Teach English Abroad: Samantha Sundermann’s Story

Teach English Abroad: Samantha Sundermann’s Story

For more info on what Samantha is currently working on, head over to www.shinecentres.com

Samantha Sundermann completed her training at XploreAsia and spent 6 months teaching in Myanmar before returning to Canada. Despite returning home, she was able to use the connections she made whilst being an XploreAsia teacher to continue to help children in Myanmar get access to a higher level of education. Read about her unique experiences in her blog post below:

Samantha with her TESOL class receiving her teaching certificate at XploreAsia

After several years of traveling for work and constantly being on the move, I finally decided it was time to stay in one place for a while. When deciding what I wanted to do for career, I thought back to what has always sparked my curiosity. Teaching English abroad is something that I have always been interested in, and now was the time to give it a shot.
 In 2015, I went home, saved up some money and did some research on how to teach English abroad. Through my research, I found XploreAsia and signed up for my TESOL course.  After being granted my certificate, I went on and taught in Tachileik in Myanmar for 6 months.  It was an incredible experience that I wish could have lasted longer but unfortunately, I had to get back to Canada for work.
In Toronto, I have been working for Shine Dance Competitions for the last 5 years.  Shine, is a company that hosts and organizes children’s dance competitions in Southern Ontario and Quebec.  Shine is a great company that lets me travel during off seasons to have new experiences (such as teaching English abroad) and then come back to Toronto when the dance season begins.  For several years, Shine was planning to offer underprivileged kids an opportunity to access a higher education through online learning.  I was absolutely thrilled when they asked me to take charge of this project and I already had my first location in mind!

Assistant teachers with our class in Tachileik, celebrating their last day of Nursery 1

Tachileik is a small but fast paced town in the north of Myanmar with lots of stories to tell.  One of the most loving places in town is a small orphanage.  Some of the teachers who were teaching before me would go on the weekends and teach the kids English.  They invited me along one weekend and I was absolutely moved by the experience.  It was my first-time meeting kids in an orphanage and experiencing their way of life.  We arrived while the kids were in the middle of mass.  Hearing their voices in song was beautiful.  They saw us come in and knew it meant it was time for their English lesson.  They quickly finished mass and were ready to be taught.  Their enthusiasm was infectious.  They laughed and shouted throughout the lesson on animals.  It was so inspiring to see a young generation so eager to learn.  Although, I didn’t make it back to the orphanage as often as I would have liked, I was motivated to bring Shines’ project to these kids.
I contacted my friends in Myanmar who were equally as excited by this project.  They instantly started researching how to get internet to the orphanage.  Our company, Shine Dance Competitions, in partnership with Response I.T., arranged to provide all the computer equipment for the project, among other things, and I started researching how to get the computers to the orphanage.  After months of researching different methods to send the computers to Myanmar, I reached out to Mike (XploreAsia’s Managing Director) for help.  With some luck, Mike happened to know the easiest route to get computers to Yangon.  From Yangon they were then sent on a bus to Tachileik.  We are so grateful for the team of people who helped get this project off the ground.
Teach English Abroad: Mass at Orphanage

Mass at the Orphanage

Teach English Abroad: kids at the orphanage ready to learn!

Orphans during class time

Currently, the orphanage has internet access and 2 teachers who go on the weekends to teach the kids how to use the computers.  For now, the kids are using websites to improve their English.  As the children become more proficient, we will start talking to them about what other topics they are interested in learning. One of the teachers at the orphanage is a native English speaker, and the other is a native Myanmar speaker.  This is convenient because when the kids don’t understand the programs on the computer, they can ask in their native language but still have an opportunity to speak English as well.  Through many education oriented websites, the kids can learn anything they want. In countries such as Thailand, where these websites are offered in the primary language, the children can start taking any courses they want.  However, due to there being less options in Burmese, we encourage the improvement of their English language skills to give them more choices in what they want to learn online. Learning English will also help to create more career opportunities for them in the future.
The goal for this project is to let the kids learn new skills to help their community.  They can learn anything from Tree Planting, to Rocket Science.  We want to encourage these kids to enjoy learning and improve their current living situations.  Currently, we are looking to expand the project within South East Asia, targeting a few different countries.  Once we have a few solid facilities, we will begin to expand in each country where our project has proved successful.

First time students see computer set up

Students on the bus home from school in Tachileik

At the moment, we are building a website to promote this project.  When we acquire sponsors, we can grow at a quicker rate. Additionally, we also need to find contacts in different countries who can supervise the project for us and who also want to teach English abroad.  We will be posting blog updates about how the projects are running and eventually we would like to have the kid’s blogging about their own experiences!

I am very grateful for the opportunity XploreAsia gave me to meet new people and teach English abroad. I am excited to continue working with Shine to expand this wonderful project.  We are now working with XploreAsia to set up computers for the kids at the Pala-U Orphanage, in Thailand. I cannot wait to see what is to come! For more information please contact me at: sam@shinedance.com


If you want to teach English abroad, apply here.

Teach Abroad in Myanmar!

If you’re looking to teach abroad, the dynamic Asian country Myanmar can offer something truly unique. XploreAsia has been sending teachers to Myanmar for the past couple of years and we recently caught up with one of our graduated TESOL course students Kai Hallberg to talk about his adventures in the country’s former capital Yangon.


The Kids Learning About Winter Clothes

Hi Kai. After finding out about XploreAsia, what made you decide that Myanmar was the right place for you to go teach?

I had my heart set on Myanmar for a number of reasons. Mainly, I knew it would be an interesting time in history to come, and I wanted to experience the rapid social/economic/cultural changes that are occurring here. I wanted to explore a new place where the culture and society would be far removed from what I am used to.

When I arrived in Yangon, I found that the city is stuck in the past in some ways but leaping into the future in others. This juxtaposition seems to apply to everything. Fashion, transportation, music, technology, infrastructure, you name it.

What have been the highlights of your experience teaching in Yangon?

The staff and teachers at my school really helped make it a great experience. They were kind, welcoming, and supportive from the very start.

Some of the best times for me were with my adult classes. I really enjoyed our conversations about how things are changing in Myanmar, and what young people care about/are concerned about here.

Another highlight for me was morning assembly time with the preschool. It’s too cute watching a bunch of 4 to 5-year-olds try to stay still for 5 minutes during “meditation time”.

Teaching in Myanmar

What does a typical day as a teacher in Myanmar look like?

I started work 9:00 am and I would usually grab breakfast at a nearby tea shop on the way. The day ended at 5pm, but my schedule changed based on the time of year. For the first several months, I spent the morning with the preschool, which usually consisted of a morning duty (e.g. gate duty or assembly duty), followed by an hour of lesson time. After lunch, I taught two adult classes: one at Aung Tha Pyay, and the other at NELC. During this period, I had some downtime between classes to plan lessons.

My schedule during summer school (March to May) was very different. These three months busier as my school was flooded with young-learners from government schools. I had 5 or six almost back-to-back classes every day and it was definitely my most challenging period as a teacher. During this time, lesson planning had to be done outside of work hours as I had many more classes to teach.

