Falling Behind (Week 6)

Monday morning I scared the living daylight out of myself. On Sunday, I had put some bubble wrap on the floor to pop it and I saved some for Monday morning because I knew I would be grumpy. Well, I did wake up grumpy, did not want to teach, and I forgot all about the bubble wrap on the floor. Stepped on the bubble wrap and freaked out at it popped. I was awake. It is very difficult getting out of bed each morning when you know your students do not want to learn. We tried playing a game in M1 and they were not going for it. My first graders in China loved that game, so did the fifth graders in China. They were all over it, they were even cheering on their classmates. Not with M1 in Thailand. Nope, they were not participating, not listening, doing other things. I had students trying to sneak out of class, too bad for them the door screeches when it is opened. What is the point of teaching if the students do not want to learn?

My coordinator took me to the hospital for my tests so I can get my work permit. In order to get a work permit you need a physical from a Thai doctor. The hospital waiting room reminded me of a DMV waiting room. We took a number and sat in the waiting area with all the other patients. First, you had to go to the nurses’ station and get your blood pressure, height, and weight taken. Then you waited some more to see the doctor. The whole waiting room seemed dirty and sketchy to me. There was certainly a difference between the Bangkok hospital and the Ban Bung hospital (it is undergoing construction to expand it). Going there just made me feel sick; there were people coughing, and people lying on hospital beds around the waiting area. Usually hospitals smell disgustingly clean but this one made me think of germs.

We went through the waiting room into the rest of the hospital. It is an open aired hospital, all the hallways were open and the rooms were closed off. We passed the hospital fitness center; I wonder if it has ever been used, it looked pretty new. I wonder how you would go about using it. In one of the open aired hallways, we stopped at a desk for my blood test. Again, all I could think of were the germs. She tied my arm off with a rubber hose and drew my blood. I did not faint; I just looked out the hallway at the car parked halfway in the hospital. When the nurse was finished, she taped a cotton ball to my arm. They took my blood to test for syphilis; I also had to give a urine sample for drug testing. Then, I had to go get my chest x-rayed, which was in a room right off the waiting room. We had to ring the doorbell to be let into the room. They had me hug a box and hold my breath while they took the x-ray. Then we left.

Unfortunately, the hospital trip did not take long enough for me to miss my monster classes. Seriously, these classes are why I hate Mondays so much, they would be so much better if the students were in desks. I was writing on the board for the first class when all of a sudden a girl screams and runs to the other side of the room crying. It felt a lot like when a girl brought a lizard to class. This time it was a giant centipede. I do not know if it was fake or what, but the students quickly pushed it into the hole in the middle of the floor never to be seen again. When class was over, I dismissed the students but they were no paying attention so they just sat there. It was like a horror movie, the class that never leaves. Finally, they realized class was over and left. When the second class started, one of the boys walked in pretending to be a dinosaur. Two boys got in a fight during the second class too. Like it was almost an all out fight, I had to separate them and made them sit on opposite sides of the classroom. Yep, it was one of those days.

After my monster classes, I found out I had to go back to the hospital to meet with the doctor. So we went back to the hospital so I could meet with the doctor. Unfortunately, the doctor could not speak English very well. His English skills were good enough that he could tell me my x-ray was normal and to take a big breath. Then he signed off on a piece of paper that said all my tests came back negative and I was good to work in Thailand. My goal for this trip is never to have to go to that hospital again. This one day was enough for me. After getting back from the hospital, I had to go teach late class. A boy scared a girl with a rubber snake and she started crying. Really, one of those days.

Today was payday, which had to be the best part of the day. It is very strange getting your salary as a stack of cash handed to you. Usually payday consists of the numbers in your bank account going up, but here I got a stack of cash. It makes it seem like I am being paid so much more than I actually am. I went to the market after school. For dinner, I had shrimp cakes. They were a bunch of tiny shrimp fried together, and it was delicious. I also got some rice cakes that looked good and dried pineapple for later. I snacked on the dried pineapple when I got back to my apartment. At first, I did not like it, but after a few more bites, I did like it, a lot. It is sweet and has a hint of pineapple flavor. Absolutely delicious.
I was really hungry when I woke up Tuesday morning so I ate a rice cake. It was similar to the rice cakes we have in America that people eat to be healthy, very bland. Except this rice cake was drizzled with something sweet, so it was bland and sweet. I packed the rest to snack on during the day they were so good. Since it is December, the English Program decorated for Christmas. There are five Christmas trees and six Santa cutouts. One of my coworkers keeps singing Christmas carols. Too bad we have midterms on Christmas, several of my coworkers are no happy about that. It really feels quite festive.

