good MOR-ning, TEA-cher

every class starts with the same routine:

I walk in the classroom. One student calls out, “STAND UP, PLEASE,” and the rest act accordingly.
Students: “Good MOR-ning, TEA-cher!”
Me: “Good morning, students. How are you today?”
Students: “Am FINE, thank YOU, and YOU?”
Me: “I’m happy today, thank you. You may sit down.”

today, i’m teaching 6 out of 7 periods at Thida Mae Phra School, so this will happen 6 times.

*

each class has about 55 students.

in Thailand, the schools are divided into elementary and secondary levels. the secondary level is called “mattayom” and it’s equivalent to 7th – 12th grade in the states.

i mainly teach mattayom 1 and mattayom 2 (13 and 14 year olds), all girls. on fridays, i also teach two classes of the elementary school students, called “prathom” level students.  there’s both boys and girls in the prathom classes.

each level comes with its pros and cons. the younger students actually have better English abilities than the older ones, because they’ve been exposed to English longer and more consistently.  however, they’re also a handful to entertain for 55 minutes.

the older students are (generally) calmer and sometimes able to have mature conversations, but they’re also at that teenage-angst stage where their brains may or may not be swamped with hormones and they care a lot about what others think of them.

*
every class ends the same way, too.

I get ready to leave the classroom. The same student yells, “STAND UP, PLEASE”
Students: THANK YOU, TEACHER.

A few students will chime in, “See you again tomorrow.”  Then the class erupts in a flurry of goodbye waves and a chorus of “bye-bye”s.

*

today is the last day that my German host sister will stay in our host community of Thungsong. Eva is returning home, after completing a one year exchange program here in Thailand. she’s only 19, so she’ll start university soon. because of this volunteer experience, she decided to study to be a teacher.

Eva and I with a member of the Karen hill tribe
at Nam Dtok Yong waterfall in Thungsong

her English and her Thai have improved immensely since she first got here.  when she arrived last july, my advisor hadn’t found a host family for her yet, so i offered to let her stay with me and to eat dinner with us one night.  she charmed everyone, and pretty soon my host mom called my advisor to ask if she could be part of the family, too.

feeding an elephant sugarcane on the street

i’ll always appreciate Eva’s sense of play: she never hesitates when there’s a chance to be silly. she makes the best goat noises i’ve ever heard.

i spent Christmas Day 2010 with Eva and her family, who came to visit over the holiday.  my advisor hosts an annual party which happens to be on Christmas, though they are not intended to be related.  we spent the night eating, singing karaoke, and dancing. all the Thai people commented on how tall everyone in Eva’s family is.

Thai-style dancing on Christmas
Eva’s brothers and Kanob

after school today, i’ll be taking a two-hour minivan ride to Thungsong for her going-away party.  soon, my host brother will go with her to visit Germany.  hopefully, i’ll one day do the same.

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