What do you do in your free time here in Myanmar?

Eat, play soccer, go drinking, watch movies; pretty much what I would do anywhere else. I also travel outside of the city as often as possible to see more of the country.

Teach abroad Myanmar

Experience a unique Christmas in Myanmar

What would you say to people who are looking to teach abroad and are considering Myanmar?

Do it. But if you come, you have to learn how to roll with the punches. One piece of advice given to me during my orientation week has particularly stayed with me: “things aren’t always as they seem.” There will be miscommunication, mistakes, and stressful times, for sure. However, if you learn to be flexible, understanding, and patient, I promise the experience of being here in Myanmar is well worth it.

Check out our website to find out more about teaching in Myanmar. If you’re looking to teach abroad, find out more about our internationally accredited TESOL course and the other locations you could be heading over to soon with XploreAsia.

Catch up with our current teachers by checking out our Facebook and Instagram pages!

Teach In Thailand: The Spider Chronicles

Teach In Thailand: The Spider Chronicles

Former XploreAsia participant, program coordinator and current teacher Simone Salerno describes her experience moving into her placement town, in Northern Thailand. Settling in to your new home and adapting to life in a new town can be a challenging experience but one full of opportunities to grow and become part of a community. 

I share my shower with about five spiders. I say “about five” because one of the spiders is a master at hide and seek. The spiders really used to freak me out. I’ll never forget my first shower experience in my teaching town. I was in the midst of shampooing my hair, when I turned around, opened my eyes, and saw a huge, spindly spider staring back at me. Let’s just say that shower ended quickly and I never finished washing my hair that day.

Over time the spiders and I reached an agreement. They ate the unfriendly bugs, and I left them alone. I never thought I’d share a shower with spiders, especially spiders as big as my palm, yet here I am. You may be sitting in your seat, shuddering to yourself and thinking, “NOPE! That will NEVER be me…” Well friend, allow me let you in on a little secret; living abroad has a beautiful way of changing the rules you live your life by.

Before moving to Thailand, I had set a strict list of rules for myself. After everyone had shared their extensive “Do’s and Don’ts” for traveling, along with their personal horror stories, I thought I knew what I could and could not do in Thailand.

Based on their stories and advice, I could not ride a motor scooter, walk around at night by myself, walk around during the day by myself, walk around at all by myself, eat ANYTHING that I couldn’t peel myself, eat anything I couldn’t see prepared, eat anything that didn’t come out of a pre-packaged container, go ANYWHERE that was a malaria zone, go into the ocean alone, go into the ocean at all…. And the list went on.

 I’m sure in reading that list, you can remember being told at least one of those “precautionary” bits of advice.  It’s hard for me to look back now and see how rigid I was about traveling to a new country; and how if I would have followed those rules at all times, I would never have truly experienced the country I have grown to love.

Living abroad has an incredible way of helping you understand preconceived notions are just unnecessary limits; created out of fear before having enough evidence to know if what you believe is true or even useful. You can’t live your life on preconceived notions. Prejudging a whole country based on advice from a few weary travelers was the biggest mistake I made before embarking on my adventure.

Teach in Thailand Pad Thai

It only took a short time after arriving in Thailand to realize how off my judgments were, and how quickly I would change my set of “strict” rules. Within a day of arriving in Hua Hin, I was already eating fresh cut fruit from a local fruit stand, swimming in the ocean, enjoying fresh Pad Thai on the side of the street, and walking around alone to explore new places. Putting an end to my preconceived notions is the best choice I have made in my travels.

Teach in Thailand

After living in Thailand for many months, I can say that I really enjoy 7/11 sushi (don’t knock it until you try it), sharing my home with a few lizard roommates is actually a plus, the best fresh fruit comes from a stand, a freezing cold shower is actually something to look forward to, strangers can easily become family, and every situation has a silver lining.

Don’t let precautionary tales of travel keep you away from living abroad. “If you listen to people, and if you allow people to project their fears onto you, you’ll never live” (Taraji P. Henson).  If I had listened to everyone who told me no, in some form or another, I never would have truly experienced the place I now call home.

Simone Salerno

Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand

To begin your adventure in Thailand, follow this link:


Teach in Thailand

Life as an English Teacher in Myanmar

Life as an English Teacher in Myanmar

We caught up with Rachel and Amy, two of our teachers currently working in Myanmar. They share their experiences of living, working and teaching in Myanmar, sharing their advice and answering questions you might have about teaching opportunities in Myanmar.

How did you find out about the program and what made you decide that Myanmar was the right place for you to go teach?

I was initially attracted to Myanmar as a place to experience a culture that was relatively untouched by Western influences. After some research, I found a program that taught the TESOL course and paired teachers with schools in Myanmar.

In which city did you teach?

After completing the TESOL course in Yangon, I was placed at the Nelson International Education Center in Tachileik, Myanmar. Tachileik is a border town near the northern most point of Thailand in Shan State, Eastern Myanmar. For those who are interested in a completely immersive experience, Tachileik is the place for you. With a population of roughly 55,000, I was 1 of 10 foreigners. Almost no one speaks English in Tachileik besides those connected with the school and the only “comforts” of home are a semi-westernized coffee shop and a few restaurants with picture menus. This all makes for an intense, but fascinating learning experience.

How would you describe your typical day?

 As a teacher, a van would pick me and my fellow teachers up at around 8 am, and we would leave school around 5 pm. I was responsible for a group of students between the ages of 11-15 with almost no English experience. I taught them English and Math and did not follow a set curriculum. My single focus was to build up their confidence levels to be comfortable speaking in conversational English. While this is a generalization, I would say that students in Myanmar are among the best in the world in terms of their respect for teachers and willingness to learn. I was warned that I had some “trouble-makers” in my class, but every student I had was unbelievably sweet and unique.

What have been the highlights of your experience teaching in Tachileik?

 Observing the rapid changes in each students English ability was pretty amazing. NIEC Tachileik has only been open for a few years, but many students are already passably fluent. As a native English speaker, you will be frequently asked to take control of situations even if you are new and unsure of yourself. 

Besides wanting to travel, I came to Myanmar to test out teaching as a profession. I really fell in love with teaching here, and I am now back in Chicago pursuing a degree in secondary education. This was definitely a great experience to get my feet wet in the profession, and to meet a lot of incredible people in the process.

What do you do in your free time in or outside of Tachileik?

 When I wasn’t teaching, I spent a lot of time reading, wandering the streets, eating tea leaf salad, and wrangling feral cats. I also spent time perfecting my Burmese with phrases like “Don’t put peanuts in that” and “One fried rice to-go, thanks.” I also went to Bangkok every 70 days to renew my business visa.

Is there anything that you would like to tell prospective teachers thinking of coming over?

 My advice to prospective teachers would be to have an open mind about trying new things, to not take yourself too seriously, and to just go for it!


How did you find out about the program and what made you decide that Myanmar was the right place for you to go teach?

