Teaching in a Thai school

Bangkok Travel Blog

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I got a job teaching English in a private school in Bangkok. The ground floor was a kindergarten and the first and second floors were primary school. I taught the classes once a week for two hours straight. I did the kindergarten and 2-4 grade. Like many schools the principal didn’t care as much for academic progress than for image. The whole “having a foreign teacher on the roster” was all they were really interested in. With this attitude the they would make me do twenty-minute classes for six classrooms each time, they were milking me. I didn’t care too much as children of that age can barely handle that much classtime anyway. I’d usually start with the kindergarten tots. I go in and show them some flash cards, read them a picture reader, and do some action songs. I’d do the same upstairs with the older children only I’d play games as well, the difficulty level varied with from class to class.

 I became popular with the kids in no time for my rowdy games and silly antics. I was teaching the songs all wrong and everyone was confused but they all had a good time. However, I’m not very good with class discipline the poor Thai assistants where driven to the edge of insanity with my games that turned their orderly little robots into a raging mob. Once I injured a hapless second grader in an overly energetic (I hoisted him on my shoulder and ran down the hall) game of “what the time Mr. Fox?” They gave me a ruler and told me to whack any naughty kids, I never did in earnest. In any group situation (25 kids a class) there are the leaders and the bright ones. Personally, I’m all for favoritism and teachers pets. “Rewards for the deserving” is my teaching motto. I’d pick out the right well-behaved ones which were usually the lighter skinned (ethnic chinese) ones.

Many ethnic Chinese have a studious “respect the teacher” ethic that gives them a decided advantage even as early as kindergarten. Logically, children who are well-behaved receive more instruction from teachers and thus become more knowledgeable than uncontrollable “smart” kids. I’m not prejudiced (in fact I often prefer locals to the Chinese minority) but this is most likely a factor in the power and influence of the ethnic Chinese minority in SEA.

There were some peculiarities about the Thai schools like the meditation and the other Buddhist hocus-pocus they made the children do at morning assembly. Of course there was also the whole King cult of personality, in each classroom was his portrait, at least its better than Maoism/Marxism. I so like the traditional brass hair clasps the girls wore for Thai dancing I couldn’t stop touching them. 

Teaching was also a good way to learn and practice my Thai. I was supposed to teach them English but by the end of the semester I had learned more Thai from them. So much for my teaching.   

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photo by: halilee