Daily Phuket #103: 23 December 2021 – New School, New Office

Things change very quickly in Thailand as there is often very little pre-planning and you need to become accustomed to last-minute announcements accompanied by few, if any, details. Yesterday, I arrived at my agency’s offices shortly after 2pm at which time I was informed that my full-time school would start today and I was to report there at 7:30. Naturally, that was the only detail I was given. It was not until much later that I received a schedule so I knew which classes I would be teaching (20 different ones, it turns out!); even after one full day here, I have not received a copy of the curriculum. I just did introductions and some Christmas-related lessons today.

The first task was simply finding the office that I would be working out of. There are a number of foreign teachers here and different programmes have different Teacher Rooms. The school is huge — more than 6,000 students — and the rabbits’ warren of passageways of different additions over a century of its existence make asking for directions an act of futility. Many students attempted to assist me in finding my room and even a couple of Thai teachers were unable to locate it as well. I found it eventually and was quite happy that I had arrived as early as I had.

I share my office with three other teachers — one from London, another from Uganda and the third hails from Tunisia. Our office is quite open and clean (particularly compared to the one in the school I was substitute-teaching at). There are plenty of fans (no air-conditioning) and the dormer-windows open to let in a nice breeze as well as local stray cats! There are also teachers at this school from Egypt, South Africa and Canada. Quite an international crew!

The morning assembly was quite festive with a Christmas presentation by students in the IEP (Intensive English Programme); I am — once again — in the General Programme (GEP). There were plenty of Santa hats and red dresses to be seen. The teacher on the microphone is one that I know from years back and she isn’t the only Thai teacher here that I know. I was greeted a number of times by name much to the amazement of my new office-mates. There were also a number of students who remembered me from previous English camps and temporary fill-ins.

I only taught four classes today, all in the P4 (primary grade four) level. I was surprised at how well-behaved they were and all had a fairly good Beginner grasp of English. In fact, they are completely the opposite of the GEP students I had last year in another school. The students today were all very hard workers and even asked a few questions as we went along with the lessons. My only difficulty was finding one of the classrooms which is hidden away from the other P4 rooms in a separate building reached by a series of meandering hallways, stairs and even a ramp! I was guided by a trio of students and, more than once, I thought they were as lost as I was.

I returned to the office after one class to find two bottles of water and a pair of (super-sweet) cupcakes sitting on my desk/table. I was told by one of the other teachers that some students had come to give these to the “new teacher” (the others have been here three or four weeks). Wow! That really made my day!

All of my classes today were quite small, between 20 and 30 students each. The last time I did a cover lesson at this school, the average was around 65 students crammed into these rooms. I hope these limitations last through the entire school term as it certainly makes it a lot more manageable (and I can move through the rows of tables much easier). I think some of the students are still learning online but I have not been given any information about that.

I was quite wiped-out by the end of the school day. My shoes are quite uncomfortable (and tend to slide on the tile floors so I have to be careful to not lose my balance) and there are A LOT of stairs and long hallways to navigate.

My last class let out at 16:00 and I had to teach in my agency’s offices at 17:00. I caught the bus without much problem but the afterschool traffic on the way to Central Festival was horrendous. I suppose people are anticipating a new lockdown but I don’t see that happening at all. The Prime Minister suspended the no-quarantine Test-and-Go scheme earlier in the week due to nationwide fears over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus but additional closures don’t seem to have happened yet. Maybe people are heading off of the island in advance of the New Year’s holiday; one of the other teachers in the office told me that his agency informed him to NOT travel outside of the province as they think the local borders may close. Who knows?

Bonus photo:

One more Christmas tree seen on my walk home after work. This one was in the window to a Thai hole-in-the-wall bar (oops, “restaurant”) on Th. Thepkrassatri next to Sweet Shop. I might try some of their “food” over next week’s holiday if it remains open.

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