09.09.2012 - 05.10.2012
SUNDAY 9th SEPTEMBER
I had another haircut this morning which was a bit overdue. This time I went to a different barber in Kham Yai and he did a reasonable job which will last a few weeks for the princely sum of 40 baht (about 80p).
MONDAY 10th SEPTEMBER
The school internet has started to give problems again but I don’t know what the cause is. The wi-fi provider, TOT (Telephones of Thailand), was called but it might take a day or so for an engineer to come and check the system.
An old science lab, long since disused except as a hideaway for students accessing the internet, it being transformed into a chemistry lab thanks to about 100,000 baht of new funds. All the old decrepit cupboards and workbenches have been removed and a new overhead projector and pull-down screen have been installed as a first step. There is a photo in my gallery.
TUESDAY 11th SEPTEMBER
Still no news about the internet. I am so connected to the net and depend on it for so many things that it is almost impossible to work without it.
I have spent all my free time between classes during the second half of last week and so far this week writing the questions for the Final Test next month. It is surprising how long the process takes.
WEDNESDAY 12th SEPTEMBER
A couple of dozen students were caned this morning after assembly for various misdemeanours such as wearing the incorrect uniform, not taking down the vocabulary in their notebooks during assembly, being late at assembly and so on. Most got a single stroke, a few received two.
Ajarn Tippakorn excused herself from the first period because three documents had just arrived in the office which she said she had to attend to urgently. This made me curious and I wanted to know more. I learned later that one documents was about a Thai English teacher coming to Sai Moon to present his documents for assessment for an upgrade worth an extra 3,500 baht per month. Sai Moon is one of five schools he will present his documents to and if all the schools are impressed he will get his upgrade. His documents will be about the activities he’s been involved with, about courses he might have attended, about things he might have overseen students doing. In other words, just general things about one’s life at any school. Whether this teacher can teach doesn’t, being Thailand, come into the equation!
Another ‘urgent’ document concerned the instructions for a Moral Camp that will take place this weekend at a temple in Kalasin. Ajarn Took has been assigned to this task and she will take her pick-up with about 10 students to attend this event. This activity, like many others, is handed down by the Administrative Office in Kalasin city but if only they had the gumption to plan well ahead there would be no urgency and no last-minute scrambling like there always is.
The last document was from the police station in Huai Mek seeking information from teachers about who might be taking or dealing in drugs. The police hope the teachers will inform them and then they will send a drug testing team to the school to conduct urine tests on the relevant students. Now that Panaphon is no longer a student at Sai Moon I cannot think of anyone else who might be under suspicion.
THURSDAY 13th SEPTEMBER
A number of students got caned this morning, boys and girls, and several of the boys had also been caned yesterday so I am not sure the punishment is very effective.
About a week ago I mentioned that some of the younger boys liked to collect large black horned beetles and I wondered what they did with them. I discovered today that they like to tie a thin cord to the beetle’s horn and then with little encouragement, it will fly around hither and thither depending on the length of the cord. I took a photo of the action but with the beetle flitting around in the air it was difficult to get a good shot.
FRIDAY 14th SEPTEMBER
There is still a problem with the internet because it cannot be accessed in the office any more but can be from the teacher’s house which suggests there is a loose connection somewhere. Later, Mr Jasper discovered the problem at the main server and, without anyone noticing, changed the connection and everything is working perfectly again.
This weekend adult students from the Gossanore school in Huai Mek are coming to take their exams invigilated by some Sai Moon teachers and others. Once again, lessons were sacrificed to clean up different areas. Of course, the half hour at the end of the afternoon (3.00-3.30) when students get even more Buddhist brainwashing on Friday afternoons wasn’t sacrificed!
SATURDAY 15th SEPTEMBER
I was not involved in invigilating the exams for the Gossanore students, who are mostly adults who have decided to return to education, so I busied myself doing chores such as laundry as it was a nice sunny morning.
I went into Kranuan with Mr Jasper and paid for one of the flights I will be taking during the October holiday at a branch of 7/11. It is certainly a good way of paying in cash for something booked online.
