THE FINAL WEEK!!
God, I can’t describe how good it feels to be down to the final week of the most intense month I’ve had in a long time! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each and every day, but my desire to get the best marks I possibly can and just totally annihilate this course have left me with no free time for friends who are visiting, or catching up with other friends, or even skyping family – I am totally devoting all my attention to this course, and it’s nice to know freedom is just around the corner. Everyday I walk to school or to the gym and I’m constantly greeted by warm smiles from strangers, or passing beautiful orchids growing on the trees lining the moat and feeling so much love for this beautiful city which we now call home… Yet I feel like I’ve seen almost none of it! A date cruising the city on a scooter and seeing everything which Chiang-Mai has to offer is long overdue. Now to just get through this final week…
Monday’s teaching practice was at a private school teaching Grade 9 students how to tell the time, in the “25 to 10″ or “10 to 11″ context. Sounds easy enough, but with their limited English skills and my endless need to talk too much and too fast when explaining, I was a bit nervous. Shouldn’t have worried though – I scored another A- on this bad boy and smashed it outta the park. Winning.
Tuesday was had our first teaching practice (and 4th teaching prac overall) at a juvenile detention centre, teaching naughty 14/15/16 year olds English – my target language was “classroom vocabulary” ie: a bin, a chair, etc. By the fourth practice I was feeling pretty confident, and felt like the “3 P’s methodology” of teaching was becoming second nature, and that I spent less time panicking that I’d forget something and more time actually interacting with the students. These kids were actually the best behaved kids we’ve had yet, and we had a great time – I did however stupidly forget to review the worksheet and made a few silly errors which meant I scored my first B+ – although, I’m certainly not complaining! It was so fun for me to be back working inside a prison, and made me reminisce about my old Darwin Correctional Centre days working behind bars… Good times. We had our 6th and final teaching practice inside the detention centre on our final day as well, which I scored a A- for – giving me a nice even score on all my combined teaching practices of a very nice A.
I had been quite nervous about my one-on-one teaching practice with a Thai staff member at our school, which was to be our 5th teaching practice… The target language for this lesson was a grammar lesson in The Passive Voice – If you’re wondering what the hell that is, you wouldn’t be the only one. It was a real challenge for me trying to teach a grammar lesson to a full grown Thai woman with quite good English skills, what the hell The Passive Voice means when even I am a bit scetchy on the details… But I did better than I expected and scored some great feedback from my observer, and another good mark. It was definitely a relief to have that one finally out of the way. Another cause of concern for this grammar-challenged lass was the inevitable grammar test on Wednesday of the final week of school… A revision of the 4-weeks of grammar input lessons we’d had from one of our teachers. I crammed and memorized as much as I could, and luckily I revised and remembered all the important parts – scored a very nice 93% on the grammar test.
By Thursday afternoon I was flying high – only one teaching practice left, the terrifying grammar test done, and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting so close. I had finished all the paperwork for my last teaching practice and was completely ready to go, so I was spending some free time working on getting my resume updated to try and apply for jobs after we finished the course the following day when I was approached by Ying, our Thai instructor, and told about a Kindergarten job going at one of the best International Schools in Chiang-Mai. Part of me knew that Kindergarten is ALOT of work, and it’s a lot harder than you would imagine, and I couldn’t fight the niggling feeling that maybe I just got lucky on my first Kindergarten practice class… But another part of me has known since that very first day teaching my very first Kindergarten class that I would end up teaching Kindergarten. It wasn’t my first choice, and I wasn’t “looking” for a Kindergarten job, but I just knew in the back of my mind that one day when I’m old I’ll end up saying “Yeah, I moved to Thailand for a while and worked as a Kindergarten teacher”. It’s that same part of me that has ruled so many of my decisions and choices over the past 9 months, so I know when this voice speaks that I don’t have an option… I do what she tells me to. I said sure… I’d love to apply.
I thought no more of it, until a short time later Ying’s voice started calling my name from her office, getting louder and louder as she ran towards me: “Belle, go home, get dressed – NOW!!” I turned to her startled, and she said that she had just spoken to the school, and they were just about to employ a person for their part-time Kindergarten position when she called and she’s convinced them to hold off giving the job to the other person until they’ve met me. And when I say “meet”, I don’t mean an interview with the Director of Studies or anything normal… This school is extremely picky about who they employ, and they insist that all applicants who they consider for a job do a “demo class” and get observed doing what it is they’ll get paid (very well) to do – teach the class. It was 2pm, and school is almost over; Ying said go home, get presentable (denim shorts & a singlet just don’t fly in interviews in Thailand, who’d have thought) and get back to the school ASAP to teach a class of toddlers while the supervisor of the most selective school in town watches. Oh, and you don’t have any time to prepare your class, just go in there & wing it. But don’t get your hopes up – they’ve turned down everyone else we’ve selected, and they’re about to give the job to someone else but you have to leave RIGHT NOW and go try and wow the pants off the class. No biggie.
