Updated: Apr 11, 2020
I'm about a month into teaching in Thailand, and I'm beginning to feel like this post is long overdue. It's been hard to consolidate my teaching experiences so far in just one little blog post, but here I go!
I work for a government school in Chonburi, Thailand, called Anubanchonburi School. Anubanchonburi School has been awarded for the quality of their English teaching program, and is used as a model school for other English programs in the Chonburi Province. Anubanchonburi School has a separate campus called Anubanchonburi School EP (where I work). Both campuses are primary schools, but the EP (English Program) campus essentially means Thai parents pay extra to have an English teacher in every classroom. There are around 50 English teachers at Anubanchonburi EP from The United States, England, South Africa, Ukraine, Iran, Mexico, Spain, and the Philippines. This has made for a fun teaching environment with lots of collaboration between my English speaking co-workers.
Every day, I teach English to a kindergarten class of 25 remarkably gifted four and five-year-old Thai students. To American teachers, this class size of kindergarteners may sound ridiculous, but I have two Thai co-teachers in my classroom. Having three teachers makes behavior management much easier, even though my students can still be a handful.
All Thai schools follow a fairly strict regimen with uniforms, morning ceremonies, and overall high expectations. Within their routine, I teach English lessons 2-3 times a day and give English commands during transition times. I always instruct once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and occasionally I lead additional phonics drilling at the end of the day. My Thai co-teachers instruct for the remainder of the day.
So far, I have been shocked with my kindergartener's advanced English skills. I have about 5 students who can have full (broken) English conversations with me on any subject. The majority of students seem to understand most of what I say, but they are shy to speak and less confident in their English pronunciation. Then, as expected, I have a handful of students who just stare at me blankly every time I talk to them. Luckily, my students are helpful to each other when someone isn't following along.
The best part of teaching has been getting to know my students individually. Thai people are extremely hospitable, friendly and welcoming, and this culture translates over into their children. In Thailand, children are raised to have respect for their teachers, as respect for elders is a mainstay of Thai culture. The students in my class are goofy, crazy, and incredibly loving. I already feel more like a mother than a teacher to them. This is probably because love and affection towards your students in Thailand is always appreciated. No exaggeration when I say I probably give 100+ hugs and kisses a day. ♡ ♡ Alongside their manners, my students are extremely capable for kindergarteners. Their capability has made teaching more enjoyable than I expected because I honestly didn't expect them to know any English at all! My students are simultaneously learning the Thai and English alphabet, and at only 4-5 years old, they write better than the first grade class I student taught with in the U.S. (Keep in mind students have to test into Anubanchonburi, but they are still only 4 and 5-years-old!) My students are so intelligent and enthusiastic about learning - I feel lucky to work with them!
Below I’ve bulleted some of the main differences I’ve noticed between my Thai school and American schools.
Open school layout - You walk out of the classroom, straight to the sun shining outside. Our school reminds me of a motel with a giant turf courtyard in the center. The gates to the school are always open, and believe it or not, students never run away! lol
No athletics - My students only have gym once a week for an hour. However, we do lots of activities with movement all throughout the day and they go outside to play in the courtyard frequently. My students are young, but even the older grades do not participate in any after school athletics. The school has no ties to any athletic program besides their annual "Sport Day".
ALL students (seem to) care about school - This is not as noticeable in Kindergarten, but the older students at Anubanchonburi school are extremely disciplined. The 6th grade students have tutoring both before and after a full 8 hours of school. This makes for almost a 10 hour day of studying...
Physical touch / punishment - It's not frowned upon to give your students love, affection, or discipline them when needed. I'm not allowed to physically discipline my students, but my Thai co-teachers use a ruler slap on the hand for misbehavior. In my classroom, a more common form of punishment is making students stand in the back with their arms raised overhead, or having students do squats. Really any form of physical activity is common for punishment.
Meditation - During transition times, my co-teachers often make the students sit in "meditation" for a minute before transitioning to the next activity. For meditation, each student has to sit still with their eyes closed for about a minute before they are allowed to move on. This forces the students to settle down on their own and makes transitions much easier for the whole class.
Planting Hope in your day ❀