I cut my time short at the school in Phichit after having an honest moment with myself. Are you surprised?
Now hear me out. I planned my trip around a few volunteer opportunities that would expose me to possible different career paths. I still want to be a writer, but I know freelancing is hard and having something full-time with a steady income can be extremely helpful. That’s why I decided to revisit the idea of teaching. A long time ago (well, not that long) during my freshman year of college I wanted to be a high school Spanish teacher. The kids would call me Senorita Nicole, and we’d talk in espanol all day while making our favorite tapas and watching plot-thickening soap operas. I’d be living the dream. But it wasn’t until I lived in Spain for a semester, and worked at the university’s magazine, when I realized I wanted to be a journalist. Turns out teaching wasn’t — and still isn’t — for me.
When I first arrived at the school, I thought I’d be helping out with their English classes — easy enough. I knew I’d have the opportunity to teach one if I wanted to, but I assumed there would be some sort of training beforehand if I did that. I was very wrong. What happened is one of the teachers had to go to Bangkok for the week, so they thought it would be a good idea to give me her entire schedule. I ended up being the foreign substitute teacher in charge of the school’s English, math and art classes for the whole week. Yep.
Remember when you were in elementary school and had a substitute teacher? Did you behave? Probably not. One time in my elementary school when we had a substitute math teacher, one of my classmate’s made a slingshot out of a rubber band and paper clips. He shot one in my eye. I had to wear an eye patch for a week. That poor substitute teacher had to deal with that. I now feel her pain.
Fortunately, there were no slingshots involved in my classes, but it was very challenging to get the kids to pay attention. For English class my instructions were to “get them to have a conversation with me,” and one teacher suggested to review words that could be used while shopping. But once I started teaching them clothing items and store locations (entrance, exit, cash register, etc.), I could tell they were lost. So, we went back to basics and reviewed the pronunciation and spellings of colors. All I could do was improvise for each class because the levels varied.
Surprisingly, trying to teach the math class was a lot of fun. I kicked off the class by putting a few multiplication problems on the board, and having them solve the equations at their desks. After 15 minutes, we’d review them together. Then I played a game with them which they ended up calling “group one, group two.” I split the classroom into two groups and put a difficult multiplication on the board, like 354 x 431. The first group to get the answer received a point. They LOVED this game. So much that I ended up receiving suggestions for problems from the audience. One kid would write an impossible problem on a piece of paper — like 15,243,981 x 12,345 — walk up to the front of the classroom, tap me on the arm, point to the paper and then to the board. I wrote a couple of his tough ones on the board to entertain him — and scare the students. They’d actually try to figure them out though. We had a lot of fun.
I enjoyed teaching the art class, too. I did the same activity with all of the art classes which was “draw your family.” I now have 40 papers of Thai family drawings in my backpack. There were quite a few artists in these classes. I can’t throw them away!
Overall, it was a great experience, but by my fifth day I was dreading walking into a classroom and having to teach the kids. I loved playing with them, but having to be in front of a classroom and actually teach them was pretty terrifying.
On my last day at the school, I received an invite to go to another school and watch a sport’s competition with the other teachers. It was a soccer a match. We sat with the mayor of the town and ate lunch with him. We watched the game by his side in a special section of the stadium. Finally, I got a glimpse into how Hillary Clinton must feel when she is on a business trip and handling international affairs.
I’m not going to lie, I shed a few tears leaving the school. In a short time I learned and saw a lot. But part of being a happy adult is knowing what is — and what isn’t — for you. It’s OK to leave sometimes. That doesn’t mean you’re quitting. It doesn’t mean you’re giving up. It just means you’re surrendering to the next adventure that awaits you. And for me that ended up being circus school. I’ll stop there because circus school is worthy of a separate post. #CliffHanger