Sunday Summary #33

Welcome to Sunday Summary, the meme in which I attempt to summarize the week that came before.

The last day of the 2022-2023 school year was Friday and this might be the end of my Sunday Summaries for a while as I don’t have any interesting activities lined up for the Summer Break. I doubt writing about a week laying around sweating in my apartment day after day will make riveting reading. I do, however, plan to blog quite a bit in the next month and a half. More on that in a bit…

The school’s Chinese teacher and I had to report to the Karon Municipality Building early Monday morning (her name is Lily, by the way). My understanding was that whatever performance we had been scheduled to do with our dance troupes on Tuesday had been moved up a day. Upon arriving at the government facility, it all became clear. We had not been rehearsing for some random show in front of the Mayor and his cronies (although they would be the honored guests the following day). No, we were the opening acts for a Graduation Ceremony — the graduation of the K3 students at our school (the five- and six-year-olds). Monday turned out to be a dress rehearsal at the lavishly decorated meeting hall on the fourth floor (explaining in turn the absence of the Thai teachers from the school the preceding Thursday and Friday — they had been decorating!).

The video above is a compilation of clips I filmed during the week of rehearsals at school. The children arrived at 9:00 every morning and were supposed to practice non-stop until 11:30. That’s a LONG TIME for anybody so I started out balancing between a run-through or two followed by a short break and then another run-through of part of the song which needed more work. Since we were doing a medley of two disco songs, I wanted the children to be more individualistic like they were in a dance club rather than everyone doing strict choreography that would be difficult to stay in sync with each other. But the Thai teachers had other ideas; they were around much but really wanted a routine with everyone doing exactly the same thing at the same time. The kids often stopped smiling as soon as one of those teachers was seen in the hallway outside of the classroom. If you watch the entire video (and I think it’s worth doing so, you will notice the exhaustion on the kids’ faces but also sheer joy as they enjoyed the little improvements they made along the way. The “Come On” chant and “Thank You” bows were their idea!

A video of highlights from throughout the school year was shown before the rehearsals. The kids kept cheering at various spots.

The K3 students arrived and were seated in front of a large stage while we occupied chairs in the rear of the hall. Our K2 dancing kids soon entered. Lily and I were each allowed two run-throughs with our groups, most of whom were quite upset that they hadn’t been told they were putting on a show. If I had known, I certainly would have broken it to them gently. We were allowed to sit in the front row and give visual cues to the children. I filmed Lily’s routines. The video below is her second dress-rehearsal.

A young student (Jack — his mother is Irish and his father is Thai) filmed the first of my kids’ practices. I began doing the four-counts hoping the students would follow along. They did not need me at all and they did the routine fairly well on their own; I was surprised at how much they remembered (although Left and Right was still a bit of a problem).

The Thai teachers were amazed as only two or three knew that we were doing something more “pumped-up” than is typical in Kindergarten. I heard some gasps from those teachers, many of the K3 students began clapping along and there was some cheering at the end. I think the kids appreciated that at least part of the ceremony would have a bit of fun in it. The second run-through was even better than the first (unfortunately, I chose not to film it). The only real detractor was that the kids did NOT do their “Come On” chant during either dress rehearsal nor did they say “Thank You” at the end, although they did bow.

Afterwards, Lily and I walked across the street to a large market area. I felt very lucky as I found a vendor selling baked potatoes with cheese. Although I knew of a couple of places in Patong (LL found them when she returned for my birthday and the December holidays) and one in Phuket Town, I had not found potatoes in Kata until this day. It was good although somewhat smaller than the ones at Bazaan Market in Patong (for the same price). Still, a good lunch.

When we finally arrived back at the school around 1:00 pm, we found it locked up. Someone leaving the Nursery building on the other side of the courtyard told us that the electricity was out. Lily called the Thai teacher in charge to explain the situation and she told us to go home. Since I live in the neighborhood, I was upset (but not surprised) that the electricity was out in my apartment as well. It had been out long enough for all of the ice in my freezer to melt all over the floor and I was in the process of cleaning up that mess when my representative from the teaching agency called. I answered and she asked if I was at the school. I said “No” and explained the events of the morning and the lack of electricity. She spent the next few minutes yelling at me, making threats about not paying me and even terminating my employment all for nothing. She topped all of this off by hanging up on me mid-sentence. I was absolutely shocked as nothing I did or said all term warranted such an attack. In fact, the same lady had told me just a week or so ago that I was a “perfect teacher” and had never received any complaints from the school or parents, unlike other teachers. I was most worried about the threats against my job — I really want to return to this school as do the Thai teachers, staff, and parents (not to mention the kids themselves). I stressed over this phone call all week.