 I found out about the program through Greenheart Travel.  I decided to choose Myanmar because its a fascinating country and is undergoing interesting times.  When I was an undergrad, I had the opportunity to some research projects about the country and the region, and from then on, I knew I wanted to go there at some point in time to experience and witness the changes.  Also the fact that the program offered the TESOL certification courses and also job placement afterwards was a plus.  I was actually selected to join Peace Corps to volunteer in Eastern Europe, but opted for this program because I wanted to go to Myanmar.  Though I’m an American, by roots, my parents are from Southeast Asia and going to Myanmar was my calling.

What made you decide that Myanmar was the right place for you to go teach?

I decided to choose Myanmar because its a fascinating country and is undergoing interesting times.  When I was an undergrad, I had the opportunity to some research projects about the country and the region, and from then on, I knew I wanted to go there at some point in time to experience and witness the changes.

Also the fact that the program offered the TESOL certification courses and also job placement afterwards was a plus.  I was actually selected to join Peace Corps to volunteer in Eastern Europe, but opted for this program because I wanted to go to Myanmar.  Though I’m an American, by roots, my parents are from Southeast Asia and going to Myanmar was my calling.
Also the fact that the program offered the TESOL certification courses and also job placement afterwards was a plus.  I was actually selected to join Peace Corps to volunteer in Eastern Europe, but opted for this program because I wanted to go to Myanmar.  Though I’m an American, by roots, my parents are from Southeast Asia and going to Myanmar was my calling.

Describe a typical day in your life as a teacher here…

 A typical day as a teacher in Myanmar, well, my experience was a little different compared to my cohorts.  I had the opportunity to teach in Lashio for one month, and then in Pyin Oo Lwin for about four months.  In terms of the daily routines as a teacher, I taught a wide range of students, from pre-schoolers, teens and adults.  It’s quite a unique teaching experience to have such a wide range of different age groups to teach.

In Lashio, things were a little more convenient because I actually lived at the school, so transportation was not an issue.  Maybe because I have an easy going personality, the accommodation was fine to me.  I had blocked schedule and breaks in between lessons, so that was nice.  The school’s staff and local teachers are phenomenal and always willing to help.  They literally fed me everyday with delicious home-cooked Myanmar food.  In the morning, I would go to the playground and play with the pre-school kids, during my breaks I would do a run-through with my lessons before I teach, then there’s grading papers/workbooks, and then plan for the next day or week ahead.

 In Pyin Oo Lwin, I lived with a family, but had a separate section of the house to myself.  I would ride a bicycle that the school provided from my house to school every morning.  Depending on the route I took, it would take me 15-20 minutes to get to school.  The routine is similar to the Lashio school, just the living accommodation was different and I needed a form of transportation to get to school.

How would you describe Lashio?

 Lashio is literally like a city in the clouds.  You’re so high up in the mountains.  Every morning, I would wake up around 5am just to see the sunrise, the clouds rolling and the fog carving around the tall mountains.  It’s breathtaking.  Lashio is located close to China, so you get a lot of great Chinese influences in the cuisines.  There are plenty of pagodas to visit, the famous large market and also the local hot spring.  Transportation, the form of taxis you’ll have access to are tri-wheeled motorbikes (kind of like Thailand’s tuk-tuk).

Pyin Oo Lwin is a nice quaint town.  It has an interesting history, being the summer capital during the colonial period when the British colonized Burma, so you can see a lot of the old British (Tudor style) houses and buildings scattered around town.  Transportation, you have the option of motorbike taxis or horse carriages.  It’s a beautiful town where east meets west, but in terms of centuries ago.  You won’t get many western amenities here like you would in Yangon.  This town is famous for its botanical garden and also its damson wine. Oh! And for coffee lovers, there’s great coffee here.

What do you do in your free time in or outside of Lashio?

 In Lashio, I think my short time-frame there was somewhat of a blessing. During my free time, I’d workout (sometime running back and forth on the school’s roof) or go hiking up to the 2500 year old pagoda trail (taking the steps route or the dirt route).  I was able to persuade some of the school’s staff and teachers to join me.  On occasions, the local teachers would invite me to go to the market with them or they’d take to visit a pagoda.  I’ve literally paid my respects to all the pagodas in Lashio.  I only did the hot spring once.  It rained a lot during the month I was there in Lashio.  I think the icing on the cake of the experience was when I was invited for lunch to one of the local teacher’s family’s home.  It was my first time ever being in a local Myanmar home and to see how they lived modestly and such.  The entire experience went by fast and definitely learned to make the most of everyday.

 In Pyin Oo Lwin, during my free time, typically, I just ride my bicycle around town and grab lunch or coffee with some of the school’s staff.  On my days off, I would sometime volunteer at the nunnery to teach English or help with art and crafts activities.  Sometimes, the school staffs would take me to visit pagodas or go to Ruby Mart (it’s the only supermarket in town that’s fairly new).  I’ve had the chance to watch some Myanmar films at the theater there, pretty interesting experience and I highly recommend it!  There are also some good hiking trails out there.  I haven’t done the popular one where you can hike to a waterfall yet, but I heard that one is well worth it.  There are two famous caves with pagodas there too.

 In terms of doing the more touristy experience, I’ve been fortunate to go on trips with the schools that I’ve taught at.  The school staffs pretty much organize the trips and I just tag along.  So far, I’ve been to Mandalay, Monywar, Sagaing, Goteik Bridge, Bagan and Yangon.  Most of these trips entail paying homage to pagodas.  I also enjoy ancient architecture and how beautifully Myanmar has been able to preserve its traditions and culture, so it’s great being able to witness it.

What have been the highlights of your experience teaching in Lashio?

 For both Lashio and Pyin Oo Lwin, the highlights would be to be able to experience life at the local level and immersing oneslef in the customs and culture.

Is there anything that you would like to tell prospective teachers thinking of coming over?

 Be open minded, flexible and willing to help/learn.

Thank you Rachel and Amy for sharing your amazing experiences teaching in Myanmar and sharing your wonderful experiences with the XploreAsia family. Read more about teaching abroad in our blog posts and teaching programs!
A huge thank you to Rachel and Amy for sharing their experiences as teachers in Myanmar with us! For more information on the teaching opportunities in Myanmar click here. The TESOL course is taught in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar and the perfect place to immerse yourself in the culture of your new home. You can also experience Myanmar as a volunteer with XploreAsia

Why Teach English in Thailand?

Why Teach English in Thailand?

Have you ever considered a different career path? Always wanted to do something that gives your job a meaning, a sense of adventure and freedom at the same time? One of our alumni, Shanoira, had the exact same thoughts! Read her encouraging and heart warming story of her adventures and experiences teaching English in Thailand.

I have been in Thailand for about 7 months now and if you’re reading this, then you are probably interested in teaching abroad. You might be wondering what it is like and if it’s something you can really do.

Well, no need to fear! I will let you in on everything there is to know about life in Thailand.  