For the monster class, all the students decided to show up. I was writing on the board when I heard an unusual noise. My teacher radar was going off; I have learned to distinguish the different noises and I can usually tell when something is happening when it is not supposed to. I turned around and the boys in the back were soaking wet. As it turns out, they were antagonizing a student outside the window who was watering some plants. The student in turn sprayed them with the hose through the window. All the English for Communication teacher have been summoned to a meeting Thursday to discuss the classes. English for Communication is the monster classes. They want to discuss the class. I want to know is how to get a class of over fifty students to speak English. Especially when the tests are supposed to be multiple choice.

I went across the street for an iced Thai coffee (black coffee with condensed milk); it went perfectly with the rice cakes I brought. Absolutely perfectly. The coffee was bitter with a bit of sweet and the rice cakes were bland with a bit of sweet. That sweetness brought the flavors together perfectly. It makes me wonder if the sweetness on top of the rice cakes has condensed milk in it, which would not surprise me since they seem to love that stuff here. It was good my snack was so perfect because I had to print off more copies of my passport, diploma, and transcripts for my work permit. I needed two more copies of both; I have made at least six copies of all these documents. Plus, all the documents need to be signed, in blue ink.

The students in M3/13 were playing with all sorts of toys, like silly putty, slime, and fake cockroaches. It was worse than teaching first graders when they had their play dough unit in art. Basically it was impossible. After school I went to Henry’s restaurant. They moved so they are in the building next to the school. I am really enjoying their closer location. I helped Henry’s daughter with her English homework again. She had several questions about the finer points of English and I tried to help her to best I could. Her teacher said they could use “far” when discussing time; I do not think I have ever heard “far” used with time, only distance. Maybe it is one of those British things. She also asked the difference between “though” and “although.” It is one of those questions you do not really think about and when you do it rather stumps you.

Upon returning to my apartment, I found I had ants. Ants on the table with my food packages. I was not a happy camper. I went into the bathroom, grabbed the ant trap, and put it in my room. When I grabbed it, some of the bait fell out, later I found I had ants in my bedroom and in the bathroom. I just cannot catch a break. I went to aerobics/Zumba class today. It felt good to work out again. There was one man who was super into it; my goal is to be like him when I leave. I was glad I brought my water, I sweated through my shirt, and it was disgusting.

I got a motorcycle ride to school on Wednesday. One of the teachers who lives in my building sometimes gives me a ride when she is running late to work. Usually she is at school before I even start to think about leaving. On the days she is late she gives me a ride and literally runs off when we get to school. My students actually showed up for class today. Granted it was only 20 out of 50 but still, beggars cannot be choosers. At one point the boys in the back snuck out of the classroom and came back soaking wet. Apparently, they got hot so they left, sprayed each other with the hose outside the classroom and came back. At least they came back. I am noticing a water theme this week. I asked my other class what we did last week. They said, “play game.” Yes, we played a game; but what did we talk about? “Letters, man, dead.” Yes, we played hangman at the end of class but what did we talk about? Silence. A student finally mumbled, “like, don’t like.”

I found out I photocopied the wrong pages in my passport so I did not go to the labor office today. Instead I copied and signed the copies of every page of my passport with stamps in them. The problem with traveling so much is you have many pages with stamps on them. Photocopying all those pages and then signing them takes a while. Grading also takes a while. I had a speaking activity planned for English for Communication and it turned into a writing activity. Now I have to grade all their writing, which takes forever. Some of the students cannot copy things off the board properly. They wrote “water” as “axciter” I do not even know what that is, it is not even close to “water.”

When I got back to my apartment, I got ready for aerobics class. I went outside to go to class and noticed some dark clouds on the horizon. As I walked to class the clouds got closer and closer. When I saw lightning and heard thunder I turned around. I had made it to the Tesco Lotus before turning around (aka, not very far). A few minutes after I got back to my apartment it started sprinkling, then it start pouring and did not stop all evening. I was very glad I turned around. As I was brushing my teeth, a tiny cockroach flew onto my bathroom floor. Not even freaking out a little, I got my shoe and squished it.
Thursday was a dull day. Most of it was spent grading, ugh. However, today I went to the labor office to apply for my work permit. My coordinator took me the same time as the English for Communication meeting, missed that and my class after the meeting. I was not too crushed about it. Going to the labor office was somewhat scary; my coordinator had a huge packet of papers, which was my application. We were directed to the second floor where there was a tiny DMV like waiting room. Finally, I was called up to the desk. My coordinator sent me up there by myself. The man behind the desk could speak a little English and he seemed quite smitten with me. He told me my application was perfect. He also kept asking me questions about the finer points of English, like the meaning of “deliberately” and “less is more.” Then we had to go to another woman who was less impressed with my application. Apparently, they needed the director’s ID not my coordinator’s ID. However, they said it was okay.

