My name is Tyler and this is my blog. I had nothing better to do after graduating college, so I decided to fly to Thailand to teach first-grade social studies for a year or so. These are my adventures.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Settling In

So I guess it's about time for another blog update. No big adventures yet since the last update. A lot of time has been spent just getting used to the new schedule as teachers. I'm definitely starting to love my first and second graders. There's a clear learning curve for English, however. I'm giving the kids speaking quizzes made up of simple questions (1. What is your name, 2. What month were you born, 3. How old are you, etc.) Most of the kids understand question one, thankfully. Question 2, however, is the defining moment for most of the kids' understanding of English. If they know what month they were born in English, 9 times out of 10 they'll get every other question right. If they don't know, most likely they aren't going to know any other answer on the quiz.

As a quick side note, I've been grading some pictures the kids drew of their families. Underneath is the phrase "I love _________________ because _____________." Most of the kids just copy whatever the teacher wrote on the board, which was usually "I love my mother and father because they are kind." Two stand-outs however: "I love my father because he is my hero" (wow. . . how about that for heart melter?) and "I love my parents because they give me money" (not quite a heart melter, but at least he's honest)

I also managed to nab a tutoring job for two kids twice a week. So on wednesdays and thursdays i'll be staying after 8th period for another hour and end up getting home around six pm, but i'll be making an extra 1200 baht a week. This may be a frustrating job though, as the two kids seem to have very different problems. One kid clearly is actually quite bright, but it's evident that his family speaks no English and he also has some sort of hyperactive disorder as i have to tell him to sit down every 30 seconds to keep him paying attention. He can read English words very well though, and I think he more needs a clear understanding of what the Thai meanings of English words are. The other kid, I'm quite lost on. When he sees the written English text, he can answer my questions easily. When I speak verbally and take the written words away, he's completely lost. Even when I repeat words out loud, he loses comprehension: (CLASS ... class ... CLASS ... crass ... CLASS ... cass ... CLASS ... cat ...) I still don't know how he ended up on "cat." I'll ask him a question and tell him the answer, which he will repeat several times, then I'll ask the same question again and he'll have no idea. I really hope I can make progress with his listening comprehension, as I'm actually getting paid by the parents for this. I also got another offer to tutor once a week on tuesdays, 2 girls and a boy, which should be interesting as St Gabe's is an all-boys school and I haven't had any experience teaching girls.

My 8th period class (the one I teach by myself) went a little better this week. I'm switching days now with another teacher, so I'm only doing twice a week, which is just sooo much better. The other teacher came back after his first day with the kids, though, and just said to me "Man those kids are shitheads...." It's true. They are shitheads. Actually only a few of them are, but when you have a few of them in a class of only 15, it spreads like wildfire. It's really just a question of what activities we can find that will keep them distracted from being wild and hyper long enough to get something accomplished. I'm currently going through as many kids activities I can think of: 7-up, bingo, word searches, a more-PC version of hangman, mad libs. . . SUGGESTIONS ARE WELCOME.

SO I mostly resort to yelling at the top of my lungs and smacking my hand against the desk to get them to shut up. May be a little meaner then the "cool" teacher I envisioned I'd be, but at least I'm easier on the kids than the Thai teachers are. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but there are still some teaching methods utilized here that wouldn't quite be kosher in the US anymore, mostly involving rulers. It's actually kind of difficult to get used to, but then again, sometimes I feel like pulling out my own ruler. Not to smack them of course. Just to make them think I might. Speak softly and carry a big stick, eh.

On the brighter side, we did do some traveling around Bangkok, visiting the Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest market in Thailand and possibly the world. We went with a group of about half guys and half girls, and as we expected, the girls lost us within the first five minutes. It was insane though, just the range of goods and sheer immensity of the market. I doubt we even saw 10% of the market in the couple hours we spent there. Bought a Singha Beer shirt, the local Thai beer I've decided is the best of the lot (it's quite an unremarkable lot). We passed through the pet section, which was probably about the size of ten pet stores solely of the cutest baby kittens and puppies youd ever see crammed into tiny cages. There were some snakes and crocodiles for sale too. That would have been a surprise to bring back to our housing. Also, apparently this market is supposed to be one of the top places to work on bartering skills, but we all failed incredibly. "How much for the sunglasses?" "100 baht." "No no, way too much, how about 50?" "No. It's 100 baht." "Yeah okay."

This past weekend, we really didn't do much, just stayed around Bangkok and watched the football (translation: soccer) matches. Saturday night the US played England and you better have watched it. As a quick side note, if you aren't at all interested in football, that's quite alright. But at least recognize that a) this is one of the few truly global events connecting the people of our planet, more so than the extremely specialized, often expensive to learn and train events of the Olympics. Football is the one sport that anyone, rich or poor, can play, and as such it's the most popular sport in the world. B) This world cup is the first to be held in Africa, bringing international attention to the struggling continent. If you don't like the sport, at least understand and respect its significance instead of offhandedly saying things like "Who cares about the World Cup?" only affirming the stereotype of Americans as uninformed, chauvinistic isolationists.

Enough ranting. The US-England game was fun to watch, but the backpacker bar we went to was filled with pickpockets and cute, overly friendly Thai girls who clearly worked for the bar in order to reap a little additional profit. They also played dance music the entire night, which was distracting. Not that I'd care much to hear the commentators, because it's all in Thai, but I'd much rather watch football in a nice pub, sitting around a table with some friends and brews.

We also checked out the Dusit Zoo this weekend, which was pretty interesting. Lots of Southeast Asian animals that are mostly similar to animals in American zoos, but just a little different.

So I hope these blog entries aren't too long and boring. I want to kind of treat them like mini travel pieces, albeit more personal without that tight, journalistic tone. Hope you all enjoy! PS I promise I'll get some pictures up soon, I just haven't been taking as many as I should, and with one camera down I lost all my early photos. I wanna have some cool ones before I post them!


  1. I’m your aunt, Bev, your dad’s sister. I used to be a special ed teacher in a middle school. My students were mostly boys. I remember a few things that might help you:
    - Find out what interests your students and use that as a foundation around which to focus the lesson (perhaps football/soccer?)
    - Read stories to them. (I read the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” to them – I was able to “grab” them by reading a paragraph that gave a veiled description of a man peeing off the side of his porch. The vocabulary was hard for them to understand, and I had to read it several times, but once they “got” what was happening they were hooked on the book. They then were drawn in by the injustices that the book described and “righteous indignation” kept their interest.) Below you’ll find a link where you can download a plethora of children’s literature.
    - Sitting down in one place for a long period of time invites inattention – this involves both the students being able to more around, and having you move around. Perhaps when reviewing word pronunciation, having students physically “act out” the word while repeating it might help
    - I found what was most important was when I was able to communicate to them that I felt they were valuable and had much to offer

  2. do four corners! It'll give them a chance to run around a bit and get out some energy before sitting down again.

    And in terms of gaining control, is there a way to "punish" the trouble makers (i.e. time out, etc.) in order to set an example? Or does this not work? Or you could revoke recess but this also might rile them up more. That's quite tricky, sorry they're so crazy. That's little kids for you :)