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.
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.