Teaching.

Well now. 

The problem with teaching is that i have to get up quite early as i am (supposed) to be at school at around 7:30am. The fact that i live a mere 2 min cycle from my school is irrelevant. 
i have to dress in my demure little dresses, skirts and blouses.
What are these jeans of which you dream of, my dear?
We will have none of those at our esteemed establishment. 




This is where i live. If i stand by the entrance i can see my school.
That's how close it is

The problem with teaching is the yelling, the shouting and the general reprimanding. 
Oh, the hoarseness of the throat at the end of a particularly bad day, the head that is beginning to pound and the ever present knowledge of the futility of the yelling, as i get to do it all 
again the next day.
i get to do again...the yelling, the shouting, (hands on your head! You, you and you, stand up!).
The banging of my ruler on the desks to get attention of the loud, rioting, generally 
uninterested students. 

All of that again, and again.
And again

All in the grand attempt to rein them in and get them sitting and listening
 ......listening.....
Such a strange thing for me to expect of them. 




The problem with teaching is that when i reprimand and shout at them that i am disappointed in them and that their behaviour and their work, or lack thereof, is unacceptable, that i know that though they are going to listen for those few minutes as i shout and glare them into silence, at the end of the lesson they are still going to return their unfinished, or barely touched, workbooks to me.

Wait, didn’t i just say that unfinished work is a) unacceptable and b) that if it’s not finished then i don’t want it?
Yes, yes i did just say that.

The problem with teaching is that there is no quiet.


The problem with teaching is being brought to a grinding halt as i look at my class after going through a math concept and having the majority of them looking right back, blinking slowly, looks of utter incomprehension plastered all over their round little faces.
What do i do now?!

The problem with teaching is the students.


The students that blankly stare at me as i teach, they, having passed each grade seemingly by magic are in my class and have no idea what i am talking about and they have no idea what
 the answer to 5 x 2 is.
What do i even do with such a child?
Well, thanks to the Thai education system, he will always pass.

Then there are the students that are drawing pictures, talking to their friends, reading comic books, playing card games, staring into space or just running around like the little hooligans children generally are.

The problem with teaching are the students that are suddenly deaf as i stand over them with the instruction to take out their textbooks, do sums, write exams, and even after i get down on their level and look them in the eye, they continue to blatantly ignore me.

Then there are the students that throw literal tantrums at the advanced age of 10/11 years. Tantrums when another student gets a higher mark than them or when the other team is winning. There has been door slamming, there has been the turning off of the lights to leave the remainder of the students in the darkness of the midday sun, and at the worst, overthrowing of a 
desk and shouting at the Thai teacher.

The problem with teaching is that i never wanted to be a teacher, ever.


The problem with teaching is the students.

They call me beautiful.
Who doesn’t like to hear that every other day?

Then they get clever and they call me beautiful and then ask if i have homework for them that day.
i do.

They retract their compliment!
  ‘Teacher not beautiful!’    

        i don't care, there will still be homework!          


As the students and i get used to each other and we get to know each other, i flatter myself that the girls begin to like me and they express their liking by writing me love letters and drawing pictures and, if you are Ice, expressing your love for your teacher all over Facebook.

Here are 3 comments from young Miss Ice on a single photograph of mine:
1.      Teacher Austen
2.      My name Ice
3.      I love you

She also declared herself my Thai daughter and hugs me every day and tells me that she loves me.
I loooooove you, teasher!


Kwankao, a quiet girl in my grade 5 class surprised me one day with a ‘love letter’. There i am, drawn quite beautifully, with little student Kwankao looking up at me in adoration with a small heart
floating above her head.

Another student, Kaohom, drew me and also a big heart with the words Math emblazoned 
in the centre.
I doubt she really feels so lovingly about Math.

On the less adoring side, after i had assigning a two page homework task, i receive the work back and discover that Sarisa has drawn Teacher Austen, looking like a princess i might add, lording over her with a ruler in one hand and textbooks in the other while poor 
unfortunate Sarisa cries and cries.


The problem with teaching is that the students begin 
to like this shouting, curly-headed Math teacher.

The problem with teaching is the students themselves, the students with their little personalities, their jokes and mannerisms and with the little things that they do that slowly enamour me towards them. The funny little comments, the ideas, plans and negotiations that they present to you in the attempt to get out of doing Math, attending class etc and the moments when they proudly show you their achievements, be it math, art class or a loom band mouse that they made.
Which was a pretty impressive mouse.



The problem with teaching is the students.

