Monday, September 8, 2008

To standard for this stage

T.A.G. for today... Pineapple? (Pineapple upside-down cake maybe?) I still have a cold, but it's not horrible.

Warning - I'm just going to whine for two paragraphs... you can skip ahead to the good stuff if you'd like.

It's been said before, but I'll say it again - the CELTA course is really intense. In some ways I haven't found it to be nearly as difficult as I was anticipating, and I really don't spend every waking second doing homework & lesson plans like I was warned... but it is intensive in that we learn a great deal and are expected to keep building and building our skills in each lesson. I really feel like getting 'above standard' feedback so early in the course really set me up for disappointment. I came into the course with the motto "I don't need to be perfect, I just need to pass." but at the mid-point evaluation I was told "Keep doing as well as you're doing and you'll get a Pass-B" but since then I've had to resubmit an assignment and the only two lessons I've taught have been graded 'to standard' with a lot of problems in them. So I feel like a failure... even though I'm not at all. You know, it's all to do with perspective. I would have rather just stayed "at standard" throughout the course.

My lesson today was really tough for me. It was "functional language" rather than a specific grammatical structure. So instead of teaching verbs in the present perfect continuous, I was teaching a variety of "polite requests, asking for permission & polite replies" I knew from the get go that it would be a challenge, and looking at it I could tell exactly what my main problems were... but I had a complete mental block on how to fix them. In feedback the instructor went through and explained "you could have done xy and zed" and suddenly it was all completely clear. I'd spent hours and hours and hours going around in circles not able to figure out what to do... and in 2 minutes she had the answer. Of course, that's to do with experience... but still it's frustrating.

OK - no more whining.

Today was fairly busy. The Cambridge certified external-assessor was at the school today. He was just verifying that our portfolios were in order and that the grading thus far has been up to Cambridge standards. He observed two lessons - fortunately not mine. There was an opportunity to air our grievances about the program with him... but no one really said anything. I thought about discussing my problem with Daddy Dearest, but decided that my time was better spent finishing up my lesson plan.

I had gotten to school early because I was still sorting out my lesson plan. A few of us were working in the computer room when the Canadian came in and told us that it was the Quiet Australian's birthday today. I thought it would be nice to get a birthday cake for him and the guys agreed. There's a bakery two doors down from the school and they happened to have one whole chocolate cake in the display. It was 400 baht ($12, *not* cheap by Thai standards) but since I'm still feeling a bit rich from this weekend's unexpected windfall I bought it. Then I ran two doors to the other side of the school and picked up some candles & plastic forks at the 7/11, then hid all the goodies with the gals from the front office. (Before coming here I was all worried about what kinds of things they would & wouldn't have in Thailand but the reality is - they have everything I could possibly need.)

So after we all met with the assessor, everyone hung out for a minute and had a little birthday party. It was really fun to have cake & candles & everyone singing... I think it lightened the mood a bit. Maybe that's the Pollyanna in me... but the Quiet Australian did seem to appreciate the thought. I have to say though, the Thais do a great many wonderful things, but chocolate cake is not one of them. It was fine, but I've made better.

After class I had dinner with one of the students at Chiang Mai University. It was just so sweet. One of the other teachers did a lesson on Friday about making arrangements and had the students do an activity where they asked each other "Are you free on Monday?" "No, I'm playing tennis on Monday. Are you free on Saturday?" and after class one of the students came up to me and asked "Are you free tonight?" and I said no... thinking she was still practicing. But she asked if I was free on Monday and invited me to have dinner with her. I was so totally flattered. Now, I don't know if technically it's inappropriate to socialize with students outside of class. But I do know that a couple of the guys have gone out to a bar owned by one of the students, and have run into other students while out drinking. I figured, whatever ethical grey area I might have stepped into - the overarching moral propriety of my normal behavior would keep me out of trouble.

It was fun... and the student was adorable. She started out by saying "We need to walk one kilometer." and I was like "OK" and she laughed at me... "Just joking! We'll take the CMU shuttle." (Apparently Thais don't do a lot of walking) The shuttles are like the train/tram things like they have in the parking lot at Disneyland or Universal Studios.... like an extra long golf cart. Anyway we walked all of a block & a half then got on the shuttle. It wound around through campus - OMG it's so lush! There's a decent sized lake and huge trees everywhere. It feels very tropical. But it's also very much a campus... lots of students everywhere, playing soccer & basketball, riding around on scooters, sitting around talking. Lots of big dorm buildings with laundry hanging out the window etc.

Eventually we got to the food court. Like most places in Thailand, it's all open-air. There are roofs but you're essentially outside (with mosquitoes and stray dogs etc). The food stalls themselves seemed a lot more permanent than the food stalls across from my school. These were well lit and had full on concrete walls... not just a wooden frame. Still, they are a bit reminiscent of the 'snack shack' at a football stadium. She asked what I'd like and I just said we could get whatever was her favorite. It's so funny because her English is really good, but still somewhat formal. So she said "I recommend..." and of course she repeated it about 5 times but I can't remember what it was called. I didn't feel comfortable whipping out my camera to take a picture, but MAN it was good! It was some kind of saffron/curried rice with little bits of chicken mixed in, and a seasoned chicken drumstick on the side. YUM... it was spiced, but not too spicy, and only 25 baht. We sat down and she asked if I like fruit, and I was able to tell her one of the very few words I've actually learned since getting here "Samporot" (no idea how it should be transliterated) - and after a few of my attempts to pronounce it she understood that I meant pineapple. So she ran off for a minute and came back with pineapple smoothie type beverages for us. Very sweet and very refreshing. I love that the Thais have a sweet tooth... my kind of people. Just you know... they should leave chocolate to the Europeans.

There were also a few vendors with their wares lined up on the side of the campus road. Mostly clothes (jeans & T-shirts), wallets, hair clips & cute notebooks. I didn't buy anything, because despite my poker win, I'm still trying to hold back on buying anything until I have a job & a permanent address. OH! But she got me a present!

It's just a little note-pad from CMU... but how adorable?! (an interobang would be nice here, don't you think?)
First off, hello! It's pink!! =) Second, check out the adorable elephants... they're all wearing mortar boards. How sweet was that???

We sat and chatted for a while. She told me about her family and I told her a little about the US. She's visited Korea, so she was telling me a bit about the things she noticed there. It was not the deepest of conversations, but she can actually communicate extremely well - despite the fact that she says "I don't speak English very well." Lordy. I decided to teach her the word "Confident" and subsequently tried to tell her to be more confident, because her English was actually just fine. And bless her heart, she used some of the language I had taught in my lesson today. "May I sit here?" and "I'm sorry, this seat is taken." (she was joking) LOL... and I told her my lesson really wasn't very good & she tried to reassure me "But I remembered it!" which I guess is the most important thing.

Overall a good day... but not without it's ups and downs. A very pineapple day. =)


turtlegirl76 said...

It certainly sounds like a wonderful day! How rewarding to interact with a student like that. =)

Exuberant Color said...

It sounds like she wants you to feel comfortable in her country. How sweet of her.

Bezzie said...

Hee hee, pink elephants. Did you ever see that Simpsons with the gay Republicans who used the pink elephant as their mascot?

Teaching is hard enough--throw a global flavor and it's got to be even harder!

Karin said...

Yay! She remembered something from class and actually used it. That's big, actually. And she wanted to hang out with you.

Just goes to show ya: students don't always know when we're not at our best. they're still learning.

What a relief, huh?

Doug Anderson said...

Watch out for the muffins... I bought some once and they had spicy hot chilis inside.

Michael5000 said...