Thai Teaching Tips
Since my Bachelor’s degree is in psychology and not education, I knew there would be a lot of room for growth with my teaching. And I was right. The first semester of teaching abroad feels like you’re running your first marathon, without understanding how long a marathon is and what kind of stress your body will be under, and that’s just to get by. Then, when you think you’ve actually worked ahead, it turns out there are other things you have to do or should have already done. Maybe some of this is specific to my school, but I know that a lot of how I’ve felt this semester is due to my lack of experience while being in a new country with a different education system.
You can’t apply the knowledge you have of school systems in America [or your home country] directly to the schools in Thailand. I can’t stress this enough: it is a different place — a different culture. The best thing you can do is to use any knowledge you have to ask questions about your job, your work, and the school’s expectations. Use your intuition and humble yourself to check in regularly. Never EVER assume; you have to go in and ask. You have to be direct without being rude or inconsiderate. This is an art that you will learn if you haven’t already.
To the future teachers, my advice is to never credit your mistakes to the “lack of communication” in Thai culture. Perhaps you’ll get the momentary impulse to push the blame somewhere else in the eyes of self-preservation, but don’t. This will fester in you like a poison and ruin, not only your experience, but your perspective of Thailand… and people here will notice your negativity. Aggravation and stress are stark in the “Land of Smiles.” When it consumes you, it shows inevitably. It is always a two way street. Just as they could’ve told more, you could’ve asked more. While it’s ridiculous to expect one side to do all of the work, it’s rarely just one party’s fault.
By moving to Thailand, you have to humble yourself. Know that you’re challenging yourself. The head of the English department at my school [an American expat himself] told me that moving to a developing country to teach is harder than a Master’s program. This was a complete shock to me. I came here to take a break before grad school — to gain world experience and grow as a person — while trying to make a difference. I knew moving here would bring its own challenges, but I didn’t suspect it would be harder than what I was putting off. I certainly got what I came here for, with even a little bit more.
“You never lose; you either win, or you learn.” When you’re lucky, you get both.
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