Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Teacher's Diary: day two

The first class is grade nine class 'D', the same class I taught the Vietnam War to yesterday. So yes, today the topic is the Asian financial crisis.

I want to get across the concept of 'national reserves' by drawing a pile of money in a safe on the whiteboard. Problem is, my drawings are utterly retarded. I get the class artist to draw the pile of money. Unfortunately, he's being a perfectionist about it and taking his time. I explain he just needs to do a quick sketch but he's being stubborn and I can't get the kids to focus on me while he's drawing. We're ten minutes into class and I haven't started.

Once we get going though, the kids do great, even better than yesterday. These lot are so bright, some of them can even name the Thai prime ministers during the crisis years. Teachers are usually quick enough to tell students when they are not performing, so I make a point of telling them how well they did today. The next class will be a very different affair though, that's for sure.

Class 'A' were almost unanimously voted the most, ahem, 'difficult' class last year and this year is not much better. In the early days it was open hostility between this class and I, but it's a little better now. I've come to realise that most of these students are not obnoxious - though a few are - they are just very weak. There are actually some bright personalities but they simply cannot focus. And so it is today, as I teach my same 'Vietnam War' lesson as I did with class 'D' yesterday. I spend more time telling them to listen than actually teaching. A measure of my success could be my final question when I ask: "Who won the Vietnam War?" and a student answers: "Japan".

One boy is purposely giving me a hard time by cracking pointless jokes as I go along. He's not being humorous, he's purposely being disruptive and showing off to his mates. I'm going to let it slide now but next week he'll be sitting alone and if he is still a problem, he'll sit outside.

Next period is a free. The Science teachers are excited about the 'big bang' experiment, and I've been meaning to sit down with a fellow Social Studies teacher - a devout Christian - and get into a debate on infinite regress, but that can wait.

I then have grade ten Social Science. In fact, the grade ten curriculum is called 'Social Science' but in reality it is 'Earth Science', a fact which I didn't know when I agreed to take the class. I'm no earth scientist, but I get by. On the plus side, grade ten students are generally far more mature than grade nine and the class size is smaller. Some of these guys have known me for a while now and mostly seem to like me, so the lessons are relaxed affairs. Today we are doing a case study on deforestation in Indonesia. I keep it basic as - despite their age - a lot of these students are very weak with their English. The oldest girl in the class is eighteen, the oldest boy is seventeen, both struggle to speak English. It's a shame because both are good natured students.

That's my classes done for the day, except for 'Drama club'. 'Drama Club' is one of those extra duties that teachers treat as anathema, but I got lucky with this one. My assigned class is a small group of the brightest girls in grade ten. We are preparing a spoof performance of 'Finding Nemo' and to encourage the use of English, we have introduced a system of fining the girls one baht every time they speak Thai. At the end of the year we will use the money to buy a large take away meal to celebrate the performance. So far we only have about thirty baht so either myself and the other teacher - a Hungarian who speaks better English than I do - will have to subsidise, or we will have to order the world's smallest pizza.

The class goes well as usual but the noise from next door is deafening. In fact, this is a real problem in the school. There is always noise from somewhere, be it drum beats, singing, shouting or a teacher with a microphone. It's difficult for any teacher but for teachers speaking a foreign language, it's especially tough.

Still, overall it's been a successful day - two hits, one 'so so' and one miss. Tomorrow I'll aim for three 'hits'.

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