Herding Cats

russian radio

Even though I’m in Thailand, I’m tutoring an eighteen-year old Korean girl who wants to take the SAT in a few months. Koreans are very disciplined and hard-working. The average Thai, less so. In fact, the difference between the two Asian groups is astounding.

Teaching Thais is like herding cats. They respond to military discipline, but nothing less. If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile and then some. They smile a lot while they’re ignoring you. It takes all the Mussolini you can muster to become angry with them.

The seven-year old Thai boy I also tutor in English needs to be tricked into paying attention, even for intervals as short as a couple of minutes. He mostly enjoys spinning around in circles, looking out the window, and drawing pictures of the Titanic on the whiteboard. Every once in a while I can get him to focus on learning a few vocabulary words. Then he’s back to spinning.

Most of the young people I meet are severely dependent on their cellphones. If you take a phone away from one of them, that child will become disoriented and full of anxiety. One ten-year old girl I was tutoring found my phone on a desk and downloaded several candy-crush-like games onto it in the few minutes my back was turned while I was writing on the board. Even though she didn’t have time to play those games, it must have given her some comfort to know they were there, nearby.

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