How to Survive (and Thrive) During your First Week as a Teacher in Thailand
Starting a new job is difficult no matter where you are. Starting a new job and moving across the world comes with a new set of factors and challenges. The first few weeks in Thailand can be overwhelming. Luckily, the outcomes are extremely rewarding and the experience is well worth-it! There will be times when things are out of your control, so it's helpful to be prepared and follow these 10 tips to make sure your first week of school is successful and stress free.
#1 Don't be afraid to ask questions!
Although we're all familiar with the concept of asking questions, the act of talking to your coordinators and co-teachers (especially with a language barrier!) can be easier said than done. Asking questions is integral to a successful first week. Your school coordinator can answer questions about your contract, health and safety, and your overall experience at your school placement. Your department head or co-teacher can answer questions about grading, lesson planning, and classroom management. Asking questions about the class material, book usage, grading, and schedules will be extremely helpful to your experience in Thailand and will allow you to feel comfortable in your new position!
#2 Pick up some essentials at the local mall
During your first week in Thailand, you may be overwhelmed and focused on your lessons. However, it's a good idea to make a list of some items that you'll need for the first few days and visit a local mall or general store. Although you'll have plenty of time to shop for decorations and clothes in your upcoming free time, buying items like toilet paper, snacks, hand soap, trash bags and a trash can, towels, shower supplies, and a large container of water are some essential items to pick up to make it through your first few days. Walk, download the app "Grab" or "Bolt" to hire a cheap car to take you to the mall, or ask your coordinator to organize a trip! My local mall also has a Starbucks which has been helpful for a little taste of home!
#3 Have a short lesson in your back pocket
Starting classes at your new school can happen suddenly, trust me. Having a pre-planned introductory lesson will save you some stress on your first day. A few slides on a PowerPoint introducing yourself, talking about your home, discussing your hobbies, and sharing pictures of your family and friends is a good way to start your classes and meet your students! You can also have them write or speak about themselves to finish class.
#4 Bring toilet paper... or embrace the bidet!
One thing I was not prepared for when moving to Thailand was the lack of toilet paper in almost every bathroom. Many of the schools around Thailand will not have toilet paper for you to use. If you prefer to use paper, make sure that you bring a small bag of tissues with you to the bathroom. However, if you're down for something new, try using the bidet!
#5 Meet your fellow foreign teachers and Thai coworkers
Starting a new job can be tough, but asking advice and getting to know coworkers who have worked at your school for a few years will save you so much stress! Sitting with a new group at lunch, talking with the other teachers that teach your subject (or previously taught your students) can be integral to your success at your new school! Like anywhere, there will be some people that are standoffish, but smiling and introducing yourself is a great way to begin to make connections- with foreign teachers and Thai teachers alike! This is me and my fellow foreign teachers eating at a local restaurant after our first day of school.
#6 Eat great food
Thailand has an amazing food scene, and living in the country for a short period of time can give you ample opportunities to try new things. After school, challenge yourself to try new Thai dishes and find new restaurants. One of my favorite meals that I ate my first week of school was Papaya Salad. Feel free to ask your students and co-workers were/what they like to eat. Food is a great topic to bond over during your first week in Thailand!
#7 Be prepared to work on your work permit
During the first few days of working at your school, you can expect to work on your work permit under the supervision and advice of your school coordinator. Depending on the region this could mean traveling to a police station to record your fingerprints, getting a passport photo taken, going to the doctor for a medical exam, and signing lots of paperwork. These excursions can be far away and time-consuming, but embrace the adventure and express gratitude to your school for helping you along the way!
#8 Explore the surrounding areas after school
The urge to stay in and watch TV can be especially strong on the first few weeks at your new school. Even if its only for a few hours, exploring your area will help you feel more at home and comfortable. Asking other teachers who live in your area or simply walking/catching a ride around town to discover places can expand your horizons for things to do in your free time. Me and my coworkers stumbled upon a concert and night market happening right outside our local mall. Don't be afraid to join in on the fun!
#9 Ask a Thai coworker where to go for your off weekend
There are so many amazing places to travel to in Thailand! One of the most enticing parts of working in the Land of Smiles is the ability to see breathtaking places every weekend and school holiday! On your first weekend, it may be helpful to stay local and give your body lots of time to relax and rest. Taking a tour of a temple, relaxing by the beach, spending some time outside, or finding a local shopping center are all great ideas for your first off weekend. Asking a Thai coworker where the best places to go in your region is a great way to know where to start! One of my Thai coworkers suggested a nearby beach and it was a beautiful and relaxing experience on my first weekend.
#10 Be kind to yourself!!
Starting a new job can be overwhelming and intimidating. Teaching is sometimes hard and moving abroad is even harder. Always remember to be kind to yourself, take deep breaths, and trust yourself! You're going to do amazing <3