A Travellerspoint blog

Aug 29-Sept 6th: MY BIRTHDAY--TEACHING PROBS--NO FAIL POLICY

rain

MONDAY 29th AUGUST

Ajarn Tuk called me at 8am this morning to say she was not coming into school today and could I take her two classes this morning for her. I normally have no classes on a Monday and had planned to do some laundry but it will have to wait till another sunny day now.

The winning team players were congratulated during this morning’s assembly and will be heading for Ubon Ratchathani

My cold is much better now and has moved on to the catarrh stage which is irritating but bearable. But the catarrh did make it difficult in class with M2 this morning trying to get them to pronounce the word ‘cinema’ correctly, and not like ‘cinebao’ when I have a bunged ub doze.

The school name board at the front entrance is being completed at long last. The existing, central, part which up to now had a banner attached with the school name now has a nice facing of decorative bricks. To each side, new wings are being built. Shallow steps are also being built at each side to give access to a new pathway at the base of the central name wall. There is a photo of the work in progress in my gallery.

The new tiled concrete tables and seats have also been completed next to the Pétanque playing area which look smart and will be popular with the students as a gossip area I am sure.

TUESDAY 30th AUGUST

My birthday today but it is school as usual for me. I am going to take my fellow teachers out for a meal and drink but as the Director is away in Bangkok today it won’t be this evening. I will do it when he gets back in a few days and we’ll go to the restaurant between here and Kranuan which has the best menu in the area and is, even more importantly, the only place that does a version of roast pork which I love. Sadly, though there’s no apple sauce to complement it.

It is a bit annoying that the Director is away because I am trying to finalise my plans for October when Thai schools close for a holiday. Some of the Thai teachers may have to stay behind to do paperwork or something and may not get the full four weeks. As a farang who doesn’t speak much let alone read Thai I can’t help with the paperwork so I want the Director’s ok that I can depart after school on Sept 30th.

There’s also a question about when school reopens as October 31st is on a Monday so will it reopen then or will it reopen on the Tuesday. Until these queries can be sorted out I can’t make any firm flight or hotel bookings....grrrrh!!!#1

To return to the paperwork I just mentioned and the Thai teachers having to stay behind, this is what happened when the school closed in mid-March though I fail to understand why any paperwork and admin cannot be done and cleared before the holiday so the Thai teachers can have a decent break.

This evening some senior students came round to the teacher’s house and we had some food and a few drinks to a background of Thai music. It was all good fun.

WEDNESDAY 31st AUGUST

With the prospect of a sunny morning I took the opportunity after assembly to do some washing because otherwise I will have no shirt or socks to wear in the morning. It has been raining so much that this is the first real chance to make a dent in my pile of laundry.

I went into Nong Kung Si before lunch with Mr Weang so that I could go to the post office and Tesco Lotus. We had an early lunch there too which was good even thought it was just slices of pork on top of rice and the small bowl of clear soup that comes with it is also very nice.

You are probably wondering what is happening in class. Most of the time I work from the given textbook covering the various language points section by section but there are problems with the series of books that the school uses. The most obvious problem is that the school does not have the CDs that accompany the book so all the ‘Listen and Say’ sections have to be missed.

Another problem is that often the scenarios must seem so strange and weird to Thais who know little, if anything, about life outside Thailand. For example, the next module in the textbook I have for M4 (16/17 y.o.) is about Adverbs of Frequency asking How Often do you....listen to classical music, go to the theatre, read a newspaper all of which are completely alien to the students.

Another, unrelated, problem with one or two of the younger classes is that they don’t or can’t think. Yesterday the students all stood when I came into the classroom to start the lesson, as is normal, and greeted me with Hello Teacher, see you again next week, at which point they collectively realised they should be welcoming me not saying goodbye! Doh!!

One of the sentences we were working on from the textbook contained the word Saturday so I paused and asked when in the week Saturday is ? No answer. So I wrote the initial letter of the days of the week on the board along with, but separately, the word Saturday. I thought they would latch onto the starting letter and opt for one of the two days listed starting with an S. But, no, even that was too difficult.

THURSDAY 1st SEPTEMBER

Today I had M4 for the first period but I did not have a good start to the class. I was on time and about half a dozen of the students were also. I waited and waited and although all the boys showed up most of the girls were still missing which I thought strange as they are the ones who are usually first in class.

