Torrential Amounts of Rain and Paperwork

Torrential Amounts of Rain and Paperwork


As I entered my fourth week of teaching, I was feeling hopeful and optimistic.  I had met with all my classes three times and administered one test.  I was on the right path and by December 18th, I should be able to present my grade-books to the Director of Education.  Monday and Tuesday as I did review lessons and gave the tests, I spent my free periods grading.  Being a Kindergarten teacher at home, I never have to really grade homework or tests.  I quickly learned how tedious and monotonous this task can be, add to that some tests had names written in Thai or had no names at all.  It took hours just to sort through all the stacks and arrange each class into numerical order (every student has a corresponding number, so even if I could not decipher their Thai name, nickname, or English name, I could figure out which student it was).  At this time I realized I would need some type of system to write down their scores.

I had their grade-books, but these were big and it would not be convenient for me to use each week.  Instead, I created a spreadsheet.  I used these spreadsheets to keep attendance and record test scores.  This took hours inside and outside of school.  All I did was create a page for each class, type in the students’ names in English, their nick names, and make a table with dates.  With over 900 students and unfamiliar names, it was much more daunting than I intended.  Still this was the best decision I made because this tool was extremely helpful as the semester continued.  I easily kept attendance, knew which students missed classes repeatedly, and I could refer back to it for test scores when it came time to record them in the grade-books.Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 3.21.46 PMOf course I adopted a system of color coding student names to indicate who was missing tests, skipping class, etc.  Notice above how many students were absent multiple weeks in a row.  This still being the beginning of the semester, I had no clue what was in store for me!  As the week went on, I mostly spent each class having the students play the same games and a few new ones so they could practice the dialogue and vocabulary.  I also had to give some students the first test to make up.  Thursdays continued to be the most difficult with the youngest students and seven classes in one day.  However, it did give some reprieve away from the lessons about jobs and skills… they were getting really boring.

This week also marked the most torrential rain I experienced in all my time in Thailand.  I still had to ride to work, 35 minutes each way, with my bag hidden under my poncho.  It was very difficult to maneuver with sheets of rain coming down and it hurt as it flew against my skin.  I very clearly remember after the second day, on my ride home, just crying as I drove.  All I was thinking was this: “I left my home, my family, my friends, my job, my comforts… everything.  And here I am, in the pouring rain, cold, wet, hurt, and I’m working at a job that is just as difficult if not more.  I signed up for this.  I chose to come here and make this my life.  This is miserable.”  It was a tough few days.  It did not help that on that Friday I fell off my bike as I went over the railroad tracks.  I only banged up the bike a little and got some scratches on my knees and arms… but it just left me feeling very defeated.IMG_2253 The weekend could not have happened at a better time.  I was grateful that I had been keeping some contact with a group of farangs I had met a few weeks before at the Halloween Party.  On Friday night, we agreed to meet for dinner at a local Western restaurant.  As soon as I arrived at Swan, I was greeted by big smiles from Kate, Lisa, Jon, and Kevin.  They had made a new friend as well: Nick, from England, who gave me a hello hug as we all sat down to eat.  It was such a comfort to hear their school woes.  We were all in very similar situations with our students, schedules, and schools.  We talked about how we handled lessons, what topics we taught, and they suggested giving oral tests instead of written ones to address the copying problem.  We enjoyed each others company all night, ending up at a local bar with live music.  We played cards, watched Nick do magic, danced, and laughed for hours.  Looking back I cannot even describe how lucky I am to have met this crew and become so close to them.  At the time I did not know it, but they would be my lifeline in Hat Yai for the months to come.  From that night on they embraced me for who I was, as I did them, and together we formed one of those indescribable bonds that only other travelers can understand.IMG_2260The weekend only got better with the arrival of a package from Ma, full of oatmeal, cliff bars, candy, and other assorted amazing comforts from the home.  Sunday we all went to see “Catching Fire” at a local shopping center.  It was in English and they even served butter popcorn!  I was glad to lay down for bed Sunday night, thinking instead: “This is why I am here…to make friends, to learn to be in challenging situations and to overcome them.”  My great weekend made waking up for work Monday morning a bit more manageable.

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