At Bang Na or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being at the Other Campus

Well! I’ve got a new nifty blog, I may as well use it! I’m behind, as usual, but I’ve got a pen & paper journal that has been keeping me up to date with things. I’ll go through that and update the backlog of late entries as I can. For now, let me lead in saying that I’ve been here in Thailand for nearly a month now and teaching Basic English classes is much more difficult than I ever imagined.

One would think, ‘Oh, teaching English? That’s got to be a piece of cake! You’ve been speaking it all your life!” Wrong. Imagine this: You don’t know a word of Russian but you’re but in an entry level Russian class. The thing is, the Russian teacher knows no English. So you don’t know Russian, they don’t know English and you spend an hour every other day talking right past each other but trying your hardest to make sense of something. This is what teaching English in Thailand is like.

So, after three weeks of painful instruction, this week is a bit more relaxing. My Basic English Academic kids (I have only one section of them) have a Quiz coming up which we’ve been reviewing for. That gives me plenty of things to teach them and it gives them motivation to pay attention. My conversation students have gotten to a ‘Free Learning’ week, which means I can kinda do whatever I want with them provided they are still speaking/listening to things in English. Since the past few weeks have been pretty intense, I decided I’d show them a movie and ask them questions this week. It gets them listening to English at normal speed, should be entertaining, and gives me a bit of a break while I try to catch up on all the paperwork I STILL haven’t done yet. There’s nothing like watching the first 40 minutes of The Shawshank Redemption 4 times a day!

So yesterday went great as it was the first day of movie watching and Quiz preparation. Tuesday is, oddly enough, my day off! It sounds great but I haven’t gotten nearly as much use out of it as I should. I live at Hua Mak, about an hour away from the newer and larger ABAC (Assumption Business Administration College – What Assumption University is called sometimes) Campus at Bang Na. So, in order to get anything class-related done, I have to be at Bang Na. The problem is, the busses that go out there only run until Noon. On days like today, I had things to get done at Hua Mak before I could leave which led to me missing the last bus and having to take a small van to get out here. That means I have to pay for transportation (the buses are free for teachers) and I have to go and wait for a van to fill up before it leaves, there is no schedule. That led to a lot of wasted time which always upsets me.

After a 45 minute van ride/nap, I made it here, got checked into my temporary room, and got online. That’s the other thing, I stay at Bang Na one night a week in order to tutor some kids here in advanced English. No, I’m not getting paid more, but it is a heck of a lot more rewarding than teaching to Basic English students that don’t say a word and who really don’t care to be in your class.

I don’t start tutoring until 10PM (the kids I tutor have tons going on so it has to be late) so the rest of the day I like to try to use productively. Aside from completing this long overdue post, I’m going to read a book that my students have to read so I can make up some questions for it, fire off a few e-mails, do some preparation for tutoring this evening, and try to organize all the papers and such I have for all my classes. We JUST got our final rosters for the classes (yes, add/drop is one month long here and it wreaks havoc with teachers actually being able to teach) and so I’m making sure I have all the right students and move their attendance marks over to the proper sheets. It sounds easy but with crazy names and strangely-sized attendance sheet papers, it’s far from enjoyable.

I guess in the end though, as much as I end up wasting time on Tuesdays I do love being alone up here in my room at Bang Na, being able to get things done without much interruption. My apartment at Hua Mak is a blast but that’s just it. There’s always something to do or see or eat or someone to hang out with. Having one day a week where I can sit, alone, and grade or organize or do whatever, is quite nice.

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