I'd like to teach the world to sing...
As far as kids are concerned, the annoying academic aspect of going to school features just two things... subjects and teachers. And just like you did years ago, your Thai students have their favourite subjects and favourite teachers. Everything else kids do at school is a much more vital part of their ongoing and endlessly fascinating social lives... none of which includes you!
Actually, social interaction is something Thai schools teach better than almost any other schools in the world. The ability to work and play together and get along with others is very well ingrained in Thais from a very early age and this ‘education' lasts throughout their lives.
Looking back almost fifty years, I can remember what subjects I liked and disliked at school. Most of the subjects I liked was down to the fact that I liked the teacher teaching it. Similarly, the subjects that I hated most were the subjects taught by teachers that I didn't like... except for chemistry... I just really hated chemistry!
So, half a century on and a continent away from my own education, here I am on the other side of that teacher/student divide.
A hazelnut in every bite!
Going to school in Thailand is a lot like watching TV all day. The programs are damn entertaining and well worth the bus ride in. But the most annoying thing about watching telly is the adverts... and that's what the teachers and subjects are. We are those annoying little bits between lunch and playtime. We're the crap that kids have to put up with between the brilliant stuff like running around the playground screaming like a maniac or fawning over Korean pop videos with some chums.
In fact, if kids could TIVO their school life, the teachers and subjects would be edited out of the whole day leaving only the good bits! But they can't and they're stuck with having their good times interrupted by learning stuff... which kind of defeats the whole purpose of being young.
Exceedingly good cakes!
(It's a convoluted analogy - I'm getting to it, be patient!)
The very best television adverts will last a lifetime in the memories of your students... For me, it was the Cinzano Bianco adverts in the UK with Leonard Rossiter and that scrummy sexpot Joan Collins... I had a feeling that Cinzano Bianco would taste like crap and when I was older and eventually tried it, I was right... it tasted bloody awful! But I never forgot the hilarious adverts.
Another good TV commercial was the one about the brilliant laughing robots who took the piss out of humans for smashing up their potatoes and making mash when the fools could have been using the powdered version of potatoes available in a sachet at the Co-op! And as it turned out, powdered mash was also horrible, but the adverts weren't and they lasted a lifetime.
There were others too... 30-second segments of the day which I can still remember decades later. And of course, there were adverts that I have forgotten. Most of them in fact. And what's even more amazing is that I can remember the good adverts more clearly than any of the programs that they were interrupting!
All because the lady loves...
So this is all leading up to something and here it is...
Even though your time with the kids you teach is minimal and they don't really regard you as all that important in their daily lives, you can still make a lifelong impact. Whether a school subject is interesting and attractive to students is almost always down to the teacher. Whether they take an interest in English in the future is also down to how you get on with your students today.
If you are fun, engaging, knowledgeable and a little bit different, your students will remember you in a positive light for the rest of their lives. They'll be using the tools you gave them in beneficial ways long after they have left school and long after you've drifted off to that teacher's break room in the sky.
Even when it seems like you're banging your head against a brick wall, maybe you're actually still doing some good just by being positive and encouraging in the classroom. While they'll forget about your carefully thought out lesson plans as soon as they walk out of the classroom, your efforts will start to make sense to them in a few years if you have made it clever and entertaining enough for them.
And it won't be just English that you've passed on to them. Other things like patience, dignity and tolerance will also be lessons you have taught and been remembered for.
It's frothy, maaaan!
Finally... just like an advert on the TV, you are selling something. All teachers are. We are selling the subject we're teaching. Even though we don't get much time in their busy lives, the better you entertain, educate and create memories for your students the longer lasting and more positive your impact will have been.
While it seems that kids are much more interested in the programs on TV, they'll be forgotten quickly, but the best adverts will stay with them for the rest of their lives.