Tuesday, June 28, 2011


16 classes- the smallest is 15 students, the largest is 37, for a rough average of 25. So I teach 400 students. The town is about 10,000, but students come in from the surrounding islands - so I estimate I teach about 2-3% of the area.
Mornings begin with a schoolwide assembly where they sing the king's song, listen to announcements, and raise the flag.

Here they are listening to a schpeal about why drugs are bad:

4 of my classes are Matayum 1, which is the equivalent of 7th grade- they're 12-13. I was doing something complicated the first day, but I completely lost their attention. Now I'm doing the short vowel chants I learned in Crosby's class (A says ah as in apple (CRUNCH) etc.) and trying to combine it with blend consonant sounds like bl or cr. We just started basic questions and answers like "what sport do you like?" It's still a challenge. Good days are delightful but if there is no other adult in the room the kids really act out. Not knowing any of their names or any Thai really limits my options. I need to learn Thai. I'm getting there, slowly.

Matayums 4, 5 and 6, my remaining 12 classes, are much more steadily enjoyable. They are 15 to 17 years old and generally like to learn, which makes all the difference. I started with informal and formal greetings but that was too simple, so we're working on two things - explaining "why" you hold a preference (i.e. "I like football/badminton because I like being on a team/I like to win/I like to exercise") and hearing words in songs. Today I played the first verse of Radiohead's High and Dry, and the first three lines of Black Star's Astronomy, writing the lyrics like this:

Two jumps in a _____ I bet you think that's pretty _____don't you boy"

On the board. We listened like 5 times consecutively and they tried to fill in the blanks.. In my first class, it went all right, and in my second, it was fantastic. I figure they're into it when they spontaneously applaud themselves or me. When they got "mirror" in "You broke another mirror," everyone was delighted, and so was I. Astronomy was a much greater challenge. But when I rapped it at the end, no joke, jaws dropped.

Teaching, teaching- I sometimes wonder why I'm attracted to other options. If I found the right environment, this would be it for life. We shall see. It remains a viable backup.

My lessons look like this: Here I am trying to explain how to refer to men and women who are married and unmarried.

I was going to post a picture of my student but thought better of it.


  1. God damn, I wish you had been my grade school teacher. When are you going to start playing Wu-Tang?

  2. Jimmy, it's possible that I have the world record for "spends the most time thinking about how to incorporate the Wu into their Teaching English as a Foreign Language Curriculum." Unfortunately I simply cannot think of a single track that's curriculum appropriate. However if at any point of the year a kid says they want to learn American slang or profanity it's gonna be BRING DA RUCKUS so fast heads will spin.

  3. wow Seth I tip my hat to you. I am curious about that class of 37. What are your working hours like? Have you had anytime to explore?

  4. B-dog my working hours are super chill. Classes are 45-50 minutes, and I teach 16 classes so a total about 13 hours. I show up for work at like 7:50 (it's easy when you leave your house at 7:40) and leave between 2 and 4. I have assigned no homework and made no handouts, so man I chill. I work less than 20 hours a week in total. I travel most weekends and I relax on the weeknights. It's a BIG change from CY, and a welcome one.