Wednesday, August 13, 2008

First Day at School!

After a week of orientation and learning the ways of my new school in Bangkok, it is time to meet the students. The faculty members here are a diverse and talented group from around the world. The conversations overheard as we approached the start of school were rich in English dialects: Welsh, English, Canadian, Scottish, American Midwest, Texan, Bostonian, Australian, New Zealander, East Indian, and the lovely brogue of Newfoundland mingle in a lively expression of this widespread tongue. Throw in those with Swedish, Thai, Philippine, Japanese, and Latin American accents, and it is truly an international atmosphere in the faculty room.

Our orientation timeline was what one might expect at any school, except that also thrown in were details for visas, Thai culture introduction, as well as information about the recent accreditation process. It certainly helped that we were feted each day with massive amounts of food for breakfast and lunch: a smorgasbord of Thai and western buffet food. That always helps! The result of all the information loading was lack of classroom preparation time, so most of us “newbies” have been scrambling for the past few days. Only yesterday was I able to collect my wits enough to put together a syllabus for my advanced biology class. No matter: in all my years of teaching, it never fails to amaze me how it all falls together on Day 1. This year was no exception.

Even before the taxi unloaded my two colleagues and me at “Gate 6” near the faculty parking lot, it was obvious that today would be different. Traffic flow was markedly slowed, as buses and parents’ cars streamed into the campus. Uniformed, dark-haired students swarmed over the grounds like ants on a doughnut. I heard few conversations that I could understand as students greeted each other in any number of languages. I rushed to find the principal to sign my printing order so I could get the syllabus taken to the print shop. Amazingly, it was ready for pickup only an hour later.

Of the three classes I had today (double blocks), there were exactly two students from the States, and one of those was Thai. Despite the fact that I was unprepared, the first day went well. What a wonderful bunch of students! Students with unpronounceable names (Bhanupriya, Ponthakorn, Veerawin, Prairwa, Jetnipat, Maythita, Hsue-un) fortunately all have nick names (Bank, Earth, Pear, Willy, May, Nicky, Peace, Ice) that are used in school. We spent our time getting to know one another, laughing, reducing the anxiety of the start of a new year.

It’s great being back in the classroom, but what a high energy level! Another new teacher commented on the incredibly fast pace of the school before he nodded off during his break. It’s tiring, but energizing as well.

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