Be Like Oprah
“Why Thailand?” This is a question I get asked daily, and it’s a good question. What made me leave my own business in Southern California to teach in Thailand? The answer lies in the story.
Getting the job was easy: Bachelor’s degree – check, TESL certificate – check, experience teaching – does that two-week English camp count? Yes, then check. The truth is, I was as prepared as possible minus the loads of teaching experience.
Here we go – My First Class
My first class, I walked up the old wooden stairs to the outdoor bungalow style classrooms and saw 45 second graders going nuts. They were yelling in a very foreign language, wrestling really rough like unsupervised baby bears, and there were about ten paper airplanes soaring through the air. My throat clenched and I thought, “I am not a teacher.”
Lesson number one, never believe the voices in your head. The greatest part about teaching in Thailand is that the children love to have fun. It’s the “Land of Smiles” for Heaven’s sake. The students are accustomed to working hard and playing harder, so anything that involves competition or games or new people, they’re ready to rumble.
When I walked into that first class, do you know what those little animals did? They stopped what they were doing and cheered. I got a unified class greeting, “Hello Teacher Rose,” I was appalled. They clapped and sat down waiting for what I had prepared for them. Even though I couldn’t understand a word they said and vice versa, communication took place and they saw me as someone that would teach them.
The following classes went the same way. Students yelled in approval as they saw their new white teacher. They hung on every word as I passed out pictures of my home, and they wrote me love notes on the homework I assigned. These kids worshiped me, and all I had to do was show up and have fun with them.
The atmosphere in My Classroom
The classroom can be an intimidating place, but that’s a tiny portion of a teacher’s actual vocation. Every day I hear my students chant in preparation to meditate after lunch, they bring me bugs I’ve never seen to watch me jump ten feet in the air. They wave to me in the street and bow to me in class, and mostly, their parents will stop me in the store, at the night market or walking down the street to feed me, give me a ride or thank me for teaching their children.
Every day as I ride on the motorbike home from school, children of all ages throughout the city wave and shout to me. They may be from a different school or even a different city but when they see me I might as well be a one-man-band stand; and heaven forbid I’m with other teachers, we might as well be a parade! It’s fun for all of us.
Even the students that belong to the other English teacher come to my office to greet me, practice English and play games. And vice versa, my students love the other teacher and love to pretend he’s chasing them, when he’s actually just trying to pry them off our door so he can go to the bathroom.
I live like Oprah every day with an audience to applaud me just for walking in a room! I am revered for my role in the community, and that makes me want to give everything I can to all 2,000 students in the school. So why Thailand you may ask because I wanted to be happy, and I am.