A year of teaching English in Thailand – Kirstys thoughts

by Poi on March 6, 2012

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Kirsty is currently coming to the end of her contract with a school in Bangkok after a year of teaching English at a Kindergarten.

Previously she shared her thoughts after a few months on being a first time English teacher in Thailand. Now with only one week to go we thought it would be a good time to share her thoughts, before she is too emotional, after a year in the job.

So Kirsty:

Firstly, what are your general feelings about the year being over? Relieved or upset?

I wouldn’t say either really, I’m definitely going to miss the kids because of how close we have become over the last year and seeing them develop over time I can’t help but have a huge soft spot for all of them.

My next step is a big one and I’m quite nervous about starting it, it’s certainly going to be a change going from Thai kindergarten to teenagers in England I’m sure by September I will be longing for well behaved kids!

Teaching in Bangkok, Thailand

My youngest class

What has been the most rewarding part of teaching?

The most rewarding part without a doubt is when a student gets something right which they were struggling with before.

Their faces light up when they finally get something and having the kids be able to tell me how they are feeling or what they want to do is brilliant. Especially when at the start of the year they would get frustrated and just give up. I love feeling like I’ve really accomplished something with them, many have gone far beyond my expectations.

I started private lessons with one of my students from school and the amount her confidence has grown since then is unbelievable, she’s like a different child. That has given me a greater confidence in my teaching ability and also allowed me to try out new teaching methods, which has helped my development as well as hers.

Would you say you have become more or less attached to your kids than you expected?

I have become far more attached to the children than I ever thought I would. I love all of them in their own little way but I definitely have my favourites.

In particular I have become close with my K1’s who are the youngest class, mainly because they are so cute and cuddly, some of them are only 2 years old and just want to use me as a climbing frame. If I could steal one it would be a little guy called Son Son aka baby genius.

My K2 girls 🙂

How has your opinion changed of teaching in Thailand over the year?

At the beginning I found some of the cultural differences a bit hard to deal with, the children are far more disciplined and pushed than I expected especially at such a young age.

My teaching method has definitely changed over the year and is much more about going with the flow. It would be very strange watching back one of my lessons from the first few weeks now.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting again?

The test class was a disaster and my first day wasn’t much better. However they were patient with me and allowed me to grow into a good teacher.

Although, if I was giving advice to someone looking for a teaching job in Bangkok I would suggest making sure you get somewhere with a 12 month contract (mine was only 10) and be sure to find out when they pay and how much is deducted for end of year bonuses etc as my school have been pretty stingy at times.

Was your online TEFL course sufficient or would you recommend doing the full course?

Being thrown in at the deep-end after doing an online TEFL course worked fine for me and I would say I was up to speed after two weeks of teaching. If you are looking for a job in SE Asia then I would be tempted to just do the online version providing you have a degree as that is what most schools are looking for.

Elsewhere around the world such as Europe I doubt you would get a look in without a good chunk of experience or having done the full TEFL course so it really depends on your plans.

Teaching English in Bangkok

The kids at Christmas

What’s the one key bit of advice you would give to someone thinking about teaching in Thailand?

Make sure to ask plenty of questions about your contract, don’t just skim read. If you’re unsure about what something means make sure you get a real answer before agreeing.

Also try and spend some time in the school before hand, if you can spend a lunch time in the office with all the other teachers you’ll soon get a feel for the place and find out if it’s a happy working environment or If everyone is desperate to get out the door.

If you could re-live a single day of the last year, which would it be?

The whole Christmas period was great. Doing secret santa with the kids was a lot of fun with each kid getting so excited when it was their turn to open a present.

Despite having to work Christmas eve seeing my youngest class all dressed up in little santa outfits and singing on stage was amazing, I think I fell deeply in love with them all that day.

Finally, Are you going to cry on the last day?

Yes, a lot.

Have you taught abroad? How hard was it to leave at the end of your contract and how have you found the transition into other teaching roles?

Also, if you are thinking of teaching abroad feel free to ask any questions you may have.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Ali March 7, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Kirsty, it’s so nice to hear you had a good experience teaching. I’m sure it’ll be hard to leave, but good luck with the next step!

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Kirsty March 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Yeah I am glad that I have something else to move on to… otherwise I am sure I would have re-signed my contract today to spend another year with these kids!

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jan March 8, 2012 at 8:17 am

It will be sad to leave. Good luck in England!

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Kirsty March 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm

I only cried once today… one of my kids had drawn a picture of him and I and written I love Teacher Kirsty!! 🙂

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Audrey March 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Your students look adorable! 🙂 It’s hard not to get attached. I’ve only been teaching my classes for a few weeks and I already know it’s going to be hard saying bye at the end of the contract!