So first off, the hardest part is taking a leap of faith and truly committing to coming to Thailand! At one point, Thailand was just a dream. I was reading blogs but I didn’t have an active plan to move to Thailand. Then one day as I sat at my office desk (hating my job), staring at a picture of Loi Krathong, I thought, “What am I waiting for?”.

That night I filled out an application which led me to Thailand. So if this is something that has been on your mind for awhile: DO IT! In life you only regret the chances you did not take.

TESOL Certificate 

In order to teach in most Asian countries, having a TESOL or TEFL certificate furthers your chances of getting hired as well as getting better pay (especially if you do not have a degree). I decided to get my TESOL certification with XploreAsia. XploreAsia is a well-run organization that has taught me in a short amount of time (3 weeks) to be a well-equipped teacher. For people who have never taught before or people who are new to a foreign country, I highly recommend going through a program like XploreAsia. In my view, not doing so would’ve been like jumping into the deep end of a pool and not knowing how to swim.

Their are numerous benefits to this program, such as you will instantly have a network of friends that can help you if you ever have a question about anything: visa runs, lesson plans, places to visit, etc. Also they will be living all over the country, so if you ever want to travel anywhere in Thailand you have a place to crash. When it comes to XploreAsia, they provided me with Thai lessons, cultural lessons, and fun excursions, all on top of the intensive training to be an ESL teacher. They set up my bank account, found me a job, and even helped me arrange transportation to my new town. I would never in a millions years have been able to do any of those things without the guidance of XploreAsia. Honestly, XploreAsia? You da bomb.

Teaching English in Thailand

Officially Certified!
Call me Teacher Shanoira

TESOL graduation in Chiang Mai, teaching english in Thailand

TESOL graduation in Chiang Mai with Benz, XploreAsia Senior Placement Co-ordinator.

Teaching English in a Thai School

 If you’re like me, you may have visions of these well-mannered Thai children eager to learn English, engaged in all your activities, and hanging on to your every word because you’re that awesome of a teacher. Well, it’s about time to wake up because all that, simply put, is a dream, not a reality. My students are hyper and talkative; there have been many times that they couldn’t care less that I want to teach them English. When I just began teaching, I wanted to rip my hair out of my head because I couldn’t get them to stay quiet, nor could I hold their focus for longer than 30 seconds.

teaching english in Thailand

However, please don’t let these things scare you! I honestly love being a teacher and I have never felt more fulfilled from a job in my entire life. Once I mastered classroom management and became inventive with the activities I used in class, this satisfaction from my job only increased. Every day (well, maybe not every day, but most of the days I’ve had teaching), I knew my students left class and learned new words or concepts. I’ve realized that English is a crucial skill to have, and the ability to speak and understand the language really does provide new opportunities to students for their futures. By being a good teacher, I’ve aided in their English knowledge and that makes me super happy.

Also, just so you know, Thailand schools tend to function by disorganized chaos. Classes get cancelled or moved around all the time. The students are constantly missing class since they are studying for some big Thai test that you know nothing about or it’s sport week, which is treated like the mini Olympics. You just have to learn quickly to go with the flow and your life will be so much easier. Do not get worked up when things do not go as planned because believe me – they won’t go to plan.  

Teaching English in Thailand

When kids do behave, they are adorable and all the misbehaving is forgotten. 


As a foreigner with braids in my hair, I sometimes feel like a painting in an art gallery. Thai people will stare at me, whisper to their friends, and some even pull out their phones to snap a picture. One thing you’ll have to get use to is the amount of stares you will encounter being a foreigner in Thailand. We look different, and we act different, and especially in smaller towns, you can stand out like a sore thumb. At times, it can be annoying when all you want to do is eat dinner at the market but everyone has stopped what they are doing and are intently staring at you. But in time, this becomes normal, and you’ll instead feel odd when you go to places like Bangkok and no one cares that you are not Thai.

english teacher life in Thailand, elephant sanctuary

My Town

I got my placement in the Chaiyapum province which is located in Isaan. I am approximately 6 hours north of Bangkok. If you have ever visited Thailand, there is a 99% chance that you have never visited my town. Google has stated that less than 1% of tourists pass through Chaiyaphum each year. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is a fantastic little town, and it has truly become my home away from home.

Some of the things I enjoy doing in Chaiyapum include eating breakfast by the lake, hanging out at the one bar, checking out the markets, and going for a swim at one of the local resort’s outdoor pool. However, I also love going for rides to one of the highest viewpoints in the province (like on the picture below) and just relaxing; we’ll check out the waterfalls and visit the stone hedges. Chaiyapum is a cute little town, and I have honestly met some of the most amazing people there.


Thailand is not really big on kitchens. Therefore, most apartments are “dorm styled” and are big enough for only one person. However, you will never hear me complain about this because the rent here is BEYOND cheap! I live by a lake in a quiet part of town next door to mansions that the house governor generals inhabit, and I still only pay 3500 baht a month in rent (Approx $120 CDN). And this also includes Wi-Fi! I am from Toronto, and I pay more rent living with my mom there than I do here for my own spot. I also love being the queen of my castle and being able to decorate my place how I wish to, clean my apartment when I want to, and come in and out as I please without having to talk to anyone. You really can’t put a price on freedom.


When you are new to Thailand and you don’t speak the language, ordering food can be a pain, especially if you have dietary restrictions. I don’t have any dietary restrictions, and it was still stressful to figure out how to order food when I first got here. You will go to a restaurant and the menu will be in Thai, so you’re pretty much playing Russian roulette by ordering something based on the picture or the one with the minimal Thai words that you’ve recently learned. You will hope it will be delicious or at least edible, and sometimes when I did do this, the food was amazing. Other times, I didn’t get so lucky.

Western food is a lot more expensive in Thailand, but it is still a nice treat once in a while.

Thailand food selection was something I had to adjust to a lot! In Canada I did not eat much Thai food besides the occasional Pad Thai, so everything here in Thailand was very new to me. At first, I was very reluctant to try new cuisines because at times I can be very picky about food. Also, Thai people love spice, and I hate it. It was definitely a sharp learning curve for me, getting to know all the Thai cuisines, but now there are so many new dishes I love.

Another thing: Thai people also LOVE sugar so if you’re like me and thought you would get to Thailand and lose weight without dieting or exercising, then give up the dream now. It might not be like that.


Thailand’s transportation is generally super easy and convenient. There is a train or bus that can get you to anywhere in Thailand for very cheap. If you are ever in Bangkok, the BTS system is years ahead of any transportation in Canada, and I love transportation here. It’s very easy to get around in Thailand, so if that was ever a stress of yours, I hope I put that to rest.

I should note that I have never ridden a motorbike before and neither do I have my driver’s license back home in Canada. However, getting a bike seemed like the most logical thing to do once I got to Thailand, so I got one. Getting a motorbike is super easy: all you need is a passport, cash and *boom* you can rent a bike virtually anywhere! I rented my bike for approximately $60 (Canadian dollars) a month and gas ran me around $4 a week. So overall, it is super affordable and easy to get a bike in Thailand, and remember to be safe (i.e wearing your helmet, not drinking and driving)! Navigating the streets of Thailand is really not a problem, except for in Bangkok. Driving in that city would be pure chaos. Just take the transit system there!


