The Lighthouse – 6th December 2022

A beacon on the horizon
Rising, falling, yet steady there
A signpost to miseries and glories
A pointer beyond the despair
The building, empty and derelict
Though still overflowing
The chill of winters, the pungent springs
The always knowing
Out to sea the future beckons
Dive into the turgid squall
The past is a rhythm dead
So heed the siren’s call


Direction > Speed. Doesn’t matter if you are moving slow or fast, if you are moving in the wrong direction, you are fucked.

Aditi

Goodreads.com review of Last Gang in Town: The Story and Myth of the Clash by Marcus Gray

Excellent book for me. I like the Clash a lot but didn’t know much about their history before now. After reading this book I can feel that I perhaps bought into the Clash ‘myth’ more than I’d expected. After reading a slew of rock biographies, mostly about people that were interesting but not necessarily whom I had any respect for, I guess I should have been prepared to find out that these mythological punks were all too human.

Whatever! It’s all done and dusted and I remember the sight, sound, and feel of the pedestal I had them up on!

I found the post-Clash chapters interesting too, as most of the band seemed to struggle with finding their identities after the breakup, and everyone, including themselves, wondered about what could have been.


Today I’m feeling:
Relaxed and tired because of cocktails and pizza indigestion keeping me up throughout the night and then a 5.30 wake up to catch our flight.
Today I’m grateful for:
The two homeroom teachers who (probably) helped push my students to do the work I left for them as I wasn’t at school today. I think about 80% of them did it which was a pleasant surprise.
The best thing about today was:
Getting decent coffee again back in Chiang Rai (at Utopia) and finishing the Clash book and starting an Iggy Pop book. The last of the unread books there for me before I have to start bringing my own again.
What was out of your control today and how did you handle it?
Late afternoon and Amy gets Kim Chi up from her current sleeping spot in the walk-in. Kim is still limping on her back right leg and we agreed she needed to go to the vet but with only one car again it was going to be difficult to arrange whilst I’m at school so despite being tired and chilled at home I suggested we go right away otherwise it would have to be on the weekend when we already have a long day trip to Lampang planned on Sunday. In spite of it being school let-out time, I enjoyed the drive to Dr Arnon and back and he doesn’t think there is anything seriously wrong with Kim’s leg and just gave her some painkillers. I was also able to buy some snacks to take for Tokyo at House so that worked out ok.
Something I learned today?
Following on from yesterday, according to another survey, Chiang Rai is the lowest-paid province in Thailand. It made me wonder if the two facts about Chiang Rai are connected. Does drinking decrease as a place prospers? If Chiang Rai folks were paid more would they drink more?
When are you most spontaneous?
I’m not spontaneous much at all these days I don’t think so I would say this would be in my classes when I might add in some things around the lessons I’m teaching. I do miss the days of spontaneity but am also happy with the way I am now too. I’m well-organised and my brain suits that better than being spontaneous as I’m not always good at predicting possible outcomes.

I took this picture yesterday at the Hilton in Phuket because wtf is a peacock doing here just wondering around!?

I’m making my case against a stack full of comics – 19th March 2021

At my school I made friends with four university students doing their internships here. They are young and vibrant people and have a youthful idealism that I still seem possess, so it was easy for me to be drawn to them.

Today is their last day with us (unless they decide to stay here and work on the pitiful wages they would receive) and I made them each a special card. Unfortunately I forget to take a picture of each card but the front features the sketches attached. None of them are perfect but they should be recognisable to themselves I hope!

I really enjoyed the process of putting the cards together and having to come up with ideas for me, somewhat inspired by Austin Kleon’s artistic trials.

Haiku’s for Teachers – 24th February 2021

For the end of term celebration dinner I thought it a nice idea to write a haiku for each of the teachers I work with – an artistic test for myself. I printed them on A4, laminated, cut, hole-punched and cut and tied ribbons on each. I enjoyed the whole process.

Kru Fluke

UNO champ, waiting
Watching the new Thai drama
Quiet achiever

For a while, at the end of the working day, teachers would gather to play UNO before heading home. Fluke would sit in quietly, watching some Thai drama series or other on her iPad at the same time. With a sweet and lovely smile she was a vicious backstabber when it came to the game and often won. It was best not to sit next to her round the table!

