When my students are assigned a page in the workbook at the end of class, it’s a mad dash to prevent doing it for homework. I make all of them check their answers with me before they leave, which often leads to a mayhem of students waving their hands in my face, and sometimes pushing each other out of the way.
“Laew*, Teacher! Finished!” they all shout. *done in Thai
“Teacher! Teacher!” I have their little voices stuck in my head long after I leave for the day.
This week is my last week ever teaching P6 (probably). Laew! I have decided not to renew my contract as a primary English teacher and let me tell you, it was not an easy decision.
Six months ago, I absolutely hated teaching. I was doing a winter school program with little to no direction given, without any experience with children to note. I had a huge variety of fluency levels in my class and was entirely overwhelmed, wanting nothing more than to go home.
Fast forward a couple months, and I was in roughly the same position. But it wasn’t the school or my students that I was frustrated with–it was myself. I felt like I was a terrible teacher, constantly failing my students because I didn’t know how to properly convey all the important information. Once again, I wanted to go home, but this time it was a self-sabotage.
Now, as the semester comes to a close, I have a different outlook altogether. I have come to truly and deeply care about my students. We have inside jokes, and some students who wouldn’t say two words of English to me at the beginning of the semester now come up voluntarily and tell me about their weekend. I am very sad to see them go.
I had a far from typical experience teaching in Thailand. I was able to communicate with my students entirely in English, and even had a couple kids with foreign parents who were near native English speakers. I had very limited issues communicating with the Thai staff in English, and the biggest project of the semester was not a final exam, but an actual stage production at the end of the year.
There are definitely things that I will not miss at all. But through this crazy experience, I’ve learned some incredible lessons. I’ve learned to slow down when I speak and simplify everything I say. I’ve learned to smile and constantly radiate energy if you want any sort of response from students (or people in general). And above all: I’ve learned to go with the flow. Things change constantly in work and in life and stressing about it does absolutely nothing to alleviate the disorganization.
More than any lessons, I am taking away some hilarious stories.
So now I am somewhat in the same boat as when I first arrived in Chiang Mai. I don’t have a clear plan about what I’m going to do next, but I know that I will figure it out. Because I already did. I came here without a job, knowing next to no one. And now more than ever, I know that I have everything that I need to survive and thrive in the next phase of my life.
I will miss seeing a students’ face light up when they have an idea for an activity. I will miss students coming up and giving me hugs in the hallway. I will miss the smiling faces of the cleaning staff and the few times that students were sad that class was over. I will miss having to explain to kids every single day that brooms are not light sabers.
Teaching has taught me a lot of things about myself, and has made me appreciate all my old teachers (especially sixth grade) more than I thought possible.
Thailand Part 1 is laew, finished. But part 2 is just beginning.