Ice is a naughty child.
Deceiving.
During the first two months of teaching i have her pegged as a child that ‘wasn’t so bright’, a child that would need extra assistance in understanding Math.
i ask the class if they understand what was being taught and she would immediately whine,’Teeeeaassshheerrr, I don’t understand!’
Other times she would put her hand up and a look would come on her face and she 
would open her mouth and whine.
     Really, i had her pegged.

i had little patience with her, as it seemed like she never tried, and her little whiny voice 
would annoy me greatly.

One day i take her by the arm and sit with her during a period of ‘independent study’ and we begin to work through the math workbook together, attempting to finish the mountain of work that she never bothered to complete.

Well.

She is a smart one, grasping the more tricky word problems, with and without the little promptings from me.
(You all know those trickster word sums in Maths, the ones that are worded in such a way to catch you out...Oh, and you thought you were supposed to add? Well, you are wrong!)

As i quickly explained or worked through some math problems and she begins to whine a little and then, crow excitedly, when she grasped the concept of what was before and off she would go, adding and subtracting and calculating!  
Like a little math fiend!

And now she knows that i know....
And ever since that day she has loved me profusely.
A day doesn't go by that i don’t get hugged by her.

The problem with teaching is the students.



Seemingly oddly enough, most of the children actually like to do math.
If i ask the class if they understand, they will shout back,’Noooo!’
Why? Because sometimes that means that Teacher Austen will allow them to come
 up and work out sums on the board.
They already do understand the work (those that are shouting out) and just want to come and calculate sums on the board.
i don’t know why.




i have an envelope of numbers (each number correlates to a student in Thai classrooms) and i draw the numbers at random and that student must then answer the question or calculate the answer to the question. i find this tactic to be a great way to ‘surprise’ students as well as to catch out those who may not have been listening for the last 15 minutes... When they get into it and i am about to draw a number, the students perch on the edge of their seats, some standing up, and yell out their own numbers in the hope that the louder they are the odds of their number being pulled will increase.

‘Number 15’, i shout.

And the numbers 5, 10, 15 and 25 all stand up and then i try to remember which student is really number 15 or, try guess which students are trying to fool me into thinking 
that they are number 15...
i have definitely been caught out a few times.

The problem with teaching is the students



The boys in my classes have little inclination to show affection towards teacher.
Their preference leans towards me throwing scrunched up wastepaper balls at them.
Their preference leans towards teacher threatening them with an uncapped whiteboard marker hovering above their bare arm, forehead or nose.
(They even prefer it when i actually do draw on them, which has most certainly happened on a number of occasions)
They think it’s a great laugh when i chase them around the class, lightly whacking them on their rear ends with my ruler.
They like it when i pick on another boy to answer a series of questions in quick succession or if i sneakily assign an unsuspecting fellow boy-student that has been chattering to answer the question and he is stumped as he was not listening.



When i come into class and their previous lesson had been Health or Thai etc and i tell them to put their Thai books away, Thai away! Health, away!,
they will yell back in response, ‘Teacher, away!
I respond with, ‘Student name, away!’ 
...and then that student tries to put his head in his desk.


I recently bought a blow up ‘caveman-type club’ and the students loved it! The club proves itself useful in the whacking them on the head when they aren't listening and i begin to 
receive requests to be hit 100 times with said caveman club!
Soon there is a small crowd of students all clamouring to hit on the head 
with this wondrous new toy.

They give him a name.
Tom
A face is drawn onto the club. 
Eyes, eyebrows, hair, mouth.

And then he was murdered, accidently of course, with the point of a student’s pen.
A few times.

i take him home and patch him up and the students would be so excited to see Tom again the next day. The grade 4 girls take him in their arms and rock him like a baby.
After his last, and fatal, final murder I had to throw him away.
For at least 2 weeks after he was taken home to ‘see the doctor’, i had students asking me,'Where is Tom?' and pretending to cry heartbreakingly when i said he is dead.
Shame




The problem with teaching is cute little grade 1’s.

They see me coming round the corner of the passageway and run up to me pointing and yelling, ‘Teacher, grandmother!’ and then i pretend to be a grandmother. 
‘Teacher, duck!’ 
Teacher is a duck.
It tickles them to see Teacher barking, quacking, chirping and using a walking stick to get along.

They also show me the gaping holes in their mouths where a tooth had been not 5 mins before and show me the blood on the floor from the traumatic tooth losing ordeal.
Why do they think i want to see that?