Kru JJ

Lipstick, mascara
You make it work, you go girl
Swing those hips wildly

All the male teachers in our building (and in most of the school) are gay and love getting dressed up for special events. They can be so spectacular and outrageous that it’s difficult not to get swept up in the occasion. JJ is, of course, one of them. A smart young guy who should’ve been born a girl.

Teacher Dylan

Sleepy ginger boy
Wake up; the world wants you now
So, wake the fuck up

Dylan is from Northern Ireland and is here in Chiang Rai along with his many brothers, cousins and other relatives I’m sure. The brothers look so alike that they find it difficult to meet girls that other members of the family have not already met, Chiang Rai being a pretty small town to start with. Anyway, Dylan arrives at school each day well before he has actually woken up and being young he attracts the most attention from the other similarly aged female teachers.

Kru KT

Silky voice, smooth tune
Loud and proud; but wait, what’s this
Big boy is sleeping

KT, or Kate, is another male teacher, though not quite as outrageous, he loves to sing loudly and play fight with the female teachers. He is a big (and big hearted) guy and because of this he has a problem where he stops breathing in his sleep so wakes up all through the night. This affects him at work as he often nods off, sometimes mid song. There are many pictures and videos of him snoring away.

Kru Champ

Stress, happiness, stress
Working hard for the future
Your reward will come

Champ is our hard working coordinator who gets a ton of (nonsensical) work dumped on him whilst also trying to implement things in a better way, hence his ever-swinging between stress and happiness. If efforts were truly rewarded in this world, he will achieve a lot. Lives with his boyfriend and supports the many LGBTQ+ kids in the school.

Kru Amp

Dance under the moon
The wolf is crazy; no sleep
Sleep when you are dead

Amp, along with First, JJ and Tee, was one of the student teachers from the local university. She taught Chinese and her English was the best when it came to speaking but her understanding was very good. So good that she could play along well with jokes and she loved having a fun time, especially dancing.

Kru First

Face reflects the moon
A laugh and smile; gone too soon
No more UNO now

First had a face that reminded me of a childhood story-book moon. A genuine personality and diligent worker it was sad to see her leave at the end of the term.

Kru Gratae

Love is in your heart
Impatient; where is the one?
Wait, don’t try so hard

Gratae is a loud, funny and self deprecating girl always looking for love advice from anyone. She is not so pretty on the outside but once you get to know her there is a sad vulnerability hidden there and when she is not hiding herself behind her defenses is a very nice person.

Kru Tee

Soft and gentle girl
Turns out tough; always goes hard
Life of the party

Tee introduced herself as ‘Tee, as in PART-TEE!’ She is a chubby happy girl that I believe hides her abilities and real personality. Very likable, I’m glad she has stayed on here as a teacher.

Kru Mai

Purposeful, thoughtful
Watch the students dance with joy
Always going forth

Mai has a striking looking feminine posture with a mushroom haircut. If you see him you will wonder what he is about. As far as I can tell he is a well respected teacher among the students, particularly as he will often play music and encourage dancing in his classes. Obviously he coordinates a lot of the stage show events the schools here seem to love. Mai is always the most outrageous cross dresser in the school. He is unrecognisable in a blonde wig and tight black dress.

Kru Aomsin

No accident stops
Her from happiness and play
Another round, yes?

Aomsin recently had a motorbike accident that smashed one of her front teeth but that didn’t get her down. She will always be the first to want to play UNO.

Kru China

Tag team with Gratae
Keep fighting, fighting today
Who talks the loudest?

China (pronounced Sheena) and Gratae appear to be best friends and once they are in a room together the volume is cranked to 11. This can be funny most times, but others, when trying to concentrate, becomes very distracting. One of China’s favourite phrases is to keep fighting.

Kru Feung Fah

A secret boyfriend
The sporty type? Shy? Humble?
Liaisons out of our sight

Feung Fah is a skinny, sporty girl that seeks to deny the fact she has a boyfriend for some reason. Her English is not the best but I can feel she has a good personality.

Teacher George

Good morning teacher
Big smile, warm welcome, let’s go
Seven-eleven

George greets everyone happily each morning, showing his face to let them know that he is here at school before quickly sneaking off to get coffee at his favourite cafe. Going out of school is not always accepted unless it is to the 7-11. So, whatever it is that needs to be done outside school, going to 7-11 is the default answer.

