Teaching in Thailand
Here are some basic tips you will want to know if you plan to teach Thailand. I've taught in the rural countryside for three semesters in northeastern Thailand, so some of these observations may not apply in Bangkok or other large cities, but should generally hold true for the Esan area (northeastern provinces).
The application process and orientation go by very fast, so make sure you ask your recruiter for specifics and pay attention to details. Always ask what, where, when, how, how much and how long. Don’t ask why though, because you won’t get answers.
The accommodations may not be what you expected. If the company says the accommodations are "rustic", it may mean that part of your living space has unfortunate openings or crevices through which cockroaches, hunter spiders, mosquitos, flies, unknown insects, and geckos can enter!
You might be expected to fold your hands together and stand for the morning Thai prayer. I'm an atheist, so I feel pretty disingenuous doing this, but usually I just try to arrive to the assembly after the prayer. Some of the Thai teachers also told me I don’t have to place my hands together during the prayer. All in all they have been pretty chill about it, but there is some kind of unspoken expectation that even foreigners will participate in prayers, so if that makes you uncomfortable, try to find out whether this is a requirement at your school. Be warned, you will be expected and/or forced to move away from monks to avoid physical contact if you are a woman, cover your body when entering temples, stand for school prayers, stand for a commemorative film about the king in theatres before the movie starts, and refrain from breaking any lese majeste laws ON PENALTY OF IMPRISONMENT.
You should wai at the Thai teachers, school staff, etc. If you don't, it will be considered disrespectful. I don't mind this so much because it's similar to a Western handshake or a Spanish kiss on the cheeks; it's not necessarily religious, it's more a custom.
If you are lucky enough to have a classroom of your own, you can spruce it up however you like! I’m sure that even in shared classrooms, the teachers can clean, organize and decorate. My students have helped me transform our classroom over the past three semesters from dingy and plain to fun and fabulous!
FEMALE TEACHERS ARE REQUIRED TO WEAR SKIRTS OR DRESSES. See my post about What Not to Wear (in Thailand), for more details.
|What Not to Wear (in Thailand)|
*Some* schools expect you to make your own attendance lists. They may provide you a list, but that could happen a few weeks into the school year and sometimes the lists are incomplete or inaccurate. Don't stress though. Grades are more important than attendance.
Students will miss class, won’t ask about the tests or assignments they missed, will lose assignments, will cheat or get very low marks, but won’t ask you about any of these until the last day of the semester. Don’t panic if you’re missing grades, but DO make extra copies of assignments to give to their homeroom teachers for the absent and/or failing students. Number and label the grade of your assignments so students can easily find their homework or tests.
The names can be really hard to pronounce and some are very similar. Think Laura, Lauren, Laurie, Laurel, Lawrence, but in Thai. Here’s a selection of boys’ names from one of my classes. There’s Teerapat, Tanathep, Tanathon, Tanapon, Teeradet, Teerapat and Teerawut. Not to mention that I also have Teenapat, Tanayut and Tanakon in other classes!
Teachers may or may not have to sign their own attendance book as well. Your book will be placed in the main office area outside and you will sign it every morning and evening, but not for your lunch break. At least, that is how it is at my school. They have also been very lenient with us about forgetting to sign.
You might be left to your own devices. Don’t wait for anybody to check in on you. This will vary between schools, but in mine, the Thai teachers do not observe my classes, check my grades or attendance, monitor my office hours, or ask about my lesson plans. If you enjoy autonomy, it's GREAT! If your aircon is broken or you need a new fan or you are out of board markers or paper, ASK SOMEONE. I’ve gotten extra paper, whiteboard markers, and printer ink, no problem.
There will be days when classes are cancelled without warning, for school cleaning, a student activity, etc. Generally, you will not be informed. At my school, there are no staff meetings for the foreign teachers. However, the Head of the English Dept. has been making a very good effort to let us know what's going on a few days in advance. Expect the unexpected and DON’T PANIC. If you want to know what’s going on, you can either rely on the grape vine or you can stop in to see your Department Head every week to ask if there will be any events.
The students will amaze you with their creativity! Not every class is at the same level and not every assignment is going to be a hit, but when something clicks with the students, prepare to be impressed! Definitely switch up your routine and throw some creative assignments their way from time to time, whether it be drawing, making a poster, creating a pamphlet, writing a poem, singing a song, or acting out a scene. The biggest tip I can give you is to have fun and enjoy the experience. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I always want to do my absolute best, but it’s important to lighten up and teach from the heart because in the end, the students will remember you praising their artwork or playing a fun game with them in class much more than rote memorization! (Don’t get me wrong, drilling and copying lines is also important!)
To read more about teaching in Thailand, see: Tips for Teaching in Thailand: Esan Eccentricities.
|Tips for Teaching in Thailand: Esan Eccentricities|