You guessed it. I am officially a substitute teacher. It happened one hazy, sultry, Bangkokian morning late last week: Kevdeep, CTP Beth, and I were hauled down to the local education bureau and issued work permits. It took less than 30 minutes, and after months of frustration, $$$, lack of communication, and despair, it felt almost anti-climactic. “I’m a substitute teacher,” I muttered to myself, in a daze. When you have to convince yourself that you have actually reached the lofty heights of substitute teacher-dom, you know something’s askew in your career-planning process, but that’s a post for another day. In the meantime, Ms. Ruth is ready to influence young minds.*
I had my first subbing experience on Wednesday when I “taught” a high school science class. After all these months of waiting, I realized that I actually had no clue how to substitute teach, so I went straight to the source: T-bone. This man knows all the tricks, and he helped me out. Our conversation went something like this:
“Gahhh!! Todd!! How do I sub??!”
“Say hi to the students.”
“Give them the test that the teacher left for them.”
“How do I turn on the projector?”
At this point, it was starting to dawn on Todd that his wife lacks even the most basic life skills. He took pity on me, though, and gave me further brilliant tips, such as “write your name on the board.” All his coaching paid off, because the class was a breeze.
The students asked me numerous difficult questions, such as “can I listen to my iPod while I take notes? Can I use youtube videos instead of my textbook?”, but I sailed through with aplomb using the following tactic: when in doubt about whether certain dubious privileges are allowed in a class, always try to make eye contact with the teacher’s pets in the front row when you ask “does your teacher normally allow that?” Speaking as a reformed teacher’s pet, I know that the overpowering desire for adult approval far outweighs the consequences of sucking up in front of your peers.
Lucky for me, my first week of subbing coincided with a school holiday/teacher’s Thanksgiving dinner. As a staff member, I felt that it was my duty to support my American colleagues by eating grotesque quantities of curry-flavoured mashed potatoes.
T-bone and I sat with our friends from Taiwan and Korea. They had never tasted turkey before, and had lots of questions about Thanksgiving foods, namely “is this food actually the same as what you eat in North America.” It’s a good thing I’m a teacher, because I had to walk the tightrope between tact and fact in explaining that the Thai take on Thanksgiving was…. “same same but different.”
And there you have it. Enriching young minds and eating free/”unique” foods. My horizons are just opening right up over here. I’m a substitute teacher, y’all.
*in Thailand, people use Mr. or Ms. plus their first name, not their last name.