This is page 5 of the story, “Living in Thailand” – the first page is HERE.
Prathom 1, 2 and 3
Very easy to deal with the kids. Easy to be nice and then demand respect at will. The kids are fun, respectful, eager to learn and to please… eager to make the teacher laugh if the teacher will allow it. I had some of the greatest experiences teaching these levels.
Example… The kids are to complete their workbook – coloring and filling in different English words and then present the book to me when they are finished with the page… I then have to check the bottom box with a red checkmark and they can consider it a good job and move on to the next page or the next activity. Well, one girl decided it would be funny to write some extra words at the bottom of her paper when she handed it in… it said, “Fat Mr. John (name replaced for preserving anonymity)”.
I saw it as I was checking her paper and she was watching my face to see what I did. When I saw it I TOTALLY overreacted and blew the issue way out of proportion in a fun way… “WHAT IS THIS??? WHO DID THIS??? I CAN”T BELIEVE THIS! Etc. And I had crazy expressions on my face… the kids were all thrown for a loop… The girl was smiling so big, she had got the reaction she wanted, and more.
The rest of the class was wrecked by kids bringing up their papers with things like “red Mr. John”, “Mr. John long arm”, “Mr. John fat foot” and other things. Their vocabulary was limited to body parts, colors, and sizes of things but they were ingenious in combining them. One boy, the most “off” boy in the class… the skinniest kid… with the funniest expressions… and the most off-base answers and actions… came up just as class was ending. He had been watching with amusement the whole scene… he was watching what his friends wrote and handed to me… he was loving my reactions… he had nothing written on his paper when he handed it in at the end of class. I was VERY surprised. I expected SOMETHING.
Then he hands me something with his other hand… a folded up little piece of paper about one inch by two inches that didn’t say anything. It was just a picture of a pile of steaming turds. It was his way of saying, “Mr. Vern is a pile of shit.” I laughed until I couldn’t breathe… all the kids insisted on him telling them what it was, but he never told… he just sat there with this smug smile on his face.
So, I found these levels very easy to teach and the most fun…
Prathom 4, 5, 6
I have not taught Prathom 4, however, the horror stories I heard about them was enough. The Prathom 4, 5, and 6 kids seem to be experiencing the intravenous crack phenomenon about every three days or so on average. If you have a large class – over twenty-five of them, heaven help you. My p5 and p6 classes were both with thirty kids and they were quite a handful. I was teaching math, so often the lesson was wasted because they were too wound up to get anything out of it.
I was able to get maybe 60% of my lessons done in a meaningful way with these grades because of the tactics I’ll share with you later. Some teachers came to the staff room in tears because if you let them run wild from the start, they will run all over you and tattoo your skin with the treads from their shoes.
Don’t make the mistake of naming the kids “Monkey number 1,” “Monkey number 2,” as I have done in the past with a Prathom 5 class. They actually get worse so they can outdo each other. All the monkeys want to be “Monkey number 1” for some reason. Lesson learned. I thought it would be a good way to embarrass them since instead of their name I would disrespect them by calling them this other more creative name. Go figure.
I taught a few lessons to cover for another teacher’s absence. I found them to be generally OK. The “attitudes” really start in this group. The silent treatments, the passive-aggressive stuff. I was able to completely control this group and I think long-term probably the same result. They weren’t yet confident enough to challenge me multiple times.
Mathyom 3 and 4 I taught nearly every day. They have the potential to control YOU and the class. They are smart, they are strong as a class… they back each other up on things so it’s you against thirty of them. Fifty? Good luck. I was able to control these guys about 95% of the time. The classes were not always fun, but we had our share of very good times in each class. It’s a power struggle and if they win you’re in for a long year.
One trick that works with Thai kids. Often times you’ll hear someone talking behind your back. You don’t know who. It could be any one of 8-10 different monkeys. If nobody will admit it… I do this.
I pick someone at random. Usually, one of the monkeys and tell the kids that THIS monkey is going to suffer because the REAL monkey causing the trouble is not admitting it. When the real monkey admits it then the THIS monkey can go sit back down. I then send the innocent monkey outside to stand but not with his nose against the wall – just stand. The kids in the class don’t know though because I go out WITH the kid to tell him – just stand there, I’m not mad at you, etc…
When I go back to the class there is some serious issue with this… the kids are shocked, they don’t know what to do… they insist it WASN’T that monkey… and I say I don’t care. Which monkey was it? If they don’t say, I just continue teaching… eventually, it comes to the point where the real monkey admits it. EVERY TIME the real monkey has come forward. If he doesn’t he will the next time because his friends think he’s an ass for not admitting it to start with!
