Settling In in Thailand

my humble abode

I have been in Trang for almost three weeks now! When I first arrived, two men from my agency picked me up and then took me to look at accommodations. I looked at six different places and then ended up choosing an apartment in a complex called V House. V House is very centrally located, just across the street from the Trang football stadium. My room has air conditioning, a mini fridge, a closet, great wifi, two small porches, and even a door on the shower – something unheard of in Thailand! The bug situation isn’t bad at all (for now), some flies and ants but nothing crazy. I have a great view of the mountains out past the stadium and in the morning I can even see the sunrise over the mountains. Overall, I am very comfortable at V House, it can get a little noisy at night but I’m generally so tired from teaching that I pass out no problem.

look at that amazing door!

Trang is in southern Thailand, about 4 hours south from Phuket. The great thing about living in Trang is that even though it is located near the beach, there are very few, if any, tourists. When I walk around the city, I never see any farang (foreigners) unless it’s another teacher I know. Because of this I often get a lot of stares and many people want to take my picture or take a selfie with me. I haven’t gotten sick of this quite yet, but I’m sure it will start to get old eventually. I have access to anything I could need living in the city, but it’s also very easy to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. About 45 minutes west of here is a pier and there are many beaches close by. A couple weekends ago I went island hopping on the Trang islands, but I’ll post another time on that trip – hopefully once I finish putting together all of my GoPro footage from that weekend! If you go east from Trang, there is a large national park and caves, waterfalls, hiking, and rock climbing. There is no shortage of things to do near here!

Island hopping post to come soon!

I have been working for almost three weeks now, but my students only just started on Monday. I’m teaching P3 and P5 at Buranarumluek School (Burana) in Trang, essentially 3rd and 5th graders. I have 5 classes of each level and then I am also teaching two elective classes, one for pratom (or elementary school aged), and one for matayom (high school aged). I have about 45 students per class, (25 in my elective classes), so in all I have about 500 students. I have to be at school from 7:30-4:30 every day, but I actually teach about 22 hours a week. Every Monday we wear yellow shirts for the king, and every Tuesday we wear pink shirts for the queen, but other than that the dress code is dark colored skirts past the knee, and light colored shirts that cover chest, shoulders, and armpits (preferably collared and button up).

I got really lucky with my placement. Not only is Trang a great city with a lot to do, but Burana is a great school. During TESOL our instructors basically told us to prepare for the worst: horrible organization, no schedules, and changes being sprung on us constantly. However, Burana is incredibly organized. We had two weeks to just lesson plan and we were given a schedule with our class periods as well as a curriculum to follow with textbooks and workbooks. The only downside of having a textbook is that it can get tricky trying to be creative or fun when you have to follow a specific module. We were also given an actual calendar of all the days we have off for the next school year – just as unheard of as having a door on your shower! There are 5 English teachers other than myself, and we share an office with the Chinese teachers at our school. Our school also has air conditioning in almost all of the classrooms, and free lunch. Not a bad setup at all.

AKA “teacha rauren”

I’m almost through my first full week and I’ve now met with all of my classes at least once. Having such large classes is definitely going to be the biggest challenge teaching here as it makes it much harder to give each student the proper attention that they need. It also makes it harder to think of fun games where everyone can be involved. I’m sure as time goes by, this will get easier as I get more accustomed to teaching such big classes. It’s also going to be impossible to learn all my students’ names, and it doesn’t help that not only do Burana students have a uniform, but everyone also has the same haircut – girls must have their hair cut very short (a little longer than a bowl cut), and boys must have their heads shaved around the sides.

There is definitely a large range in proficiency, both within each class and from class to class. For the most part, my P5s are way more proficient than my P3s. Going over rules and introductions I felt like I was talking to a wall at times in my P3 classrooms, but with the P5s I actually felt like they could understand the gist of what I was saying.

Some highlights from my first week:

  • Students with ridiculous English names, including: Poo, Pee, A-nus, Beer, It, Yogurt, Ick, Queen, Sprite, and so many more. I have no idea how they get these nicknames but they make literally zero sense
  • One adorable P3 boy named Oak with giant glasses gave me a sucking candy at the end of one class
  • One P3 girl named An-Da came up to me after class to tell me “Teacha, beautiful!” while pointing at me (this got super awkward when she just stood there staring at me even after I thanked her)
  • Standing outside my office at the end of school every day to wave goodbye to all of the students, particularly the kindergarten students who are LITERAL nuggets
I can’t make this up!

Teaching is proving to be exhausting already, as expected, but I feel entirely confident at the front of the class. This week we were instructed to be as strict as possible because the rest of the semester will follow suit (if we go too easy on them now, they won’t take us seriously and will misbehave the rest of the year). Although I’m not a strict person at all with kids, I think I’ve done a pretty good job laying down the law this first week and hopefully that will help in the long run. I can already pick out which students are troublemakers, and which ones are most proficient in English. I’m looking forward to getting to know my classes and my students much better over time and hopefully I can actually teach them a thing or two in English!

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