I stood on the balcony, outside the classroom door, surveying the school grounds wondering where there were. I suspected they were in the school canteen stuffing themselves, but I was wrong. Eventually one of the boys told me to take a look in one of the disused classrooms further along the balcony. Sure enough, all the missing girls were in there grooming and prettying themselves or taking the nits out of each other’s hair. I told them in no uncertain terms what I thought though it was probably a good thing they didn’t understand what I said because I was really angry....oops!!

Once everyone was in the classroom I made it plain that if anyone was late next week I would mark them as absent in the class register. That doesn’t sound like much but too many absences will result in one of the teachers speaking to their parents which is something most students want to avoid. Students would also have some points debited from their ‘account’ which they accumulate for doing certain things in school, something else most students would wish to avoid.

This evening, over a couple of beers, said he wanted me to come to his home tomorrow for the weekend. Luckily I was able to defer the invitation because I have not quite shaken off a nasty cold/catarrh I have had over the last few days and I said I didn’t want to pass it on to his wife or young child.

FRIDAY 2nd SEPTEMBER

It looks like there will be three days of sport at school next week disrupting classes yet again. This time the school is hosting the community with sports events including Sepak Takraw, Volleyball and the football pitch has been specially mown for the games.

I also learned that Ajarn Tuk, the Thai English teacher, has been accepted for the free trip to China to learn Chinese. She already speaks quite a lot of the language but she will also be learning about Chinese culture and about the education system there. She leaves on October 9th and will be away for one year. The Director told me he is trying to get a replacement English teacher for one year but that may not be so easy. Meanwhile, I might have to step into her shoes and take over all 17 of the English classes.

Whilst talking with the Director I asked him when the school will close for the October holiday and opened a calendar for him. He seemed a bit vague and said he thinks it will be October 7th but he will know next week. I certainly hope so otherwise the cheaper early bird flights will all disappear and I will end up paying much more for them. Grrrrrrrh #2

SATURDAY 3rd SEPEMBER

I spent a lot of time on the internet trying to resolve a problem with amazon.co.uk which will not allow me to download some mp3 music because of a geographical restriction on the content. One way around this is to use a proxy server which hides your IP (Internet Protocol) address and allows you to appear to be based in, say, the UK, rather than Thailand as I am.

If I go down this route a welcome spin-off is that I will be able to watch programmes or listen to the radio on the BBC iPlayer which restricts its content to UK listeners.

SUNDAY 4th SEPTEMBER

I got cheesed off being woken up yet again by the thoughtless actions of one of the other teachers I share the house with who turned on the tap to top up the water in the tank we take water from to shower. I live immediately above the bath room and can hear very clearly everything that happens in there and the sound of spurting water from the tap hitting the water in the tank at 6am mad me so annoyed that I actually got out of bed, went downstairs, and witched the tap off while at the same time cursing Mr Yor who’d just turned it on.

If he wants to get up at 6am that’s fine but he should take care not to wake everyone else in the process. Unfortunately, despite having talked about this a couple of times before he, like so many Thais I have found, simply cannot learn from a mistake. He gets up at 6am every morning and he opens his door with a bang with no care or thought about anyone else. He also keeps his door closed, so that makes a second bang as he shuts it. My door would make the same noise if I didn’t open it while pulling it towards the hinges to ease the fit. So that’s all he has to do, but he’s got some kind of mental block and can’t bring himself to consider the other two people in the house unless it suits him to do so.

When I get up to take a pee during the night my objective is to be as quiet as a mouse so as not to wake anyone. I have mentioned this to him a few times now but the penny never seems to drop.

I was taken into Khon Kaen today by a senior student from Nong Kom Saeng school comes round to the teacher’s house sometimes. We went to Kranuan on his motorbike and then go the bus to Khon Kaen where we did some shopping.
This didn’t take as long as expected so he suggested seeing a movie at lunchtime and of the four films showing he picked Bangkok Kung Fu and my heart sank as I envisaged what kind of film it would be.

It was actually better than the title suggests because it was an anti child exploitation film exposing in an amusing way the gangs that control the disabled and blind children that you often see playing simple music and begging on the streets in Bangkok. Assuming there was some truth in the movie then gangs are known to kidnap vulnerable children and if they are not already blind of disabled then they inflict suitable injuries on them under the guise of punishments so they can earn money on the streets for the gangs. Needless to say there was a handsome hero in the story who was once one of the blind child victims but has since become possessed of some unearthly powers and, together with a couple of other former victims, give the gangmasters their comeuppance. Luckily, there was almost no kung fu in it at all!
MONDAY 5th SEPTEMBER

Ajarn Took was away again this morning attending a meeting in Khon Kaen but she didn’t call me until 9.30 this morning to tell me and ask if I would take her class for her, but it was ok and I took the class and it went well.