There is such a difference between reading about Thailand and actually living in Thailand. Facebook and Instagram can be super deceiving. You see posts of your friends feeding elephants, and drinking Pina Colada on the beach and you think, “Wow everyday in Thailand must be like paradise.” To an extent, living in Thailand is its own form of paradise, but people also forget that Thailand is a big country filled with more than just elephants and beaches. If you are coming to Thailand to teach English, you might be placed somewhere in the middle of the country, not just at the beach.

The best advice I can give to you is to be open-minded and to embrace the cultural experience you will undoubtedly have. There are plenty of opportunities to travel (like long weekends or school breaks). So don’t think you have to be on an island teaching in order to enjoy Thailand.  

Living abroad can get lonely and culture shock can be significant and real. But believe me, the pros will outweigh the cons, and you will get over culture shock no matter how bad it gets! This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and when you embrace the good and the bad, you will reflect on this experience later in life, and you will be more than glad that you did it.

In Hua Hin, celebrating Songkran (Thai New Year) with my XploreAsia family

So now that you know everything there is to know about my life in Thailand. What are you waiting for? Book your flight now!  

You can also check out Shanoira’s Youtube channel where you can have a more detailed overview of her adventures in Thailand and additional tips for teaching english in abroad. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us in XploreAsia, we would love to hear from you! 

Life After Teaching Abroad

Life After Teaching Abroad

Teaching in Thailand is truly a life-changing experience that could shape and inspire you in so many ways. We love to hear stories from our participants: everything from why they chose to come to Thailand, their favourite teaching memories, their daily challenges and joys, and how the experience has changed their lives.

Making a living can sometimes feel separate from taking advantage of all life has to offer.  It can be difficult to find balance and fulfillment within a career path itself, and often, we find that this search for passion-driven work is exactly what draws our wonderful participants to come teach abroad. The lessons that are learned both in and out of the classroom, for the teacher and the students alike, hold incredible value.  As a teacher, you not only make a difference in the lives of your students and your community, but you also discover your own unique set of skills and strengths that you’ll carry with you for life.

We had the wonderful opportunity to talk with one of our incredible participants Jessica Melton. Jessica taught for one year in Pranburi and is now returning to Thailand to teach at a larger school in Chonburi. Here, she reflects upon her experiences in Pranburi and how teaching in Thailand has influenced her career path.  

Where in Thailand did you teach?

I taught for one year at TreamudomSuksaPattanakarn School in a small town 30 minutes south of Hua Hin, named Pranburi. The school has about 1,200 students.

What grades did you teach & how many students did you have?

I taught Matthayom 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and I had a little over 500 students.  Most of my students were between 12-18 years old.

Classroom Picture Jessica Melton
Jessica Melton students
What are some of your memorable teaching moments? 

Sometimes as a teacher, it is difficult to know how much information your students actually retain from your lessons. At the end of the school year, I was curious to see how much information my students truly understood.

To test them for their final exam, I decided to assign them a group video project. There were about 5 students in each group and the only directions I gave them was that each student must choose an emotion to act out throughout their whole video. I gave them 2 class periods to work on creating and editing their scripts with my help.

I was so impressed by how much effort they put into making these videos, how they incorporated my teaching material in their storylines, and how hard they made me laugh. I started crying out of happiness, and I felt a huge sense of fulfillment.The videos ranged from remakes of “Miss Universe” to “I Can See Your Voice” that include dialogue about fashion, exercise, directions, music, and various other topics.

Jessica Melton students

There are also all the small moments that I look forward to each day. Whenever my students walk into class I play music that we can all dance or sing to. Before class starts we have a dance party, or a singing session, or I have them show me the latest Thai dance trends, and I reciprocate by attempting to show the latest American dance trends. Usually when I’m finishing up my class, we try to talk about our lives outside of school.

Wai Jessica Melton

For me, it is important find every way I can to relate to my students in order to give them motivation to communicate with me. Before and after class is where the real cultural exchange happens. Looking forward to those small moments is a big reason why I am excited to go to work in the morning.

Why did you decide to teach in Thailand and how has the experience influenced your career path?

Prior to teaching in Thailand, I worked at a software company for about 2 years. Everyday I woke up, went to the office, sat in a chair, and didn’t see the sun for 8-9 hours. As the sun was going down, I’d leave the office and either head to my cross-fit class or go grab a beer with friends. Specifically for me, I felt like I wasn’t able to use my funny and quirky personality to make advancements in my career because I didn’t feel fulfilled with that type of work.

Jessica Jamming Band Hua Hin

At the end of the day I was drained. I knew I needed to be able to utilize my passion for really connecting with people and using humor to do so.

I knew I needed to make a drastic change to shock myself back into living a personally fulfilling lifestyle that I had back in college. I felt like I needed to take on responsibilities that I truly cared about and Thailand was that perfect shock! 

What has teaching in Thailand taught you about work-life balance and finding value in what you do?
Exploring friends Jessica Melton

In Thailand, I have really come to value living in open air spaces and how much the sun can influence my attitude and energy levels. Sure, I have my days where I just want to collapse on my bed after a hard day of teaching and find a new Netflix show to watch, but most days I feel that my students and the sun give me more energy to exert after-school.

While living here, I taught myself how to play the guitar, I attended Thai language lessons twice a week, and sometimes, I even had the energy to exercise after a day of working on my feet.

I also joined the Bangkok Women’s Rugby Team and have played in a couple on international tournaments against ASEAN teams. Basically being exposed to fresh air and the sun does wonders for your soul and well-being (and wearing sunscreen, of course). 

Jessica Melton rugby team

My environment gives me the energy to use my funny and loud teacher persona. The weirder and sillier I am in class, the more my students pay attention to the words coming out of my mouth.

I’ve started to understand that working in an environment that allows my personality to thrive gives me the energy to continue working on my personal goals after the work day ends.

Teaching can be very tough, and I’ve experienced several mental blocks and the “push and pull” of growing up in a western culture but loving a culture so different from my own.

At times, it can be hard to navigate what I want in the future because of this, but I am learning more about what I want and don’t want in my life to be with each coming day and experience.

Rugby Jessica Melton
Since teaching in Thailand, what do you currently do for work? How did your experience in Thailand shape this decision?  

Since starting my experience teaching in Thailand, I have never reached a point where I felt like my time here was done. Although I have finished up my 1 year contract with my school in Pranburi, I will continue teaching English at a new and much larger school in Chonburi, and then we’ll see what the future has in store for me!

Where is your favourite place to travel in Thailand?

Krabi was the first place I fell in love with because of how much it reminds me of Avatar. I went on the most beautiful hike that led to a breathtaking view of a dozen islands. Although I lived in Pranburi for a year, I will never get sick of driving around on my motorcycle and exploring the roads. I think Pranburi will always be my favorite place in Thailand.

