Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Not my best day ever...(receptive skills task - reading)

Engagement - "Think about a bad day you've had. What happened? In groups" (gesture 2 together, 2 together) "talk about a bad day."

Global task - "Read this" (gesture towards blog post) "and circle the topics you see." (motion circling on hand out.... hand out sheets to class.)

Topics: Sports - Food - Family - Digestive issues - Politics - Clothing - Offensive gestures

Instruction check - "Is this a speaking task, or a reading task?" (elicit 'reading task')


It started out poorly, brightened up for a minute, then got worse, and even worse from there, but now I'm home... eating... and feeling at least for the moment, better. First off, I didn't sleep that well last night - I was up entirely too late, for moderately productive reasons - and then got up a bit too late for a proper breakfast. I've been trying to keep food in my room, but really didn't have anything appetizing. All I wanted was a bagel... unfortunately, Thailand is not known for it's baked goods. I knew I needed to eat something, but I peeked into the mini-mart in my residence and nothing looked good. I didn't think I had time for a sit down breakfast so I headed towards school.

The songtaew driver completely misunderstood my directions (my fault of course since I don't speak Thai) got us all going in the wrong direction...when he stopped I had no idea where we were and had to get out my map to show him where I'd wanted to go. All kinds of awkward, I felt bad for not communicating better (must learn Thai!!!), and I'm sure he felt lame for taking me to the wrong place (really it's just a straight shot from my place to school... not complicated). Anyway, I got to school and thought I would at least see my fruit man and get something in my stomach before class. No such luck... his stall wasn't set up yet.

No problem, there's a little coffee shop near the school so I stopped in for a Chai Yen - Thai Iced Tea. I figured there would be enough calories in that to at least get me started.

I was wrong.


I get into class and start feeling a bit not-good. So I ran to the bathroom - Chai Yen went right through me (sorry for the TMI). Back to class, back to not feeling so great, back to the bathroom. Back to class again and we're talking about grammar - a really really important lesson for me, we were looking at all the possible tenses and example sentences for each. We were in groups putting slips of paper in order on a board. I was standing there and just not feeling quite right.

One of the example sentences was "I think I'm going to faint." (Future with "going to": usage - to make a prediction where there is some evidence from the senses in the present that the action/event will happen.) and after debating the tense for a minute I was like "I actually think I'm going to faint." And icky-stupid-cootie-boys in my group just kept going. I sat down and started fanning myself. I was not feeling better. "I think I need to lie down." Wonderful-only other woman in the class, who also happens to be a nurse-Sheila looked at me and asked "Are you okay? Do you need some air?" At which point I really started to lose it, I didn't know what I wanted or needed, I just felt like I was going to cry. "Let's go outside for a minute." she continued.

I went out in the back and lay down on the dirty gross tile out in the back courtyard. I just lay there for a couple of minutes trying not to just break down into hysterics... while Sheila told me to breathe, then got me some (filtered) water and a cookie. I sat up & ate the cookie, Sheila gave me some candy too and eventually I started feeling a bit better so went back to class where the icky-stupid-cootie-boys had naturally just continued the lesson without us. I know that that's the only thing you can do in that kind of situation (the class must go on) but I can't pretend I wasn't hurt that I didn't get so much as a "feeling better?" when I re-entered the class. Gradually I felt at least physically better and on our first real break of the day I went and got some "coconut butter crackers" (seriously the blandest thing I could find) & bottled water at the 7/11.

By lunch time I was feeling better and got a good lunch in me (not what I thought I ordered - but good nonetheless). Blood-sugar was rebalanced, hydration was restored and mood improved. And when I came back into the school after lunch one of the office ladies asked me if I was okay - she said she heard I'd been sick and was all concerned, patting my arm in a very reassuring & motherly way. I told her that I was fine, I'd eaten and I felt good now. So that made me feel better and not so much like no one would've cared if I'd just died there on the floor.

Mood improved further when I got some very good news in an email! Except that, in sharing that good news I promptly 1. made an extremely rude (in Thailand) hand gesture to all of the women in the front office and 2. brought up a very sensitive & painful topic for someone else. Although neither offense was intentional, I ended up feeling really bad about both. Onward - time for teaching practice!