This evening the Director arranged a birthday party for me at a restaurant on the road to Kranuan. It’s a place I have been to before which has had a lot of money spent on it to make it look smart and modern to cater for all kind of customers. He booked the one and only indoor room and most people were there by the time Mr Weang and I arrived in his car. For the very first time, everyone from Sai Moon was there apart from Mr Hot, who was in Udon Thani, and apart from Ajarn Took who has gone home because sister is ill. As well as all the teachers, there was the Head Man of Phi Mun (I had previously called the local village Sai Moon, but in fact the right name is Phi Mun), and his deputy; Mr Mee, who is the gardener and handyman and Jack of all trades at the school; Mr Phiman (the restaurant owner and deputy director of Ban Hat Sai Moon primary school) and his wife; Mr Not, a sports teacher at Ku Don school; Ajarn Cat’s mother and the other Ajarn Took’s daughter. All in all there were 22 people there.

Tons of food had already been laid out on the table and people had started eating when I arrived. I took my place beside my school Director and tucked in. I had mentioned that the dish I liked most from the menu was a sort of roast pork on the bone with a form of crackling and several dishes of this were laid at intervals down the long table along with many other dishes.

The Director had very kindly purchased all the drinks beforehand and brought them to the restaurant: Leo beer, Spy Classic, a bottle of (Thai) Regency brandy and sodas all of which would reduce my bill for the evening by 3-4,000 baht or so. The evening went very well and once people had finished eating two birthday cakes were brought in to the now darkened room with candles flaming and with everyone singing Happy Birthday. I was given a present of a basket of Brand’s elixirs and there is a photo of this in my gallery. As you will see, it is a set of healthy drinks.

After this there were some speeches. The first came from the Phi Mun Head Man and then Mr Phiman and then Dr McKrorn (I’m not sure of his last name), the Director of Nom Kong Saeng school and one of the people who came on the trip to Laos back in February and a golf buddy of my Director, and then Mr Phanakhun, my school director and, finally, I had to take the mike and Mr P. translated for me but he requested beforehand that I use easy words and keep it short and both requests suited me fine.

Then evening continued with karaoke singing from a large TV-style screen on the stage. I had to sing too though it took a bit of searching of the computer index to find a song that I knew with English words.

During the evening I apologised to Ajarn Yor for my outburst yesterday morning and we made up and everything is ok again. I do like him and I will just have to put up with the noise he makes which wakes me up so often.

Later on, I had a call from Ajarn Joy, the Thai English teacher at Muang Baeng School, and she mentioned that her school had just completed the final exams and she asked when my school was doing them. I had to tell her I had no idea as I was unaware of any impending exams.

By the end of the evening only a few people remained as it was past midnight when the two school Directors, who both have the stamina to go on forever, left to go home. It was a really nice evening and it was good to have every available teacher present for once.

TUESDAY 6th SEPTEMBER

Last week for my M4, M5 and M6 classes I thought it would be a good idea to introduce some dictation because listening carefully to words and how they are pronounced can be a great help to students of a foreign language. But there are difficulties for the student too, for example a Thai will pronounce the words liver (which was not in the text) and river (which was in the text) in the same way no matter how much practice you give them. During this morning’s class I tried to explain the misunderstanding they will cause if they mix up these two words but I am not sure how much sunk in.

This evening I joined the Director for dinner at Mr Weang’s place which is really just an outbuilding of the school. A small brick-built building which he uses as an office and where some of the teachers have lunch. After dinner he mentioned he is planning a trip to Laos on the first weekend in October and that he wanted Mr Weang, Mr Kay, Mr Yor and myself to join him. He’s apt to have these ideas and although most do come off, some don’t so I am hoping that this idea falls by the wayside as I have other plans for the October holiday.

Posted by talismanic 04:47 Archived in Thailand

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Comments

Happy belated birthday Alistair! Glad you had fun celebrating with the other teachers - I would have loved to have been there ... even just to witness you on the karaoke machine!

by C.Gordon

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