My Life as a Thai Kindergarten Teacher

06.00: I wake up and stick on an episode of The Simpsons as I get ready. Wash. Put on school clothes. Try to make myself look vaguely presentable. All my efforts will melt into a puddle within thirty seconds of me leaving my room.

07.00: I go downstairs and stand outside my apartment building. Pee Wee Herman pulls up and I hop on the back of his motorbike. I call him Pee Wee Herman because that’s who he reminds me of and I’ll never find out his real name. Thank God, he knows where I’m going, the same place I always go in the morning, because otherwise I’d have to try and say the name of my school in Thai, and I can never make them understand me. We zip along to school and I ask him how much. He holds up two fingers. Twenty baht. I give him a twenty baht note. He holds up five fingers and I freak out. “Seventy baht?! I don’t have!” He looks at me and waves me away. I go through the school gate.

07.15: I am first into the staff room. I turn on the Wi-Fi, the air con, the photocopier. This all makes me feel quite accomplished – like someone who might actually sort of know what’s going on. This is merely an illusion of competency. I never know what’s going on. I get to printing off the day’s worksheets. It dawns on me that Pee Wee Herman was asking for twenty-five baht. Waves of embarrassment sweep up and down my body.

07.30: More teachers have arrived. I nip to the 7-Eleven for an ice cappuccino. I pass by one of my students and say good morning. She tells me something in Thai. The children refuse to believe I’m not playing a hilarious joke when I tell them I don’t speak their language. I have begun responding in Spanish when they don’t speak to me in English.

8.00: I go to my classroom and set up for the day. Outside, students gather in ordered rows on the courtyard. They raise the Thai flag, perform the school song, chant prayers. Lots of very pleasing pageantry.

08.30: The kids start coming in.


“Very good, can you sit down in your lines, please?”


“Yes, I kn-”


The child sneezes in my face to prove his point.

We begin. We listen to semi-educational songs in English. We (by which I mean they) do some dancing. It occurs to me that my children can speak two language and yet cannot effectively form a circle.

09.00: Maths. The children split into teams and we play games. Whichever team has won the most games by the end of the week will get sweets. Whatever gets them to pay attention. After I’ve run out of games, we do a worksheet. If this were a Tuesday, this time would be spent in “the kiddy room”. Not as sinister as it sounds, this is a room in which the children play with blocks, and move bottle caps around with chopsticks for some reason. Last time we were in there, I was instructed to read a book to my students called The Hermit and the Prostitute. Things are different here.

09:45: English. I ask the children, out of curiosity, where they think teacher Jade is from. “AMERICA!” comes the resounding answer. Honestly. This week, we have the vague topic of “inside and outside”. It’s Wednesday so it’s stretching fairly thin at this point. I notice one of my children clearly has pink eye. I dream about Friday, movie day, when I also happen to finish at 11.00.

11.00: I escape back to the staff room. We walk to the market next door and I buy a piece of fried chicken and a Coke. Everyone eats as quickly as possible as it’s unbearably hot outside.  I return to school, try and do some planning, and generally sit around.

14.30: Science. We talk about insects and have a “draw an insect” competition. If this were Thursday, we’d be doing art now. I plan to make princess/pirate masks. Shoddy. If this were a Tuesday, the children would be playing outside. I would be sat on a bench fanning myself. A child pretends to take a drink from my water bottle, but, unbeknownst to them, the lid is not on. The water goes everywhere. Work continues. The children begin screaming. I walk over to find a cockroach. I valiantly crush it in a tissue and put it in the bin. I feel I may have won universal respect within the room.

15.30: The end of my teaching day. I go back to the staff room to wait. I tell people about my brave cockroach encounter. I am told that crushing a cockroach attracts other cockroaches. I am deflated but happy to have this knowledge.

16.00: Bike back home. A friend offers me a much-appreciated lift. I wonder when my own scooter will be ready. We stop off at the ten-baht store and I buy some hair bows and stickers. Only the essentials.

16.30 – onwards: I sit on my bed with the fan blasting in my face. I cancel my plans to go out and get tea and decide to settle for some crisps I have in my room. Tomorrow. Always tomorrow.