Teaching is a fun and fulfilling job to have. You will meet the most amazing, kind hearted and happy kids here in Thailand. They will write you notes, draw you pictures, and give you many many snacks. However, while it is extremely fulfilling, it is not easy, and it is a full time job. Here are 5 tips that I believe to be the most important things to keep in mind if you make the incredible decision to teach abroad in Thailand.
Make it fun for the students AND yourself. Each school, grade and subject is run differently, so how you can make this happen is really up to you and your situation. However, in any case you are the one in charge of the lesson. You have the power to decide how you will run your class. Just as there are different styles to which we learn best, there are also styles to which we teach best! I linked an article below that explains the different teaching styles. You may notice that in Thailand most Thai teachers have an “authority style” when teaching. There are many pros and cons to each teaching style and what it comes down to is what you are most comfortable with. Because when you are comfortable and confident, the students feel comfortable and confident. But if you are teaching in a way that does not connect to who you are and what your style is, the students will sense your discomfort and it will affect the learning atmosphere you are creating in your class. It may take some time to find what works best for you and your students. So be kind to yourself, be patient, and you will find what works!
Don’t try to plan months ahead. It sounds great in theory, but it hardly ever works out in practice. The thing about teaching is that it's all up to the students. You might begin a topic that you had planned to spend 3 days on, but in the first 15 minutes you begin to realize that the students have already mastered the subject. Or you might spend a whole class period trying to explain an activity that you thought would only take 10 minutes. It feels great to be ahead of the game, and stay on a schedule. But in teaching, you must embrace flexibility. Things change at the last minute very often in Thai schools. So try to go with the flow, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to stay two steps ahead. Because like it or not, something will probably come up and change your plans anyway.
Don’t dwell on a bad day. Some lessons you will step out of the classroom with a smile thinking, “Wow, that went so well, I love my kids, I love teaching etc. etc…” Then, the next day you might step out of the classroom feeling utterly defeated. Maybe the lesson didn’t go as planned, maybe the kids were buckwild, maybe you are frustrated that you could not communicate the way you wanted to, whatever it might be. I have been told that this is normal for teachers of 10+ years. Sometimes lessons don’t go as planned and all you can do is reflect. Take note of what worked, what didn’t work, and use that information to create and deliver a better lesson in the future.
When you are done, be done. In America, it is almost expected in any profession that in order to get ahead or even stay afloat you must take work home. This is true especially in teaching. But don’t bite off more than you can chew. And remember why you are here in the first place, everyone comes to teach abroad for different reasons. Is the time and energy you are putting in at work aligning with what you want from this experience? If not, don’t be afraid to make the changes that will improve the quality of your time in Thailand.
Keep a clean and organized work space. I am a terribly disorganized person, and because my desk often overflows with papers, I have made it my goal to at least have my desk clean and organized by the end of the week. This way I can start each new week with a clean desk and a clear space to work. Find a system that works for you and try your best to stick to it. Maybe you keep all of your lesson plans on a google doc, maybe you print them out and put them in a binder. It is true that when you keep your space clean your focus improves and as a result so does your quality of work.
At the end of the day, through the highs and lows of teaching in Thailand I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We can learn so much from working with kids. The little things that make them happy can remind you to be happy about the little things. Their wild imaginations can inspire you to be more creative. Their curiosity about the world can remind you to keep learning and asking questions yourself. And all of their laughs, smiles, hugs, even after a rough day, remind you to love unconditionally.