Nantawan Thawipas School
Trip Start Nov 02, 2006
81Trip End Jun 21, 2007
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Please excuse the exasperated tone, but the place we now call home is certainly not what we expected. When we heard about the job during our month in Ban Phe, we were informed that the position was located about 40 minutes from Bangkok in the province of Samut Prakan.
In reality, Bang Phli is now a suburb of Thailand's capital. The new international airport is less than thirty minutes away, which is causing the area to develop fast. Those of you from Portland: Think of Beaverton without any sidewalks, constant pollution (provided by Bangkok), factories and the occasional storefront. Those in Arizona: It's similar to the area near the Tucson International Airport except everything would be squished together in a three mile block (plus all the other stuff that was mentioned). For farangs there isn't a whole lot to do except go between work and home. Luckily our accommodation is situated along Soi Nam Daung, which is the street that our school is on. If we want to go anywhere else though, the traffic is just horrible. No matter what time of day it is similar to the worst rush hour traffic I have ever experienced.
With that said, I can see how the area would have been beautiful before Bangkok expanded as it did. The architecture here is amazing as you can see stained glass windows amongst intricate balconies along the side roads. Our accommodations are also beautifully landscaped and serve as a little green respite from the dusty streets. The inside of our apartment is bigger than anything I have lived in since moving out of my parent's place... it even has two stories! The downstairs is comprised of a living room, entertainment center, bathroom (cold shower) and kitchenette (refrigerator, microwave, and a sink... no burners). The couch in the living room has seen better days as the right seat cushion is slashed and smells kinda funky. Since we aren't sure how long we will be here the entertainment center remains empty except for our out-the-door things. Since there aren't any burners in the kitchen we still eat out most of the time, although after successfully finding peanut butter we treat ourselves to a western style sandwich from time-to-time. Upstairs we have another bathroom (hot shower) and three bedrooms. We had told our employer that we needed dual accommodations before we were hired. What we got was a single bed and two bunk beds. The first night we broke-down the all the bed frames and put two mattresses on the floor. Luckily we received a double bed the next day. The place also had serious damage done to it by the previous residents, and it had been a long haul trying to get everything in order. After two weeks we have successfully secured: 1): a working air-con in our bedroom 2) curtains that block out the sun that are void of weird looking stains 3) a glass top to the living room coffee table 4) linens (vital the first few days) 5) a strange assortment of cutlery and 6) an amazingly huge and genius drying rack. HOME SWEET HOME
Thank God for the kids. If I were teaching adults in this area I would already be gone, but instead we have been blessed with the cutest set of children. On our first day we expected to be sitting in on some classes and seeing the level the children were at. We weren't sure if they knew how to introduce themselves or do much beyond that. What we found was a trilingual syllabus that focused primarily on English. Instead of desperately trying to get students to say "How are you?" we are having trouble getting them to be quiet! We met with the director of the school T. Dan and were thrown into a classroom less than twenty minutes later. It was like a reality TV show "Hi! Welcome to our school. Would you mind teaching a class in about fifteen minutes? Thanks." Yikes
I now teach about twenty hours a week. Most of my classes are centered around the best first grade class G1P and I feel incredibly lucky. My children are articulate enough to ask me what I did over the weekend and understand most of the answer. Besides teaching them English, Health, Science and Occupation (which I also teach to the other first grade and both second grade classes) I also tutor math for grades three and four. The school is still relatively new and grades are added as the students progress. On the same school grounds, but in a different building is the Kindergarten and Pre-K classes. Even here the classes are taught in English, Thai and Chinese so that the youngsters get used to the different sounds. I get to spend about two hours a week with the Pre-K classes which can be a blessing or a curse depending on if I have a headache. The kids are adorable, but speaking English to a Thai kid does not comfort them much on the first day of school.
Mike managed to finagle an awesome schedule as well. He teaches twenty-one hours and has classes in English, Health, PE, Swimming and Pre-K as well as tutoring the ESL classes. His style of teaching/discipline is certainly different than mine. I.E. Having a disruptive student wear a sign saying "I will be quiet in class" around his neck for the rest of the day. He's finding that striking the balance between being fun and being strict is hard to do, but the kids seem to love him no matter what. All in all teaching is more rewarding that he thought it would be.
We work with an interesting collection of people. The Director of Studies, Teacher Dan, is British. There are tons of Philippineo teachers that tend to keep in groups. Most of the homeroom teachers are Thai, but that is rumored to change since the school is going for its international accreditation. Out of the foreign teachers we have three other American teachers and an Australian named Paul(I wouldn't call him much of a teacher though). He has since been fired. Jeany and Andrew are both from California. Jeany's family is Chinese but her mother grew up in Thailand. Her mom moved to the States randomly from what Jeany is told, but urged her daughter to visit the country most of her life. Jeany now lives with her Thai-speaking extended family. Andrew has been in Thailand for six years and has gotten married and had two amazingly adorable kids. Max, age 4, and Tyler, age 2 as of last Sunday, are so cute they have agents. Andrew is very passionate about the school and his classes, which is a good change from the horrible past teachers we have been told about. Finally there is David, whom I haven't been able to pace yet. It is clear that he doesn't really like teaching or kids, but he enjoys living in Thailand. He married a Thai woman about a year ago and will be blessed with a child in less than a month.
Back to the kids... I can't say enough. During sports day I had Natcha, a girl from my G1P class, latch herself to my side and she wouldn't leave except to do her races. I also have had various letters written to me by students thanking me for being their teacher. Some days are tough depending on how attentive the students are being. Unlike Mike I have a hard time not smiling, so my threats are taken lightly. The Thai system also makes it hard to focus the children, as it is illegal to fail a student. No matter what they do you must pass them on to the next grade. If they fail their final tests a huge amount of paperwork must be done and then the student is tutored until they can pass. Due to the amount of administrative work involved with that situation there is pressure on the teachers to simplify their tests so that everyone can pass on the first try. Homework also isn't graded... we are just supposed to put a check on the paper and hand it back. It does little to encourage students to study things that they don't like so I am having to turn to good old lunch detention.
Now that I have finally written a bit about where we are, I will try to keep updates coming on a semi-frequent basis. The internet lines are still a bit testy but I will try my best. I miss everyone back home and wish you well.
More pictures as the internet speeds up!