I didn't teach today, and had put in a fair amount of effort towards my lesson plan last night so I was feeling okay about things when I handed in my lesson plan to my instructor. But for some reason my instructor and I have massive communication problems. It's a style thing. When he is just presenting information, I find him very clear and knowledgeable. I just take notes and absorb. That part is fine.

But then he says "If you have any questions - just ask me." and when I do try to ask him a question, he answers by asking me a question back. I understand why he does it but it's extremely difficult for me to deal with. It makes me not want to ask him questions because I know I'm just going to have to figure it out myself. So I ask my first question and he answers with a question - no problem because in answering that I do come up with the actual answer to my question. But then he makes a reply to the effect of "see how that works" which I took as a response to what I had figured out, and reply "oh - so that's not good?" but no... he wasn't replying to me, he was making an aside to the rest of the group - meta analysis of my question/question as an answer session with him and how it works as a teaching tool. Does your brain want to explode now??? Mine did!

So we sort that out and I move on to question number 2, but as I'm asking it, I know that he's not going to give me an answer so I start trying to work it out for myself. In the process of speaking, my sentence changes from a question to a statement. "You haven't asked me a question yet." my instructor replies and I want to scream because I'm not asking him questions because I know he won't answer them. Here's some meta-analysis for you, what's the communicative function of asking a question????? To get an answer! If you know you're not going to get an answer - why the hell would you ask the question????? My final question / concern is about my last activity on the lesson plan, what to ask the students in feed-back. He gives a suggestion, "What would you change about where you live?" but it uses a structure we haven't dealt with yet so I need to reframe it in the appropriate language. I start working it out and say "What do you like about where you live? What don't you like?" to which my instructor responds "That's not a question."

Rebel's brain completely short circuits - fizzy-popping sounds emit from ears.

I don't know that much about grammar, tenses confuse the heck out of me, I missed most of our grammar lesson lying passed out in the back courtyard. But I know, I *know* that "What don't you like?" is a question, it may not be the best question to use in feedback with the students, it might be using the wrong grammatical structure for my level of students, but I know that it is in fact a question. I stare confused at him for several seconds... I blink a few times. I'm totally lost, and he repeats what he'd said at the beginning "Ask me any questions and I'll try to help you out." Which clues me in - his "That wasn't a question." meant not " 'What don't you like?' isn't a question" but rather " 'What don't you like?' isn't a question to me your instructor about the lesson plan - so why are you saying it out loud?"


I wanted desperately to bolt from the room to go cry someplace. Instead I tried to calmly and politely state that his suggestion was helpful but I was just trying to verbally work out the language so I could hear it, then write it down so I wouldn't forget. I had more questions about my lesson plan but hell if I was going to ask them at that point.

Instructor's presentation of material - to standard
Instructor's rapport with students - not to standard
Instructor's overall shit-headed-ness - above standard

I wanted very much to go out for a beer with the guys after class. Even if they are icky-stupid-cootie boys... at least they're good for a laugh and we could all bitch about class together. But no, they didn't want to stop for a beer. They wanted to get trashed and more than likely pick up on Thai girls. I was not invited.

I hopped into a songthaew and hoped for the best (two crappy rides in as many days had me in doubt of ever getting home). I really really really wanted to just break down and cry right there, it was all just too much today. But there were already two Thai girls on the songthaew and crying would mean losing face. I wouldn't mind losing face - it doesn't mean anything to me, except that the appropriate Thai response to seeing someone cry would be to point and laugh, trying to spare me the embarrassment of losing face - and I just couldn't take that so I sucked it up. Jai Yen

And I was really hungry again so I couldn't even go home - I had to get some food. I do like the fact that Thai portions are more normal sized and I'll probably lose a bit of weight while I'm here... but it means that if I don't snack or don't pay close attention to meal times, I end up starving by the end of the day. So I just went to the supermarket to get some dinner & do some grocery shopping. Dinner was good... but again, small. So I picked up some bread, ham and a really special treat - cheese - for dinner. I almost didn't get the cheese, because it was so expensive, but given how crappy of a day I'd had I indulged.

