Proles V Big Brother – Thai Style
As I have previously mentioned our school is actually two on one campus; the government school, which I work for and which caters to the proletariat, and a private fee-paying school. The two could not be more different. They have different classrooms (air-conditioned with interactive whiteboards), different curriculums, different teachers and even different school uniforms. I blogged previously about how on the first day of the year the government school children were made to line up and cheer the return of the fee-paying ones as they passed. Uncomfortable.
Anyway, like many schools in Lop Buri the fee-paying part of my school found itself with no western teachers this year, this is very scandalous for all the parents who pay extra for more one-on-one time with native English speakers and rightly so. Because MEP has found itself with no farangs they begged the government school to share theirs (more controversy) and they’re desperately on a hiring binge to rectify the problem. It has meant that for the last month and a half I have been teaching both; government school in the morning and MEP in the afternoon. I was a bit annoyed about it at first but it means I get half my salary again at the end of each month and I’ve come to really love my MEP class.
I teach 7 classes of 40 government school children twice a week and the same class of 20 MEP children every day. Because I have them on a daily basis I have really gotten to know them and they’ve warmed up to me much more. I love seeing how quickly they progress, but then the same is true for all 300 of my darling 5 year olds. With my government school kids when they started I was lucky if some of them knew ‘hello’. After a month and a half they now know body parts, colours, animals (Old MacDonald is their favourite), they can count to 10, recite the alphabet perfectly, say ‘how are you? …I’m fine thank-you,’ ‘see you tomorrow’ and ‘good morning.’ They can also follow commands; ‘clap your hands,’ ‘sit down,’ ‘stand up,’ ‘stamp your feet,’ ‘spin around’ and ‘march’. I’m pretty piggin’ proud of that. They even know emotions; if I pretend to cry they shout ‘sad,’ if I jump up and down and grin they shout ‘excited!’ That’s really useful when someone’s gawping at me instead of singing; all I have to do is say ‘grumpy?’ or ‘shy?’ and they all know exactly what I mean. Before I started I thought I wanted older children but actually I love the babies and I think I want to stick with them; they’re brains are just spongy, absorbent goop at that age; full of condensed milk and dirty socks and a bizarre ability to remember almost any word they hear. That said, as quick as the government school kids progress, the MEP children who have 70% of their lessons in English from day 1, are astonishing. MEP promises that their pupils will be more-or-less fluent in English by 12 and they don’t fail to deliver (as long as they have first-language English teachers). After a month and a half they speak better English than I did French after 3 years of secondary school.
One thing to be said for MEP is that there is hardly any smacking, although the reason for this I’m sure will horrify all the teachers reading at home. All the classrooms in MEP are rigged up with webcams so that the parents can watch from home on the website and make sure their darlings are being well looked after. That was pretty weird to start with but I don’t even think twice about teaching in Big Brother now. The MEP parents love me and will often come up and smile and ask how their sprog is getting along. The other reason for no smacking is that there is generally a more western vibe at MEP.
I’ve started thinking about what I want to do at the end of my contract and I’m definitely thinking I want to spend the whole year at Anuban Lop Buri so I can see the children through. The only dilemma is whether to stick with the proles or go work for air-conditioned, higher salaried Big Brother.