Teaching abroad has been the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences in my whole life. Uprooting my entire life and moving from Charlotte, North Carolina to Khon Kaen, Thailand has completely changed the way I look at teaching, especially with English Second Language Learners. As I near the end of my time in Thailand, it’s easy to look back on my time teaching at Kaennakhon Witthayalai with rose colored glasses, only focusing on the good times. However, if I’m completely honest with myself, there were some tough times,
So here they are, the worst and the best parts of teaching abroad in Thailand:
The hard parts:
1. The language barrier. One of the hardest parts of teaching this past year has been the fact that I am living in a country where the main language is not English. I teach at a high school in an International Program, therefore I’m fortunate that my students have some background in English before coming to me. These students are dedicated to becoming entirely fluent in English, and thus it was my job to teach them all subjects (math, social studies, music, etc) in English. It’s tricky enough to make sure 7th grade students in the United States completely understand the 7th grade math content but teaching students who do not have a full grasp on the English language added an additional challenge.
2. This Thai school and my American school in North Carolina have entirely different expectations. If my time in Thailand has taught me anything, it is that Americans love schedules and Thais do not. It used to drive me insane when I would come into school to find out that all my classes had been cancelled for that day, and I would instead have to sit in a meeting all day, where they were only speaking Thai. Or when I would wait outside the classroom for 20 minutes because the last teacher had run over their class time. Living in America had engraved in me the absolute need for a schedule. Thai people are a lot more laid-back about having a schedule, they’re okay with last minute changes. While it does not drive me *as* crazy anymore when the schedule randomly changes with very little notice, this was definitely a hurdle I had to get past when I first started teaching.
The best parts:
1. You are a local celebrity. Where I live in my city there are very few foreigners, therefore I quickly stood out among the people in my town and especially among the teachers in my school. The people in my school were so welcoming and excited to have me there. Even after a year, rarely a day goes by where my picture is not taken or I’m stopped to chat with, even if I have no idea who the person talking to me is. Transitioning into a brand-new school, in a brand-new country, was made so much easier by the daily cake that was given to me for breakfast by different teachers for at least the first three months I was here.
2. Really, truly, deeply getting immersed in the culture. Thai culture is so incredibly different from American culture. I have lived here for almost a year and I still have so many unanswered questions. One of the amazing things about working in my school has been the opportunity to get to know and become close with the families of students and teachers that also go to the school. I have been invited over countless times for dinners, festivals, and just day trips around Khon Kaen. Due to the generosity of the people I have worked with, I’ve been a part of so many things, and taken to places, I would’ve never discovered on my own. I am so thankful for my students, my coworkers, and all their families for including me in so many fun activities and helping me learn about and be a part of the community.