Sarcasm, as it turns out, is a seemingly non-existent thing in Thai culture. This can cause problems for a gentleman such as myself, whose appreciation and use of sarcasm can be described, quite modestly I might add, as "prolific". This is not a new revelation by any stretch. Back in October (only 2 or 3 weeks into the program) as we were leaving our weekly Thursday afternoon meeting I casually said, "Well that was fun, we should do it again sometime. Same time next week everybody?"
I got a few chuckles from a couple of my fellow OEG teachers, but Pakapol, one of the main Thai coordinators for the primary level students, got a slightly concerned look on his face, looked at me, and said "Yes...we will have a meeting at the same time next week."
Despite my attempts at dialing back the sarcasm (at least in and around school), there have been a few more similar misunderstandings over the last few months...but those aren't important right now.
Now that I know my students' names, I've been taking attendance on my own rather than wasting time calling out everybody's name each day. Last Friday, as I was already about halfway through the class roster, Charanyapak (who admittedly is one of my better students) raised her hand and announced; "Teacher! Charanyapak is here!".
Without really thinking I looked over at her and responded, "Oh ok, Charanyapak is absent", while pretending to adjust the attendance sheet accordingly. We went back and forth a few times as to whether she was in class or not before she tentatively asked if I was joking. After confirming that I was, in fact, joking, she informed me that you are supposed to laugh or smile when you're telling a joke. I quickly explained that it was sarcasm, and that sometimes acting like you're not joking makes it even funnier before finishing up with the attendance.
After exchanging the customary 'good morning teacher/good morning students' that indicates the official beginning of class I said, "Alright, so everybody has their projects and are ready to present right?"
Without missing a single beat Charanyapak looked up (completely straight-faced) shook her head, and calmly said, "Nobody has their project."
The tables had been turned. It caught me so off guard that I didn't know exactly how to respond right off the bat, so I looked at her for a second and cautiously asked if she happened to be joking as well. Thankfully she smiled and nodded, to the amusement of the entire class. Simultaneously relieved that the class had not ignored the project assignment and impressed with her quick grasp of the impromptu lesson in humor, I laughed, verified her correct use of sarcasm, and carried on with the lesson. I may very well have created a monster, and I couldn't be prouder.