We had our first classes this week and personally I was really surprised at how natural it felt to be at the front of a classroom. I assumed I’d feel nervous standing in front of 50 kids and trying to teach, whilst feeling like an imposter who’s not really a teacher, just someone who can speak English.
What actually happened was the opposite. It felt right teaching and I didn’t feel nervous, it was actually a lot of fun and the kids seemed to enjoy it too.
Thursday I had two year 4 classes after lunch and they were incredibly loud and excited to see a Farang. Joob (one of the teacher’s who speaks English) introduced me to the class and helped me with roll call but then it was up to me.
I’d spent hours the day before writing a lesson plan that focused on lots of activities to do with jobs and people at school, but the three of us had realised on Thursday morning that the printer we have access to in our office was out of ink and that we basically just have a white board in the classroom and (sometimes) a microphone. So it was think on your feet time!
Luckily I found a book in the office that contained hundreds of flash cards on various topics so I used a few of these in my lesson. I’d also been told to mostly focus on choral drilling and make sure that the students did most of the talking, so they could practice speaking.
Each lesson is an hour long and the time flies by. The classes are mixed ability and there seems to be a pattern in that there’s usually some incredibly bright girls sat directly in front of my desk and as the rows move towards the back of the class there’s some boys and a few girls who obviously aren’t very interested and prefer to talk to each other or complete homework from other classes.
In my first two classes I used the microphone, since then I’ve not needed to as I’ve already developed a classroom ‘shouty’ voice to try and cut across the chatter. Generally the reading and writing ability of the kids is great, they love to copy everything I write on the board – even the things they don’t have to, such as my name. I’ve found that with choral drilling they’re very confident as a class but when you ask them to speak individually they’re suddenly really quiet. Our job is to correct their pronunciation and teach new vocabulary more than anything else. They all know the words ‘Teacher’ and ‘School’ but the pronunciation is slightly off.
Jack came up with a great version of hangman that instead uses a caged crocodile. If the bars on the cage are removed then he’ll eat them up. The students loved it! Even my year 5’s who are incredibly bright and seemed to already know a lot of what I wanted to cover in my lesson plan went wild for the game.
As Jack is teaching the youngest kids he’s had one of the Thai teacher’s in with him to help translate his instructions as their English isn’t as good as the older ones. This has meant his classes have gone off without a hitch and he’s been able to get the students to do exactly what he wants them to do.
Zoe and I haven’t got a Thai teacher in with us so we’ve had to mime a lot of what we want them to do when the language barrier has got in the way. I tried to ask the students to draw a picture of their favourite job (out of the options on the board) but they didn’t know the English for ‘draw.’ Zoe really struggled with her class and I tried to tell them in Thai but I got blank looks so my pronunciation was probably off. Eventually I said ‘copy’ and then drew my own picture on the board. Most of the kids got it and they told each other what they had to do.
As I went through my Friday classes I started to push the students harder to see how much they already knew (as we’ve not been given anything in terms of progress reports, just a list of topics already covered) and I was surprised that they seemed to know a lot more than expected it just needed to be coaxed out of them through games, drilling and making them believe they were having fun instead of learning.
We were talking about how you can get a vibe about a job in just a few days about whether it’s a good job or a bad job. I know it’s very early days and it is a bit disorganised at the school and we have limited resources, but it’s the first job I’ve done where I’m still in a good mood and smiling at the end of the day, and I don’t want to scream out of stress or hit someone because of having to bite my tongue all day. I feel like I’m actually helping someone rather than being someone’s punching bag like in customer service and I feel like what I say matters and I’m respected by both the staff and kids in a way I haven’t experienced before. We’re also given a lot of trust and treated like adults. No one’s constantly checking up on us and telling us what to do, or questioning things. We just get on with it.
It was the right choice to do this.