The problem with teaching is the students’ wide-eyed wonderment as they spy me at the local shopping centre, at the weekend market, as they pass me on my bicycle and they 
are perched on their parent’s motorbike.
I hear an amazed little voice call out, ‘Teacher!’ as i ride past, or as i walk along, 
or as i am shopping for groceries.

It’s as if they think that i magically disappear after class ends and only reappear the next day at 8:30am when they come into class and there i am. It seems to be such a novel an incomprehensible concept to them that i actually DO live in the same town as them.

 They come up to me and saying hello and wai-ing politely after which then clam up completely, suddenly shy in the presence of their parents and their teacher.
The next day at school that same student comes up to me and tells me that they 
saw me at the shop, on the bicycle, at the market etc.
Yes, i know, child, i was there too, remember?




The problem with teaching is that the students think i know everything, generally.


A book gets placed before me with pictures of parent birds with their un-hatched young and i have to ‘guess’ what the baby animal is going to be before the page 
is turned revealing the answer.
Pelican.
Salamander.
Etc.

‘How do you know all the answers?!’
Because, dear child, teachers know everything, especially when the book is aimed at 6-8 year old children.
Clever, clever me.

The problem with teaching is the students.
The students that hug me and tell me they love me, saying i ‘don’t go home’.
The students that spy my October holiday plans and ask me in their little worried voices what are these plans and does it mean that i am not teaching next term?



‘Please don’t go teacher’

So, i’m not going.
i signed the contract for the second term.

The problem with that is that the second half of the Grade 5 Maths book 
is somewhat more difficult than the first half.

But no matter, Teacher knows everything, right?

Well, google definitely does, and, just as my one student does all her homework in the computer class so she can google the answers, so does Teacher Austen, when she has to 
prepare certain math classes.



 Photo credits belong to a number of my students, my camera and Photoshop. 







Ayutthaya is, if you do a quick google search, one of the oldest areas/cities/provinces in Thailand. 
It was, at some point in Thai history, the second capital of Thailand. 
(The first being Sukothai)
(Although in those days it was not called Thailand, but Siam). 

According to the myriad of international merchants that visited and traded with the city, the city of Ayutthaya was described to be the 'finest city ever seen'.
But, at some point in 1767, the neighbouring Burmese decided to attack Siam, burning and pillaging and probably eating all the mangoes. They sacked Ayutthaya, almost razing it to the ground, leaving in their wake a world heritage site for us foreigners to visit. 

Ok, history lesson over.
Thank you Wikipedia.

One of the cool things about Ayutthaya, or the part that i visited anyway, is that it is technically an island. There are three rivers that run around Ayutthaya creating the island. There are bridges over the water and more excitingly, ferries! 
i went for lunch at a restaurant beside the river and watched the river taxis transport people on their motorbikes and scooters onto and off the island. It was most amusing to see.

The ferry pulls up alongside the river bank, the motorbikes are driven onto the ferry, all neatly beside each other, and off the ferry sails with Thai men and women still perched upon their bikes. When the ferry reaches the opposite side of the river, the bike engines are fired up and they ride off the boat and continue on their way. 

i was quite fascinated.  
Layered transportation! 

But i didn't visit this ancient city to ogle at the water taxis. Rather, i came here to ogle at the ruins.
So without further ado behold the photographic evidence of my ogling!


First off, after arriving in Ayutthaya, i set off to secure myself a bicycle for the day.
This sliver coated beauty cost 40B ( +- R 15) to rent for the day.
By the end of the trip i was ready to swap my fiery red steed for this silver wonder.
(it's biggest merit was that it was the right size for me)

Oh beautiful tall bike, will you be mine? 
The red steeds' mistress loves another!
The horror!
So, accompanied by a new friend and armed with two maps i set off to see the sights!


 

Despite the two maps it still took me a while to a), figure out where i was and b), what ruin was i looking at. These two pictures are taken from outside the ruins while i was still figuring out which ones i wanted to go to...
( i think that these pictures are of the same structure, just from different angles)


With instruction to visit the historical park of Ayutthaya, as it is a world heritage site, i found out where it was on the map, paid my entrance fee, averted my eyes from the horrid little plates-with-photos-of-tourists-standing-in-front-of-the-ruins printed on them and proceeded to explore the site.


Wat Phra Si Sanphet


According to this model of what the original site would have looked like, it is impressive.
Not just the original, but the model itself as well!