Overlook Jessica Melton
Off a ledge Jessica Melton
And last, but not least, what advice would you offer prospective teachers or anyone considering taking this step?

Just do it. Take a chance on yourself! Being scared is a good thing because when you make it to the other side of that fear, you will respect yourself so much. Find yourself by getting lost and throwing yourself in new situations where you need to trust and rely on your own abilities.

Thank you so much, Jessica! We loved what you said about working in an environment that allows your personality to grow. While we know more than anything that teaching is hard work, we also know that the experience provides so many valuable opportunities and incredible experiences that open countless doors down the road. We are inspired by your spirit and passion for teaching, and we look forward to hearing about all of the amazing adventures and accomplishments ahead for you.

Curious on how you can start your own adventure abroad? Read all about our amazing programs here

Teach in Thailand: A Day in the Life of An English Teacher

Teach in Thailand: A Day in the Life of An English Teacher

Signing up to be an English teacher in Thailand requires courage, a sense of adventure, and the dedication to make a difference in the lives of your students. But actually living the experience goes even further than that! You might find that not only will you change the lives of those in your community and school, but the experience will also broaden your horizons and help to shape you as an individual.  

We had the chance to ask one of our participants Bronson Taiapa about his daily life as an English teacher in Thailand. Bronson was one of our TESOL course participants last April, and he started teaching in Isaan, Thailand, last May. Since then, he’s loved it so much that he is now in his second year as an English teacher in Thailand. Here, we chat with Bronson about his daily life in Isaan and how teaching in Thailand continues to inspire him!  


How did you decide to teach in Thailand?

I was a screen-printer for several years back in New Zealand, and I needed a change in my work. I wanted to try something that scares me and since I don’t like talking in public, I thought I’d try teaching. Thailand is an amazing place and luckily, it was the place I could go to learn to teach.

Where in Thailand do you teach English?

I teach in Sawang Daen Din, Sakon Nakhon, Isaan. It’s in the western part of a province of Northeast Thailand. 

How many students/grades do you teach?

I teach 2 grades: Mathayom 4 from 4/1 -16, and half of Mathayom 6 (High-school). I have about 960 students, give or take 10 or 20 students.

Teacher Bronson Student
Could you walk us through an average day in your life as a teacher?

An average day would begin with waking up at about 6:45am, getting ready and being at school by 7.40am. School always starts with assembly at 8am, but I’m not expected to be there, so most of the time I just go to my classroom and set up for the first lesson at 8:25am.

Teacher Bronson the Dab

I usually have 2 or 3 classes after lunch, my last class ending about 2:50pm, or I have one that ends at 3:40pm. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a few kids that come in and practice their English with me and with one another. It’s usually a pretty relaxed session – no stress, just practice, and on those days, we finish at around 5:30pm.

We usually have 2 classes, then a small 25 minute break, which I’ll usually use to eat some breakfast (usually fruit from the cafeteria). We have another 2 classes after that, and then lunch.

During lunch I occasionally like to walk around and talk to students or play sports (if it’s not too hot, and if I’m not sweating too much by that stage).

On other days, I get lunch and go to my classroom to eat. I’ll usually find some students sitting there for the next class, but mostly they’re there to escape the heat outside, so I generally put on a movie, and we’ll sit and chill while I eat.

Teacher Bronson Students

On the other days, however, I’m usually home, out of my work gear, and relaxing by 4:30pm. Sometimes I’ll play basketball with my students around 5pm when it has cooled down.

What do you enjoy most about teaching English in Thailand?

Having fun with the kids definitely. They’re awesome! 

Conversely, what are some challenges you face as a teacher?

 Holidays. As great as they are, they made the second semester very difficult to test my students and get grades for them. 

Teacher Bronson with his students

Classroom management is also always a challenge for me. If you give them an inch, most times they’ll take a mile; this is a challenge for me because I don’t like raise my voice to my kids or even punish them. It’s a lesson I’m still learning.

How has teaching in Thailand influenced your career path and shaped you as a person?  

I’ve become a more confident person in social situations. I’ve found that if I am 100 percent committed to something, I can do the things I used to doubt I could do. I think I’ve become more inspired to travel and teach and learn about other interesting cultures.

Teacher Bronson Student

Thank you so much, Bronson! We loved learning about your daily life as an English teacher in Isaan, Thailand. You are so clearly passionate about making a difference in the lives of your students and in the community. We are impressed and inspired by the work that you do!

I’m curious to know: what are some of your questions about teaching in Thailand? What would you like to know about life in Thailand as an English teacher? In what ways do you think that teaching in Thailand will challenge and inspire you?

Ready to start your own adventure living and teaching abroad? Check out some of our incredible programs here.

Tips for Lesson Planning and Classroom Management

Tips for Lesson Planning and Classroom Management

Teach in Thailand

So you’ve finished your TESOL course and you’re ready to start your placement teaching English at a school in Thailand! Armed with lesson plans and engaging activities, you feel ready to tackle any challenge in the classroom. But what happens when your lessons don’t go as planned? Or you’re faced with an unexpected number of students? What are some of the ways to quickly adapt and change in a new environment? 

Recently, we had the chance to talk to David and Khensi, who are both teachers at a school here in Hua Hin. Here, we chat with them about the individual challenges and joys they have in the classroom, tips and strategies for classroom management, and advice they have for incoming teachers!



Could you walk us through what you do in your TESOL teaching placement?

My situation is an interesting one, as I am my school’s EP (English Program)  computer teacher. However, I was trained as an English teacher with XploreAsia, and before that, I had no teaching experience. Some schools will provide a curriculum, textbooks, and lesson plans for their teachers. For my school, there’s nothing for the computer program: no curriculum or a desired end goal. So it was my responsibility to create the curriculum, the topics, and the overall course goals. 

How many classes do you teach?

My school has only one computer teacher, meaning I was responsible for every student enrolled in the EP program. The semester I started, the EP program consisted of M1 to M5, and in the current year (2017), it will include M6. It was a challenge coming up with what to teach each grade, as I had no real insight into what the students learned the previous semester, other than from a few midterms, exams, and tasks that I was able to find from the previous computer teacher.

Students English Camps

Students at our English immersion camps, where our TESOL course participants gain hands-on teaching experience!

How did you tackle the particular challenges of your teaching job in Thailand?

I was able to create a curriculum, consisting of Java programming language, Photoshop, basic networking, html/css, JavaScript, and After Effects. At least that was the initial plan. The biggest challenge was the language barrier. Teaching students about concepts relating to the programming world in a foreign language was difficult. The best way to deal with it is to take it slow. Be willing to slow down even more than you think is necessary. I didn’t at first, but after a while, my lessons became slower. I covered less in each lesson, and they were able to follow along a little easier. So the training [in your TESOL course] to have you speak slower, verbalize through emotion and actions, is incredibly useful and applicable. 

How do you create structure in a rowdier classroom or when students misbehave?

