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on-a-monday-titleOn a Monday, or every day really, even the ones I want to sleep in, begins at 6:45. A hot shower, sometimes a coffee, and then I’m out the door and on the elevator down 10 floors.

Then on to my morning commute.

We arrive at my school around 7:50 in the morning. On a Monday, that means a mad rush of foreign teachers to the nearby 7-eleven for breakfast, snacks, and drinks. For me, it specifically means getting a new bottle of water to use for the week.

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By the time we enter the school, we have about 10 minutes to the morning assembly. In that time, the usual pattern is to clock in at the fingerprint scanner, drop our things off in the fifth floor office, and complain how hot it is and that they haven’t yet given the office the ability to turn on the air conditioners.

It’s also very unusual if the wifi is on at this point.



On a Monday, by about 8:10, morning assembly has begun.   My 5th grade homeroom class stands in the hallway a floor above our room to be with the other 5th grade.  Their morning assembly routine is the Thai National Anthem, a faux Christian prayer (which none of them have any idea what they are being forced to say), a song dedicated to the Thai King, and then a meditation song.

on-a-monday-7 on-a-monday-8 on-a-monday-9 on-a-monday-10 on-a-monday-11After this assembly, the students are sent back to the classroom.

On a Monday, my first period is a Thai program Grade 5, one of four that I teach.  Today, our subject was ‘save the planet’ and ‘recycle.’ This involved a quick song which the students simply repeated what I read aloud, then several short workbook activities.  When they were finished, we spent about 10 minutes of me checking their work.

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This was repeated in the second period with Prathom 5/2.

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On a Monday, my third period is free.  This means I may simply just sit at my desk and surf the internet or, as many people do after a long weekend of drinking, lay my head down on the desk and hope for a small nap.  Unfortunately, even if I wanted too, I could never get comfortable enough to sleep hunched over my desk.

Toll of the weekend.

Toll of the weekend.

Instead, on most Mondays, I spend the period making my vocabulary list for my English Program 5th Grade.

This Monday, however, did not go as smoothly as it might have.  To start with, the woman who teaches the Filipino language course before me decided to go 10 minutes over her class into mine.  After that, it took 10 more minutes to get all my regular students into their seats and writing down their 10 vocabulary words for the week.  And while it’s a task that should take them no more than 5 minutes, it tends to take the better part of the 45 minute class.

In the process, I was snapping a few photos.  Despite how this may sound for U.S. and maybe European readers, it’s completely normal within a Thai classroom.  Very often I have people that I don’t even recognize from my school of 2 years come into my classes and shoot pictures to use for their publications and websites.  I was taking them for the same reason (I am required to send in pictures of me with my classes in 2 weeks) and to use for this documentary blog post.

But, in the irregular ruckus that was my favourite class today, my camera was also broken.  A student grabbed it from my hands to see the pictures I had taken.  In the process, she did something to the lens after which it won’t retract back into the camera.



After this class was another free period combined with my lunch hour.  I usually have 2 options for lunch.  The school provides a free lunch (and breakfast) to all staff.  There is also a restaurant a couple blocks away, tentatively called the Old Man.  He and his wife make some of the best Thai food I, and many coworkers, have eaten.  There’s also the option to just scavenge from 7-Eleven.

On this Monday, I opted for the cheapest option and ended up with a lucky draw of massaman curry.  Why there was a fried fish patty thrown into the mix, I don’t know, but I just added it to the curry amalgam.

Students' lunch time.

Students’ lunch time.

At lunch, the kindergarten teachers are free and swarm the office computers.

At lunch, the kindergarten teachers are free and swarm the office computers.

On a Monday, I have a special class called ‘Club’ at 13:30.  Each teacher proposed their club topic at the beginning of the semester.  Mine is writing.  And despite having been doing this club for over 3 months, I still have students who ask me why I require them to write.  This week’s topic was for them to write a Mary-Sue fanfiction.  While many of the stories they tried were impressive for 10-20 sentences, they didn’t seem to get the point of the topic of inserting themselves as a character into the story.

The final period of my day is prathom 5/3, my favorite of my Thai program classes.  They are the most capable and the most fun.  Every time I enter their classroom they flood me with, “FLUENT!!! PLEEAASEEE!”  Fluent is an activity where the students are asked rehearsed questions to which they must answer.  After 3 months of doing exactly the same, unchanged questions to which they have simply memorized the answers, I am weary to do fluent with them anymore.  Instead we did the same repetitive lesson as my first two periods.

Directly after the 5/3 class, and at 3:00 pm every day of the work week, is a homework period.  This is an extra period which the parents pay for to have their children get any work done or interact more with their native English-speaking teacher.

More often in practice, no homework is done and I spend an exhausting period stopping the boys from running around the room and hitting each other with rulers.  Come 16:00, I leave the classroom for another half hour in the office before we can all leave.  At 16:37, the line in front of the fingerprint scanner begins to move and all the foreign teachers make their way to their transportation, mine being the same van which brings me back into Pinklao.

At the end of the day.

At the end of the day.


Leaving the van.

Leaving the van.

On this Monday, I got off one stop before my usual one in order to go to Central Plaza, a large mall near me.  Being that my newly-broken camera was a Sony, I figured I’d try to see if they could fix it at the Sony store.

It took me a little searching to find the Sony store.  Malls in Thailand, even the small ones like this Central Plaza, are enormous.  In the store, I was told they could not fix it and was provided with a contact number for Sony support.

Inside of Central Plaza Pinklao.

Inside of Central Plaza Pinklao.

After that, it was back home, wrapping up another Monday of working in Bangkok.

Benjamin Williams

Hi all, my name is Ben. I’m a native Michigander with a passion for human culture and new places, and more than that, new experiences. I have degrees in archaeology and writing, pursuing a career in the latter. However, I never quite lost that fascination for archaeological theory. For the past 11 years, I’ve been living and travelling between Asia, Europe, and North America, documenting ancient sites and the peoples who built them, and then adapting them into practical archaeological travel information at


  • MonkeyAbroad says:

    Ah yes, the all-too-familiar life of an ESL teacher on Monday (minus the broken camera). Hope all’s well in Bangkok and you’re enjoying your holiday. It was good to put a face to the name last month. Take care, man.

  • mishvo says:

    Hahah spot on! Kinda made me miss teaching grade 5 (BUT NOT REALLY). You make it look so easy! Those little munchkins are madness though!!
    Love the shot of Mark leaving the van. Ha. And look at all the new teachers!! Good stuff, Ben. Brings back old memories.

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