MONDAY 17th SEPTEMBER
The tests threatened by Ajarn Tuk took place this afternoon which left some of the other teachers seething because of the cancellation of their prepared classes.
Today’s tests were Oral and Written. For the Oral, they had to answer a number of simple questions such as: What is your name ? Where do you live ? How old are you? Where do you go to school ? How do you go to school ?
For the written test students had to fill in the blanks in sentences they had copied off the portable whiteboard during assembly. Every morning a sentence is shown to the school with one word highlighted as the word for today. Students make a note of the sentences in small notebooks during assembly and they have to read the board and a student is chosen each morning to read the sentence to the school. The sentences and missing in the Written Test all came from ones they were familiar with from assembly.
TUESDAY 18th SEPTEMBER
After assembly this morning Ajarn Tuk announced that students would be taking a reading test today so I hurried to the office to select and copy a suitable piece of text and I chose an email from the M1 text book to ensure it was not too difficult for anyone to read but some found it much harder than others.
In front of the teacher’s house where I live there are some handsome Streliza (I think) flowers. There is also a small type of banana tree with skinny leaves on which red ants choose to build their nests or whatever you call them. The ants are very clever folding and curling the leaves and pinning them together to form a home. Mind, though, red ants have a strong bite!! Check the photos in the gallery.
WEDNESDAY 19th-SUNDAY 23rd SEPTEMBER
Wednesday saw the start of five days of community sports using Sai Moon’s sports facilities – Takraw, Volleyball, Football and Petanque. Teams from surrounding villages competed against each other in these sports and many family and friends from the villages came to support their teams. The whole event was organised by the Or Bor Dor, a sort of local council whose offices are next to the school. My role during the five days was to take photos and some of these are now in my gallery.
Luckily it didn’t rain this year and the whole event was enjoyed by all the participants and supporters. It was fun seeing so many people of all ages wandering around the school and using the facilities. The main Sai Moon school team, M4, lost in the Final this year which was very disappointing. A win would have been the excuse for a great party!
MONDAY 24th SEPTEMBER
Back to normal at school this morning after the five hectic days of sport. The Director had a short teacher’s meeting at assembly and announced that some of October will be filled with sport involving those students who won their events at Kalasin last month. The teachers responsible for the winners in Takraw, Volleyball and Badminton will have to coach their students for almost a week before they travel south to Sisaket for the next round in the competition.
TUESDAY 25th SEPTEMBER
Ajarn Tippakorn didn’t join me for classes this morning because she and Ajarn Kat had to take some documents to the Admin Office in Kalasin (60 miles away) to be signed. This occupied the whole day and they didn’t return to school until 4pm. The head of education wasn’t there so they will have to go again tomorrow.....and so the waste of time and resources continues.
WEDNESDAY 26th SEPTEMBER
The younger Scouts (M1-M3) had a test this afternoon where, one by one, they had to come up to and salute the teacher and recite the Scout’s Promise. Those that failed, of which there were quite a number, had to go away and mug it up and try again. It was really a test of memory since the scouts never normally say their Promise at any time and they had to regurgitate it just for the test.
The older Scouts (M4-M6) also had a test involving use of the Scout Staff and doffing their berets for the national anthem etc.
THURSDAY 27th SEPTEMBER
This week as seen an outbreak of end-of-term-itis with teacher’s coming in late in the morning and chatting or eating or gambling together in the Secretary’s office to pass the time. There is still an emphasis on haircuts, or the lack of them, at morning assembly though!
FRIDAY 28th SEPTEMBER
I got the chance this morning to chat to the Deputy Director and said that I hope she doesn’t forget Sai Moon when she moves to her new school, Buakhao. She replied that she plans to return to Sai Moon as Director in 2-3 years’ time. This gave me the chance to say that she’s in an ideal position to transform Sai Moon into a better school given that Buakhao are always No.1 at everything.
I have spent a day at Buakhao and I noticed the atmosphere is very different to that at Sai Moon. At Sai Moon the idea seems to be to keep students happy whereas at Buakhao the focus is much more academic so it is no wonder that their students are at the top of the O-Net league table every year.