When students misbehave, I call out their name, and sometimes ask them to stop. When they don’t, I’ll close my gap between myself and them. Looking into their eyes for a period of time can win you a victory, simply through awkwardness. In some of your classes, that may not be effective at all, so you may have to find other tactics.

I’ve found that keeping a strong presence in the classroom, such as being ‘everywhere’ in the room and having your voice projected around the room, can be effective. A lot of the tactics for classroom management that you learn in XploreAsia are great: tapping on a student’s desk, calling their names, standing next them, asking the students questions, etc. 

Honestly, have fun. That’s the best thing you can do. 

David's Teaching Tips
What are some of your teaching tips that you can offer prospective and incoming teachers?

Tip #1

Teach slowly. Some individuals will be teaching at private schools, so you’ll have incredibly bright students whose possession of the English language is strong. Teaching slowly would not apply in this case.

Teaching slowly is good as it allows the students to follow along, although you do have to keep track of the stronger students who do not benefit from slow teaching. Have them help the others, possibly through translating (this is more towards teaching non-English classes), or by writing on the board for you. 

Tip #2

Get to know your students. This is personally my favourite part of teaching, as they will appreciate you more if you see them as people and not as simply teenagers (or children).

You’ll also get a good grasp of where each student’s issues may lie and where their strengths can be found. This goes a long way in helping them learn.

Be patient. Take a breath when things irk you. Remember that they are young and you were in their shoes once. It’s not about you, it’s about them. 

What advice do you have for anyone coming to teach English in Thailand? 

Be prepared to potentially be in a position with big responsibilities and with a big say in the students’ education. It’s a big challenge, but a rewarding one. My advice, at least if you’re in a similar situation, is to teach something you know about or have an interest in. You’ll be able to learn on the go, even if you don’t feel confident with your knowledge.

Decide what you ultimately want the students to do (if it’s a big task at the end of the semester, like design their own website). After that, it’ll be a lot easier to figure out the general course path. You’ll be able to envision what your semester will look like, week to week, lesson to lesson, task to task. 

If you’re in a similar situation, take advantage of the fact that you’re teaching in Thailand, as their relaxed nature allows you to make mistakes, and improve at a pace that’s not rushed. 



Teaching Tip #1: At the beginning of some of my (difficult) classes, I usually write down the time that I am prepared to end the class – be it 5, 7 or (rarely) 10 minutes early. And if the kids don’t behave or make noise, I add minutes to the time and that way not only do the students behave, but they also police or scold the students who are disrupting the class because ultimately everyone’s behaviour affects the fate of the class.

So if they become noisy 11:05, I’ll shift the time to 11:07, and so forth. If they end up leaving at a normal or later time, they have only each other to blame. The goal for the students then becomes getting through the lesson as best as possible with the reward of an early release. 

Teaching Tip #2: Another classroom management tactic is threatening the kids with point/score deductions. Usually the disruptive kids are the ones who can’t afford any sort of drop in their grades, and so by making this threat, the students are likely to take it seriously.

Sometimes, I’ll even walk around the class with the class list and if a student misbehaves I make eye contact with them and pretend as though I’m deducting points off of their scores.

Unbeknownst to them, I’m simply just making a dot next to their name. Once I do it with the first or second student, the rest of the class sees that I mean business, and I end up with a rather well-behaved class. 

Khensi's Teaching Tips

Teaching Tip #3: As a means of keeping the students on their toes and not letting the structure of the class be predictable, every once in a while I swap the front row students with those in the back row. Usually where a student decides to sit in every class influences how involved they want to be in the lesson.

Once I become familiar with a class in the sense that I can tell who wants to participate and who doesn’t, I start shifting kids around and breaking up familiar patterns and groups.

Khensi and her students

Khensi with a few of her students!

This usually involves instructing the shy and/or disruptive students to sit in the front rows just so that they are more inclined to listen and participate. 

I do this every now and then at the beginning of the lesson. Even if the naughty ones are likely to be late, I make sure I have a few empty seats in the front row waiting for their arrival.

Thank you so much for all your advice, David and Khensi! We are so inspired by the work that you do, and we know that you are changing lives through your commitment to your students. 

I’d love to hear from you! Have you taught before? What are some of your tips for classroom management? What have you always been interested in teaching but haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet? 

Are you ready to take that first step into teaching abroad? Check out our amazing TESOL course options and programs here.

Survival Tips for New English Teachers in Thailand

Survival Tips for New English Teachers in Thailand

Moving to a new country to teach is vastly exciting, but it can also be a little scary, simply because it is hard to know what to expect. Here are a few tips to help make the adjustment to living and working here in Thailand as an English teacher a bit easier!


Written by Stella Saintis

1. Keep an open mind

Try and remember that you are living in a different country that may have customs and ways of doing things that are the complete opposite of what you are used to. This can make adjusting to life in Thailand hard at times but ultimately very rewarding. Instead of wishing for the life you had back home, look at everyday as a new adventure. In Thailand, you can really experience wonderful and new things that make this country amazing. Many of the small quirks of Thai people or life in Thailand that may initially really bother you could turn out to be the very things you miss the most once you leave!


2. Be Flexible

When you first start out at your school, you may be used to how things operate in your home country. I was previously a teacher in Chicago before moving to Thailand, and therefore, I had some expectations about the way a school works. I had to learn pretty quickly to throw all of my previous experiences out of the window and accept that things would just be different. If you get a job in a Thai school, let go of your expectations for learning about events in a timely manner, having your schedule be the same from day to day, or even the expectation of knowing what you may be doing later that day. I would regularly show up to school only to find out that all my classes were cancelled for the day, or I would go to one of my scheduled classes only to be asked to go and teach a whole different set of students. Now that I work at an International School in Bangkok, things operate in a way more in line with what I would expect in the States, but I still have to be super flexible since I work with a large Thai staff that is just used to doing things a certain way. And that’s ok! If you let go of those expectations, you won’t be stressed when things change suddenly.

children in Thai school

 Lay Krathong is a festival that is celebrated in a month of November and translates “to float a basket”. Kids in school made their own Krathong and floated them down the river for good luck and fortune.

children in Thai school

3. Embrace the Thai language

Knowing a little bit of Thai goes a long way in the Land of Smiles. Even if you are living and working in a part of Thailand that has a larger expat community (and therefore, more people speak your language), the locals might not have the same level of English. Make an effort to at least learn greetings, numbers (this makes shopping and bargaining a lot easier), names of food, and phrases to help you get around (such as directions and how to get home in a taxi). While you can get by on hand gestures, miming or Google Translate for a time, your life will be much, much easier if you take the time to learn a little Thai – you are in Thailand after all! XploreAsia does provide some instruction in Thai when you first arrive, and I encourage you to really pay attention; it really is quite helpful in leading a happier life here.

5. Eat the street food

Some people are quite reluctant when they arrive in Thailand to eat the street food since they fear it will get them sick. I have been living in Thailand for about a year and a half, and I eat street food most days out of the week and have only gotten sick one time. If you do the math on that, the odds of getting sick from street food are very low. Once you get over that fear, you will learn to love the delicious local street food that is not only yummy but also so affordable! Knowing some Thai helps when ordering food as well because you can inquire about certain ingredients that make up dishes (especially good if you have any allergies!).

