‘Ok guys today is the third time he has not turned up for work. Classes need to be covered and if anyone knows of anyone looking for a job, then give them my number. Interviewing as of today.' And that was the boss's mid week staff morning meeting closer. Mmmm, I had been working at the school 3 months and 4 staff members had already rolled on through. No one was phased, even the ‘Farang' registration sheets in the punch in/out office left four names spaces blank out of the departmental ten. Saving not only ink but anticipated time and effort
Covering classes was not a stretch, it allowed me to walk over to the ‘teen' division of the campus. Being the other farang female the ‘high school' kids always were attentive when either of us had to fill in. Yes for all the hormonal reasons you can think off. My own private mid week staff afternoon meeting opener, ‘Yeah so we gotta change over some schedules. You need to move to The Tteens. You'll be doing T2 to T5. T1 have got 3 weeks left of their text book, T2 have got just one week left. The other classes have finsihed the textbooks completely.There is 5 teaching weeks left to go until the exams start and there are no pre-drafted lesson plans to work from. That okay?' Other staff members were immediately preoccupied with the ink levels of their white board markers and then I realised that the choice only consists of one option. ‘Any suggestions on what materials I can use?' I offer while remembering my 3 week away appointment at the Ministry of Labour to process my work visa application. ‘You could do songs. There is a box of tapes over there, have a look'
A spotlight beam hits me, my head automatically kicks up with Chorusline timing ‘ I can do songs'. The tape a list of grammy nominees and hip hop and rock were the play list leaders - yep subjects that Thai teenagers actually studied out of the classroom. 5 weeks were going to fly by. Punching out I checked out the The Teen crowds. All in regulation uniform, they each had their own signature look, each defining their identity. Oh budda they were cool and I was a farang teacher wearing floral purely to receive the superior female Thai teachers fashion approval - dress points mean bonus prizes at the year end after all. But things had shifted, the teenagers needed to like me,if they liked me the Thai teachers liked me - again points mean bonus prizes.
Wardrobe rejuvenated, my accessory pot was over flowing and my retail hit was hard. But now I had the look and all I needed to do was work it with a white board back drop. Mouths dropped when I entered, quiet almost echoed when I told them I was their new teacher, but it was the repeated harmonised ‘Alin na?'s that dominoed around the classrooms as the song hand sheets were passed around that marked my kru introduction.
I debuted in fifteen different classrooms in one week. I flirted, danced and even spun at the request of 3 girls who wanted to see where my side hair braid ended. Standing up at the top of the class I waited for their approval, did I make the grade, what team would I end up on? My clothes were assessed. I soon understood that eyebrows when raised by the girls was a sign of acceptance and lip puckering was a mark of disapproval, therefore I name dropped clothes stores with care. Questions were asked, the boys were the quiz masters and they were not shy in the asking.
How much did I weigh? How tall was I? Did I have a boyfriend and where did I live? Can you figure out which 2 questions were asked by the gay and straight boys? All in my stride I answered the questions, like training a vicious dog, show no fear and you will prove yourself the master. Tables turned I asked some questions, what did they like to do at the weekend. A safe and open question, answerable by each and every student regardless of their speaking abilities. The girls answer was short and sharp ‘shopping' while some of the boys preferred to fly kites. By mid week I had heard this answer a lot and it wasn't until a particular 14 year old mimed the activity that I realised that they were all telling me in slang that they liked to ‘fly their kite!' I blushed hard for two consecutive classes.
'So how did ya week go. Do you think they liked you?' the boss's end of week review opener. All eyes were fixed on the hand sheets through out the week,pens and pencils alike made sufficiently audible scribbles so I knew they were doing the work, but it was the ‘Teacher play it again' shout outs that showed their acceptance. Yes the styled outfits helped, the female farang face helped and the drag queen quick retorts helped control the blushing. But I have to pay homage to the song and bless the power of the one and only Miss Beyonce.
'Crazy in Love' was my entrance and exit song for the entire week and the newly initiated to the almost decade changing teenagers loved. Jayz lyrics were copied and explained, even some of Beyonce's moves were mimicked.
As the boss and I strolled through the campus a second hand was needed to count the times that small clusters of students would shout ‘teacher' followed by a choir drilled ‘ uh uh uh uh uh uh!' An formated songs echo was my reply, both of us added the Knowles shoulder shimmy. In Staying Alive John Travolta strutted and that's exactly what I did out of the school gates in step with the new school anthem.