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Take your fellah to work day

Laura invited me to sit in on her “gifted” class at Prince Royal’s College yesterday. I took a tuk-tuk to the massive 50+ acre campus and she escorted me to her building. Along the tiled halls, students walk in their socks while teachers and staff wear shoes. It had rained hard (tis the season) and the air was very humid. She took me to her eighth grade class, passing droves of uniformed middle school kids.

I thought I taught in primitive conditions when I was teaching in a church basement at Thurgood Marshall Academy, but I got to hand it to my soon-to-be wife who teaches in an open air room with table-top oscillating fans bolted to the walls and legit white chalk black boards. One side of the room has large doors that do not close and the other side of the room is separated from a wide corridor by black diamond wire mesh. All the noises of children horsing around in the yard, the construction of the new building and other classrooms, encroach on her teaching space. I was dripping with sweat from the humidity. And La stood up there conducting class, engaging her students, like it was no big thing. I was blown away.

I was also surprised by how loud the students were, and how free they are to wander the classroom and even leave the room to talk to their friends, something that happens in all classes, not just hers. Also, their “gifted” class is somewhere between a club and an elective. Definitely not the type of structure I’ve grown to appreciate in my own high school classrooms. Example: when one student brought in his friend to keep him company, and a Rubiks cube (the boys are nuts about Rubiks cubes, apparently, and solve them in seconds) my first instinct was to…well, you can probably guess: ask the student to put the toy away, and after a second time, take it away until the end of class, and establish guidelines for having a friend attend as well: “I’m thrilled your friend wants to learn, but if he’s going to be here, he must participate and not distract you.” But it wasn’t my classroom, so I stayed put and observed. Thai teaching style is very different than my experience in the US. Plus there’s the added nuance of Laura being a foreigner, plus she doesn’t have her own class: she goes to her students’ home room, plus she’s teaching a second language and sometimes the students talk in Thai to one another. What a challenge, right?

La had a great lesson plan that engaged all of her students and as they presented their English the class roared with laughter and squeals. No joke, it was a lot like those TV shows where the reporter leads the video crew into the village and all the kids are smiling and laughing and singing songs. I had some expectations, but I did not expect Laura to be on set in a National Geographic special. The kids were especially squealy when she introduced me as her husband. Lots of Ooooohhhhhh!!!!-ing in the way only young teens can do. Pretty universally, it turns out.

Her students are nuts about her, absolutely adorable, and were eager to practice their English. Lots of students approached her before and after class, in the halls, in the food court, to strike up a conversation. She seems to be very well liked. It made me a little homesick for TMA. The class of 2008 (my kids from 2004-5) has recently graduated.

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