I. Teaching is hard
I’m not used to people. I’m used to sitting at my computer for most of the day taking one, maybe two zoom calls. I’m really good at working alone. I am not really good with people, especially when I am the center of attention all the time.
Teaching is exhausting. Four year olds are exhausting. For the past two weeks I’ve been teaching English to four, five, and six year olds for about four hours a day. I don’t know how all these full time teachers do it. By the end of the day, I can barely think straight, and all I want to do is curl up on my bed in the dark and be alone. I was not built for this.
For the four and five year olds I kind of teach whatever I want. Everyday I have to come up with a new engaging activity that keeps the kids occupied and teaches them some sort of English concept. Everyday we start by reciting (yelling) the class rules.
Rule #1 – English only no Thai
Rule #2 – Keep your hands to yourself
Rule #3 – Sit in your chair
Rule #4 – Raise your hand
Rule #5 – Listen to the teacher
Rule #6 – Have fun and be happy
After that we sing a song together. Sometimes it’s London Bridge, sometimes it’s Baby Shark, sometimes it’s Wheels on the Bus.
After stalling for as long as I can with the rules and the song, we get into the lesson. Sometimes lessons really hit and sometimes they miss hard.
My best lesson so far was when I just brought in a roll of green masking tape. I ripped off an inch of tape for each kid and we all played with our tape together for 20 minutes. One kid stuck it to his upper lip, so we all pretended our pieces of tape were moustaches. Then another kid put his tape over his eye like an eye patch, so we all pretended we were pirates for a couple minutes. I had no idea that kids loved tape so much.
My worst lesson was when I tried to get them to build a bridge out of big lego-ish connector block things. I put two pieces of tape on the floor and told them that it was a river. We all took turns jumping over the river. Then I told them we need to build a bridge to cross the river. When I dumped the blocks out on the ground it was over. I no longer had any control. There was nothing I could do to get their attention to have them practice English. One kid would build a tower and then another would come over and smash it and both would start fighting and yelling and then one would end up crying. It was all I could do to keep them from screaming so loud that the whole school could hear. It was a bad lesson. But I think I’ve learned from that mistake. No more blocks.
The kids are very cute though. Every day when they leave my class I have them all say “Teacher Sam is awesome!” They don’t know what awesome means but one day they’ll figure it out, and they’ll know they were speaking truth all those days in kindergarten.
For the six year olds I do a reading program. Every week we have a new short story with 12 new vocab words. Some of the words for this past week include last, fast, donut, dragon, press, mom, and son. Every day we practice sounding out our words one letter at a time. This takes way longer than you might expect because six year olds are crazy and have way too much energy. The first couple days we didn’t even finish, so I had to devise a new strategy. I went to the local market and found a stopwatch with a big visible screen. Now everything that happens in Teacher Sam’s reading class is a race. With this new trick we can get through all our reading words twice with time to spare! I have even started bringing out the flash cards with prizes (two goldfish instead of one) for whoever can get through them the fastest. I’m getting better with the six year olds, and they are now my favorite class. It’s still exhausting, but it’s kinda fun.
II. Thailand is easy
This country already feels like home. I get to do all the things I’ve always loved. I get to ride my bike through busy streets and trust that the chaotic flow of traffic will somehow work out for me. I get to impress everyone I meet with the few phrases I know of their language. I get to assume the best of everyone I see because I couldn’t understand if they were being mean anyway. I get to free my mind of all things political because worrying about it in America didn’t do anything for me so it definitely won’t in a different country. All the things I loved about growing up in China and serving my mission in Cambodia still apply to Thailand. And I love it.
The other day Kaitlyn and I rode into the city to try to figure out a phone plan for the both of us. We mapped out the 15 minute bike ride before hand and had no trouble finding the phone store. We parked our bikes and walked in and, like every time we go anywhere, everyone turned to look at us. After a moment the two girls working there realized they were going to have to deal with us and you could see them tense up. One of them ran to the back to get their boss that spoke a little English. It took a little bit of back and forth and a decent amount of Google Translate but after about 20 minutes we figured it out and paid 300 baht ($10) for a month of prepaid unlimited data. I wouldn’t call the whole experience “smooth” but to me it was fun and a little challenging and rewarding. It feels good to eventually be able to understand someone who doesn’t speak your language. When you realize that, even with the language barrier, you were able to convey your desires and get what you need it makes the world feel accessible. Interactions like this make me happy to be human. I’d like to think that the workers at the phone store felt something similar.
On our way home we stopped to get a custom soda from a street vendor, which turned out to be quite gross, and some meat sticks from a different vendor, which are quickly becoming our favorite food. Street vendors are great, and we need more of them in America.
Thailand is great. Teaching is great. I’m learning a lot and having a good time. Kaitlyn is having fun, and I’m so happy she gets to experience Asia with me in this way.
These are supposed to be elephant ears lmao
Very cute kids
The stickers flow at the Imperial School
These kids love Among Us
We didn’t have enough bikes on our first day so Kaitlyn hitched a ride
A scene from our evening run
We took a weekend trip to see this temple
They call it the glass temple because of all the ceramic shards embedded in the walls
We stayed in some fun little tents