Teaching at a Public School in Thailand

Teaching in Thailand is like nothing I had ever experienced before. Not only was it a culture shock but, it was surprising to see how the education system is in another country versus America. Thailand takes great pride in having a work life balance which is brought into their live at a young age. This is not only demonstrated as an adult outside of Bangkok but it is also illustrated in their education system.  Once you learn to accept these culture differences, then Thailand will be a part of your heart creating memories that will last a lifetime.

A Typical Day in School

A typical day as a foreigner in a public school in Thailand usually starts with gate duty at 7:30 a.m. where you greet all the students as they walk into school. This greeting consists of Waiing (the Thai greeting), but also saying hello in English. As you become more aware of the students, this becomes more fun because you will get to ask them questions and try to get them to engage in a conversation. This of course, depends on if the school is primary or secondary level and how well they can speak English. Most Thai students will show signs of being shy but it just takes time of you working with them to get them comfortable with English.

After gate duty, a daily assembly is held where the national anthem is sung and then a discussion of the daily and weekly activities. This part you become accustomed to and learn to listen and watch behaviors to determine what is going to occur. At my school, I have to ask a lot of questions to multiple people to get answers and even then, it still may not get answered. 

Some of the activities that can take precedence over regular scheduled classes can be cheer-leading competitions, scout activities, sports days/week, Buddha Days, teacher appreciation day, temple stays, camp, testing, and parent meetings. Some of these activities will occur and you won’t even know it until you show up for class and wonder where did everyone go. The is all a part of the Thai balance that encourages an environment of “it’s not that serious.” As a foreigner, your first month you may ask yourself numerous questions but you will soon realize that this is all about what makes Thailand relaxing, peaceful, and most of all what creates that Thai smile that we love.

Teach in Thailand

Teaching Itself

When regular scheduled classes occur, you will teach anywhere from three to five classes a day depending on how big your school is and most teachers have anywhere from 15-20 ECD classes a week. A normal day in school provides classes of 20-50 students all ready to greet you when you walk in the door with one student stating please stand and then say hello teacher, how are you today. I usually follow this with an emotion of how I feel to teach them something other than the usual response of fine, how are you and please sit. After that you will take the attendance and start your lesson with a warmer and introduce the vocabulary followed with a game. The games are meant to help them remember and understand the vocabulary.

As a helpful tip, there are numerous resources online that help with ideas of games. Be prepared to do this lesson multiple times pending on the level(s) of classes you teach.  After the lesson is completed and the bell rings, you must dismiss them and move onto your next class or break. I try to use my breaks wisely by researching lessons and preparing lesson plans that you must turn in for review. Lesson plans are very useful, as they provide an itinerary of your time. Some teachers in Thailand may have a counterpart Thai teacher or may be observed by the school or consultant a few times a term.

Teaching in Thailand has brought me the opportunity to learn about the culture and really become a part of my community. Through this, I have gained more knowledge about teaching and have put my heart into teaching publicly and privately in Thailand. I hope all can appreciate what it brings and gain something from their experience.

Ex-Pat Social Life in Beijing

How Will I Meet People?

One question many people ask when they are deciding whether or not they want to teach English in a foreign country or city, is what their social life will be life. Introverts and Extroverts alike wonder what the opportunities are for meeting other people like them, and who speak their language. For some people, this isn’t their biggest concern, while for others it can make or break their decision to move to a certain country or city.

Where to Start

If this is of all a concern to you, the first thing you should do is find out if the city or town has any areas popular with foreigners. This may involve internet searching, or trying to find people online who can tell you. In my case, I found out an old high school friend was living and teaching in Beijing, and was more than happy to show me her favorite places. If you don’t know anyone already, some cities have ex-pat group pages on Facebook and other social media platforms that you can find and ask questions. The Beijinger website is a great place to start looking for events throughout Beijing.

Ex-Pat Areas of Beijing

While Shanghai is probably the best known city in China when it comes to a popular ex-pat environment, Beijing also has a lot to offer it’s very large population of foreigners, whether they be from other parts of Asia, or the Western part of the world. There are a few major neighborhoods in particular where there are many popular foreign bars and restaurants. Many of these are more expensive than the Chinese options but if you are looking to meet other foreigners or live near them, these are the primary areas to look: Sanlitun, Gulou, Wukesong, and Wudaokou. You can find many different cuisines all around you and plenty of bars and other venues to meet more people.

Your Colleagues Are a Great Resource

Everyone’s experience is different, but one thing that seems quite common among the TEFL community is that your colleagues often become your main social circle. That is sometimes true in the States, but I wouldn’t personally call it the norm. But while teaching abroad your fellow teachers can become not only a great professional resource but also your family away from your family.

Most of the ex-pat community will also be happy to help you start learning your way around your new home. Even if they’ve lived there for years, they remember what it was like for them when they first arrive. They’ve been through everything and will have great advice for you, including their favorite places to go and ways you can get involved and meet more people. Some of my colleagues are involved in music and their band plays at different bars during the week. One of them is also involved in a hockey league. Some of them take Mandarin lessons in the city not sponsored by their work and meet other foreigners there. I found a group of fellow fantasy nerds who play Dungeons and Dragons every week! You can have whatever type of social life is the most comfortable for you.

Teach in Beijing

Put Yourself Out There

There are many different opportunities to find your social niche when you decide to move abroad, as long as you put yourself out there to find them. As an introvert, this is something I tend to struggle with, as I am just as happy being at home reading and often need alone time to recharge my batteries so to speak. However, I also knew that part of what would make this experience personally worthwhile is meeting new people and having new experiences.

If I wanted to stay at home and read all the time, I could have stayed in the US and kept working at the soul-crushing customer service job I was doing before this. So, to any introverts reading this, know that if you choose to do this, it’s okay to take care of yourself and have some alone time, but make sure you experience everything else your new home has to offer!