Sunday, January 30, 2011

Work visa/JL Bangkok/First days of teaching

  Hello everyone out there! Look what I've got <== !!  I'm a few weeks behind on this blog/writing/journaling thing, so I'm gonna work fast.  Try to keep up. This, obviously, is my work visa for Korea, which allots me 13 months of nation building in South Korea. It's been a long, arduous process getting this sticker in my passport, so I feel pretty darn justified in showing it off.

  Thus far, we've been in a classroom (rather, conference room in the JL Bangkok) getting a crash course in English instruction from our teacher, Whittney, of the American Tesol Institute. For all you prospective students out there, yes, there is an American Tesol Institute and they really do provide TESOL certification. At least I think so. I'm only 2/3 of the way through the course, so I'll give the definitive word when I've got certificate in hand and job in Korea. But I digress...

  Speaking of the JL Bangkok, here it is:

  It's a pretty nice hotel in the Bangkapi area of Bangkok, nothing too fancy, but good for our purposes.  It is surrounded by shopping, but so is everything in Bangkok.  Seriously.  More on that later.  We've got a nice view of the little courtyard (below, with Thai flag and the King's flag), the staff is very friendly and helpful, and there's a good on-site restaurant that will deliver to our room.  We haven't gotten sick from the food there either (yet), which, all things considered, is a huge plus.

Speaking of our room ==>  
It's simple and spartan, but the bed is nice and we love the fact that it gets cleaned every day.  Not something we're used to when we're hosteling about.  Note the pictures in the frames... or should I say picture.  Strange they left the black and white stock wedding photo in all the frames, same goes for the other rooms we've seen. Literally, the same exact picture.  Really odd, but not that relevant I suppose.  One of my favorite aspects is that there is soccer on t.v. 24/7, which I can watch on mute while Jaclyn watches her rom-coms (romantic comedies, for all of you not in the know) on her computer.  We've been spending a lot of time in the room the last few days with all of the work we've had to do for our teaching practices, so we've really been sorting out the kinks.

  Today (2/1/11) was our second day of teaching in Thai government schools.  I can't really give an overall impression, because Monday and Tuesday were as different as night and day.
  Monday, we were teaching 8 year olds who had little to no experience with English.  Everyone took on the task with enthusiasm, and some lessons went better than others, to say the least.  The children were rowdy, and their attention was limited at best.  Rowdy is really an understatement.  Monkeys in heat are more composed than these kids, and if you've seen monkeys in heat...  You have certain expectations when teaching young children: they'll be chatty, it will be hard to maintain their attention, and you can expect them to be a little wild.  They didn't chat, they screamed.  Their attention was never obtained, let alone maintained.  Wild?  Refer back to the absurd monkey statement.
  These eight year old darlings were practicing their muay thai moves on one another, engaging in all out wrestling matches in the middle of the floor, chasing, choking, throwing, and generally trying to disembowel one another.  Especially after their lunch of ice cream and soda.  We watched in helpless terror as the chaos unfolded before us, and were more than a little relieved when the day was at an end.  It was a task to choke down the scoffs when they all said in unison, at the behest of their teacher returned from who knows where, "Thank you teacher, we'll see you next class!"  Let's hope not, you dastardly ruffians!  Then it was back to the JL to plan for and quietly sob at the thought of the next day.
  The next morning, we pasted on our teacher smiles and taxied over to a different government school on Sukhimvit Road, stomachs full of dread but still hopeful. At least, we thought, things couldn't be any worse than yesterday.  Long story short, and in words stolen verbatim from one of my fellow teachers, the worst part of Tuesday was far better than the best part of Monday.  After a day of teaching children who listened, responded, participated, even read our vocabulary words before we had the chance to recite them, our spirits  were lifted and our hopes were restored.  Not only were our students fantastic (probably an understatement, given the alternative), we were given the royal treatment by the faculty.  For lunch they treated us to a meal, no, feast, that was right up there with the best food I've had thus far in Thailand.  They catered to our every need before we realized we had needs to be catered to.  In short, today was an enlivening day, and we're all excited to return to the same school tomorrow.

  At this point, I feel I have to offer a sort of disclaimer for Monday's students (a few of them at left), even though it will kind of ruin the motif I've been working toward.  Our native instructor, Toi, informed us that the students in Monday's school are almost without exception the product of broken homes, living with aunts and uncles, grandparents, and in some especially unfortunate cases foster families or orphanages.  Why they are all grouped together at this particular govt. school, I really can't say.  Sorry for the ruffian comment.
  They really were sweet kids, and they were fascinated by our presence for a moment or two, and loved having us there.  When I was climbing the stairs, I felt a tiny hand brush mine and turned to see a girl of no more than five giggling to her friends gesturing that she'd touched me.  We really were treated as demi-celebrities, even if they forget all about us the moment we got in front of the class.  Students are students the world over, I suppose, and a substitute teacher, especially one who doesn't speak their language, is a universal invitation to bring on the craziness.

Cute but crazy, hard to believe I know.

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