SATURDAY 29th SEPTEMBER
There are worries in the media about a repeat of last year’s floods with rains in Bangkok and the central region the heaviest for 100 years apparently.
SUNDAY 30th SEPTEMBER
I spent most of the day at the teacher’s house working on my laptop and in the late afternoon I went to Nong Kung Sri market with Mr Jasper to buy something for dinner.
MONDAY 1st OCTOBER
Jasper had to set an additional exam for the students. Knowing his appalling spelling and written English I offered to check his tests for him but when I got back from my afternoon class he said he had done a spellcheck on it and it was ok but that I could look at it if I wanted to. So I did, and luckily too, since I found many spelling and grammatical errors.
I had M4, M5 and M6 today and as a change from the constant revision tried the Story Game in which I start a story off and the students have to continue it sentence by sentence. For each class I started the story with ‘Yesterday I got out of bed and then I...’ You’d think this would be an easy opening because most people have a shower after getting up and then have something to eat. But not one student thought of that. Most stood at the board struggling to think of something to write. I had already told them the story can be true or not true, it was up to them but it was still a struggle.
TUESDAY 2nd OCTOBER
Ajarn Tippakorn left this morning for two days at home in Nong Khai in order to change her car. She has two and she has been using her saloon car at school while her pick-up is at her home.
The Final Tests start today and will continue for the next two days subject by subject. Last week when I was setting the questions she told me she wanted M6’s test to be more like the annual O-Net exam which every M6 student in Thailand takes in the new year. I have copies of recent O-Net papers which I have used as a basis for class revision so I know how hard the questions are for Sai Moon students. The multiple choice questions I set were all of the same O-Net type but I made the correct answer more obvious so it will be interesting to see what effect this has on the results.
I went into Kalasin this morning with Mr Weang who needed to visit a couple of banks there – the Government Savings Bank and the Teacher’s Cooperative Bank, just two examples of banks set up for the benefit of people rather than bankers. The latter bank, along with others, gives teachers discounted rates if one takes out a loan to buy, for example, a car or a house. And talking of cars, the government here has brought in a scheme starting this month of hefty discounts for first-time car buyers.
WEDNESDAY 3rd OCTOBER
I spent the morning in the office working on different projects of my own on my laptop and then went to the bank in Kanuan with Mr Jasper.
If you recall, on September 17th and 18th the students took a reading, writing and oral test. I am now beginning to suspect the whole test exercise was more about a power trip for Ajarn Tuk than an ASEAN Test which is what she claimed. I say this because neither she nor anyone else has collected the student’s scripts or the scoresheets from me and Mr Jasper and while the students know what their result is – because I told them – Ajarn Tuk doesn’t have the information needed to produce a school result and more than two weeks have now passed since the tests were taken. Very odd!!
More dire warnings about heavy rainfall with people fearful of a repeat of last year’s floods. But the King has pronounced that any floods this year will not be as bad as last year. So that’s ok then.
During the night I got up to have a pee. As usual, I went barefoot downstairs and put on my flipflops at the bottom not noticing that a bee had attached itself to my left flipflop. It stung a toe while I was having a pee and, oh, it was so painful. At first, I didn’t realise it was a bee and thought some other insect had got me. Back in my room I switched on the light and could see the tip of the stinger in my toe but I managed to find my tweezers and removed it but the immense pain in my toe remained and kept me awake for some time.
What I didn’t realise until this afternoon was that there is a huge beehive attached to a branch high up a tree near the teacher’s house. It’s a magnificent sight and there are two photos in the gallery foe you.
THURSDAY 4th OCTOBER
The morning started as normal, continued with a formal farewell to two staff followed by a swoop by the drugs police.
The formal part was for the school to say goodbye to the Deputy Director and to Mr Chaiwa, the maths teacher who are leaving to take up deputy directorships at Bua Khao (3,000 students) and Somdet (500 students) school respectively. After assembly all the students gathered in the large prayer room while some M6 students prepared rose stems next door. The Director gave a speech thanking and praising them though both have been at Sai Moon for less than three years and they both took turns in response.