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Kirsty March 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I know and some of them are just adorable! They are always so pleased to see me everyday… I hope I get that with my 16 yr olds from inner city London!

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George March 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Yea it’s gonna be a massive shift from this to teach first but I’m sure it will be an amazing experience anyway. I was teaching English in Germany last year and I have little flash backs of being in Germany and I miss it sooo much. Hopefully I’m going to get another TEFL job this year x

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Kirsty March 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Good luck with the job – I am a little nervous about the change but getting pretty excited too!!

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Heathers Harmony May 6, 2012 at 12:23 am

I volunteered in Russia for 6 months teaching and I miss those kids everyday! Luckily a couple have popped up on facebook which is extremely rewarding but I wish I could have stayed in contact with more of the students, I miss them terribly!

Since then I have had a few of my own life experiences, one of which was getting my bachelors degree so I can head out and teach again half because it was such a rewarding experience and half to facilitate and fund slower travel. After traveling through Europe for 6 months I hope to move to South Korea and teach.

Great post, I can agree with your perspective on nearly everything!

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Kirsty June 12, 2012 at 1:42 am

exactly – I wish I could keep in contact with some of mine, I’ve already started wondering what they are doing this year, if they have a nice teacher etc.
I can’t wait to get my teeth stuck into teaching this September now!

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Peter May 6, 2012 at 3:09 am

Congrats on getting through the year first off. A rewarding year by the looks of it. But it sounds like you had some difficulty with the contract. Do you feel cheated or a bit taken advantage of there? Just feels touchy around that part.

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Kirsty June 12, 2012 at 1:46 am

ummm.. yes in some ways I do feel a little cheated. If it wasn’t for the floods it would have been fine, but not being paid and having to work extra hours wasn’t that great. Unfortunately we didn’t have a leg to stand on as we were told that actual contract we signed wasn’t in Thai so was pretty meaningless.

I am glad that the company gave me the chance but I would be a lot more careful with contracts next time 🙂

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Joey July 23, 2012 at 2:37 am

I was wondering about the teaching conditions and how things operated in Thailand, and you did a great job giving a passionate view on the situation.

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Steve March 26, 2013 at 3:15 am

Kirsty,
Thanks for relating your teaching experiences. Your experiences are well expressed. I am American, 60 years old and in good health. I lived in Thailand as a retiree for 5 years, from 2002-2007. I speak very good basic Thai but I do not understand more then the routine daily Thai phrases. Because I mismanaged my finances, I had to return to the States where things are not going well. I wish to return to Thailand to teach English, however, even though I can obtain an online teaching TEFL certificate, I do not have a college degree. Therefore, based on your knowledge and experience in Thailand, please correct me on the following if I’m wrong.

I don’t believe that I would have a fair shot at gaining a teaching position because I lack a college degree.

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Kirsty April 2, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Most places are looking for a degree, however I know people without who are teaching. The reason for the degree is to get a working visa – if you are fine without this then a lot of places are fine to look the other way

my advice would be to work at some of the TEFL centres in bangkok – here they are a little more relaxed with the rules and you will be able to get the experience, then you can apply for school based work and they might be more interested in your experience and not the degree

Good luck and please comment again if you have any questions

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Nat April 27, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Hi,
I just wanted to ask you wether you had enough time off and money to travel the region or did you do it purely for the teaching experience and getting to know the thai culture?

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Sam Southey November 18, 2014 at 10:58 am

Hi
First, let me tell you a little bit about me – I am interested in your experience of working in Thailand. I am considering teaching English in the next two years. I am 39 years old, have visited Thailand and spent extended periods (3 – 4 month) living in Bangkok and Koh Phangan so understand the culture. My husband speaks Thai and I started learning a few months ago. I am a qualified trainer so am use to designing and delivering courses in a corporate world and I love teaching people new skills.
I do not have a degree but do have college certificates, an internationally recognised training certificate and will get TESOL. Do you think I could find legal, reputable work?

Sam

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Poi November 19, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Hiya,

It’s a wonderful country – I think you can definitely find work easily especially in Bangkok where there are many different English training schools for both adults and children. I am not too sure if you will be able to get a work permit in Thailand as they do stipulate a university degree however if you speak to your Thai embassy you may find that college certificates and a sponsor letter is all you need.

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Justin May 24, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Hey there. I have three years’ experience teaching kindergarten in Tokyo + a university degree. What kind of money could I expect in Thailand, or what salary should I be pushing/aiming for?

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Thea June 4, 2015 at 10:46 pm

Hiya!

I’m just wandering if you needed any particular qualifications to work in a kindergarten rather than middle school (aside from the usual degree and TEFL)? And how many classes did you have/how often did you see each class? I hate the idea of working in a massive government school and seeing each class once every two weeks!

Thea xo

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