Adventures in EFL teaching (stage 1)

I was curious as a Loburi monkey. “What advice were you going to give me for that class?”

“Well,” Matt Foley said, “it’s more like a special technique.” He named off a few of the students.

“Yeah.”

“Well, for S in particular (let’s just refer to the students as letters of the alphabet, k?). Whenever I felt he needed to calm down, I had him sit in a special chair.”

I started laughing, “You what?! You gave him time out?!”

“No. The chair is not a bad thing, nor a good thing. It’s just a special place for him, or any other student to collect and gather themselves, and refocus.”

I was laughing even harder, “Did you tell them that?”

“No, of course not. I didn’t use those words…”

Despite laughing my gohn yai off, I soberly ended the conversation with, “Special chair, huh?”

“Special chair.”

***

On day 3, I was a little tired, which meant the little fleas could sink their fangs into my soft flesh and drain the blood life force out of me, more easily. I realized this while we were in the middle of playing Hot Seat or Back to the Board.

I knew that such a game could induce chaotic results, but it’s a great way to review/practice grammar, and it’s one of my favorite games. I also like to see how kids respond to the game, how they help each other say the words on the board, etc. It also gave me an opportunity to confirm that S is indeed the ringleader of the circus.

Now hold on a cotton-pickin’ minute. These kids were supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, remember? Oh, yeah, I remember, can I go back to the story now?

On the first day, S joined our class late, but I knew, or had a feeling even then. My teacher senses were tingling, you might say. So I was more aggressive towards him. Male teachers have their special seats, I suppose, and I have my motherly ways.

I punched him a couple of times.

Now don’t get all excited. All I did was make a fist and push it into his shoulder. I think with some children, you need to surprise them to keep them engaged, but at that time I just wanted him to know who was Top Dog in the classroom.

It seemed to work – for a couple of days.

On day 3, as I mentioned, the class got a little crazy playing Hot Seat. But that didn’t bother me, what did was not being able to understand what the boys were saying, particularly S. I can understand when I my students speak Thai sometimes, and most of the time I do alright because of the context. With Hot Seat I started to get worried that S was being rude or mean. He certainly was being aggressive, and without understanding exactly what he was saying, I had to rely on body language.

I told S a few times to stop speaking Thai, but that was the extent of my disciplining. Then I told myself to stop thinking negatively about him, in other words, to stop assuming the worst. Why did I automatically assume he was saying bad stuff about me?

As the game wore on, the class started getting antsy for S to be in the Hot Seat. They started chanting his name. He was the second to the last to go, and nothing particularly exciting happened.

He’s a good looking lad, not tall or physically commanding but obviously bright and funny. And he’s the oldest, 15 years old. I was surprised when he told me because for this level he’s “too old”. Later on in class, during a mingling activity I noticed he was showing a picture of himself to a few of the other students. I looked at it and asked, “How old were you in that picture?”

He struggled to switch over to English, “13.”

“Wow! What a difference! You look so different.”

“Fat. Before.”

I laughed, “No, you weren’t fat. You were a baby! Baby S.”

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