Highlights: The highlight of my time teaching in Thailand was developing as a teacher and becoming more confident in the classroom. Working as an English teacher in Thailand really is a “sink or swim” situation—there was no orientation or training provided at my school, and they expected me to walk into the classroom ready to teach on my first day of work. I’ll never forget that first class, sitting desperately on a plastic chair in the middle of a circle of 30 pairs of preschool eyes, thinking: “Oh God. What did I get myself into?!” It was rough at first, but I learned some great teaching methods and really was able to connect with my students and enjoy teaching them. I’ve since left Thailand, but my goal now is to continue teaching and traveling around the world for as long as I can.
Outside of teaching, the best part of my experience in Thailand was the opportunity to travel throughout the country on weekends and school holidays. On any given weekend, I might find myself: lying on a beach on an ocean in the gulf, climbing a mountain in a tropical rainforest, riding a train through villages in rural hills, climbing thousand-year-old stupas at a temple ruin, or shopping at the largest outdoor market in the world in the heart of Bangkok. Public transportation in Thailand is fantastic, and guesthouses are quite cheap, so travel is both easy and affordable. While Thailand is a very popular tourist destination and the locals see a lot of foreigners, most have still retained their very friendly and welcoming natures, and it’s really great to get to interact with the Thai people while on the road.
Morning: A typical morning in Thailand looked something like this: Hit snooze on the alarm clock too many times. Dash out of bed, throw on some clothes, and sprint to school. Clock in, then immediately retreat to the calm and cool paradise of my air-conditioned office to prep for the day. At 8 o’clock, I’d brave the heat again to stand at assembly for the national anthem. After that, I went to my first class of the day: preschool.Preschool in Thailand begins at age 2 ½, so most of my students were still working on hand-eye coordination and using the toilet. A typical class would involve a LOT of singing and dancing, reading a story book, and teaching 4-5 vocab words through a game. When I started teaching these kids at the beginning of the year, I’m pretty sure most of them didn’t understand that they were learning a foreign language. By the end of the year, though, they could all recognize and say the letters in the alphabet, count to 10, and name basic colors, animals, and classroom objects. Seeing their improvement over the year was incredibly rewarding. After preschool, I had a full schedule of kindergarten classes (4 and 5 year olds) before lunch.
Afternoon: One of the best parts of teaching kindergarten is naptime! Not for me, for the students—however, this means I had a 2 hour break in the middle of every day. During this time, I usually ventured out into town to get some pad nam prik pow gung (sweet chili paste stirfried with shrimp and veggies—delicious!) at my favorite food stall. I’d then track down the local fruit lady to buy a bag of fresh mango or pineapple. After my long lunch break, I’d head back to school and teach an afternoon K3 class. Kindergarten in Thailand has 3 levels: 4, 5, and 6 year olds. My K3 students had already had 3 years of English lessons before I began teaching them, so their speaking abilities were actually pretty impressive. I enjoyed getting to know my students a little bit more in this class.
Evening: During a typical evening, I would head home to relax, Facebook, email, or read for a few hours and transition from kindergarten-teacher mode to normal-person mode. After that, I might head into downtown Bangkok to meet up with some friends for dinner, or stick around my city and go to the gym. I joined a hip-hop dance class that met a few times a week, and I was always the only foreigner in attendance. There’s nothing better than dancing to Shakira and Michael Jackson with a bunch of 40-year-old Thai women. After the gym, I’d stop at a food stall on the way home to buy dinner. Most street food in Thailand costs between 25-35 baht, which is about 1 US dollar. It’s faster, cheaper, and better-tasting than anything I could make on my own, so I ate out most days for both lunch and dinner.