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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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).
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.
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.
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.