A Learning Curve

Authored by:
Liz B.

I was absolutely terrified when I found out I was going to be teaching High Schoolers in Thailand. Teenagers in America scare the sh** out of me, and that is when I can understand when they are making fun of me! So the thought of standing in front of teenagers who could make fun of me in a different language was anxiety inducing. My experience as an educator prior to this was minimal. I taught ESL online for a side gig last year, and I have worked with kids and teens during my time as a zookeeper. Beyond that my "formal experience" was very limited coming into this. I spoke with other teachers who had taught High School here in Thailand so I would have an idea of what I could expect coming in- and most of it unfortunately was not applicable to my situation. 

Let me be direct- it has not been easy. Some days if I get my students to pay attention during attendance it is a win. One day I had 1 student out of a class of 40 kids show up. So the next class when 15 students were there, I took it as a win. Working with my teens has reminded me that everyone learns differently, as well as being motivated differently. What may work for some of classes, just gets me blank stares from other classes. Free time is always appreciated, but some students are more willing to work for it than others. My frustration does not lie with them, but with myself. I want them all to succeed because they are all so unique and great in their own ways. Yet some days what I think will be an easy 5 minute warm up turns into 50 minutes of me trying to make it clearer. Some days I fail them I think, but I try to come back the next day with a better plan of attack. My lack of experience as an educator has not been a hindrance at all though in my personal opinion. I think coming into this completely fresh has allowed me to be more adaptable and willing to return to the drawing board for new ideas.

My students and I are becoming more familiar with each other, so I spend less of my time doing classroom management (most of the time) and instead get to focus on the lessons more. As I have worked with my students I am reminded of the teachers I had going through school and who I hated or loved. I try to remember what my teachers would do that made me happy to work for them, and what they would do that would make me want to push their buttons more. I remember there was a US History teacher who would pull her hair and scream at her classes when they pushed her too far. I remember my favorite Biology teacher who would talk to us like human beings and not down to us. He was also not afraid to get a little goofy, which made him very approachable. I have tried to pull from my own experiences when it comes to learning, and utilize those to help my kids be successful. 

Now outside of the classroom all these students that make me want to scream sometimes ( I only ever do internally) are absolute angels. "Hi teacher!" "Teacher you are so beautiful!" "I love you" are all things I hear from my students in passing, or yelled across the courtyard. I don't know why these aren't the versions of my students in class, but they make me smile regardless. I take every chance I get out of class to speak with my students, whether it's a 30 second conversation or a 5 minute conversation. I have gone to lunch with students, hiking, and practiced my badminton skills with some of my kids. This is my favorite part of being a teacher- letting them see that they have nothing to be scared of and making memories with these awesome kids! Even the troublemakers who are usually on my bad side, they still can get a chuckle out of me. 

I am 3 months in to teaching, and I think I am finally figuring out the tricks to working with some of these classes. I'm ecstatic to be making progress, no matter how little it might be. It is a bittersweet feeling though because we are done in less than 2 months. I will not be extending for personal reasons, but leaving these students will be so hard. They have shared their lives with me, and have taught me so much. Their smiles are infectious. I will miss hearing them shout across courtyards or wave franticly as they drive by me on their motorbikes.

These last two months I hope I can give them just a little to take away from our time together, because they've given me so much


Teacher Liz 





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