Back to school back to school to prove to dad I’m not a fool! Today was my first day teaching at the Saritdidet School in Chanthaburi, so that phrase has been stuck in my head all day (thanks Adam Sandler). The school is huge, and each grade is in a different building within the campus. I am teaching Prathom 3 and 4 (aka third and fourth grade), and I move around between 2 different third grade classrooms and 3 different fourth grade classrooms. I was able to pick between teaching first and second or third and fourth, and I happily chose third and fourth as my sister is a fourth-grade teacher in Delaware and I met my boyfriend in fourth grade (aww). All of my classes have around 40 children in them, which as you can imagine has already been somewhat difficult to manage.
All teachers sign in at 7:15-7:30 in the morning prior to gathering in the dome gymnasium for morning announcements and the national anthem. All Thai people highly revere the king, and they are a bit of a nationalist country. There are pictures of the king absolutely everywhere. It is very common to have a picture of the king in front of your school, street, home, storefront, etc. So, the morning anthem is a big deal and is taken seriously every morning. This morning, all of the foreign teachers for grades 1 through 12 (there were about 9 of us) had to stand in front of the school and introduce ourselves. It was actually cute rather than nerve wracking once I looked out to see the hundreds of smiling Thai children with the same haircut and uniform waving back at me with excitement. The children here warmly respect their elders, and many of them would bow as they walked past me when I was sitting down as to not be taller than me (a sign of respect) or wai me (a less formal sign of respect where one bows with their hands pressed together in front of the face). It’s really cute how giddy they all get to see a new farang (white foreigner) teacher around school.
Foreign teachers introducing ourselves to the hundreds of students (not nearly all pictured)
My first class of the day was a third-grade class (known here as P3). When you walk in, they all stand up and wait for you to say the learned phrase “Good morning class,” to which they reply, “Good morning teacha!” Then the teacher says “how are you today?” and the students say “I’m fine thank you. And you?” and so on. This is a universal thing in Thailand, I’m really not sure who implemented it but I learned in orientation that it’s definitely a thing. I showed a PowerPoint about myself and asked them to make nametags with their nickname and their favorite animal. In Thailand, most kids go by an American nickname because Thai names are too long to pronounce. Most are random words, car names, etc. In my first class I had kids named Jigsaw, PeePee, Santa and Gun. These children love anything creative, so making their nametags as beautiful as possible took up a good 35 minutes of the class. After that I spent the leftover time singing songs like “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” and playing Simon Says. There is some actual curriculum for the classes to work with for future lessons, which is nice. Some schools here in Thailand throw you in with absolutely no curriculum or knowledge of the skill level of your students. In my other classes I did about the same thing. One fourth grade class was especially flattering, and wrote compliments to me on their name tags. I’ll try not to pick favorites though…
The outside of one of one of my P3 classrooms
One of the student's name tags from a P4 class. Like I said, I"ll try not to pick favorites..
Oh, did I mention it’s hot as all h*ll in this school? Some of the classrooms and offices have air conditioning, but I was told they don’t always have it on. As I write this in my office with beads of sweat dripping down my face, I’m assuming they haven’t turned it on at all. Plenty of schools do not have air conditioning at all however, so I really can’t complain. At least it’s giving me more of a chance to really assimilate to the Thai way of life. I’m sure there are plenty of things I left out about the school and there will be plenty more school experiences to come so I will check back in a later post!
(oh…did I mention I strongly dislike being called Angie? Well, that’s how Thai people say my name. Learning to embrace it :)