Well, back to more pleasant commentary…

Tuesday, Lily and I arrived at the Municipality building before 8:00 a.m. A number of students were already outside, posing in front of a number of graduation-themed backdrops. We made our way inside after taking some photos of our own. The Thai teachers were all wearing pink shirts and black blazers. I made a mental note to purchase one of each for next year should I remain at this school (I really want to!). The K3 kids looked quite sophisticated in their tiny gowns.

Lily had purchased matching dresses and hair bows for her dancers (she’s insisted on an all-girl troupe since boys “are too naughty”). The girls in my team all wore pink while the boys were in blue. Om-sing (a boy) had copious amounts of makeup on including eye-liner and lipstick. I also noticed many of the graduating boys also had lipstick. Means nothing in Thailand, quite normal. But what do I know? I had never heard of Kindergarten graduations before moving here…

All too soon, it was SHOWTIME! I think I was much more nervous than any of my kids. While waiting to go onstage, they all looked ready to go! I had butterflies in my stomach.

A long introduction preceded the Chinese group — longer even than the actual song. Lily sat on the floor in front of the front row of chairs to give them direction. They performed well although the teacher complained afterwards that they had made numerous mistakes. I really didn’t see any although by then I was nearly as familiar with their routine as with ours.

My students took the stage and they went directly to their spots — no need for any assistance. They were introduced one by one and then the song began. Lily offered to video the dance so I sat on the floor to direct them. Aside from one four-count in the middle, I didn’t move a muscle. They had it down perfectly and I didn’t want to intrude. The kids performed well but once again left out the “Come On!” chant. The “Thank You” bow was barely audible. The performance received a fair amount of applause. I was extremely proud of my kids. My only disappointment was that they didn’t stay until the end as I wanted to pose for a group photo with them. Luckily, the school’s IT teacher snapped a photo of us waiting before the event began.

Quite a few local VIP’s were present. The Mayor of Karon (of which Kata Beach is a part) remembered me from a certificate presentation a few years back and I recognized a few other government officials but cannot remember when or where I met most of them. The Mayor was the official handing each child their diploma. They had to ascend the stage, bow or curtsey before a statue of the Buddha and an image of HRH the King, approach the big desk, bow to the Mayor, receive their diploma, back up, turn around, and return to their seat bent at the waist. Quite a bit for 5- and 6-year old kids to remember and accomplish but they did flawlessly, thanks to Monday’s rehearsals.

After all the students had received their diplomas, two kids gave speeches as did the Mayor. The kids chanted some song several times — totally unrehearsed — becoming louder each time before a mass celebration. The teacher I call the “Clucker” (she kind of clucks with her teeth and tongue whenever a kid becomes too loud) tried to quiet them but soon gave up. I thought it was funny and I knew who had instigated the very non-Thai ending to the proceedings. My little buddy Jack, of course.

The Thai teachers don’t look too pleased as the kids are chanting their song but they had been sitting quietly for more than an hour by then and needed to let off some steam. I think some of the teachers forget that these are very young kids.

And then it was time for the ever-present-at-any-event in Thailand series of group photos — each class, each teacher, various VIP’s, inside and outside. Plus, plenty of photos with the kids and other teachers, the occasional parent. Here is a small sampling of the pictures taken over the next hour or so.

After 60 minutes under the hot Thai sun (just a stone’s throw from the beach), it felt good to go back inside where we built up another sweat restoring the meeting room to being able to conduct business once again. We removed dozens of red plastic chairs and replaced those with very heavy wooden desks forming a giant U. Thankfully, we didn’t have to thread the cables between the microphones occupying the top of each desk. Following a picnic lunch on the meeting room’s floor, we were told we could go home.

I expressed a bit of trepidation at not going back to work in the school during the afternoon as I was afraid of another nasty phone call from my agency rep; the Thai teacher in charge expressed dismay when I told her she had threatened to withhold my salary from the day before since we weren’t actually in the school. She told me she had called the rep the week before and received permission for the “outside activities”.

