I woke up this morning and was looking forward to a day of lesson planning and staying out of the chaos of the classroom. On Thursdays I only have one class and spend the rest of the day planning, as much as I'm able to, for the following week. In the Thai school system it is very hard to plan for future classes, let alone create a syllabus or any long term plan, because there are so many extra activities that pop up unannounced. (Thais are not known for their time management or preparedness..) This term I would guess at least a third of my classes have been cancelled.
So, back to my relaxing, quiet day of lesson planning. Today I arrived at school and after the morning assembly noticed there was a lot more noise than usual in the rooms down the hall. There are two buildings at my school, one for grades 1-6 and the other for 7-9, which is where my office is. As I walked down the hall to see what all the ruckus was about I saw that all three classrooms were unattended- not an unusual thing for my school. Students are often given work and left to do it on their own without any teacher supervision. Today however, I found out none of the teachers for the older grades were actually at school because they were all taking a select number of students to a volleyball competition. The rest of the students were given assigned work to do on their own. The practice of calling in outside teachers to “substitute teach” doesn't exist here, and if someone subs, the responsibility falls on the teachers who are already at the school. Usually this means the teacher is watching more than one class at a time. But in some cases, like today, there is no sub at all.
This lack of organization and time management seems to be a big problem in the school system here. Teachers are not only expected to teach their classes but they are given an illogically high number of reports to do, must organize other projects at the school like our school bank, store, and recycling project, and go to many meetings not only during the week but many weekends. This term has been especially challenging because it seems more and more projects and outside activities are being required, usually sent from the department of education in Bangkok, and are taking a lot of the classroom time away. Teachers are understandably unhappy, stressed, and have practically no say in the reforms taking place. Its very frustrating to see a system where the learning is based more on the teacher than the student. This year I have been teaching one day a week at a small school my host sister works at. There, the students learn through a televised program for 5 hours a day. The teachers are expected to sit in the room with the students and fill out paper work for each subject of the day. If the students are learning art, the teacher is expected to sit and draw along with the students. I'm repeatedly asking myself, “Who's the student again here?” All I can do is take one day at a time and let go of any set expectations I might have had for this term. And, on days like today, rather than lesson plan, enjoy being able to spend much needed time with the students.