13: Help! I need somebody...

Thus far, the teaching side of life in LopBuri has gone surprisingly smoothly. I think this is down to (1) the novelty aspect of introducing ‘farang’ teachers to children who have rarely seen a white person, and (2) the fact that the children who attend Jindaratana (which is a private Thai junior school) are generally pleasant, attentive and well behaved. I do say generally. In a working week I teach around 350 students, by the law averages there must be (and certainly are!) some wild exceptions.

Dealing with behavioural problems has been one of the most difficult elements of starting the new native English programme at Jindaratana. At King’s college in Bangkok it was easy because we were told exactly what to do with children who were acting disobediently:

First give them a polite warning:
Ploy, stop using your pencils for drumsticks, get on with your work please.

If this didn’t work then repeat the warning a little more forcefully:
Come on now Ploy, you’re not Ringo Starr, get on with your work please.

Then give the child an option:
Ploy, Ringo used to listen to his teacher! You either stop drumming your pencils, or you are going out of the door.

If there's still no reaction, tell the child to leave the classroom, hopefully in view of their parents:
Ploy, the Beetles never even played a gig in Thailand, you’ve had your chance, out you go!

When the child still refuses to acknowledge your presence, then the final straw is to bring in a member of Thai staff. This usually means a long lecture for the child and more importantly to them, a letter home to their parents.

Ninety per cent of the time, little Ploy will have obediently hung up her pencil drum sticks after step one or two, so there’s no problem. However at Jindaratana we aren’t allowed to send a child out of the classroom, neither are we allowed to threaten letters home. This means that ten per cent of the time, I am left with something of a quandary as to what to do. For the first few weeks I singled out the ringleaders from misbehaving tables and stood them up on their own. They then had to count to ten or twenty before being allowed to retake their seat. This was working fine until I asked one mischievous girl to stand up and count when she abruptly burst into tears. Her crying was intensified further by the raucous laughter of her classmates.

Since then, M (my Thai teaching assistant) and I have been splitting students up and getting boys to sit with girls etc, which has been working fine. I do however get the distinct feeling that the behaviour of the students is on the decline now that they are used to my teaching style and being in my classroom. I think that shortly a different (yet relevant) punishment for naughty children will have to be enforced. I want it to be bad enough for them to stop behaving badly when threatened with it, but not so bad that I will have more children’s tears to answer for. And I want it to involve the speaking of English; I just don’t quite know what it is yet!! Answers on a postcard to... Actually it’s probably easier to e-mail me, the winner doesn't even get a cuddly toy but all suggestions are most helpful and very much appreciated!

Dan

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