Back to school

This week I taught my Thai students the word wish. I think. (You try explaining the meaning of wish in the most basic English possible.)

We sang our wishes for you to have a Merry Christmas (in a mostly Buddhist country), and wrote our wishes for the upcoming New Year (the year 2557) in the form of resolutions.

Then I taught feel, and I realized that perhaps, left to my own devices, my teaching just becomes a projection of my overemotional and overambitious brain.

As a whole, the Thai school system seems to run on wasted time and constant disruption, with little supplies and even less discipline.

Talking with another teacher, it seems like a lot of it was adapted from America: all students must pass a country-wide standardized test (though the vast majority at this rural school don’t), and still no failing child actually gets left back. There’s an excessive amount of paperwork for teachers, and arbitrary celebrations and assemblies take precedence over classroom learning.

But Thai schools also come with a whole other mess of cultural contradictions: students respectfully bow greetings to every teacher, but chat freely during class. The bell rings several times every day, but this doesn’t actually mark the beginning or ending of any class. And at all times during the school day, there are dozens of mismatch-uniformed children just hanging out in the school courtyard (and teachers hanging out in the workroom).

It’s bizarre and frustrating and almost cringeworthy; it makes me feel the need to immediately go back to my placement school in Houston, but it equally makes me want to swear never to step foot in another classroom.

What maybe my students can say—but definitely not comprehend—after being taught by me for a week: I feel sad and confused and tired and angry. I wish for a solution. I wish for change.

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