And I just took a paper airplane, one I taught them how to make, to the forehead … and the class is only a quarter finished.
And I'm working with adults!
It's been a year since started teaching English in Bangkok. I've taught every age, every level and people from every walk of life. From the ages of five to 45, from teaching the alphabet to holding a discussion on global warming, from dealing with booger-picking toddlers to doctors, the one thing that never ceases to amaze me is just how all students behave in a similar way once they're inside a classroom.
But in spite of all the indignities inflicted upon my person, and don't forget I'm an ajarn, it's hard not to come home with a smile on my face. Every day I spend teaching means I have the opportunity to file away another memorable story. Here are some examples:
I'm standing in front of a class of five-year-olds and realise that my lips are dry. So, I pull out my lip balm and before I know it, 11 kiddies are chanting "Kru ben toot! Kru ben toot!", or "Teacher is a tootsie!". Sometimes I wish I couldn't understand Thai, but the kids are still cute.
In a class of 12- and 13-year-olds, there's one particularly bright, though extremely hyperactive student - and I mean the "run around the room with arms in the air and legs flapping wildly" sort. After one such episode, the student sits down quietly, folds his hands neatly, looks me in the eye and calmly states: "I'm hyper." This episode took place in a 10-second timeframe.
Younger kids tend to ask why I dye my hair black. I suppose it's because they think I'm farang since I teach English. Look at my picture and let me know if I look even remotely farang and if my roots are showing.
After talking for the best part of a lesson, I ask one particular student "Do you get spanked a lot by your Thai teacher?" He politely replies, "Yes I do", before continuing his conversation with his friend. But, at least, he got all his work done.
Here's something for students to note: if your teacher looks at all Thai, you should never speak in Thai about how handsome you think he is or how his zipper was accidentally left undone. It could make for an embarrassing moment for everyone.
Still, despite all these uneasy episodes, at the end of the day it's good to know that as a teacher I got something through despite the language and cultural barrier and, perhaps most importantly, everyone had fun learning it. Teaching means making the most out of your time in every situation. You never know when you'll be rewarded with a laughter-inducing experience. At least I'll have something to relate when I'm old and wrinkled.
On a more serious note, though, I really enjoy teaching and find it very rewarding. I think it's not only important to learn something new, but also you must also have fun doing it. Of course, studying is not all fun and games, but as a teacher, the great moments are many and often.
By Kenny Somvongsiri