Creating a Fun Atmosphere in Your Classroom

Teaching in Thailand

Teaching in Thailand is completely different than anything that I have ever experienced before. Coming from a western world and emerging myself in Thailand, I had no clue what to expect. I thought that teaching in any country would be somewhat similar but, I was wrong in so many ways.

There are numerous benefits and differences that you will notice once you start at your new school and my best advice is to not compare, even though this will be extremely challenging.

Thailand – A Lane of Smiles

First and foremost, know that you are a visitor here and part of that means you respect their culture and know that with that there will be things that you want to change but won’t be able to. As the Thais say “it’s not that serious.” This is a popular saying among them and is seen daily on how they live. They are very relaxed individuals that share the joy of being happy and is instilled in them as kids. You will notice this in your teaching time here. The kids are extremely vibrant and playful and when you think the academics are more important, this is when there will be an event, that again conflicts with attendance in the classroom.

They overall want their children to succeed, which is what we want too, therefore Thailand has set up a non-fail system when it comes to them learning. The kids all want to do well, which is why most of them will try to get an outstanding grade while, others will take advantage of the system and know that it is just not that serious.

This is one reason why as a teacher, you have to make their learning experience engaging and fun so, that it will come across not that but they will end up learning.

Teaching in Thailand

Innovative Teaching and Games

There are numerous resources that can help with ideas on creativity.  My consultant agency provided a curriculum which, was decent but I found that most of the students were already aware of some of it.  In this case, I expanded on what they provided me by doing research on Google.

To start off any new lesson, I would always introduce the vocabulary with flashcards and we would go over it by repeating it a few times and I would ask them questions. This helped me to determine their level of knowing what it is versus just saying it.

After that, in conjunction with the resources and curriculum I had, I would play a game because they are always entertaining. It also might be the fact that the students love playing and always scream “teacher game, teacher game.” The games that I found that worked the best with my government and private schools were hangman, running dictation, Pictionary, and charades, and my favorite hot potato. Hangman and running dictionary are easy to play and the instructions are pretty basis and easy to find. I found the most thrilling games were Pictionary, Charades, and Hot Potato.

With Pictionary and Charades, I first acted out the instructions so they understood.  It helps for them to see an example.  I then, broke the classroom up in two groups and made it a race. I would show them a flashcard with a picture and the word on it and they would have to race up to the front and either draw it out or act it out and the first team to yell out the right answer received the point. Make sure that you are prepared to watch all areas of the room for the right answer because it will get exciting. This created a very attentive class by allowing the students to yell versus raising their hand.

teaching in Thailand

Even though those games are fun, my ultimate favorite game was one that I like to call “Hot Potato.” I did not play it the traditional way and my students that are ages 10-18 years old love it. I took a Takraw ball to class to play this game. I would start the class normally going over what needed to and then I would show them the Takraw ball. Thai students love this ball. The instructions are very simple for this game. You give them the subject. For example, countries and then throw the ball to any student, who then must name a country.

They must say it fast and throw the ball to another student. To make it interesting, you will eliminate students or they will get eliminated as the game continues. The rules are- they cannot hold the ball too long, they cannot drop the ball, they must throw the ball to a person, they cannot give it to the person next to them, they cannot copy a previous word stated, and they cannot hit anyone in the head. If any of this occurs, that student is out and goes to the front of the room and waits until the game ends to be put back in. This really shows you who was paying attention and what their vocabulary is. My students love playing this game because it creates a fun learning environment and competition to see who is going to win. I always announce the winner which they love. This is all a part of the fun environment that you get to help create.

Teaching in Thailand is fun and can also be challenging. It helps when you have an open mind and a big heart engaged in teaching.  A smile, encouragement, and fun games always produce an exciting learning atmosphere that engages the students.

The People You Will Meet in a Thai School

Meeting people is a way of life. People will come and go continuously throughout your entire life and well, that’s just the way it is. The best part about meeting new people is that each person, regardless of the type of relationship you have with them, is a unique being and has something unique to teach you. It’s my belief that every person that comes into my life is there for a reason and I’m always keeping my eyes and hears open for what that person is there for. I’ve been especially doing this with everyone I meet here in my Thai High school.

The Students

Thai StudentsMy students are the cutest! Well, most of the time. I love my students with all of my heart; even the ones who don’t like me because I know they are teaching me about myself.  Meeting your students during the first week of teaching might be a nerve racking experience if, like me, you have never taught before. If you don’t already know how to make a good first impression, you might want to spend some time researching/thinking about it!

The best advice I can give you is to smile. You will want your students to like you but you will also want them to respect you. There is a nice teacher/friend balance you will want to keep if you want the right amount of respect. Even though I am the teacher, my students seem to be constantly teaching me about myself! The bad classes definitely test my patience and the very smart classes teach me ways to think on my feet when I have finished the lesson plan in 15 minutes. The good students will worship you, want to take photos of you or with you, and will always say “hello!” when walking around school. The bad students might not give you a second glance. I guess this is just life though; not everyone is going to love you!

Also, teenagers will be teenagers, regardless of the country you are in. To think that every student will be fully engaged all of the time, when I have at least 500 students, is unrealistic. In the end, my students are the reason I am here, and you spend a lot of time with them, so you better be excited about meeting them!

The Thai Teachers

In the school, there will also be the other Thai teachers. If you are lucky like me, you will have some very helpful and loving teachers. The Thai teachers at the school have saved me and helped me through this entire experience. They are whom you go to for any questions about the school or even the town you are living in. I have two very good Thai teacher friends who are always checking up on me. They ask me how I am doing in my classes, take me out to lunch, and just help me in any way they can. I even had a very cool cultural experience of having a Thai teacher take me to her parents rice farm where I learned how to harvest rice and then had a very authentic Thai lunch!Pad Thai

It will be beneficial to get to know your Thai teachers because, like your students, you will also be spending a lot of time with them. You will have a much different relationship with your Thai teachers than your students and, for me, is a chance to learn more about the Thai culture. I can have full (English) conversations with them so I use that ability to understand things about the culture that I may have questions about. The Thai teachers are your coworkers, your friends, and a wealth of information for your time you spend in this foreign country.

The Lunch Employees

Thai TeachersLastly, but definitely not least, are the lunch employees! Well, every school is different and at your school you may have a sit down lunch every day, but at my school we have a canteen that we go to. My meals are around 20 TBH (less than 1$) and I find them very tasty!

My relationship with the lunch employees is somewhat shallow but nevertheless a good relationship. They cannot speak much English so every day when I see them; it’s usually a very short relationship consisting of a lot of smiling. These people can teach me a lot about the Thai culture as well, without having to say anything. They are always smiling, and always happy. This, in itself says a lot.

Being a “lunch lady” back in the States, is not socially defined as a very good job, and I remember them being so unhappy. This is not so here. They are so happy! Remember, everyone has something to teach you! The other reason you will want to get to know the lunch employees? FOOD, obviously, they will hook it up!!

The school in your new town will become your second home and the people you will meet will become your new best friends. The relationships you have with these people will have a defining factor on your experience as a whole, so you better create some good ones!

Yes, you are here teaching English, but don’t forget that you are also a student to life, where everyone you meet is a teacher.