English Teachers in Thailand

Even if you hear a constant giggle every time you try to speak in Thai to your students, they appreciate it more than you will ever know! 

6. Know what helps you de-stress

Having worked as a teacher in the US and now as a teacher in both a Thai school and an International school in Thailand, I can confidently say that the jobs I have had here are a lot more stress free than the one I had in Chicago. That being said, adjusting to a new country and starting a new job at the same time is something that is bound to be stressful in the beginning. Before coming to Thailand, take some time to think about the things that help you de-stress. Maybe it is talking to a friend, exploring your new surroundings, reading a book, listening to music, or meditating. Whatever it is that helps you when you get stressed out, make sure to turn to that person or thing when your life in Thailand becomes overwhelming.

I hope these tips are helpful for those thinking of moving to teach in Thailand or those who have just made the leap. Thailand is an incredible country that has so much to offer if you just open your mind and your heart to the experience!

To get more advice about travelling and teaching in Thailand, check out Stella`s blog www.stellasout.com.

Are you working as an English Teacher in Thailand? How did your first week go in your new school and what kind of advice you would give? Comment below, as we would love to hear from you!

Making a Difference as an English Teacher in Thailand

Making a Difference as an English Teacher in Thailand

Have you ever wondered if you can actually make a positive difference as an English teacher abroad? We are so proud to bring you the story of Jazz McClure, an XploreAsia alumni who truly embraced an opportunity to make a change in her students lives, and took getting involved in a community to another level by planning, rehearsing, and performing a musical with her students!

I got my TESOL certification this past October in Chiang Mai. Currently, I’m teaching at a secondary school in Isaan, in Sakhon Nakon province. My semester has been rigorous, but I’ve loved it. This is exactly what I was looking for in coming to Thailand. I hold a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, and hope to pursue graduate studies, but I find myself teetering on my options (a career in ESL being one of them). I wanted to get a feel for this line of work before jumping into my masters. Yet after this experience, it feels right to continue teaching abroad for a while. I’m leaving Thailand after this semester though, and am going to look for work in Korea.

They learned all their lines in English, 7 songs and dances, and helped make all the props. I’m mighty proud of them!”

Jazz McClure

English Teacher in Isaan, Thailand

What inspired you to do the musical? Have you done something similar before?

Yes! I was heavily involved in the theatre when I was in high school. So from the minute I got here I had been looking for ways to get involved with the students musically. But after failing to find any type of choir or music club, I started to feel like there just wasn’t an opportunity. Thank god for Fallon, though. Hailing from the UK, she’s another new teacher who also comes from a theatre background. One Friday night, over a few cold ones on our balcony, we hatched this hazy idea to do our own musical. The veteran teachers said the kids would love it, and suggestions began spilling from all of us faster than we could keep up with. I went to sleep that night with my brain swirling in ideas, hoping that we could somehow pull this off.

making a difference as an english teacher


The cheerleaders, who even choreographed their own cheer for the show!

How did your students and fellow teachers react to the activity? Where they excited straight away, or did it require some convincing first?

Oh, I’m laughing as I write this! Let’s just say that musicals are NOT a thing in Thailand. So yes, the idea required a lot of convincing! I think the concept of singing and dancing to songs that are a part of the story was strange to them. We actually had to go into our classrooms and pitch the show to the students, telling them they would get extra credit if they joined. At first, they seemed so unenthused, but after one or two students said they’d do it, more and more kept running to the office like, “Teacher! I want to do the musical too!” That went on for weeks!

Teacher Fallon with Best, who played Ms. Darbus

Can you elaborate on what the activity consisted in?

Who was involved in the planning and execution of the process?

After weighing our options, we decided to do a simplified version of High School Musical. The songs are easy, the English is reasonable, it appeals to a young audience, it teaches students about the culture of their American counterparts, and the kids could wear their own clothes for costumes (hands in the air for a $15 production!) Yet even with a simple story, getting it all together was not easy. We wrote a script, cut songs, added songs, played with harmonies, and held auditions. I made a proposal to my boss, who translated to the higher powers and asked if we could have stage time for rehearsals. I think he was cynical at first about being able to pull the show off, but once he saw how invested the students were, he was incredibly supportive, and even started coming to rehearsals to watch.  

How often and when did you do the rehearsals, and how did you manage to find extra time?

We started practicing at the end of November, and just performed the show on Valentine’s Day. When classes were cancelled for things like Sports Week, we’d have big group rehearsals. For the main characters, we practiced mostly during lunch, or whenever they had free time. Sometimes, it was when they came running to the office with lyrics in hand and only 10 minutes to spare! After we could run the whole show, we started rehearsing on the stage after school. We usually stayed for about an hour 3-4 nights a week.

How do you think this has made a difference in your students’ lives?

The three M6 students in the show. They were really glad to so something like this the year they graduated!

I think it’s made a huge difference in their lives. First off, it must be hard for them to build relationships with their foreign teachers. The Thai school system usually sees a new foreign teacher every semester and, since the students are shy, having a stranger in the classroom every six months must be challenging. The musical was a good way for them to shake their shyness and feel comfortable with us. It also was our way to show them that we cared enough to spend an extra ten hours a week with them!

Bonding aside, the show forced them to speak a lot of English. They were exposed to new vocabulary, both about American high schools and about the theatre, and got to dabble in expressions that young English speakers use all the time.

In what way did you see the difference and growth in your students throughout the rehearsals and after the performance?

There is one student who envelops this the most. The M4 boy we cast to play Ryan was hesitant to accept the role; he didn’t think he was good enough to play the part. Even during rehearsals, he was always doubting his capacity. Fallon and I were always encouraging him, and that combined with unwavering support from the other students helped him have some faith in himself. As we neared the end of rehearsals, he and the girl playing Sharpay were stealing the show! Every time we did a run-through, they would add some new pose or reaction to different scenes, and by the time we performed, some of the funniest things in the show were things Fallon and I didn’t even stage. Seeing our Ryan so uplifted by his friends and watching his development into this super awesome character filled me with unspeakable pride.

making a difference as an english teacher in Thailand

Check out this inspirational video that Teacher Jazz put together of High Thai School Musical!

Would you like to do this again? Would you encourage other teachers to do something similar?

Yes, I would. It was the unrivalled, absolute best part of my time here. And yes, I suggest other teachers do the same! I know it’s hard when there really isn’t a process to start your own activity at the school, but if you’re passionate about it, the Thai teachers will see that and they will help you. They want what’s best for the students, too. When we were finished with the show, they kept thanking us for taking time do to that with the kids. My advice is to find something you love and try to share it with them. There are so many things that would resonate with these kids: a sports club, an art club, a chess club, a theatre club, a glee club…even an anime club! If you can find your fit, you’ll amplify your relationships with your students and see how truly awesome they can be…and maybe even convince them of their own awesomeness, too!

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