Welcome to Sunday Summary, the meme in which I attempt to summarize the week that came before.
Lately, due a change in my routines, I have found it a great chore to put together these posts. I used to do all of my blogging during the early morning hours but recently that has changed to afternoons and evenings. I usually start dreading to work on “Sunday Summary” around 3 pm on Sunday afternoons I begin actual work around an hour or two after that if I am at home. My first task is always to connect my mobile phone to my laptop and transfer images and video that I shot during the proceeding week (this includes screenshots of video-calls with my dear Kan or any images that she sent me). I go through all of this media and decide exactly which to use in the article. After that, I start designing the weekly thumbnail which sometimes takes quite a bit of time as I want something to reflect the week and manipulate various pieces of clipart to fit. Last week’s image was easy as I just edited a photo that I took; I need to do more like that!
Finally, I am ready to begin uploading pictures and video (tonight, that came just after 9pm as I got a late start on thumbnail design due to some techie research). The actual writing is easier than the prep as I tend to mentally compose bits while I am working on the other tasks. The part of the process that I truly dread is adding the many different bits of media. Lately, I have been using more video clips and often have to retry when the uploads fail. Internet is always spotty here, more so on the weekends. The images are hosted on my FlickrPro account so need to be manually added into the spots I want them to appear. It takes a bit of time and is more tedious than it should be.
I have managed to put together a “Sunday Summary” now for more than half a year. This is installment #30 and I have yet to miss a week. However, the last few weeks have found me thinking of new names for new days (“Monday Meanderings”, “Wednesday Wraps”) or composing a “this is the last time” post instead. When I sit down to start working on one, I start out hoping that I can be brief. Well, if you follow any of my blogs you know that brevity just is not in my DNA. At least as far as blogging goes.
This was the first “official” final exams week for the entire school (only the K3 foreign subjects exams were done in late February). Luckly, my exams are all oral tests so they are relatively easy in that I do not have to mark a bunch of papers. It is very time-consuming as I need to talk to every child in every class on a one-to-one basis. Considering that we only have 30 minutes per class period make multiple trips to each classroom a necessity.
I have done this a few times so I have a solid method which only takes a bit of explaining to the homeroom teachers. Prior to exam time, I create the exam for each grade level and laminate it as well as putting together scoring sheets with every students’ class number and nickname on it. When I arrive at the classroom, I explain to the Thai teacher that I will call the children one by one in order of their number (if I butcher the nickname, I use the number). This goes very smoothly even if the teacher doesn’t assist (most do not, unfortunately).
Most of the time, I have a table with two chairs where I can conduct the exam. Sometimes, there isn’t a chair available so I either stand hunched over (I don’t like to tower over the students) or we just sit on the floor. I always greet each kid by name with a hearty “Hello!” before starting the exam and I keep the mood light so they relax. This is, after all, many of their first times taking tests at school other than the written Thai exams. Whenever a child answers correctly, I praise them enthusiastically. If they answer incorrectly, I remind them of the correct answer and then return to that particular question later to see if they remember it. I also give them a cheerful “Thank you so much!” at the end before retrieving the next student.
Throughout each oral test, I am keeping track of the number of correct responses as well as recording the other collection scores. These are Listening & Speaking (out of 30 points), Comprehension (20), Participation in Class (10), and General Behavior in Class (10). The exam is 30 points and nobody is allowed a final tally of less than 60 percent. If somebody bombs the test, you can boost any of the other numbers to reach the desired passing grade. This can result in the most ill-mannered of kids receiving perfect scores of 10 in Participation and Behavior when they actually spent the periods running around like monkeys picking fights with other kids. I never artificially boost the Comprehension scores but I cannot give less than 15 (50 percent) on those. If morality and honesty in giving accurate grades is your thing, you will not last long as a teacher in Thailand. I have seen other teachers outright refuse to change scores for children who failed which is fine but they are often not given contracts for the following term and somebody in the agency office has to spend time changing the scores themselves.
This is perhaps the thing I like most about the oral exams as it gives me a chance to give a more accurate score in the non-exam categories. With large class rosters the norm (I had 50-60 students in classes at other schools), it can be difficult to visualize the children when working on the grade sheets. There were always kids that only showed up for the exams (and sometimes not even then!) and you still had to pass them somehow. At least with the child right in front of me, I can remember how much they actively participated and behaved in class. I base their other scores (Listening & Speaking, Comprehension) on how they perform during the exam itself — confident and audible responses, not to mention how quickly they give me an answer in English, is more important to me in Kindergarten than accuracy and pronunciation. But that’s me.
