Philip Duclos – Thailand

Today I printed out class reports for the six sections of Social Studies I teach (try saying that seven times fast), as well as my Language Arts class, then gave them to the various eighth grade homeroom teachers. Would it surprise you that students bombarded me throughout the day asking about the various “F’s” given on assignments, and in some cases, overall? Or would it surprise you how much late-work was turned in today?

Maybe, but it shouldn’t. While teaching is definitely difficult, and while when I get home I just want to crash, the students are very rewarding. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I love my students, although I probably love my homeroom students more than any other group. One of my students had a birthday today, and for his birthday he bought various people ice cream. I was one of them. It saddens me that I couldn’t even remember his name.

But some students are memorable for widely different reasons. There’s Ratchadej, who teases me and probably every female teacher I sit with at lunch. Fortunately for me, I get the easier end.

Today, Ratchadej came up to me and started teasing. I honestly said that I mostly hang out with girls (most of my fellow volunteers in Bangkok are female). He asked why, and to the shock of him and his tightly-clustered compatriot boys, I quickly responded: “Because girls are smarter.” Sometimes, the most obvious answer is the most shocking. It certainly worked in this situation.

But there are other things that make me laugh. There’s the student who answers the worksheet question, “What are refugees?” with “Natural disasters.” If you are curious, the obvious textbook answer is: “People who are forced to flee their country due to wars, famine, or natural disasters.” Or something like that. Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to shorten your answer.

And then there are the slightly sad/still funny things. Like the worksheet maps. Background: students in Thailand have a really hard time thinking for themselves. I think that closely ties in with the inability to read (or follow) directions. So on this latest worksheet, there was a map of the world, with specific directions to colour the population density like the map in the textbook. Any idea how many came back without a hint of colour? Or coloured after the wrong map? Too many. But students aren’t the only ones who don’t watch what they’re doing.

Today, I was writing my first exam for the end of the first quarter. (By the way, it’s really weird writing an end-of-quarter exam after only two weeks of teaching.) Since I hadn’t written an exam before; I suppose it took me longer than it should have. Anyway, after grading and two hours of writing my exam, I headed out.

Now, a little backstory is important. I teach on the sixth floor, which means that an elevator makes life a lot easier. (I, of course, am of the opinion that I get enough exercise hiking up and down the five floors to my apartment and on the weekends.) For some reason that I still haven’t figured out, the security guards lock the building (even though all the gates and classrooms are locked. I suppose it’s so the jocks can’t break in and do their homework?) However, before completely locking the building, they lower the mall-style gate halfway.

For Thais and most of the teachers here (Filipinos), this isn’t a problem. Just walk under the gate. It shouldn’t be a problem for me either. Just duck. But, of course, it’s not that simple. I’m busy chatting with someone on my phone on the elevator ride down. I step out of the elevator, still chatting, and walk a few steps until I walk *BAM* into the gate. Ow. At eye level is a strip of metal sticking out, and apparently because of Murphy’s law and me wearing glasses, I run sideways (don’t ask; I don’t know) into the strip. Stinging, blood, the whole minor cut thing.

Mom, if you’re reading this, I still haven’t lost the ability to run into things with my face. Sorry to disappoint. At least I can clean up the blood myself and laugh instead of cry. And to those of you laughing at me, you should try it sometime. It would give you the opportunity to laugh at yourself instead of someone else.

*This was originally posted on Philip Duclos’s blog on Sept. 23, 2014.  Philip is a student missionary from Walla Walla University (through Adventist Volunteer Service) serving as a Middle School Social Studies teacher in Thailand.  This has been re-posted with his permission.

2 thoughts on “Philip Duclos – Thailand

  1. Hi Phillip! I came across your blog on! I am a fellow Missionary as well and I am currently serving in China! I just wanted to reach out to you because I will be traveling to Thailand for my vacation next week. I am always open to meeting new people especially those in the same field as I am. I will be in Bangkok for one day before my return flight home. So maybe we can meet up and have lunch or something discuss our experiences living abroad??? Also, feel free to check out my blog at ENJOY!

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