We are teachers by trade, complainers by role – 3rd February 2021

Let’s make a list
So we can feel like we’re accomplishing something
So we can feel like we’re working together

Let’s sit in a circle adding to the list
As we move around the room one by one
As you make a suggestion begin sternly
– you take no shit –
To give credence to your semi-constructive argument

Tomorrow we’ll wonder where this generation
Gets their priorities from
Tomorrow my heart will skip a beat
As it does every morning nine months of the year

It has to do with this list
Before the bells even ring
Before the hair is even combed

Will the approach ever change
Or will it begin as I’ve said
And end with a lighthearted twist
To prove we’re all adults?

It has to do with this list
Which we’ll put in our pockets
To throw away at a later date

It has to do with this list
Which makes me feel more uncomfortable
Than I’ve ever felt
More apple pie than I’ve ever been

We are not housewives, executives, or entrepreneurs
We are teachers by trade, complainers by role

– Let’s Make a List by The Van Pelt

I really love the Van Pelt’s subdued musical tone and the singer’s talk-sing delivery. The lyrics here struck me deeply as these days, once again, I wake during the night thinking about how I could help this student or that student and really make a difference to their lives – if only there was enough time.

Let’s make a list
So we can feel like we’re accomplishing something
So we can feel like we’re working together

Lists and meetings – throwbacks to my office days – useless, endless, time-wasting meetings. Lists have their place but may also be overrated – yet here we are, in the absence of a better solution, doing the same so that we can feel like we are doing something. I like the playful sarcasm of these lines – it appeals directly to my Englishness.

Let’s sit in a circle adding to the list
As we move around the room one by one

See that list, let’s mindlessly add to it – we are accomplishing a list. You’re turn next.

As you make a suggestion begin sternly
– you take no shit –
To give credence to your semi-constructive argument

If I speak louder then my information must be more important. Oops – there’s my own sarcasm manifest. I must also remember not to use this strategy when I’m teaching – or in every day communication, come to that. Recall the stereotype of shouting louder to non-English speakers in the misguided belief that this will help them understand.

Tomorrow we’ll wonder where this generation
Gets their priorities from

I hate the kids! That’s what we are supposed to do, right? Yet, I don’t – I love them all very much – even the angry, lazy, nasty ones, the ones that remind me of myself. But I am not one of them and I shouldn’t expect them to bend to my equations, to live up to my expectations. That’s a useless frustration. I felt my grandparents look upon me in that tut-tutting way but my mother showed me and taught me to find my own way. It was the struggle I needed. It is the struggle I still endure and have learned to love.

Tomorrow my heart will skip a beat
As it does every morning nine months of the year

Every day of school I have to pretend I am a teacher. I am purely a teacher based on my mother tongue and my age. But I consider myself a student first. When I feel joy at seeing the student’s grow – I see my own journey. I feel grateful to them for teaching me about myself.

Will the approach ever change
Or will it begin as I’ve said
And end with a lighthearted twist
To prove we’re all adults?

These were the lyrics that really stood out when considering the education system in government schools in Thailand. I was told by other teachers that I would never be able to facilitate change in the system here. I took that as a coward’s statement. They chose the easy way, the way to not ruffle anyone’s feathers, to not take to task the inefficiencies that all can see. Even the students are aware of the low quality of education they receive and have made it part of the protest movement of this past year.

Anyway, the nail that sticks out gets hammered down and that is what had happened to me before here. But, the feathers were ruffled enough to make some change – I felt the sacrifice worth it and the lazy and noncommittal can benefit from it. Of course, there was no sweeping change to a utopia but patience will be rewarded. It may take another 100 years but I’d rather be a lit match that started a tiny fire than a bucket of water. I feel sorry for the kids – how can you hate them?

It has to do with this list
Which we’ll put in our pockets
To throw away at a later date

Ouch! Isn’t that the truth?

We are teachers by trade, complainers by role

Where do we get our priorities from?

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful that I’m taking the time to write gratitude letters to the people I work with. They have made my time teaching much more fun and interesting.

If there was some sense to make I’d try and understand – 26th November 2019

What makes you most excited?

