I have recently gone back to school, in fact not just one, but three schools. None are school as I have ever known it before.
Not only am I in a different country, this time I am a teacher. I have no formal training in teaching, but am quickly finding my previous experience as a Youth and Community Worker incredibly helpful.
Being split across three schools means that, despite living in Santi Suk for two weeks already, I am still in my first few days at each school.
It has taken some time to get used to and settle into the new schools. Each one, though all different to an English school, are also different from one another.
It has its advantages. Working in three different schools means that in a short amount of time I have got to know a lot of people in the community. Combined with those I have met through Nuan’s front garden pub it is rare now that I cycle or run anywhere without a wave from a familiar face.
There have, of course, been a few hiccoughs along the way. I have turned up expecting to teach to find that school has been cancelled that day, for a celebration or perhaps a Sports Day. This has already happened on numerous occasions. I was particularly surprised when I turned up the day after the house-warming party to find half of the marquees and decorations relocated to the school grounds. The Headgirl, a particularly talented girl, was in a national competition had to sing, dance, act in English and present herself for three hours to 4 judges. I had come prepared with a full day of lesson plans, but was to use none. School was not only cancelled for her, but also for the 150 or so other students, who were instead tasked with helping her throughout the day.
Other times I have been thrown into teaching unexpectedly, with little or no preparation. I find it particularly disconcerting when one of the Student Teachers (of which there are two in the Secondary School) starts the lesson from a textbook and then 5 minutes in spontaneously hands over to me to teach the rest, whilst she “plays on Facebook”. I enjoy teaching a lot, but prefer it when I have had some time to prepare!
I have been incredibly welcomed by the teachers across the schools though, all of whom cook food for me and patiently help me with my Thai when we are not teaching.
It always takes some time to settle in somewhere new, and this is no different. I have spent the last few weeks getting to know the schools, the students and the teachers. It has at times felt very disjointed so I am looking forward to the next few weeks and finding a rhythm.