If you haven’t heard me lament about it enough, I have close to 500 students. Okay, just checked my rosters… perhaps my laments have been a bit exaggerated. There are only 430 of the little rascals.
But in either case, I figured I was pretty screeeeued (in a Groundskeeper Willie accent [no actual instances of “screeeeued” in that montage… makes me wonder if it’s something I just invented?]) when it came to names. The fact that I wasn’t given rosters until three weeks into the term (I guess attendance… isn’t that important?) didn’t help matters. The fact that the rosters (of which I have 10) look like this is rather irrelevant to the name fiasco, but I submit as evidence in the case of Angela v. Satree Thung Song’s Impossible Administrative Requirements:
probably instructions on how i’m supposed to judge every student (of which there are 430) not only in terms of scholarly aptitude, but also character traits such as kindness, diligence, and loving-ness.
the final page of the book, surely the most important, but during our hour-long briefing hosted by three different women offering three different explanations, i must have been too busy nodding and pretending i understood what was going on to have really gotten the gist of it.
Aaaanyway. Back to the names issue. There is one! Before ever setting foot in my current school, I’d come into this bit of cultural information: Thais have a given first name, a family last name, and (almost always) a nickname. This seems to be because the first names generally have no fewer than three syllables, and are sometimes giggle-worthy to foreigners (i.e. “Suppaporn”). I’d done some tutoring work and realized these nicknames often presented problems of their own. There was a girl named Pop, and another named King. A boy named A, and another who, in the first class I swear told me his name was “No”, only to have him tell me “Boat” the next class. Then there was Jaew, and I dare you to try to pronounce that name.
Names were also sometimes a problem in China. Nearly all of the students had an English name that seemed to be chosen specifically for their English class. The two, not necessarily mutually exclusive, criteria that seemed to dictate much of the choosing process were: 1) It was something they could pronounce, and/or 2) It was something that had a direct and favorable Chinese translation. What this meant was there were lots of “Jack”s (or in the case of one class [of 13!], a Jack, Jake, and a Jackie) and a lot of “Lily”s. It also meant you got the occasional “Dragon”, “Tiger”, or “Blue”. Sometimes as a teacher you got to name students and this gave you the opportunity to diversify things, and there was nothing more frustrating than spicing things up with “Louis” only to have his mom tell you she’d prefer he be called “Mike”. Just like twelve of your other kids. (I did manage to get away with a “Pablo” though! Small victories!) And if the parents weren’t changing the students’ names, the kids were happy to take care of that themselves. An “Angela” became an “Apple”. A “Sue” became a “Kitty” became a “Macey” (but pronounced “Marcy”).
Not so is the situation in Thailand! Like first names, nicknames are also given, if not at birth very early in life, and they’re rarely changed. Which meant I was a little perplexed when I was finally given my rosters.
Let me set the scene for you here a little: I was working hard (as always) in the office, listening to a little Tribe Called Quest to keep me pumped (“Excursions,” as it were); when I was handed the rosters, in Thai, on which each student had handwritten his or her name and nickname in English, and which I was then supposed to either transcribe or cut-and-paste into the books. So I had this nice beat in my ears, and I couldn’t help but read the first five names in time: Num. Boom. Ice Went Nut’z. I had to do a double take, but those were, in fact, the names of five boys in my Mattayom 5/3 class.
Looking over the rest of the names brought more surprises and enjoyment. Lots of Minds. Games. Films. Queens. Dreams. A couple Books. Some Smiles. A few Nuts (not to be confused with Nut’z. The first names in another class read “Grid May Dear Goo Wee Pee Nut Film Nut”). The occasional Oil, Make, or New. Some actually English names, such as James (or Jame, in one case), Fern (lots of Ferns, actually, and they all seem to be quite bright), and Louis (I finally got my Louis! But it’s a girl? In fact, just to add to the confusion, most names seem to be unisex).
Other popular names: Pop, Nan, Mook, Nook, Oat, Golf, Dome, Pang, Bang, and Jome. Some are a little more creative: Som-O and Tongmo. Ja-ow and Me-Mi (who sit next to each other). Donut. Focus. An Eye and a Pop-Eye (in the same class!) A Kukkik and a Kookik (also in the same class). A Gun and a few Beaus, which brings me to the next issue– pronunciation. I now have all the students’ names, but not only will I never be able to remember them, I can’t even say most of them. For example: Beau. Calling roll the first time, having already butchered things like Tuey, Aoi, and Aom, I came to Beau with the utmost confidence. “‘Boe‘!” I proudly announced. Commence peals of laughter, and the correction, “‘Byue‘! Teacher, ‘Byue‘!” In the next class, I again came upon a Beau. “‘Byue‘!” I proudly announced, chuffed with myself for having paid attention to detail. More laughter, and the correction, “‘Boe‘! Teacher, ‘Boe‘!”
“Film” is more like “Feem”; “Por” is “Po-ah”; and “Dear”, as I regrettably learned when unknowingly calling the name of my neighbor slash student (whose name I thought was “Dia”) is “Dee-ah”. I’m still working out how to say “Gle” and “Prg”. In short, calling roll is not only a time-consuming experience, but a humbling one as well. But then I guess I’m the jerk that had to be called Angera.
Anyway, to keep all my media on an unrelated note today, here’s the video I made of the students participating in a really intense session of Thairobics! (You may recall the term from a previous entry… the concepts are very similar, only instead of a bunch of kids, imagine a room full of old ladies and one old man apparently under the influence of strong narcotics.)
As a partial solution to my name issue I’ve instructed the kids to make nametags for themselves. One of my young classes pulled through and I snapped a few photos of the hams.
And I just remembered I had these, taken awhile ago. Though I do have a much higher number of girls in my classes, the ratio looks especially disproportionate here because many of the boys were out for soldier training (and later that day took center stage in the Thairobics video above).