The high pitched squeal of my plastic Ultraman hammer now garnered a Pavlovian response, enabling a return of order to the classroom. Screeching of chairs replaced the yelling as they settled into their seats, and the desks returned to straightened rows. The lesson this week was “favourites.” What is your favourite— dessert, sport, drink, subject, hobby… and why? They’d individually come to the front of the class to answer, then were allowed to throw a big smiley faced yellow bouncy ball at one of their classmates. Whomever it hit was up next. Every ten minutes, the categories of favourites changed. The rules were, responses must be coherent, grammatically correct, with adequate complexity to the particular level of their English class. Also, no standing on desks or chairs to throw themselves in the trajectory of the ball. Ultra light and bouncy, they’d try to whip it as hard as they could at their friends.
I’d confiscated it from a student. Far too frequently, the ball had been flying through the air in the middle of my (very serious) English lesson rather than sitting still beneath his chair. It didn’t seem appropriate to berate him— my Thai wasn’t very good and neither was his English. I locked it behind the glass door of my classroom cabinet, refused to return it to him at the end of class, and incorporated it into the following weeks lesson plan, instead. Everyone was enamoured by this ball. Word spread. Kids became extra-excited about class that week. Thai teachers began to talk. Was unaware if he were disgruntled, but even if I’d known, it wouldn’t have mattered. After a week of using it as a teaching prop across eighteen classes, he became sheepish when asking for it back. He never brought it to class again.