Some very neat model building that i could only dream of achieving in university.
Sigh
This site, if i remember correctly, would have included a royal palace, and i tried to imagine what it would have been like with all the gentry and other fancy folk wandering the paths and labouring up the ridiculously steep stairs in their traditional dress in the scorching sun.
i didn't do too well at imagining this...
Too hot.
Why?!



A few stray dogs, a common sight in Thailand, had made their home among the ruins and while i was there i observed an older Thai lady climb those steps with a 5l bottle of water in one hand and a bag of dog food in the other. i followed her up the stairs and discovered that she had fed the dogs.
As she climbed down the stairs on the other side, two dogs ran to greet her and sniff at her bag of food. It seems like she is a regular there. Keeping the dogs alive and healthy.

i climbed up the stairs of the white stupa like structures just to see what was there. There was an alcove.
The stairs were steep
But i got a good view of the park.






After finishing up in the Historical Park i cycled a short distance to the next site...
Wat Phra Mahathat

Now for some prangs!
This is a prang:



There are also prangs in Lop Buri (another very old city in Thailand) but the Ayutthaya prangs are unique to the Lop Buri prangs. The top of the Lop Buri prangs are stepped whereas these are tapered creating a conical effect.

Here are the stepped Lop Buri prangs:
Photo credits: www.thailandforvisitors.com

These prangs are quite gigantic. Do not be fooled into thinking otherwise.
See how small the people are?
And this is a much smaller structure than the three prangs pictured on the left.


Note the rather questionable level of the foundations?
Well, there are one or two structures that will be needing some propping up soon....

i went inside one of the very big prangs pictured top left. It appears to be completely hollow all the way up! i met 3 resident bats, and by met i mean i smelled and saw them snoozing just out of the lights reach.

At the Wat Phra Mahathat site there lies the iconic 'head in tree roots Buddha'.
There is a small sign that instructs selfie takers and etc to crouch below the head of the Buddha so as it show respect.


And that was me done with this site.

i hopped onto my bicycle with the intention of heading to another point on the map, but instead i cycled right out to the main road. But that is ok because i found this beautiful ruin.
Also, it was free to look at. Bonus


i am first of all really, really pleased with the two photographs on the left and, completely in awe of the workmanship that went into creating these structures. Incredible detail.
And this was the effort that was put into a less important structure, and one that was minuscule in comparison to the monsters i could see peeking over the trees and surrounding buildings as the van drove in Ayutthaya. There must have been legions of skilled artisans at hand.


And so.

Having spent the good part of the day being baked by the sun, looking at ruins, taking pictures and cycling about, i packed my map away, returned the hired bicycle (not without regrets) and caught the next van back home.

The nice Thai lady on the bus might have laughed at the farang snoozing but she did offer me a double seat as soon as there was the capacity for me to take up two seats.
What a nice lady.


Last but not least, here is a picture of two contrasting structures competing in height.






this is the country in which i reside..

... and this is the city in which i live

ok, cool.
Wan Wai Kru


Or teacher appreciation day.


Every single student in the school brings a offering of thanks and appreciation for the teachers in their school in the form of bouquets of flowers, some with the extra features such as candles and/or incense sticks.


The day starts as every day at school starts. The flag is raised while the entire school sings the national anthem, badly. On an ordinary day, after assembly there is half an hour before class begins where the students are free to get ready for their classes, quickly do their homework (or copy their friend's homework), talk to their teachers about any problems they are having with the work or just run riot. They choose to riot. 

But on this day of appreciation the students sit in the quad after assembly is over and wait until it is 'time'. 






As they wait their bouquets wilt and became sad and bedraggled beneath their constant fidgeting, rearranging and teasing. The floor is littered with flower petals and little leaves.

When it is 'time' the students line up, clutching their flowers, and are marched in front of a teacher. They kneel on the ground and bow in thanks to the teacher seated before them. i will admit to feeling a little weird at this point. Children bowing to me has not really been high on my list of things to experience. After the bowing is complete they hand you their flowers, stand up, and escape to their classrooms.





One by one, the students bow, present and scarper. Thank you Teacher! 

We are left with a gigantic heap of bouquets (a few of which i claimed as my own and adorned my flat with them), the ritual of group photos with fellow teachers and 3 cancelled classes. 

A good day. 