The large pile of rose stems were then distributed to all the students who, one by one, came up to each teacher on his/her knees, wai’d and bowed, head to the ground, before presenting their stem to their respective teacher. It was a very nice ceremony and I took some photos for you.
The ceremony had hardly finished when about twenty police arrived. Most were in civilian clothes, four or five were in police uniform, most had their standard issue guns and radios on their belts.
Astute readers will recall that we had a Drugs and Smoking Awareness Day back in June when teachers were asked to make a list of the names of students they suspected of taking drugs. The police said then that they would make a surprise visit with the drug testing team and today was the day.
Once the farewell ceremony had finished an announcement was made about the impending drug test and students were given the chance to admit using yabaa (methamphetamine) and around twenty students did so. Mr Noi picked out some other students he suspected of using yabaa and they were added to the first group.
They remained in the room along with some other students under suspicion; the rest of the students left. The testing team, meanwhile, had set up two 6ft tables to register the suspected students and to carry out the drugs tests.
First, each student had to register their name and details and were given a plastic cup in which to supply a urine sample. They then went to the second desk for the test. A fresh testing pack was used for each student. A small dipper was placed in the urine and a droplet placed in the tester which analysed the urine and produced a result after about 40 seconds. Those students with a positive result returned to the room as did those students who admitted taking yabaa in the past but who did not have a positive test result today, the rest went on their way.
After the testing was over each student was interviewed individually in the nearby classrooms. Those waiting interview, and those who had been interviewed who returned to the prayer room, were lectured about the perils of drugs by the Huai Mek Police Chief. A few students had to ‘confess’ to the group and publicly answer questions posed by the P. Chief.
I had unrestricted access to all stages of the testing and interviewing and took a number of photos for you. The students who tested positive will be cautioned and have to undergo treatment but they will not be charged. After it was all over I got the chance to chat to the Deputy Police Chief, who I last met back in June, and he told me that today’s result was fairly typical of schools in his district.
During the testing process I was very sad to see certain students, who I would never have suspected of taking drugs, testing positive. Many students, when asked by the police, said they had taken Ya Baa last night. Many others said they’d taken it a week ago. I expect to hear more about the circumstances later on.
This evening there was a party at Kranuanthani resort to say goodbye to the Deputy Director and the maths teacher. This was the place where my birthday party was held last year. There was a lot of eating, drinking, karaoke, presentations and speeches and it was a fun night.
Afterwards, about 9.30pm, I went with the Director and a couple of other teachers to play snooker in Kranuan which was also fun.
FRIDAY 5th OCTOBER
Sai Moon was strangely quiet this morning with only a few students around including some of those who had tested positive for Yaa Ba yesterday who were supposed to come with their parents to be spoken to by Ajarn Tuk the theory being that as her husband is a policeman she knows about drug problems.
I helped Mr Jasper mark the answer papers for the extra test he set. Unfortunately, some of the test questions were imprecise and two had uncorrected mistakes in them. Worst of all, though, were the answers to one particular question which required students to write down the past tense of some easy verbs. Jasper told me he’d twice given the students revision on this topic yet almost all the students got this question wrong.
After lunch Jasper took me to Nam Phone in his car where I caught the bus to Udon Thani. Before catching the bus I called the hotel in Udon to make sure there was a room available for tonight and was told the hotel was full. I had already made a reservation for Saturday and Sunday because the farewell party on Thursday evening was originally supposed to be tonight and then the date was put back a day but I forgot to book the extra night.
On the bus to Udon I gave a lot of thought to a possible Plan B if there was no room for me at the hotel. It was raining and I was not looking forward to having to trudge round trying to find a room. Luckily, when I arrived at the reception desk it turned out that there were several rooms available and there was no problem at all.
Sai Moon reopens on November 1st but I will be going back a few days early to get ready and sort some things out. As before on these holiday trips I will not be blogging every day but I will post a round-up along with any interesting photos. Meanwhile, don’t forget to air your comments!!