Hope it gives new teachers something to start from and experienced teachers something to laugh at.
So, as you can see – I’m a little strict about teaching in the Thai classroom – but if I wasn’t I just couldn’t teach them. I’m not the kind of teacher that just sits calmly as I wait for the class to calm down.
Well, wait, yes, sometimes I could do that – and when I got to that point they knew – wow, Mr. Vern’s going to cause us a LOT of grief if we don’t shut up soon. During those moods, I usually started knocking points off anyone’s grade that continued to talk. I’d just start whacking points from their grade as they kept it up… some kids would lose ten points in a day off their grade. Eventually, with all these rules and ways to make them shut up, they did pretty well by the end of the year. I’m sure they were also wondering if half the kids were failing!
Kids get quickly out of hand if you give them space. I am very strict for the first few weeks… month. Then I can loosen up and they’ve already seen what a disciplinarian I am… so they know when I start to get serious – they need to be very quiet. It works most times. Of course, at the end of the day, the kids are sometimes complete basket-cases and there isn’t much that can be done to get them to be quiet and learn anything at all.
The Thai educational system is such that nobody fails. Nobody repeats grades. It’s all, “mai pen rai” and give even the worst kids passing grades. Grades can be bought in the universities. Some high schools as well.
Summer Teaching Break (starts in March – goes for two months)
School finished for the term and we had a long summer break in March and May so I went down south on the motorbike – from the Northeast to the South on the motorbike! It was good fun. The motorbikes are more like very fast mopeds and so they’re comfortable and easy to drive a hundred to hundred fifty kilometers at a time.
I made my way around to Pattaya, Ranong, Bangkok, Prachuap Khirikhan, Hua-hin, Chumphon, and finally arriving in Suratthani. I stayed a short time in some of the cities as I passed through – but I went through Bangkok as quickly as I could. Riding a motorbike in Bangkok is NO FUN at all. An accident is likely. It was raining hard during the time I rode through, so it was extra scary!
I really LOVED Prachuap Khiri Khan – a small city with some lovely beaches that I wish I had more time for. There were no tourists when I was there – the huge, lovely beaches were empty! I tried to find a job there so I could live there for a year or so. It seems like such a laid back place. There is no Makro, Big C or Tesco – but I think I could live without those things. I have enough FBT shirts, cooling powder and whitening cream for my girlfriend that we can go without a visit to one of the big shopping stores for a while. It’s rather close to Hua-Hin, so if we get desperate for something we could always take a motorsai (motorbike) or train trip.
I decided to move away from the Northeast and go somewhere south to live. I’d been around the ocean and beaches for fifteen years in the states and I was missing it.
With Lek, I finally gave in. I decided that when I moved from the northeast to the south – where I am now – that Lek would come with me. She was totally in love with me and had been for a year, while I insisted on going out with others. She knew. I didn’t hide it. She never said even one thing when I came home late. Never mentioned ANYTHING about my coming in at five a.m. smelling of whiskey. But now I know, sadly, she was crying inside.
I believe she’s been faithful to me since we’ve been together. I can trust her about 99% now. It may take ten more years to trust her the last 1%… but, I think it will happen. She is really one of a kind… and yet maybe she isn’t though. Isaan must be filled with these girls. Girls that would make the most perfect wives.
I wrote a book – How To Find a Thai Girl To Marry in Thailand.
Click here to see it.
I really don’t think you’ll find a great girl easily in Bangkok and maybe never find one in Phuket or Pattaya – the two prime sex-tourist areas. The reason is that the girls in those areas are exposed to tourists in a different way. They see tourists as ATMs. These cities are built around money. They are expensive to live in and girls start thinking about ways to make more money.
What to look for when trying to choose a good girl?
Things to avoid are easier to list…
- Girls that can’t seem to get their focus away from money.
- Girls that work in a bar, club, massage place, or as a waitress serving beer.
- Girls that have friends they hang out with that work in those places.
- Girls that live in Pattaya, Phuket, Ko Samui, and Bangkok.
- Girls that mention money a lot… they are always asking for money for something. They are always asking for extra money for family problems at home for their parents and family.
- Girls that speak English very well. Be careful about this one. If they spent some time abroad, ok, that’s one thing. If they speak rather fluently and they haven’t been to college and many private classes in order to hone their speaking skills then you must suspect something. English is difficult to learn for Thais’. As hard as it is for us to learn the Thai language. It does not come easily and the Thai culture keeps Thais from speaking well because they lose face every time they try to speak English and are incorrect.