When I first looked at this question I found within myself a general lack of excitement. Not in a bad way. I enjoy many many things that I do or can do but there’s nothing in particular that makes me excited. Everything at the moment is giving me great satisfaction.

The one main thing I have planned is to organise a tour for Kevin from Trumans Water and we’ve been talking about it for a while and yesterday I started contacting the first promoters and the first show kinda fell together so quickly and easily that it has given me confidence in being able to make it work and to do a good job.

I’m looking forward to visiting a couple of new places such as Kota Kinabalu and Yogyakarta. I’m also looking forward to hanging out with Kevin as Trumans Water has been a favourite band of mine for a long time. I still feel a sense of adventure stronger than a sense of excitement though.

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful to Kru Tam to help me fix some things at school so that I can teach the lessons I want to teach. Some of the rooms don’t have video set up properly and a technician needs to come and fix the TV screens. Thankfully Kru Tam is there to help me sort it out.

18 Apr 2021 – None of the things that would have helped me got fixed in the end and I had to come up with other ideas. But at least the Thai teachers looked as if they were helping me!

Let’s talk about luck, right? Let’s talk about it – 27th May 2018

The words contained in the title are not particularly related to the content of this post beyond the fact they are words I couldn’t get out of my head for these 4 weeks of study.

After my last post, some people on the course asked me what I was going to write in this one.  Which made me curious about what I would actually write and what people would think.  When a group of 30 or more people are shoved together for 4 weeks there’s going to be some drama.  In fact, there wasn’t really that much, to be honest.  We were – mostly – adults.

As new faces started appearing on the weekend, our peaceful processing of all things grammar quickly faded to distant regions of the brain.  By Sunday evening the place was abuzz with faces from across the globe.  It was quick to see that there was one Muslim group and another Chinese group of people.  They were all split across separate smaller groups on the first day, though that didn’t mean they didn’t stick together at most other times.  This caused some minor divides but about two-thirds of us were from other places and we all mixed together well enough.  It became apparent to me fairly quickly that it was good to talk to as many people as possible to get different points of view and different ideas – this made the idea of sticking in your little clique seem slightly self-defeating though it was an obvious comfort.

The Muslim group introduced themselves early on.  They were a group of teachers from Pakistan, seemingly lead by one, who we found out later was more a department head rather than teacher herself.  She asked if we like Thailand, to which we confirmed, only to be told that Pakistan is better.  As they walked off, she called back “Don’t mind me, I’m a jolly one!” which I thought rather odd and cute.

It worried me that there was a high percentage of teachers on this course.  Surely they would have a real advantage over those of us with no experience at all.  Thankfully they were given the task of teaching before the rest of us, which at least gave us an extra day preparation.  I also gave us a view of how other teachers go about their work.

So it was that on the second evening of the course we would watch the experienced teachers perform.  Whilst having nothing to compare with, I was mostly just concentrating on things that I saw that I thought I could use myself.  The following evening would be my turn and as I prepared during the night time and that morning I soon found the templates we could use to plan our lessons.  Although not needed at this stage it was obvious to me that they were useful guidance even not knowing how to fill them correctly.  I also made good use of the internet to see how previous students had done things and found valuable resources that would help with the assignments too.  Most of these were posted without comment so there was no clue as to whether they were good/correct or not but they at least provided ideas for the way to do things.  The CELTA folks are also pretty on the ball about plagiarism so straight copying would have been no benefit anyway.

During the daytime we were attended our own classes to learn all about the processes and skills needed to perform to meet the course requirements.  This is where I think that having no previous teaching experience was a benefit as starting with a clean slate was easier to deal with.  Experienced teachers were being asked to unlearn their methods and also they could see that the methods they were being taught may not be useful in their own environments, hindering their motivations somewhat.

So I opened my brain and let everything in and quickly adjusted to the tempo of the course.  The third evening was my turn to teach and despite sweaty palms and stuttering heart rate I went really well considering it was the first time I had ever done such a thing.  I could see that a well prepared plan made for a successful lesson so knew that this was where I should be concentrating my energies.  From here on out I enjoyed the planning and thinking about ways to improve my lessons based on what we were being taught each day.  And we were being taught a lot.

