Loi Krathong to the rescue

I’ve been in Asia for 1 and a half months now, and this week was the first time where I felt a little more settled and at home here. That might have something to do with the fact that I have a home here now, and have settled a bit into the city. The teachers in my school are lovely, they speak very little English, but they’re nice, and the students are good, rowdy, but good. We’ve made new friends, we’ve been to our first proper Thai festival, and we’ve survived our first week as proper teachers.

Roi-Et is seriously growing on me. The city seemed so far away last weekend, we had no idea what was there, and had never visited. Heading into this weekend, we know we can walk it – much to the disgust of the Thai people, they seem to think walking more than 1om is a crime! But Roi-Et. It’s not touristy at all, which is good – proper Thai living experience. The place just feels real, which is what I wanted from the place I lived over here. It has a lovely lake and park, which we finally got to explore properly at Loi Krathong. It’s just a shame about the teaching at the same time.

I don’t know what I expected teaching to be like. I’ve dabbled a bit at home in a couple of schools, but I always knew the Thai education system would be different. I’m not exactly the most qualified or experienced teacher around, which I expect adds to the problems, but they’re not all me! My school is nice, it’s a private Kindergarten/Prathom (Primary) school, and has a lovely staff and student body. I just feel a little lost. There is no curriculum, no clue as to what my predecessor taught, no explanation of rules, regulations, conduct, attendance, or assessment. It kind of makes the teaching harder. The actual physical teaching is the scariest part – obviously – but I don’t think I’m that bad, well I hope I’m not. The kids laugh, pay attention, and repeat what I say, not sure what else I can do.  I got my first presents as a teacher this week – a flower picked from the plant pot in the yard, a pack of watermelon lemonade sweets, and a hand-drawn picture of me. I must have them on side at the least.

I’m still not sure it’s for me though. I get nervous before every lesson, and I’m not enjoying it all the time. I hope it will settle down once I am not doing the introductions and greetings week. All the years have learnt different things, so I am going to have different lesson plans for every year next week. That should stop me getting bored, it’s not great when the teacher is bored, never mind the kids. They’re so loud and enthusiastic about singing and shouting what you said, it’s quite sweet, and deafening, and tiring.

I’m not the only one who hasn’t taken to it straight away though. At least one more person has called it a day this week, that’s a lot before the first week is over! I don’t think I want to call it a day yet, I am going to give it a decent crack, but I can already sort of see why they would do. Jade isn’t finding it all plain sailing either. Discipling and class managements is a nightmare for me, so I couldn’t imagine teaching older kids. I struggled enough doing 1 yr9 class at home, I admire her. That, combined with the issues I also face from lack of information, makes it a near impossible task. It’s not a surprise so many people don’t last longer than 1 semester.

That said, the friends we have made who teach at another school have been here a lot longer than us. They don’t seem to have any plans to leave here. I’m really jealous, well Jade and I both are, as they have over 15 farang teachers in their school. There is literally just me who is foreign in mine, and Jade is one of two – the other girl is Chinese. At least she has someone who she can speak to on the lunch break. It isn’t half getting lonely and boring in the staffroom, reading and playing tetris is all very well but it gets boring when there is nothing else to do with your time and no-one to talk to. She is very close to home as well. Yes, I get home earlier, but it is only because next door gives me a lift. It’s seriously awkward when we can’t communicate well, and I have to get into their car, or bike as it turns out. I don’t even go with the daughter in the morning any more, they take me especially. I feel bad about it. Not bad enough to refuse it but…

One thing that has been nothing but positive this week was our first Thai party experience, Loi Krathong. The name could be translated as “to float a basket”, and comes from the tradition of making krathong or buoyant, decorated baskets, which are then floated on a river. (yes that has come directly from wikipedia) I think the purpose is to apologise and get rid of sins committed and the dirtying of the water through the year by the offering made to the goddess of the water. Wikipedia certainly explains it a lot better than I do. They release lots of these Krathongs onto the water, lit with candles and ornately designed, release Chinese lanterns into the air, and have parades and fireworks. The whole thing was impressive and a great thing to be a part of – so thanks for telling us, and picking us up on the bikes guys!

I think I could get used to this, once I am in a routine, and have got used to the teaching. I wish we were closer to other places in Thailand, and I wish that the language was easier to learn, but I’ll get there. Who knows, I might love teaching soon.

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