American TESOL Institute Series

The first day that the four of us went to the school, no one knew quite what to expect.  We began the day slightly later than a normal school day would begin.  Because we were living in an area where many of their teachers live, the school provided a large van to transport us along with the other faculty.  We met the van at 8:15 in the morning and were off.

Waiting for the van in the morning.

The first step was to meet with Liza, the school administrator we had met when ATI’s placement agent had brought us out to the school the first time.  She gave us English copies of the contract we would be signing to read over as she called us to her desk one by one to give her our documents for both the school and Non-Immigrant B visa application.

These documents were:

  • A passport with your current tourist visa
  • 2 letters of reference.  Preferably from former teaching positions, but former employers were acceptable.
  • An official college transcript, sealed.
  • Original college diploma

I had a little but of a scare when I first found out during the ATI training course that I needed my original diploma.  After spending 5 years of work and many thousands of dollars pursuing this document, I was not thrilled about the prospect of shoving it in my backpack and hauling it 12 time zones around the world with me, so I made a digital scan and brought copies.  It turned out these wouldn’t do.

I was even less thrilled about it being put into an envelope and shipped blindly out into the world to an address of the hotel I was at in Thailand which my or may not have been written correctly in English.  Luckily, my mom shipped it out and it arrived a full 5 days before I left the J.L. Bangkok.

Waiting in the school’s main office.

Also, I had not even thought to bring my passport with me that morning.  In checking the documents, Liza told me that was fine and to just bring it with me on Monday, the first official day of school.

She then walked us to the other end of the campus to the E.P. (English Program) building, a separate school and curriculum in which the majority of the subjects are taught in English.  There, we were re-introduced to Mark, the director of the foreign teachers and our boss.

Mark explained to us the situation both the school and all of the teachers would be in due to the flooding.  We had come with the expectation of working Saturdays for the rest of the semester, as all of the other teachers were going to have to.  However, we were given normal class loads (21 teaching, 3 homework periods for me) and would not have to work Saturdays.

I later found out from employees who had been there before the flood that their extra workload was expected as they were paid for all the time that the school was closed because they were on contract.  Now, they had to make up that time.

As new employees, we did not.

Morgan and Megan were both going to be in the kindergarten classes of the Thai school, while Bobby and I were going to be in the English office along with the majority of the foreign (i.e. English-speaking) staff.  This discouraged the girls initially, as very few in their office spoke English, and even fewer spoke to them.

After our meeting with Mark, most of the English staff went out to lunch, inviting us along with them.  The school is right in the middle of the largest part of Bang Bua Thong, with one main road of stores, restaurants, and other businesses between it and the highway.

We sat down and ordered a smorgasboard of things from the stand out front; sticky rice, grilled pork and chicken, papaya salad, and a few more things.  Bobby had told one of the other teachers who was ordering that he was a vegetarian, only to be told, half-jokingly that there is no such thing in Thailand.  Sure enough, the papaya salad, probably the only thing ordered that could have come vegetarian-style, had the smallest, crispest shrimp I had ever seen dotting it.

We returned to the school for an all-foreign staff meeting.  It took a while for the stale room with 60 or so of us to become ventilated and breathable, but by that time, Mark had already started lightening the mood with a game, before he broke the mostly-expected bad news to all the teachers.

I got pulled out of the meeting, however, by one of the Thai program teachers and brought to one of the sections of the Matthyom 3 (9th grade) classes I would be teaching English to.

I had been told about this by Liza earlier in the day, but only that I would be observing one of my classes, as these 9th graders had been there for a week already.  I was extremely surprised when I was handed a paperback textbook and essentially told, “Go for it.”

So, for the next 45 minutes, I was asking questions about London landmarks (the topic in the text, and the most knowledge of which I have is from watching Doctor Who) and the language used about them to 37 Thai students, including one that was asleep in the back left corner from the time I arrived until the time I left.

The Thai teacher that had brought me to the class left shortly after, though I expected her to stay, given how the students immediately responded to her presence.  The class’s actual teacher came in about ¾ of the way through and helped greatly in eliciting responses from the students.  This was a great help in trying to gauge what they are actually capable of doing and what not.

After I returned to the English teacher’s office from the class, I was immediately barraged with questions about both how was my first time and how are the students acting this semester since the flood.  Understandable, since none of the English teachers had been in a class yet.  I was very surprised that I was the first.

The van to take us home.

After that, it was essentially just riding the clock out for everyone in the office.  Since there were no classes to go to, individual conversations turned into room-wide conversations and then broke off again into smaller ones.

Come 16:00, we were in a van heading back to “The Square” where we were all living, leaving us the weekend to prepare for the remaining challenge of the semester ahead.