My first day began at 12:01 am, sleep refused to come. I spent the horizontal time begging for the dawn to come quickly so that the day could begin, but more importantly to be over. I jumped a taxi and got to the school 2 hours early, more than enough time to make friends or at least mark boundaries with the soi dogs while I waited for the lucky hour of 7 to strike.
Without the essential beauty pageant smile equipment (nope it's a secret only known in tiara wearer closets across the world) my smile was arranged with sweet milk residue from my fourth coffee. Ergo the perky teacher look was achieved and with the grace of an ex Prestatyn Carnival Queen (alright I held the cloak, but I still got to ride in a car covered in crate paper carnations.Pink ones at that! ) I approached the staff room stairs.
As the door opened 9 pale faces turned to me with contracted pupils. Breathe, just breathe......erm....you are a tiger!...erm.....imagine them naked. None of the self help material that I had filed came to my aid. Standing my ground I announced my name and that I was the new teacher with the confidence of an AA first timer. "Hey, take a seat" I fell instantly and gratefully in love with my boss. As I pulled out my seat the rest of the staff each greeted me with Mexican wave smiles and my panic gear moved down two notches.
"Ok here's your lesson plans, student lists, schedule, text book, teaching aid books and your cassette player. Your first class is in 30 mins, so just relax and have a coffee. Oh and welcome". RELAX, err hello Clark Kent might be able to change into a superhero in 4 seconds but add another 0 to my 30 and I might just have got my teaching cardigan on. I smiled, breathed and strolled to the coffee machine. The steps of Plan A raced through my mind. Foiled, the windows were locked and the door was a no go as the total sum of money that I had began to ticker tape stream in my mind. Plan B flashed at me with neon intensity - Be a teacher.
6 minutes and 20 seconds were already used making coffee. The actual process of making the coffee was achieved in 2 minutes but time was spent deliberating over which coffee cup to use. From the corner I watched the staff, who was the fluffy cat cup? Who was the You Suck glass beaker? I went for the opaque white mug; a neutral colour would surely reflect the owners' personality, i.e. passive? Fingers were crossed as I stirred.
10 minutes and 45 seconds later I had answered all the politely enquired questions from the rest of the staff. Nationality, alien status, contract terms, age, sexual preference and sexual Thailand adventures the main topics covered. I felt that a certain level of acceptance and intimacy had been established, but no one asked my name. Of course I have had this type of conversation before, particularly since landing in Thailand and actually it made a nice change to have this type of conversation before the evening and sober.
I had left myself 7 minutes and 35 whole seconds to translate the structure of a lesson plan so that my fear frozen brain cells could absorb the information one by one. 4 minutes in and the hieroglyphics inspired material had been read 14 times. I was hoping that the understanding would kick in by the 10th reading. Change of mental scenery I picked up the text book, first line a picture of a cassette tape. I had to queue the tape.
Scanning the room for an electricity point, I locked target and was pressing play in 45 seconds flat. Candy high voices boomed from the speakers ‘opps! Sorry" I spoke to the room, no acknowledgement. 5 second pause, would they hear me if I say "help me! Like me, like me"? Back to the tape, I heard a song - I get to sing with the children! Please note a die hard Julie Andrews/Fraulien Marie fan that did not have the time to truly enjoy this discovery - torture! 4 minutes And 15 seconds used.
Tick Tock. 5 minutes to find the classroom. It was on the 1st floor, some would think 2 minutes would suffice but my brownie map reading and navigation badges were only awarded with thanks to a typical welsh rainy day and because the map of the 5 x 8.5 brownie hut was life size. In fact locating the target coordinates (erm, the toilet!) was a doodle compared to butterfly stitching the badges on my sleeve.
07:59:45 - I was going to be late. My breath became baby pool deep as I collected my primary coloured board pens, books, cassette player, tape and lip gloss. Regardless of deadlines a girl should always leave 30 seconds to reapply. Toilet 1st or find the class? I skipped the loo and thanked myself for drinking a bucketful of diuretic coffee. The classroom was found with ease. Time check, 1 minute before my class started.
Hugging my teaching materials I practiced my opening sentence ‘Hi" yep that was ok, simple and easy to say. I slowly looked around the corner and into the classroom at the children. It amazed me that just the profiles alone of 45 five year old children was providing the beat for my stomach ‘nervous acid' dance. Yes they were tiny, tiny and adorable but that is what Marie thought of the Von Trapp kids at first glance. Lip gloss application - 25 seconds. I had a whole 60 seconds to make my entrance.
One deep breathe in and I opened the door. 90 eyes fixed on me, 90 eyebrows moved a whole inch higher and 45 tiny mouths let out a gasp. I froze.
Then I heard a small voice. "Teetcher.....is boutifal". The class was a breeze, the day sailed by and I was a fully fledged ajarn.