I was closing out my first week teaching and had been living in Bangkok for a month. To clarify: what I’d been teaching were called prep-courses, courses designed to introduce students to the English Program. I would be teaching two groups, M1 (grade 7) and M2 (grade 8). Students start the English Program at M1, so those are the kids I’d be teaching, a group of thirteen 12 year olds.
The size of the group was actually a surprise; I had been told to expect 30-35 students in each group but, as mentioned, the M1 group is only 13 students and, apparently, the M2 group is only 16 students. So, I’ll be teaching English and Science to the M1, which I have started, and English and Health to the M2s.
Anyway, these courses were just an overview and an opportunity for students and teachers to get used to each other and the program. To be honest, it was kinda slow going: these kids were less advanced than my Korean students of the same age had been. Teaching science was especially challenging as I first needed to teach them the vocabulary before I could broach the actual concepts. And, honestly, I didn’t think they’d actually grasp the concepts that year. I mean, I could make them understand that an atom had three parts (neutron, proton and electron), but did they actually get what an atom was in the first place? Not at all. But, really, no one cared. It’s literally impossible to fail in Thailand. The no fail policy is actually national and tied to the cultural concept of “saving face.” So, as long as they wrote the correct words on their test, everyone was happy.
It could be frustrating, though, for all concerned, ’cause you still had to go through the material and, sometimes, it was nearly impossible to make it fun.
Overall, though, it was pretty easy and laid back. The other teachers were nice and left us largely alone. The approach to teaching is very casual, which made it equal parts frustrating and more relaxed.
On our first day, the other new teacher, Josh, and I went to eat in the cafeteria and didn’t think much of it when we sat down and all the students stared at us; we’re western teachers, after all. Then we found out there was a teachers’ lounge we could use. So, yeah, it was probably a new experience for the students to have their teachers eating among them.
Speaking of food: I bought a small electric hot plate. I hadn’t actually tried cooking anything, despite having a fresh food market nearby, instead I bought pre-made meals from a local food stall and heated them up. These came in small bags, one bag of rice and one bag of some concoction that usually featured some meat and some vegetables. This combo cost me all of 35 baht, which is just over a dollar. It’s incredible how cheap most food is there. I bought a whole watermelon for $2 a few days before. At one point, I was sitting with a gentleman who spoke excellent English and I pointed at my meal, for which I paid about $1.50, and told him that, in Montreal, it would cost about $8-$9, or about 250 baht. He couldn’t believe it.
So, yeah, I was settling in nicely. I hadn’t been leaving my apartment much, hadn’t done much exploring, as that week—in late April—had been the hottest of the year. With the combination of the sun and humidity, the temperature must be approaching 40 degrees. The heat had actual weight. Any breeze felt like someone placed a fan inside an oven. The evenings were pretty nice, though, and I tried to eat outside when I could. I did hope to explore some new part of the city that Saturday, though, maybe return to Chinatown or hit up Banglamphu, and on the following weekend I’d be hitting up Singapore for a few days.