The difficulty in giving these exams is when students are not there when they should be. There were absences in most classes this week; some kids were sick but there were a couple of days when they were off rehearsing for the Open House Show (which will be next Friday). Late in the week, I was told not to give exams in two of my classes so I could do a dance rehearsal. Luckily, I had asked each member of my group to come and practice individually during naptimes throughout the week and had the video clips to prove it. The tests went ahead.
Once we have tested every kid in a particular class, there is no need to return. I cleared the last of my K3 students on Tuesday (Monday was a Buddhist holiday so we missed out on giving tests to the 2-year-olds in Nursery 1). Several K2 classes were finished by the end of Wednesday which meant I spent most of Thursday and Friday returning to various previously visited classes to test kids I missed earlier. I hope to finish the last of them this coming Monday or Tuesday. I hope to submit all of the scores to my agency before the Open House on Friday; I have been transferring the scores from my paper sheets to the computer spreadsheet every time that I have a chance. With students not returning after next Friday, I have two weeks of nothing to do which I fine by me. I can blog.
Random items that I have not mentioned about this school:
The temple cat that greets me every morning has been joined by a dog in recent weeks. One or the other is the first to spot me as I arrive in front of the hall that contains our classrooms. They will jump onto the bench I am sitting on or the table in front and beg for rubs of their chins or scratches of their backs. The cat used to skedaddle whenever the dog showed up but now he just moves aside a bit. I can usually spend five or 10 minutes with them before someone shows up to unlock the door.
After school, there are several vendors selling things like roti and ice cream. I rarely buy anything as it’s much too sweet or messy and I just want to get home. But there have been occasions when I have been offered something. This usually turns out to be free (which is another reason I just rush through; I want to pay for my food, not get special treatment — I had to force one lady to take the 30 baht for two pieces of boneless fried chicken on a stick Friday).
I have to give a “Word of the Day” presentation every Tuesday and Thursday. When I started, I used words like “love”, “peace”, “brave”, “celebrate” to give the kids words they weren’t likely to encounter during their lessons but I felt were concepts they should be aware of. The person in charge didn’t like that too much so now she makes cards for me to use — cards for each letter in the word and another with a picture. I often do not know what the “Word of the Day” will be until I step up to the microphone and she shows me the picture. I then have to figure out an easy to explain definition for the kids while I am greeting them and gathering kids to hold up the cards. Last Thursday, I was shown a picture of a nest containing two great big eggs. I thought the word was “egg” and when I began spelling it out to the kids by yelling “E!”, the first kid held up a card with “N” on it. Ha! Other words have included “monkey” (twice), “giraffe”, “octopus”, and “whale”. I don’t enjoy it as much as they are all vocabulary words done in class. C’est la vie.
My favorite part of the morning assemblies is the various dances, usually taught to the children based on whatever they are learning in their Thai lessons. The one about “Don’t Do Drugs” was, um, interesting. I believe most of last week’s dances were previews for what to expect during the Open House Show. I think we are going to have the biggest hit with “Wednesday Addams’ Dance” as nobody else is doing anything remotely similar. My kids are really excited!
While I have been living in an apartment in Kata Beach since starting at this school early last November. I still pay rent on my long-held apartment in Phuket Town. While I did move a fair amount of things — clothes, some books, stamp albums — over the course of the first three weeks or so, there is still a TON of stuff in the old place. My weekend classes in Phuket Town finished early in January so my journeys to that part of the island have become fewer and farther between usually to check for mail or to pick up something delivered by courier (Lazada orders). I use the banking app to pay my rent so most of the time there isn’t any reason to go.
This week, I traveled over to Phuket Town by songteaw to pick up several items ordered on Lazada including new clothes along with several items for the next school year. I also received my first actual mail since early December. Ironically, this new mail came from Ukraine which was where the last item received (a postcard) was sent from. I am still missing SIX eBay orders (each containing numerous stamps and postcards) that were sent between early November and late December. Thailand Post claims that they have a huge backlog in mail-sorting due to last year’s floods and are not delivering any international mail. However, I still received a parcel mailed from Ukraine on 6 February; it arrived on 8 March so THAT’S working. All of my missing orders are from the U.S.A. so perhaps they are just blocking a few countries. I think I will start experimenting with a few small orders from elsewhere and see which make it through.
