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Trying ESL Teaching in Thailand for the First Time

"ESL teaching has encouraged me to constantly look for ways to improve myself and taught me how to learn from experiences. Teaching has forced me to grow, adapt and improve."

Coming into ESL teaching from a completely different field can be a huge challenge. In a very raw and honest blog post, one of our recent TESOL graduates shares his struggles and how he overcame them. With a background in Finance, Declan was thrown into a completely different working environment which made him learn how to approach problems in a new way. ESL teaching can be tough at first, but, as Declan explains, there are lots of ways to help yourself and your students if you take it step by step. Sometimes the most important lessons you learn from teaching abroad have nothing to do with what’s on the TESOL syllabus.

I graduated university in December of 2018.  It took way longer to get my degree than it could’ve, but there I was, degree in Finance firmly in hand. As much as I’d also earned a sense of accomplishment that I’d achieved something that began as an idea years ago, I only had to scratch just a little bit below the surface before I started asking myself: “What the hell am I going to do for a career?”

XploreAsia offers training in ESL teaching in a group setting so that you can support each toher through your individual journeys.

I quickly realised that maybe I wasn’t ready for a “career”-type job yet. If I rushed into something without being certain of what I wanted, I may come to regret it.  So, I decided to take a gap year.  Teaching had always appealed to me, and it was something I’d always thought I would be able to do well, so when I discovered the opportunity to teach in Thailand, I quickly jumped onboard.

Fast forward a few months of saving like crazy and trying (and failing) to plan everything, I had landed in Thailand.  The month in Hua Hin with XploreAsia, was amazing; I had a fantastic time and truly didn’t want it to end. I’d made lots of new friends, had built up confidence, and felt that I could live in Thailand. I felt reasonably settled. I was feeling very excited for what the next chapter had in store. I’d gained a couple of days of teaching experience through XploreAsia that went particularly well. I enjoyed them immensely and felt like I’d delivered great lessons. However, this success only added to my misplaced arrogance and naïvety as to how I thought I’d be as a teacher.

ESL teaching offers opportunities to truly bond with your students, but it can be a learning curve.

Walking into my new school, ready to teach maths to 13-year-olds, reality quickly came to smack me in the face.  For the first few weeks, I constantly had this feeling of being overwhelmed, lost and entirely hopeless as to where to begin.  I remember walking into my first few classes, looking around the room to see who was going to be in charge, only to have it dawn on me that I was to be in charge. My lesson plans didn’t go as well as I’d envisioned, and I started to lose faith in them. It felt as though I was drowning. I thought I was failing at a career I thought I would so naturally and effortlessly thrive in. I knew I needed to change my approach to things.

Lean on Your Peers with ESL Teaching Experience

Teaching can be a big adjustment, but an amazing adventure. Remember to breathe, and try to remember what you learning during your TESOL course.
ESL teaching is made much easier by asking for support from your colleagues. Chances are, all new teachers are feel a little unsure at first.

One of the things that got me through those first few months, was turning to my new international support group. I didn’t want to tell my family that I was having problems in case I worried them. Luckily, I’d made friends through XploreAsia and sharing my problems with them set my mind at ease. To hear from them about similar struggles and feelings normalized what I was going through and instilled me with a great deal of comfort. I’d encourage madly that you should remain in contact with your good friends you will make whilst completing your TESOL. The new ESL teaching experience may throw the world at you- and it certianly was a very new experience for me- so to have someone to talk to openly and honestly, someone who could potentially be in the same boat as you, will help soothe your troubles and be very therapeutic.

I also began to keep a daily journal to write down how each class went. Writing in the journal was great, it gave me an outlet for my emotions, and provided tangible evidence of the improvements I was making in my teaching ability.  I began to try to include at least one successful and positive thing that I had achieved in each class.

Try New Activities in the Classroom

I was also lucky that my parents had raised me to become relentlessly optimistic and determined.  If my classes were going horrible, I wanted to change that.  First off, I had to shelve my pride, and embrace my failures to be able to see what wasn’t working. This gave me the confidence to experiment with new techniques and strategies in class. I worked hard to research and improve my management skills and to also keep my lessons interesting by adding new activities. If something didn’t work, I would switch to a new idea to find what my students responded best to.

Sometimes it really pays off to be creative and silly in the classroom.

I embodied the expression ‘anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly.’ If a new activity I implemented in class didn’t go so well, it was still better than not trying new things at all.

Ask for Feedback (Even if it’s Hard to Hear)

Asking for feedback from my peers after my lessons took some courage; it was challenging having my lessons dissected and critically analysed by other teachers. However, I’d made a promise earlier to be open and honest with myself, so hearing some negative feedback wasn’t too soul crushing. As it was such a new career path, I was still learning about ESL teaching and the advice turned out to be invaluable.

Having a fellow teacher observe can really help you build your teaching knowledge.

The advice I was given was hugely beneficial and implementing it in the following lessons returned huge successes: my lessons were running smoother, I had the students under some control, and I was able to keep the children more engaged throughout the class.

To wrap up my first few months of ESL teaching in Thailand, I would say it was much more of a rollercoaster than I was anticipating. Although I’ve had some low moments, I’ve also had some adorable and warm highs and learned more about ymself than I have done during any other time in my life.

ESL teaching has encouraged me to constantly look for ways to improve myself and has taught me how to learn from experiences. Teaching has forced me to grow, adapt and improve. It has also taught me to accept that there are some things I can’t do well from the get-go, and that’s fine. I believe that if we are honest with ourselves, we can handle any situation thrown at us. We can’t be anything more than our best, and we should be comfortable with that, even if our best isn’t always perfect.

If you want to take on a new challenge, why not check out our TESOL courses? ESL teaching abroad can give you a chance to improve not only your own confidence and problem-solving skills, but also to make a huge impact on your students and the local community.

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