Thursday, September 11, 2008

Teacher's Diary: day three

It's been pelting down with rain since yesterday evening and I know this bodes ill for the day. Sure enough, I miss my pick up and end up paying for a taxi who cannot drop me off inside school, so I have to brave the jam-packed, mud spattered road in. To make things worse, today is the day I have 'early morning study'. EMS is, in theory, the system where the school take the low-scoring students and give them an extra period with the teacher (me) before morning assembly. For reasons I could never ascertain, it never works out that way. Instead, I get several mid-table students sat around the library table looking thoroughly ticked off at having their breakfast interrupted. I feel the same way, and the torrential rain just adds to the gloom.

I'm not going to compound their misery by working them, instead we have a light hearted chat for twenty minutes then I send them on their way. The whole day has an air of dullness thanks to the rain, but I'm boosted by the big win for England last night and the cool breeze coming down the corridor. My first class goes quite well until I notice one girl has a Nazi insignia on her bag. This isn't so unusual in Thailand as the kids normally see it as a sign or rebellion without understanding what it really means. I explain to Minnie - the girl in question - that in my opinion, I would really like to see her find a different symbol to decorate her bag with. I try to teach a little about the Nazi policy towards other races without sounding pedantic, and I think she gets my drift. Later, another teacher happens to mention he also noticed the Nazi sign today but choose not to talk to Minnie about it. I'm not sure who made the better decision.

The rest of the day goes by uneventfully. My grade ten class cannot settle down though. We've got an exam in less than two weeks and we are well behind on the curriculum. If they want to get a good exam score, we need to buckle down, and they are just not doing it.

On the way home I get a cab again. A student going the same way asks to jump in. I'm normally shy about sharing cabs with people but as he's a student, I let him jump in. The boy in question is a half Thai, half Indian student from grade ten. I don't teach him but I've noticed him around, in fact it's hard to miss him as he is very loud. His name is Seb and he tells me he has to get three buses home every day. "Why?" I ask him.

"Because I live so far away" he says.

"So why do you study here?" I ask.

"I've been expelled from so many schools" he tells me in perfect English.

It turns out that Seb is a troubled soul. He tells me about his problems with drugs and his fights with teachers. He drew blood on one teacher and was expelled from that school. He goes on to tell me he realised what he was doing to his life and is trying hard to put himself back on track. He even visited his old school to apologise to the teacher.

I've been around teenagers long enough to tell when they are embellishing their tales and I don't believe that Seb is doing so. His manner and eyes tell me he is being honest. I'm quite pleased that I had this conversation with Seb, and I can see he appreciates the ride. I'll bet that Seb is a difficult lad to teach as he's very cocky and over confident, but he's good natured and I hope he can get his problems sorted out. Still glad I don't have to teach him, though.

One thing that strikes me is that - with the possible exception of temple schools or vocational schools - students like Seb are rare. In all my time of dealing with teenagers, I've never had a physical conflict or any kind of weapon or substance worse than cigarettes to deal with. The only student ever to raise their fist to me was a girl! That's not to say they are all angels, but compared to England where assaults on teachers are at a record high, and discipline is a huge problem, we have it easy in Thailand.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting series of posts.

However, what you describe as "Nazi insignia" is presumably a swastika. This symbol long predates the Nazi era, and was originally a Hindu symbol, later adopted by Buddhists. You'll frequently see it in temples here in Thailand. It's often inscribed on the forehead or chest of Buddha figures.

It was also used in mediaeval England as a decoration in manuscripts when it was known as a fylfot.

It is unlikely your student was celebrating the Nazi cause. Rather, she was simply using a traditional decorative symbol with religious overtones.