The semester has flown, and my last week over here at Sahabumrung Wittaya School is coming to an end. It feels like just yesterday I was woken up by my alarm in Dallas, thought to myself “this is it!,” and found myself in Bangkok 24 hours later.
I mainly blog about my traveling, but before I set off into the sunset I want to take a few minutes to record what an average day looks like at school. It’s all become so routine & normal to me now, but I know that when I think back to this place months and years from now, it’ll feel worlds away. So here it is, more for my benefit than for yours – a look at a regular school day at SB:
My alarm goes off at 6:00am, and I get ready for school, still dressing in all black in honor of the late king. After waking up way too early, I walk to school. I live on campus, so the walk is literally less than one minute!
On my way, I’m stopped dozens of times by students wai-ing me, (putting their hands together and bowing to me). “Good morning Teacha!” echos over and over until I reach the library to sign in. It’s impossible not to smile no matter how tired I am.
I head to the Foreign Language Department office, where I find the other language teachers. Besides me, English is taught by five Filipino teachers. Our students also learn Chinese from two teachers from China!
My coworkers have been absolutely amazing. They were the welcoming party when I first arrived in Don Tum, and they have become my best friends in Thailand! The office is full of joking and teasing and singing.
…And kittens! Our office cat, Edward, gave birth in February, and is raising her four little ones underneath my desk. If you know me, you know how much I love animals, and this has made coming to work 1000x more fun.
Once a week, (my day is Wednesday), I have to go up on stage during the assembly and teach a common English phrase to the school, and present a short skit with a few brave students. A few times a week I also go up on stage and lead the school in saying the Our Father in English. I think I’m over my fear of public speaking now!
After the assembly/ worship, I go over my lesson plans for the day in the office and making any copies I need. Throughout the day I have anywhere from 2 to 4 classes (grades 1-5), each lasting around 50 minutes. Each week, I teach 450 students. I’m proud to say that I know almost all of their names now… okay, maybe around half of them, but that’s still pretty impressive for me!
At 9:15, it’s recess time. This means that one of us English teachers hasmicrophone duty. In other words, one of us has to chase down students and interview them in English over the loud speaker. It’s actually pretty fun, and I usually turn my 15 minutes into a weather forecast and ask the kids what they’re snacking on.
Recess is also my time to socialize with the kids outside of class. Usually, my first graders will hang around me the whole time, and we talk about colors and food in their limited English (and my very limited Thai).
Throughout the day, kids will drop into the office to ask questions, cuddle with the kittens, play with my secret clay stash, or just say hello. It just goes to show how sweet our kids our, and how special the teacher-student relationship is in Thailand. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job!
Then we have a few hours of classes until lunch time. Sometimes I stay in the office for lunch, but more often then not, I’m exhausted by the insanely high temperatures and no air conditioning, so I go home and blast the AC in my house until it’s time to go back again! (Side note: I am honestly baffled that the kids are able to focus and learn in their stiflingly hot classrooms. Even though there are plenty of fans, sweat straight up drips down my body as I’m teaching every day. Major kudos to every Thai student and teacher!)
After lunch, students in all grades (even high school) have nap time. It’s a pretty genius idea, and usually the teachers will sleep too.
After an afternoon of more classes, the final bell rings at 3:40.
Kids dart out of their rooms to the food carts that line the open space by the church. They sell everything from fried chicken to snow cones. May and I have a tradition of buying 10 baht frozen “cocoa” almost every day. After a hot day of teaching, it’s a great way to cool off!
At 4:30 we’re free to go home, and by then I’m usually exhausted. As much as I’d love to kick back and watch Netflix or scroll through Facebook, my house (and school) don’t have working Wifi, so I usually take my kindle out on my porch to read. Living without wifi is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it’s really frustrating when I’m planning trips or wanting to watch a movie, on the other hand, I’ve read over 50 books since I’ve been here, (thank god for my 3G-enabled kindle!), and have grown to appreciate a quieter and simpler lifestyle.
In the evening after it’s cooled down a little, I usually go to the market with one or two coworkers, (they’re also my neighbors!). On Wednesdays we go to the “big market” that opens down the street, and sometimes I’ll go use the wifi at the coffee shop across the street. That’s about as much as there is to do in my little town!
It may sound boring, but as an extroverted introvert, I love the amount of free time and time I can spend by myself. Laying low during the week also recharges me for all the epic weekend trips. I think I found a good balance!
So there’s my typical workday in a nutshell.
It’s been quite the journey… from solving language barriers, to watching my team win first place at sports day, to cut-throat bingo games, to impromptu dance offs. I’m so happy I’ve gotten to know this little corner of Thailand.
Thank you to all my students… all 450 of you! Thank you for showing me such an incredible amount of love every day, and for giving me a home away from home for the past five months. You crazy kids will always hold a special place in my heart!
Goodbyes are always to hard. I’ve had to say a lot of really difficult goodbyes in the past few years, and every time it reminds me how lucky I am to have these strong and special bonds that make it so hard to say goodbye.
In two days, I’ll set off on a three month backpacking stint coveringCambodia, Vietnam, the Thai islands, Myanmar, Northern Thailand,Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Nepal.
Now I just need to pack! Goodbye for now, Thailand – I’ll be back!
PS- I intend to keep blogging through my travels outside of Thailand… I just need to think of a clever new handle!