It rained before aerobics class. I almost did not go but the sun came out so I practically ran to class. I am really enjoying the aerobics class. About twenty minutes into the class, a wall of black clouds began approaching. When I saw the lightning in the clouds, I decided it was time to go back to my apartment and hopefully beat the impending storm. It got dark really fast, like scary dark. I was nowhere near my apartment. Fortunately, one of my neighbors was driving past, saw me, and offered me a ride back to my apartment. We were at a stop light, there was a huge crack of thunder, and we both just looked up at the impossibly black sky as it was torn apart by lightning. I was very thankful for the ride. Outside was quite scary.

Friday was a fun day. When I woke up, I lay in bed, not wanting to go to school when all of a sudden there was this chirping noise next to my head. I leapt out of bed and frightened the two geckos on my wall right behind my headboard. They quickly scampered under my bed where they continued to chirp. On my way to school, I bumped into a teacher from school. She offered me a ride in her car to school. She was excited to take me to school. Saturday is the king’s birthday (aka father’s day) so there was a special morning assembly, which was an hour and a half long. Most of it was taking pictures, and there was a lot of singing and some dancing. I did not really understand what was going on since it was all in Thai. I just went where they told us to go. I missed my first class but not the second one. The foreign language teachers left the assembly a little early. We caught some M1 and M3 students hiding in the bathroom, skipping the ceremony. My coordinator was furious with them.

In my social studies class, I had them write about what the future would look like. Some of the students talked about what they will do tomorrow and some of them had deep ideas. One girl wrote about how some countries will have technology for war but no resources whereas another country will have food. Another girl wrote about the new iPhone 10 and water pollution. They have bleak outlooks on the future. Maybe we need to do a project to change the world. In M1, a girl came up to me, “Teacher for you.” I held out my hand and she dropped a fake gecko in my hand. All the girls waited for a reaction, I just stared at them. They realized I was not going to freak out so they grabbed the fake gecko and ran back to their seats. Later, as I walked past their desks, another girl put a fake cockroach on my shoulder. I just looked at it, took it off my shoulder, and looked at them. The looks on their faces said “our teacher isn’t afraid of anything,” they looked slightly awed and frightened. I was just ready for the weekend and tired of the students constantly goofing off. I snapped at the troublemaker boys, “Will you just sit down!” They meekly sat down and did their work.

A summary of the meeting I missed on Thursday: some other teachers have complained English for Communication has too much writing; we now need to write activity plans each week and submit them to my coordinator. It is difficult to get a class of 50 students to do speaking activities. They want us to do role-plays and more speaking activities. Some of the students cannot tell me their names, how are they going to do a role-play? Maybe I am a pessimistic teacher; however, most of the students view English for Communication as their blow off class.

The immigration office showed up at school today, my coordinator was nervous. I am still uncertain if I am registered. The immigration officer we had problems with, she has had problems with him before. She does not want to pay him any bribes, and he keeps making things difficult. However, immigration was not there for me. They are looking for a previous teacher they have lost track of and thought my coordinator would know where he went. Quite the exciting day!

My last class of the day was quiet since most of the trouble making boys were not there. I went to Henry’s restaurant for dinner and ran into the boys who were missing from my class. Word from the wise, if you are going to play hooky do not go to your teacher’s favorite restaurant because she will catch you. The looks on their faces when I walked in was priceless though. These were the same boys who tried to skip out on the father’s day assembly by hiding in the bathroom.

It rained before aerobics class, I almost did not go but it stopped with enough time for me to make it to class. I was quickly walking to class; it looked like I was going to be late. When a woman pulled up on her motorbike and asked me if I was going to aerobics class. Then she gestured for me to get on her bike, she gave me a lift to class. She also gave me a ride back from aerobics, we live on the same street and she thinks it is too far to walk. I do not know how to express I like the walk. There is a language barrier; though she knew enough English to tell me there is no aerobics on Saturday. Which is more than I can say in Thai.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s