Again, I quickly surmised that there was no way we could learn, remember and incorporate everything we were being taught.  Based on feedback after each lesson you were advised what needed to be improved so it made sense to concentrate on that.

But then came the assignments. Each week a new assignment with ever decreasing deadlines.  They really interfered with lesson preparations, especially if you had to resubmit them as I had to on two of the four.  But again, it was apparent that there was no penalty for resubmission so it made sense to do your best for the first submission and follow the advice provided for the second.  This at least gave an extra few days here and there.

Everyone was warned at the beginning of the course that they would have to deal with critical feedback during the four weeks and some didn’t handle it so well.  I think I had a somewhat blasé attitude to the course after the first week.  After the initial stresses, reassurances from Amy to just do my best, and fairly positive feedback from my colleagues as well as our tutors I ended up concentrating on the end date and when it would all be completed and I would have my CELTA certificate.  This enabled me to cope with criticism of my teaching in a positive way.  After all, we were being told these things so that we could improve and ultimately so that we could pass the course.  Our teachers were obviously trying to help us, without spoon feeding us.

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At one point, one of the teachers from Pakistan complained to me that they weren’t being taught anything and that they were just being given advice on where to look to go and find out things for themselves.  Their background shows this method of teaching where someone stands at the front of class and tells the students A is A and B is B.  This is how they were taught (pretty much how I was taught too) and this is how they teach.

What was particularly surprising about the comment was that just 10 minutes before, everyone had agreed that this method wasn’t the best way for students to learn.  Being guided to discover the solutions for yourselves is generally a better way to retain learning.  At this point I realised that I could be a teacher.  If some of the people I met on the course were already teachers with years of experience I found myself thinking I could easily do a better job than them.  Whether I actually can or not in the future remains to be seen.  At least all these things put me at ease.

I was dealing with the stress of everything well enough, even as experienced teachers started coming to me for assistance with their plans and assignments.  The 50m swimming pool outside my window often begged my attendance but I rarely got chance to use it again.  I also found the best folks amongst my colleagues to ask for advice and guidance when needed.  One in particular, Iranian, London girl, Hedie stood out with her calm and methodical approach to everything, even as everyone around was in a spiral stress ball.  I was also lucky that she was teaching the same subjects as myself so we could understand and advise each other about approaches and develop ideas, whilst not just copying them directly.  Our own teachers were also very supportive with this and at one point our teacher jokingly challenged us to teach a lesson without speaking at all.  Fortuitously my next lesson seemed to fit the bill and when I told that I planned to have 0% speaking time she pulled me up and said she was only joking and that it would be really weird to not talk at all!  My hopes for the challenge slightly dashed I did however manage to keep my talking time around 10% and the class was brilliant.  I was really starting to get into the groove by this point and continued to push myself constantly, rising to the teachers challenges for the final lesson of the course, which unfortunately saw me come undone.  It was a slight bummer to end the 4 weeks on a less than positive lesson but again, I didn’t want to take the easy option and was just trying to push myself further.  All good learning experience.

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So it was, by the last day, everyone was now more relaxed and looking forward to their next adventures, whether continuing traveling or returning to teaching.  We headed into the city to partake in some alcohol, something I had purposely been avoiding this 4 weeks, but for me I couldn’t shake the sudden lack of stresses which resulted in a tired lethargy that saw me bow out earlier than the rest.

The final morning as a few of us walked up the road for a big breakfast I got a sudden feeling of Stockholm Syndrome.  I didn’t want to leave.  This place had been my life, fully consumed, for 4 weeks and now it was a return to reality.  That reality was now uncertain.  My head still spinning with 3rd conditionals and how to make a good reading lesson I would be thrust back into the world of gardening and job hunting.

There were many more stories, much more gossip and a whole host of feelings skipped over in this writing.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach this post and with time marching ever onward I wanted to get these words down before the memories fade further.

And the title of the post?  Some folks worked their way through their stress with meditation, relaxing music and yoga, some with alcohol.  I don’t know why, but the abrasive noise of Circus Lupus and Chris Thompson’s screaming put me right in the frame for writing lesson plans into the early hours.  Their two albums will now and forever be associated with this time.

“We’re all good people, all my people, just sitting around, drowned in sound,                        Open your eyes………                                                                                                                              Ennnnnnnd.”

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