Every teacher wants to be liked. They want their students to have fun in their class and want to actually be there. In Thailand, or at least in Suansriwittaya school, this is especially important. Students cannot fail in Thailand and this adds a lack of motivation factor to my students. Also, at my school, the students actually have a say in whether a teacher can continue teaching or not. They write an evaluation at the end of each school year and can make or break a teacher’s teaching career. I always thought this was a bit ludicrous, but hey, what isn’t in Thailand.
Thus, teachers, at least the three English teachers at Suansriwittaya, are contestants in a popularity contest. We do what we can to make our students happy, giving them free time when they “really need it” or conceding to letting them watch Mr. Bean once their work is finished. We may come off as pushovers, but hey as long as the students are learning some English and are able to listen to us speak, then we’re doing our job. It hasn’t been a difficult task to keep the students smiling, but thats speaking for the students that actually care and want to be there.
My M1 double lesson class is a different story.
The “double lesson” consists of M1-3-M1-7. These are the “special” children and thus know maybe one word of English. And it’s hard to even tell what that one word is. I asked one of my students “How are you” yesterday, trust me, as slow as I possibly could, and she couldn’t answer. She started nervously looking to her friends for the answer. And this was my smartest girl in the class who always answers questions and finishes worksheets first. Really?! How are you?!
Anyways, starting a class out on that foot doomed me for the two hours that loomed ahead of me. We were discussing family and were going over grandfather, and mother, and uncle, ok you get the point. They weren’t doing too badly, although great grandfather seemed to baffle them beyond their limits. I had a wordsearch and a crossword that I wanted them to do and after ten minutes or so they had finished. With my other Ms, M1 and M2, I had them write two sentences about their mother and two sentences about their father. I knew two sentences would be a little much for these students, so I asked them to write ONE sentence about their mother or father. One sentence thats all I ask. Pretty simple request right. Definitely not.
After five minutes or so of “working” I noticed that none of them had a single word written. This wasn’t going to fly with me. I know they’re a little on the slower side, but I know they’re not that dense. As easy as it would have been to just let them go about their business, I decided to forego my standing stigma of a pushover and pull out some punishment.
Because the class is almost two hours long, I usually give them a 15-minute break in the middle. This break is not only for them but it’s really a break from the headache that these little terrors give me. I threatened that they would not get their break if they did not write their sentence (this gave me a little panic attack inside because that meant that I would have to figure out what I would do with them during that time), and I was going to stand by that. It took them a few minutes to comprehend this notion, but it finally clicked and they started furiously writing.
Except the four troublemakers in the back.
These four boys never do their work. I mean never. Barely even a scrawl on their paper. When I passed by them I noticed a long scribble on one of their papers. I asked him where his sentence was and he pointed to his scribble. He was dead serious. I looked at him and asked him to read it. Once again, blank stare. I had to bite my lip to avoid laughing or screaming, I’m not sure which one.
After I had the rest of the students read their sentences outloud, I returned back to the boys and once again, no sentences. I gave them a sly smile and turned back to the rest of the class and announced break time. As the four boys started to get up, I whipped around and told them, to sit. The confused looks on their faces were hilarious. As the rest of the class filed out of the classro to gossip, get a drink or play ping-pong for their fifteen minutes, the four boys were glued to their chairs completely and utterly confused.
The four of them sat with their eyes glued on me as I played Spider Solitare. I didn’t even look at them. I was proud. Probably a little too proud, but I was so incredibly proud that I had finally laid down the law! The rest of the class the boys diligently did their work, and I mean they actually did it. They didn’t goof around and they stayed in their seats for once.
The next class, everyone did their work.
And everyone got their 15 minute break.