So, that nice calm feeling officially out the window, I waved down the nearest taxi and headed home to get “interview ready” as quickly as I could – without so much as a resume, a teaching certificate, any experience or even any idea what the hell I’d do in this class. My heart was beating out of my chest – I kept telling myself that this is just good “Job application in Thailand” experience, there’s no way I’d get the job as I’m so unorganized – I mean, come on. This is one of the best schools in the city and they usually only accept teachers with Degrees in Education, and I’m just a girl who barely finished high school with nothing prepared. Still, I can’t deny that I soon felt that calm feeling returning, and it just felt like this was how it was meant to happen for me. It felt like this was my moment.
After what felt like forever, we turned into the school and I noticed the difference between the schools we’d been teaching at, and this school. This school obviously does quite well for itself, and the Kindergarten school was green, colorful and modern. I had been bracing myself to charm the pants off the Director of Education when we sat down for an interview, but all I got was a Wai (pretty much a respectful Thai handshake) and was quickly ushered off to the Kindergarten classroom before the parents picked all the kids up. This was my moment – time to see if that first Kindergarten class was a fluke or am I really meant to do this?
I approached the chaos of two combined classes of Kindergarten students in one room (it was late afternoon so I got double the students), as a Thai woman quietly observed in the corner. I was nervous as hell, but soon enough Teacher Belle was back in action and these kids were eating out of my hand again. As I reached into my bag of tricks (the good ol’ pillowcase trick) and used hugely animated facial expressions to imply there was something magical inside this boring old pillowcase, these adorable toddlers couldn’t take their eyes off me. A few of them dropped off and lost interest after a while, and my lack of planning and pathetic bag of props didn’t seem to hold their attention as well as last time (to be fair, it was the very end of the day) and I thought I’d really lost it… But in the end I thought what the hell, I’ll just have fun with it – and i did end up having a blast with these adorable kids.
The end of my 30 minutes approached, and the kids were echoing my “bye, bye” song and fighting to all hold my hand at once, and I thought well, there’s nothing too special I did here, I didn’t get the job but hey, I had fun. As we walked out through the carpark and I said my goodbyes, they said thanks for coming, see you next semester. I was confused – had I made it to a second demo class practice? Hang on.. Are they just trying to get free teaching out of me? What the hell…? My confusion must have been evident, because she explained “You did it, you got the job. See you next semester. October 24.” I had to ask her 3 times, “Are you SERIOUS?!” because I really hadn’t expected it at all. I’d had no interview, there had been no discussion – hell, I didn’t even have a resume! She laughed and said yes, the Director just gave me the nod. The job is yours.
Teaching in Thailand ladies and gentlemen… Unlike anything else!
So I went back to school and broke the news to Brett like an excited school girl. Ying smiled warmly like she had no doubt in her mind that the job was mine… Her confidence in me was, as always, unfaltering. This job is such an amazing opportunity, especially for someone like me who has only just finished my TEFL Course, with zero teaching experience… Much higher hourly rate than any teacher in Thailand should expect for their first teaching gig. I was beyond elated.
So there you have it – as soon as I do a visa run and come back into the country on a Non-Immigrant B visa, I can get my work permit and start work at one of the best international schools in chiang-Mai, as their latest part-time Kindergarten teacher. Monday to Friday, 6 hours of work a week. Luckily the staff at SEE TEFL are amazing, and handle all the mountains of paperwork associated with getting my visa sorted ASAP, and all I have to do is sign some paperwork and they take care of the rest.
So for our first weekend of freedom, we celebrated with the other 16 awesome SEE TEFL graduates over dinner and drinks and found ourselves a home for the next 6 months… In a great area of town, our own little piece of home. Bliss.
And it’s off to Bangkok for a week of R&R (and too much shopping) for us, then we come home, move into our new home, do a quick visa run and then I start my first teaching job in Thailand.
It’s been one hell of a hectic month, but I wouldn’t change any of it. The friendships we’ve made, the experiences we’ve had and the moments teaching that I’ll never forget… It’s all been worth every cent and every missed weekend.
To know that someone like me who hasn’t studied since high school, can apply myself and have the pride of seeing straight A’s on the back of my TEFL teaching certificate… Anything is possible if you apply yourself.
And to think this is just the beginning… It’s amazing. It’s been one hell of a journey the past 9 months, but it feels like somehow life just keeps getting better and better. So much to look forward to, so many amazing experiences in such a wonderful country.
Life, as always, is surprising, magical and wonderful if you open yourself to the experiences and opportunities presented to you. Nothing is impossible.
Big love from the land of smiles…