Wow, let’s just say when I walked into my classroom the first day, the first graders were angels! I wanted to tell the other teachers that they are just perfect and that everyone I had heard might just have been wrong... Let me clarify though. They are always angels in the morning, but as the day goes on, their behavior breaks down and barely anything works on them. They become insane. Praising good students, staring at them for over a few minutes, shouting. Seriously, I tried all of those. I even attempted to clap patterns and turn off the lights. NOTHING. I rewarded good students with stickers and let them go outside early for break. The wild students in my class paid no attention whatsoever. Even when the classroom was empty except for them, they chose to continue running after each other, punching and kicking their friends.
Now, when the Thai teacher stands up front and calls their attention, they suddenly become perfect little angels again. On Friday, October 25th, only my second day in the classroom, I almost cried. (It seems like I want to cry a lot, but this was from complete hopelessness as I watched them transform in mere seconds.) I was shocked at how little of an effect I seemed to have on them.
To explain my teaching situation, I am another new teacher in this first grade classroom, 1D. Our school, located in Muang Thong Thani, literally 3 blocks from my place, is a Catholic school named St. Francis Xavier. To locals, it is just St. Fran, pronounced “fron.” To taxi drivers, it is rongrien farang (foreign/western person school).
There are two sides to this school, the English Program (EP) side and the Thai side. The Thai side has Thai teachers that teach every subject almost the entire day, except for a period or two when students take an English class taught by foreign teachers. My friend from the ATI program is doing that. On the other hand, the EP students see the foreign teachers for 3 to 4 periods per day to learn Science, Math, English Comprehension and Skills, and Health. Thai is taught to them once a day, although they have other computer/gym non-core academic lessons in Thai. I teach on this side.
Every day, I teach for 3 to 4 periods, each being 50 minutes. The period I dread the most is the one right before lunch because the students realize they can just go crazy and there is pretty much nothing the foreign teachers can do to control this. Their voice volumes are always louder, they all talk more, and their focus is everywhere except for on the teacher and the board.
One of my teachers told me that in the morning, it is best to “teach a lot and have the students do less.” In the afternoon, it is best to “teach less and have the students do more.” I wholeheartedly agree because every lesson depends on their behavior.
My current management system consists of team points, stickers, and after Halloween, candy. I can say that in the first week, I taught an isolated few pages of each book. Every other foreign teacher said they move slowly too because of the students’ reactions to us. Thankfully, we have time to recuperate a little when we have long breaks because we don’t need to be in the classroom during the periods we are not teaching.
I have learned that Thursdays are my hardest days. This past Thursday, Halloween, was so stressful that I went home with a headache, slept on and off until 4 in the morning, and finished planning at 4:30. Then, I crashed again and woke up at 6 to get ready to go to school. This Friday threatened to be the absolute worst day as of yet. My water kettle spilled (it was easy to mop up, but I was just not feeling well), my internet told me that I had used up my 1.5 GB already (within 3 days of paying for the original plan) and I had to keep paying to renew my plan, and I dreaded going to school with the severest passion. I sat at my counter eating, ready to burst into tears. I briefly contemplated not showing up to school and just flying back to Chicago.
My friends, both Gina’s, helped me out so much that day. They checked in on me as they passed my classroom, and one of them suggested I could take my students to her when they misbehaved. The other said she would come in and practice the clapping attention-getter with me, which helped so much. The students did so well first period that I put up about 4 smileys on the board--I told them that if they earned 10 smileys by the end of the day, the entire class would win candy. At one point, one of the students was talking too much though, so I erased an eye of one of the smileys, and he said in the saddest voice, “Nooooo, teacher!!!” I almost laughed at how cute it was!
Unfortunately, they did not earn the ten smileys and ended up with only 3 smileys on the board for the rest of the day. I did give some candy to the students who put their heads down during my re-practice of the lights-out. Classical conditioning! When one of the students did not listen at all and continued to talk, I walked over to him and asked him to put his head down. He completely ignored me as I talked sternly to him. As the other students watched, I asked him follow me to another classroom, which they hate, and when he didn’t listen, grabbed him (this I would never do in a normal classroom), and dragged him across the hallway to another teacher. All of this was done in plain sight of the other students. I then walked back and looked at them.
“Does anyone else want to go to a different classroom?” They all shook their heads and kept their heads down. I kept them like that for 45 seconds and gave team points.
Let me jump backwards to Halloween (that crazy Thursday). The students were pumped all day and barely got anything done. However, it was their first time trick-or-treating from classroom to classroom, and they were so excited! When the other students came to our door, all of 1D, my students, wanted to hand out candy. They would crowd out the door and then spread out in the hallway. I had to keep lasso-ing the children in by saying, “If you don’t come in, you don’t do Halloween!” They responded VERY WELL to that. It was a fun day overall and I definitely collected enough candy to bribe the students--well, extrinsically-motivate them--for a while.
There is basically no rhyme or reason to this post, just to keep you clued in. But here’s a little more information about the school routine:
7:45 - Students line up outside. Everyone stands still to the King’s song as someone hoists the flag.
7:47 - Older students sing a Hail Mary(?) song as we keep our hands clasped.
7:49 - Announcements are made
7:52 - Students turn around and face the school
7:53 to 7:59 - Students take off their shoes, turn to face the teacher in boy-and-girl lines, bow and greet the teacher, enter the classroom, unpack their things, sit in their desks
8:00 - Class begins.
Now for more random things:
-The other teachers saw a dead cat with splayed legs outside the front gate. Yuck!
-I saw a dead dog by the back gate, since it’s a closer walk to my house, and it really smelled. They cleaned it up within 2 days, but its stench is still lingering, as are its tufts of fur. It reminded me how afraid of dead animals I am.
-I worked out on Wednesday night with my new gym membership(!) before that crazy Thursday. I jogged for 25 minutes and went to a 1.5 hour yoga class. It felt great :)
-I skipped dinner that crazy Thursday night because of my bad sleeping schedule.
-However, on Friday, being in a better mood, I went downstairs, ordered an omelet with broccoli, chives, and a bunch of mushrooms. I also bought luk chup (a big box for only $1.33! Boo to the Chicago price of $5 per tiny box!), bananas, those tiny tangerine fruits, and a mango. Oh, how I miss eating fruits after every single meal like I did back at home!!!
-I finally got a Thai massage! It was full body, hurt like mad, but it did wonders. All the kinks are out. It was really funny though and the massage therapist and I kept laughing. The tea they served afterwards was amazing too! :)
Conversation with a friend one night:
Me: i'm eating crushed ramen now lol... dry without any seasoning! yummmmm lol
Adam: such an exciting life
Me: you know it!!!!
Adam: stay classy, jen!
Me: well, now i'm eating it with my fingers, using toilet paper as napkins and i'm in my bed, so it's super classy
Some pictures of my class:
Herb, one of my troublemakers, and Tonnam
Tan Tan (or Tan^2), Pokchat, Eclair
Tan Tan, Meaily, Pokchat
Nataly and Aum
Jaidee and Cha-aim
Too of my bad boys lol, Aungkrit and Ou
Team 1: Ou, Baitoey, Eclair, First
Team 2: Khow-hom, Meaily, and Cha-aim
Part of Team 3 and 4: Noon and Plato
$1.33 ONLY, and I ate about half of it! Luk chup.