- Girls with tattoos – though it’s becoming more common now, I would still say that a very high percentage of girls that have tattoos either are currently, or HAVE worked in the sex-tourist industry. Good girls just don’t get tattoos here, it’s looked on very negatively. The exception to this might be a girl in Bangkok that is very concerned with fashion – she might see people from other countries that have a lot – and want to identify with them.
- Girls that smoke. Again, it’s not common nor accepted for women to smoke in Thailand outside of the sex tourist areas and Bangkok. In Isaan – the northeast I RARELY ever see it and when I do – it’s the girls that are working in the bars in Isaan. Paying for sex occurs in Isaan too – but it’s mostly the Thai guys doing it. In fact, Thailand’s men use prostitutes even more than 13.8 million tourists that come each year.
- Girls that wear a lot of gold – on their neck, in their ears, on their wrists, around their ankles, that have toe-rings, nose piercings, tongue piercings should be a pretty good giveaway. Only two types of girls wear gold in Thailand – the women that are trying to show that they have money – these are usually older women over forty-five or so. The others are bargirls – rather than have the cash they buy gold. They wear it too!
Working in Thailand…
Besides teaching jobs there are many other things one can do in Thailand. It’s fairly easy to get a work permit, which is valid for a year. This will negate having to travel outside the country to renew your thirty or ninety-day visas that don’t accompany a work permit.
Usually, foreigners will try their hand at setting up their own business. The costs are low and one can get around the “Two million baht” capital in the bank requirement by registering the business with a lawyer in Bangkok who will charge twenty to thirty-thousand baht to do all the paperwork and make you legal.
There are many foreigners making money illegally here. Illegal drugs importing and exporting. It should be mentioned that doing drugs at any level… or being close to others that are doing drugs, buying or selling drugs, can turn into a life or death situation. The country of Thailand doesn’t have much tolerance for drug users, buyers or sellers. Occasionally there are police sweeps across the country – initiated by the premier in which thousands of people are rounded up or shot dead in the street (under Thaksin).
There are often no trials at all, they are just shot in the street. The papers report little on this. The Thai people don’t seem to get all that worked up about it. They really don’t like drugs in their country and don’t care much about what is done to eliminate them. You really should stay far away from them during your stay in Thailand.
Even if you have a small amount, you can open yourself up to becoming a victim of a scam by police or other Thai citizens. There are many people in Thailand who are watching you. Some are watching because they are curious. Some are watching to see how they can make a little money from you. Some will try to make money from you in a legal way. Some will try to take advantage of you personally. Some will set you up by reporting something about you to the police or others.
You may have a very small amount of pot (marijuana) on you. Maybe you offer some to a girl that you find in a bar and bring it back to your room. She may or may not smoke it with you. If she has a bad experience with you – or feels slighted or hurt in some way… or if she is just desperate for more money she may tell her friend in the police force that you have some pot.
The police may visit your room or find you on the street. They may pull you over in a car or on the motorbike.
Now, the penalty for having drugs in Thailand is quite severe. You might have a seed in your pocket. But, the police can do with you what they will once they have you back at the police station. If at all possible you want to get rid of the situation before you go back to the police station. It’s very easy to plant more drugs on you once you are out of the public eye – and maybe you’re standing in the police station in your underwear and someone’s sticking a quarter kilo of smack in your jean’s pocket in the other room.
The police are looking for a little extra to supplement their incomes. They make VERY little for the kinds of things they are supposed to do. If you nip the problem in the bud you might only end up paying a few thousand baht for possessing a very small amount of drugs. If they don’t offer you a way out – you should offer yourself a way out… offer ten thousand baht to just get you out of jail “today”… or something like that. Offer whatever you need to so that the police stay rather friendly and aren’t going to really give it to you by upping the ante.
A quarter kilo of smack could get you sent away for a long time. Twenty, maybe thirty years? There are foreigners doing that kind of insane time right now in Thai prisons. Thai jails are not fun, so I’ve heard and read. How much would you pay to get out of going to jail for thirty years? Me too. Everything I had.
I’ve stayed very far away from drugs here – to the extent that I won’t even play ping-pong at a co-worker’s house because the one time I was there they were passing around a rose apple bong. I’ve found that ALL of my co-workers smoke pot in their free time! I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that one aspect of life here. I don’t associate with ANY other foreigners from school after-hours. I feel much safer that way. You too, if you come to live here, will have to make a choice… it would be a tough choice for some of you.
What an incredible time I’m having here – very few expenses. I can travel every weekend somewhere. Have bare necessities for living and yet the low stress that is a result is so nice that I don’t miss having the latest boat, cars, SUV, expensive bicycles, stereo, laptops, and video cameras. I am self-content and contained here.
