I would like to dedicate this post to teaching abroad. So far, I have done a lot of writing about my travels in Thailand, but I have yet to touch on my experience teaching. In my first blog post, I explain the reasons behind why I wanted to teach abroad. Now, I would like to explain my job and daily life as an English Teacher. Since I have spent the majority of my life as a student, it has been especially interesting being on the “other side” of the classroom.
I began teaching at a public school in November of 2015 in Suphanburi; a small town about 1.5 hours northwest of Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. Every morning, Phil and I walk to the bus station five minutes from our apartment; passing coffee stalls, street food vendors, and stray cats. If I’m lucky, I’ll see my favorite street kitty “Obon” (appropriately named by the tuk-tuk drivers). I keep cat treats in my school bag just in case I see Obon (and believe me, this cat knows I have them). From here, we take a minivan to school every morning for ฿20 ($0.50). Before the school day begins at 8:30am, the teachers and students (all 2,000 of us) gather in the quad for our morning assembly. At assembly, student’s sing the national anthem and announcements are made by the school’s director. It is during this time that I usually greet my fellow coworkers by doing a “wai” and catching up on the latest events at school. After assembly, the students and teachers are free to go to their first classes of the day.
I teach 700 students (!!!) of “Mathayom 2 and 5” which is about the American equivalent of 7th and 9th grade. I teach a total of 19 classes per week, 12 classes of Mathayom 2 and 7 classes of Mathayom 5. For example, some of my best students are grouped in Mathayom 2/1 and 5/1. Students test all year long and for lack of a better term, the “best of the best” are placed in the higher group levels. I enjoy teaching my 2/1 and 5/1 students because their English is spectacular and they truly enjoy the challenges of learning a new language. I do have my “naughty” students like any other teacher, but I also have a Thai “co-teacher” in all of my classes to help me with students that disrupt class.
At the beginning of every class, I am greeted by 40+ Thai children unanimously shouting, “GOOD MAWWWWNINGGG TEACHAAAAA!” Although slightly unnerving at first, I have adjusted and embraced this custom! My first day of teaching I was very anxious. Never did I think I would be teaching middle/early high school students, but here I am doing it and I’m thriving! My job is to teach “English Conversation” so I try to plan my lessons around grammar (because I love it) and structuring sentences. I am always slightly overcome with joy when I hear my students reciting full sentences and properly labeling nouns and adjectives (hehe). Because I am so busy and constantly stimulated in the classroom, the time seems to fly by. This is the first job I have ever had where the day is over before I know it! My schedule varies, but I teach anywhere from three to five classes out of a total eight periods per day. In between classes, I usually take the time to grade papers, lesson plan, read, or write.
I finish all of my classes around 2 or 3pm every day. This gives me a little over one hour to take advantage of our school’s “gym.” By the looks of the gym, it hasn’t been used in years. The treadmill is creaky, the elliptical is dusty, and the weights are rusty. Despite the ancient equipment, lack of air conditioning, and stares from my students while I run, I’m grateful to exercise at school while still “on the clock.” To think I use to drive my car to exercise in a gym in San Diego with clean equipment and air conditioning!? I was so spoiled! At the end of the school day, Phil and I take the “703” minivan back home to our apartment for the rest of the evening.
So far, I have been living in Thailand for a total of three months. Although it doesn’t sound like a lot of time, I consider myself “fully adjusted”. I know how to get around and where things are in Suphanburi; and I understand what is expected of me in the classroom. Although Phil and I were initially torn about renewing our teaching contracts, we are happy to announce that we have decided to stay for two semesters (or one year) in Thailand. There are still so many places we want to travel and experiences that we want to have while abroad! Five months isn’t nearly enough time to accomplish everything. For anyone out there that may be reading my blog and is considering teaching abroad… do it! Teaching has become a very respectable career as English teachers are in high demand around the world. I can say with absolute certainty that I am so glad that I made the decision to move to Thailand eight months ago.