Another Day in the Life of ...: Teaching in Bangkok, Thailand

Barry O’Leary taught in Bangkok for seven months. Despite slaving away for the ‘Sister from Hell’, he will always remember the joys of teaching Thai kids.

6. 45 am. Where am I? Bangkok. What day is it? Tuesday, better get up. After breakfast in my flat provided by the school, I walk in. It’s only two minutes away.

As I turn the corner of my road I see the familiar traffic jam of parents dropping the kids off. I stop at the front gate to greet a fellow teacher. I place my hands together under my chin and bow.
‘Saawat dee Krap’ I’m finally comfortable with the ‘wai’ used to greet people. I sign in and then wait in the playground with the kids.
‘Do we have swimming today Mr Barry?’
‘Yes Nam, don’t worry.’ The rest of the kids cheer. Swimming is the highlight of their week. I catch up with the other teachers and we wait for the kids to sing the national anthem and then walk to class, ensuring the kids are well behaved for when they walk past the head sister. She stands at the top of the stairs, dressed in white like an angel, but she’s far from that. The kids bow as they go past her, more in fear than anything else.

I am free for one hour so I prepare my day. Sister is keen on everyone being up to date with lesson plans, which are vital for student development. Today I’m only teaching three hours, but during the week I have 22 contact hours which includes swimming and dance lessons. Today is Maths, Swimming and Art. I’m teaching English through subjects rather than direct English.

As I enter the class the students stand up to greet me. Now normally two things happen - if the Thai teacher is in the room they sit down and listen to me, if not then a riot can start. Luckily Miss Nitaya is there so they behave moderately and my lesson goes to plan.

Everyday I take the kids down to the dining hall with the other 3,000 students and make sure they finish their lunch before they head out to sweat their food away in the playground. You can imagine the noise in there with so many kids. Luckily there is a separate room for the teachers where I eat my meal, provided by the school. Today is phad thai, my favourite. To take away the spice I have an ice-cream whilst keeping an eye on the kids and stopping the occasional ninja fight amongst the boys. Now it’s back up for the afternoon.

Swimming as usual starts well. I co-ordinate the kids with another teacher and they practise various styles. Now games. This normally results in me dragging round ten kids on my back as they try to drown me. All good fun though.

At 4.45pm I’m free to go, a long day. In the even
ing I play football with the locals in a sports centre and then eat with other teachers in one of the many local restaurants. After chilling in my flat playing my guitar or reading, I’m asleep under my mosquito net at 11pm ready for another early start the next day.

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