Teaching English as a foreign language is a very popular option for many travellers who can’t bare the thought of going home, just like us.
In March I started teaching English in Thailand and wanted to give you my two cents, is it as easy as everyone says? do nerves get the better of you? how will he children react? Here’s my thoughts:
I really love teaching.
I knew it could be a lot of fun, especially with the age of my students (3 -5) but I had no idea just how much I would actually enjoy it. Instead of just being a job it’s something I actually enjoy, which is strange considering in all honesty the only reason I started was simply because it was an easy way to make money.
I’ve never even considered or had any desire to be a teacher before but I’ve liked it so much I’m actually currently looking into becoming fully qualified.
What I didn’t expect
I had no idea Thai children could speak English so well at such a young age. By the age of three my children can describe colours, shapes, body parts, days of the week and classroom objects – and this is just in the first 18 weeks! One of my kids who is barely two can read most basic words and on the very first day pointed to a sticker I had just gave him and said “it’s apple” I may have just fallen in love with him there and then!
The children I teach blow me away everyday with how much they know and how quickly they take things in. Watching them grow and improve and knowing that I have helped them along the way is very satisfying.
What I had to learn quickly
To be flexible! In the first weeks of teaching I liked to have my lessons planned out and would get frustrated if things didn’t go as expected. I found that I would sometimes struggle to come with different activities if I had spare time or if the kids were bored I would just plough straight on. Now it is so much easier to just change things up depending on their reaction.
Also working with this age range – have a loud voice. Poi swears my voice gets louder and louder each week and he is forever reminding me that our apartment is not a classroom! I hate to imagine what the neighbours think!
As I said before I used to plan my lessons thoroughly in the beginning but now I am happy to walk into a classroom with whatever I need for the subject and just go with the flow. I dread to think what would have happened if I tried that in the first couple of weeks, most likely fired!
The other thing would be how much the children trust me, 18 weeks ago the class were unsure and pretty shy now they can’t wait to get involved and I always have someone running up to me trying to explain something or another. The flavour of the week with my K2’s (4 years old) is to tell me what they like as I enter the room so I get a barrage of “I like rabbits and cats” or “I am Ben 10” (I think he means like.. but maybe he is an alien)
Oh and I guess I have learnt A LOT about different kids programs and I have become a human jukebox of children’s songs now as well, which Poi loves!
The Best Bit?
Of course it’s the kids. All it takes on a bad day is a funny comment or a big hug and I remember why I love my job. Now I’ve been around for a while I’ve developed a relationship with my classes and I get excited to see them and their smiles always cheer me up.
Just yesterday one of my kids came back from holiday and he ran straight up to me with a huge smile on his face for a big hug, how can that not make you feel amazing?
The Hardest Bit?
Without a doubt the toughest aspect of the job is the language barrier, there are so many times when one of them will run up to me so excited, breathing hard, desperate to tell me something but they can’t find the words in English and give in to speaking Thai. I never know what they are saying and just have to pretend!
I wish I could hear all their little anecdotes too. For example we were colouring in pandas for art which I told them should be black and white and one of my kids in Thai was complaining saying “but orange is a much cooler colour” This is the stuff I usually miss out on….
How will I feel in 6 Months time?
In 6 months time I have no idea where I will be, right now I love teaching and I am glad the first few months where I was unsure have passed and I can just enjoy working with the kids everyday. Will I teach again – I’d like to think so!
Are you thinking of teaching English at some point during your travels? What else would you like to know?