When I came to Suratthani I took a job with a respected government school that has a good English program. I teach only math to Mathyom 3 level kids. They are a bit hard to control at times – especially at the end of the day – but usually, they are great. They are respectful enough and I can control them when I need to. There was an English camp I had to attend at a beach resort for three days that wasn’t hard-duty by any stretch of the imagination!
I like it here except there are TOO DAMN MANY foreigners working here! We have four teachers from America, four from England, one from Switzerland. So much for living and working immersed in Thai culture. My contract goes until March 31st, so I’ll stay until then. I’ll know next time I need to choose a smaller school with few foreigners.
I’d much rather be surrounded by Thais so I can learn the culture more… learn the language more… eat their food, go to their homes… and do what they do! I’ve DONE America. I don’t want to hang out with thirty foreigners from all the schools in this area at a beach resort in Krabi. I want to go myself… just I and Lek and I’ll enjoy it so much more.
Surat Thani is a great place to live though, that much is sure! It is very close to so many great places. Koh Samui island, Koh Tao, Koh Pangnan… Krabi, Nakhon si Thammarat, Phuket, Phangna… so many world-class places that my girlfriend and I can reach by motorbike for a two or three day weekend. For central locations to the islands, this city is hard to beat.
There are some really cool things about Thai culture that you’ll see if you stay for a year. There are some holidays that are quite different from holidays in the west.
There is “Wai Kru” day. On this day students show respect to their teachers by kneeling in front of them and giving flower arrangements or flowers. It is really beautiful! The kids kneel in front of the teachers and give the flowers, bow again and move to the side while the next child comes and does the same. It’s really something. Shocking the difference between Thailand and the USA where there is no real respect for the teachers.
There are usually days off school to prepare the flower arrangements and on the actual day of “Wai Kru” there is a day off as the students are allowed to go find teachers from the past and give them flowers too.
“Loy Krathong” is another nice holiday. It’s similar to Valentine’s Day in the USA. The holiday is to “apologize to the rivers and lakes for making them polluted” my girlfriend tells me. There are elaborate floating flower arrangements that are put onto a cross-section of a banana tree with straight pins. It is a time when boyfriend and girlfriend and parents and children go to the waterways of Thailand and let loose their floating flowers…
Sometimes there is money on the flowers that is supposed to bring good luck. But, the couple times I’ve seen it – the money is collected quickly by kids and others in boats off the banks of the river or lake! They take the money and then send the Krathongs on their way again! Nobody really gets angry – it’s part of the tradition too. Kids as young as seven can be seen swimming in the water and waiting for people to launch their Krathongs into the water.
By far the coolest holiday – perhaps in the world – is “Songkran!” This was originally to start the rainy season. It was celebrated by boys and girls to meet each other and show respect for each other… and a way to cool off during the hottest part of the year. However, it has degenerated into water throwing mayhem for three or more days that might just be the most fun you ever had in your life. It was for me!
On the first day, the water throwing starts early. Small children especially are throwing water by eight a.m., sometimes earlier. They have squirt guns, hoses, buckets, cups, and these huge squirters that shoot a powerful jet of water – they are made from PVC pipe and can shoot great distances – thirty feet, or more if the wind is right. By noon there are quite a few people in pickup trucks, on motorbikes, walking around, and lining the streets – everyone throwing water.
The streets of even small cities like Sisaket where my girlfriend is from are jammed with trucks full of people throwing buckets of water from large trash cans on the truck! There are places throughout each city that sell large blocks of ice for forty or fifty baht each to cool the water – sometimes making it ICE COLD! There are water fill-up places around the city that have huge eight-inch diameter hoses filling up garbage cans full of water in a pickup truck after pickup truck all day long.
Residents bring out large speaker systems and blast music – upbeat dance music the entire day. People are drinking and having a great time. I saw only one major fight during the holiday during my first Songkran… it involved a bunch of Thai guys in their early twenties that were very drunk and someone lost face… it escalated into bottles being broken, stomachs slashed open, necks cut open, and people dying in the street.
I was right there across from it in a pickup truck with some kids from my first school and their parents. The kids saw most of it because it happened so fast all our eyes were glued to it. By the time we pushed the kids down where they couldn’t see it was too late – they had already seen some horrific violence.
That was the only bad fight I saw in two different Songkrans though. I’ve heard that certain gangs of kids target each other every year and there are always fights – but most can be avoided. There were some Thai guys that offered me whiskey that didn’t like it when I refused – and so I quickly drank some. As I said before, Thais lose face quickly when drunk. Better to drink their homemade whiskey that thirty others have had from the same bottle than resist and cause a fight!
So, this water throwing madness goes on not just for one day, but for three DAYS! In Chiang Mai and some other spots they stretch it out to a WEEK!
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