Your eyes do not deceive you... that's exactly 4 slices of gouda cheese. Like, about as much as I could easily down in one sitting with a couple of crackers & a nice glass of pinot gris (mmm... I soooo need some wine). It cost 125 baht - or about $4 US. In comparison, my lunch today cost 30 baht, and dinner 40 baht (a full western breakfast cost about 100 baht). So each of those slices cost about as much as a full meal. DANG! I still have money in the bank, but I'm trying very hard to start living on a realistic Thai budget.

It was worth it though, I got home and made a second dinner of a proper ham & cheese sandwich and am actually full for the first time in several days. I'm also freshly showered and in my PJs so, aside from the piles and piles of work I need to do tonight (clean up my lesson plan, do my mid-course self evaluation & start on assignment #2), I'm feeling ok. Not great, but at least like I'm not going to faint, or offend anyone, or lose face if I cry. Ugh. Not my best day ever.

Pair-check: "Now check your answers with your partner" (indicate topic list) "did you circle the same topics?"

Feedback -
Write on white board 'Food, Digestive issues, Offsenive gestures' "Did everyone circle these answers?" (yes, or review) "Great job everyone! See you all tomorrow!"

Leave constructive criticism or lexical analysis in the comments section.


Lady Miss Violet said...

So the class you're talking about, are you learning English grammar or Thai language? And when did the guys in the class become Icky-stupid-cootie boys?

Libby said...

Sorry for such an icky day! I've been enjoying hearing about your adventures - I guess the ups and downs are all part of the package, huh? Hang in there!

Rebel said...

Violet, in the morning we learn about teaching English; in the afternoon we practice teaching English to Thai students. I've only learned about 3 words of Thai since coming here.

Libby - it is all part of the package... that's what makes it an adventure I guess.

Bezzie said...

Lord knows I felt like a fish out of water in Texass and cried myself to sleep many nights. I can't imagine what it's like where no one really speaks your native tongue and doesn't have much cheese!

Doug Anderson said...

One of the cultural differences/misunderstandings you have to get your head around in Thailand is the concept of negative questions. In English, we use negative questions all the time: "Isn't it nice today?" "Wouldn't you like to go tomorrow?"

In Thai, negative questions do not exist. So when you speak (in English) to a Thai person and phrase the question negatively, the Thai person is likely to respond the opposite to what you expect.

Q: "Wouldn't you like to have dinner with me?"

A: "Yes" (meaning he/she would NOT like to have dinner with you.)

Also, compound questions confuse Thai people.

Q: "Would you like to go to a movie or go shopping?"

A: "Yes". (Usually the response is to the last (second) part of the question.

IamSusie said...

It sounds like your teacher is really caught up in semantics and the nuances of language, which is of course what a language teacher should be focused on, but he's forgetting the encouraging positive part that students at all age levels need.

This was a real "fish out of water" day for you. Not all days will be like this. Hang in there!

Rebel said...

Thanks for your comments... it helps me to know that people care. I went out with the boys again tonight (I'll take my fun where I can get it), so I feel better. And my lesson went much better than I deserved. I passed and that's all that matters.

IamSusie said...

When I was a new teacher in a challenging inner-city school, I used to have serious nausea every day until I got into the classroom and was actually with the children. Every day at home it was migraines, panic, and anxiety. The only thing I could eat was the school lunches during the school day. I lost a lot of weight that year. I was a very good first-year teacher and a natural in the classroom, but boy is it hard at first!

My mom supervises student teachers and when I listen to her stories about them, it seems that sometimes the over-confident ones are the least successful.

Magatha said...

Some days are definitely better than others. You will adjust and get the flow. I promise you will.
I thought I'd die with the culture shock of moving to Las Vegas. It is so not my room, I still feel like I don't belong. Yet when I go elsewhere, I can't wait to get 'home'. Go figure.
Illness always takes away your center, pulls out the proverbial rug from under one's feet.
Your instructor, well, I've met a few professors just like him. My first French teacher hated my guts and showed it, but I still know the French she taught me. Usually language arts instructors in the US are more touchy feely. I have experienced most of the meanest crap in my college mathematics courses.

gl. said...

oh, this sounds like a terrible, terrible day, but you told it so well! i was quite amused at the teaching format delivery, even while i was sad the boys were being icky-stupid-cootie. may this be the worst thing that happens to you! :)

Michael5000 said...

Oh dear. Well, I'm way too late to cheer you up about THAT day. It was kind of a crap day on this end too, for what it's worth... : (