautiful ways. And suddenly, quiet, full attention. The nurse can hardly believe it. She laughs nervously and it reverberates around the room. The microphone picks it up though she probably didn’t want it to be heard.” That was a little snippet of my ‘live notes’, so to speak. As with most activities the drugs awareness session ended with about an hour of karaoke, which I chose not to partake in, but enjoyed from the distance.
Nick arrived just in time to catch a few of the last students at school. I picked him up from the main road on my bike and lots of people were shouting at us as we rode by; the tire was getting rather flat and that was the reason. We followed where the hands were pointing and stopped at a little place by the side of the road where there was a pump and also Chayut, one of my students. His father pumped up the tires and after wye-ing them all we continued on our way back to Anubanwangsaipoon where a rather odd game of scrabble awaited. No Oxford English Dictionary to hand, lots of different sets of letters mixed into one enormous bag, so a strange occurrence of letters (barely any vowels) or only consonants… not standard rules by any means. Just before six o’clock I ran downstairs to make sure that I didn’t get locked into my classroom AGAIN, as once was enough. I heard keys downstairs, sprinted round the corner and asked the grounds keeper if he could wait. He signaled to me as if to say go to the stairs at the other side of the school while he locked those ones. When I got to the other gates they were also locked and after running back and forth a few times it transpired he had just been waiting at the original set as the first set were locked… Phew.
Tonight was the first time I have ever seen a fire fly, glowing on a tree just outside the ‘kitchen’ window. The image sticks in my mind, it was beautiful, just as my day has been. I have added a couple of photographs that I took after school finished when I was feeling particularly arty and making the most of my camera!