As our working contract expired on Friday, we had to go to school the remainder of the week. Lily spent most of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday sleeping at her desk but I spent the time creating materials for next school year. Initially, I thought, “what if I don’t come back?” but decided that the materials could serve me anywhere. I usually personalize flashcards with a school emblem but for the last year or so I have used a “English with Teacher Mark” logo featuring a Bitmoji of myself wearing a facemask. I designed a new one first thing Wednesday but then spent a couple of hours designing characters wearing the Tartan pattern that appears on our school’s uniforms. Following the syllabus closely, I created a number of flashcard sets over the next three days as well as three or four different games. I just need to print and laminate them and my first couple of weeks of the new school year are ready.

I plan to post a few of these cards on this blog as I create them. Other teachers can use them if they wish or perhaps they can generate ideas. This will be some of my holiday blogging that I mentioned about earlier.

On Thursday and Friday, we were asked to assist with some students who had come for a clay-crafting activity for an hour or so each morning. We made clay ice cream cones on Thursday and some sort of pencil toppers on Friday.

Friday was the last working day for myself and the Chinese teacher. As usual, I arrived early and began working on my current project — more flashcards in this case. I had no idea if I would be returning in mid-May when the new school year begins; agencies bid on contracts at the end of each term and it’s quite frustrating not knowing your fate. I now clear my desk and take everything home every time as I have lost supplies in the past for not exercising such due diligence.

The agency rep arrived at lunchtime so I could sign some paperwork. She was gracious and apologized for Monday’s phone call. I told her not to worry about it as I understood how stressful the end of the school year could be with every school demanding reports be done at the same time. She said she would let me know whether they get the contract for the next school year or not. It would be really nice if they would do this before the end of the term but that is one of the many crazy things about the system here.

Starting around 2:30 (quitting time is 3pm), I began visiting each of the classrooms to say “Goodbye” to the Thai teachers. Many said, “See you in May” or some variation. A couple invited me to Thai New Year (Songkran) festivities at the school and one invited me to the island’s main nightlife area. None had known it was our last working day and initially said, “Aren’t you coming on Monday?” One of the nursery teachers had a long talk with me and asked if I could teach her P4 daughter during the summer break. Of course! She asked how much I would charge and I gave her an amount (based on teaching four days a week for an hour each day); the teacher said she would talk to her husband about it but I haven’t heard anything since. Maybe I quoted too high of a fee…

I hadn’t mentally prepared for the long break and went home not knowing what I would be doing over the next couple of days. Almost as soon as I walked into my apartment door, I received a phone call from the owner of my agency. I checked the time — it was 30 minutes after quitting time so I answered, hoping it was a more pleasant call than the last time I got such a call. He spent the next few minutes profusely apologizing for his rep’s behavior towards me on Monday’s call — another lady in the office had overheard her and finally reported it. I told him that it was no problem at all, that I understood the stress her job entailed, etc. He didn’t accept any of that, promising to reprimand the rep. He also said he was doing the payroll and had my salary at the top of his list. That was unusual as payday is the 12th of each month. He went on to say how they had heard nothing but good things about my performance at the school and I expressed my desire to return. He said that was good to hear and he would do his best to make that happen. He hung up and I did receive my salary in full a few minutes later — they didn’t even take out any taxes. Weird.

I spent much of the weekend working on Philatelic Pursuits and only ventured out for a bit of food on Saturday night. I made a wrong turn down a street I’d never been down before in the effort to find a shortcut to the shoreline. Instead, I found a newly opened market that had a couple of stands selling baked potatoes. I found one bigger than the one I’d had Monday for 30 baht less. A good dinner and I will return soon.

And that is my Sunday Summary for the week of 27 March to 2 April 2023. I don’t know if anything interesting will happen this week. I have no plans other than working on my blogs and on creating teaching materials for the upcoming school year. I wish I knew if I will return to this school (after all, I live four minutes from my office) or will be forced to go elsewhere if they don’t submit a winning bid for the contract. It’s going to be a long month-and-a-half, I fear.


One thought on “Sunday Summary #33

  1. Love this
    Great article! Your performance with the K3 students sounds like it was a lot of fun and the pictures are adorable. The flashcards you created for next school year will definitely be useful, and it’s impressive how you continued to work even though your working contract was expiring. Best of luck with your future plans!
    Great DIY Ideas

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