Wan Wai Kru

by on 27.6.14
Wan Wai Kru Or teacher appreciation day. Every single student in the school brings a offering of thanks and appreciation for t...
and once again the bad blogger award goes to Miss Austen.
She left her home and country 46 days ago and has not said a thing about it! 
bad, bad girl.
Prepare yourself for a giant photo dump!
and lots of blah blah blah-ing about what my days consisted of.
Brace yourself...
(p.s most of these photos are from my phone so the quality is not so great - don't judge me)

JHB - DOHA - MYANMAR - BANGKOK - HUA HIN
27 March - 31 March

Thursday 27 March 2014



Some of the family wishing me farewell, good riddance and etc
Here we are at the airport...My family have never been ones for long drawn out goodbyes. They waited while i checked my bags in, hugged me goodbye, took some photos, cried a little (the more sentimental ones), and left. It is easier that way i do believe.

Soon i am near my boarding gates waiting for departure. Really, i am still trying to grasp the fact that i am indeed about to board a plane and when i get off it i won't be in Port Elizabeth or Cape Town, no, I WILL BE IN THAILAND! that's a whole new country.

Finally the plane is ready for us, about 1 hour later than planned and we board. In my excitement while checking in i forgot to see if i could get a window seat.

i do not have a window seat.
i have the seat the furthest away from either window.

Yeah, that's right, slap bang in the middle seat in the middle aisle of the plane.
Silly me.


This a picture if the tail of the plane.
i took it when we landed in Doha

Friday 28 March 2014

A few hours later, maybe 8 hours, i do not recall, we land in Doha. There is a 2 hour layover, reduced to about 1 hour as the plane leaving JHB was late. 
i have no idea where i should be going so i follow the mass of people who seem to.
i make it through! 

On the other side i find a laptop station and email home: I AM NOT DEAD. i am in Doha.

The next stretch of the journey is a 6hr flight to Bangkok. Which turned into 9hrs.
That was less fun. 
The reason for the delay was a man with medical issues. In the end we had to do an emergency landing in Yangon,Myanmar. We sat on the tarmac for 3 hours until they removed said medically challenged man. We were a 45min flight away. So close! 

When i got off the plane at 9pm a wave of heat hit me and it still hasn't passed...

Got my bags, got my stamp, onto the other side! 
Officially in Thailand!

Hey look, a bed! 
Happy sigh


My room at the Bangkok hotel we stayed in.
These beds magically made themselves...


Saturday 29 March 2014

When I eventually woke up on Saturday morning, having missed breakfast, i wandered down to the lobby and met with the two girls i met last night on the ride to the hotel. Another girl from our group joined us and we went for a walk. We just walked in one direction, stopping only to fill our bellies with fruit smoothies and ogle at the weird food things that were available for purchase from the street carts.



The afternoon consisted of a trip to the mall via the Sky Train, lunch, sighing over pretty, pretty dresses, losing one of our girls to the vortex of phone/electronic/gadgets section of the mall, looking at peanut butter and other unrelated oddities in the food section, meeting the doll version of me and a train ride and a short walk back to hotel. Then there was a meeting with the pool and the bed :) 

awww, look! Little Austen.
i am planning a return trip to Bangkok to buy that little copy cat.

Sunday 30 March 2014

This time i woke up in time for breakfast!
It was strange. 
Here is a short list of some of the weird things that a Thai person might eat for breakfast:

- Salad (with mayo)
- fried rice
- noodles
- rice soup thing (called Joke - the k is silent)

Also, although they did serve cornflakes and milk, the Thais like to fill up their small bowls with milk and then float 2 -3 spoons of cornflakes on top of the milk....
What a strange, strange country! 

Then we hopped onto the sky train and visited a weekend market. 
it. was. madness.
You can buy anything there.
Anything!
Life size statues, fried insects, unfried and very much alive and squirming worms, little monkeys, turtles and tortoises... that is just a few of what was for purchase there. 


oooh, Thailand traffic is awful... Do you want to buy a tortoise - cos you can!
Giant horse and man statue and begging

i did find 3 second hand clothing stores though and got 2 dresses and 1 skirt for the grand costs of 300B (R100 or +- 10 dollars) 
Ya'll know how i love my bargains 
and my vintage clothing :D 

Later on that day the Xploreasia people came along to welcome us, hand out our books and schedules and etc.
For those who don't know, i went through Xploreasia as my agent and etc for this whole Thailand teaching thingy. :) 

Monday 31 March 2014

On this day i got up early with my bags packed. 
Ate breakfast
Climbed into my assigned van and got carted off to the city called Hua-Hin.
It's about 2 hours drive from Bangkok
Needless to say i zzzzz'd all the way there. 

We arrived at our accommodation for the month, dropped our bags, went to the mall, returned from the mall, unpacked and then slept (most likely)
i don't really remember :P

To be continued....