I decided to take a quick climb up the stairs to my apartment to retrieve a couple of books and a few small items to take back to Kata. When I reached the fourth floor, I was shocked at what I saw. It was a construction zone full of fixtures and furniture ripped out of the surrounding apartments and trash scattered everywhere. An upended mattress was covering my apartment’s door. I think they were remodeling as I saw a worker in one room laying new tile. I moved the mattress and entered my room; it was untouched and a bit musty. I decided that I would load up one of my large storage bins with stuff to move and also take my small refrigerator. Other than dust and a few cobwebs, my apartment was no worse for the wear but I will start a concentrated effort to move the other things once the school holiday begins.
I ordered a taxi through the BOLT app (the rates have gone up — the cheapest option in early December had been 278 baht from Phuket Town to Kata; it was now 417) and hauled my stuff down to the lobby. The fridge was actually lighter than the storage container. At the other end of the ride, the driver refused to help me get the stuff out of his car so I manhandled it onto the side of the highway. One or my neighbors saw me and carried the fridge up to my second-floor apartment here.
While it will be nice to give up the old place, I haven’t completely moved my stuff as I am worried that my current agency will not get the contract at this school for the next school year. If that happens, I will be forced to go to another school myself. With previous agency out of the picture, I don’t think there are any others that can bid on this contract but you never know. That is always the big worry when a term finishes (the contract renewals are done each term rather than each school year) as you never really know until the week or so before school resumes whether or not you will be there again. This happens even if all the teachers like you and the administration is satisfied with your work. The low bid wins the school and this is done with the local government without any input from the school itself. Terrible system and it has gotten worse (and more corrupt) in the post-COVID world. Fingers crossed as I really like this school….
While it’s nice to have my fridge in the Kata apartment, I have yet to take full advantage of that for other than cold drinks. I think my next major purchase will be either a microwave or a toaster oven so that I can buy cold-stored ingredients to cook. It would be nice to have a grill on the balcony as well although there isn’t much room for anything but the smallest table-top grill out there.
All of my meals this week were from 7-Eleven (I kept planning to hit Madame Steak but they were always too crowded). I did find something new that I liked — Korean BBQ chicken and onions in a tortilla. Most of my 7-Meals were rice with sweet basil and pork with the occasional Caesar salad. One of the children in the K3/1 class had a birthday this week and her mom brought enough cupcakes for every student in the school and every teacher and staff member! Kids were roaming the hallways looking for people who hadn’t gotten a cupcake yet (I ended up with two although they were dreadfully sweet!).
I finished Wild New World late last night but have yet to start a new book. I think that will probably be The Last Kingdom by Steve Berry but there are also new novels by Colin Cotterill and Anne Hillerman that I am itching to read as well as some Natural History books and an intriguing new bio of Genghis Khan that are high in my virtual TBR pile.
As for music, it was almost all Robbie Robertson — an all-too-infrequent chronological listen of his entire solo output including soundtracks and bootlegs. There was also some late 1970s and early 1980s Linda Ronstadt and a wee bit of Alison Krauss.
I didn’t get around to watching the Season 3 debut of The Mandalorian until Monday (Buddhist holiday) and found myself slightly disappointed. Think I should have gone back and rewatched the first two seasons. I downloaded the second episode late in the week but haven’t put it on yet. Oddly enough, I had forgotten about the Yellowstone spin-off series 1923 during the mid-season hiatus but remembered when I was downloading The Mandalorian. So, I now have four episodes to watch. I guess I have the week’s viewing all sorted if only I remember to play them in the evenings!
Latest posts on Philatelic Pursuits:
Kan Kan travelled to her hometown in Buriram last week for a relative’s temple ceremony. She has been staying with her mom and, hopefully, will return to Bangkok on Tuesday. She had planned to make the eight-hour bus trip today but all the buses were booked. I hope she doesn’t lose her job due to the extended “vacation” even if doing so would mean a quicker return to Phuket. We miss each other but the extra income will come in handy while I am out of work for the long school holiday (we have a few plans in the works).
And that is my Sunday Summary for March 6-12, 2023. I hope the week to come is just how you want it to be. Cheers!