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.