Teaching in Thailand can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Here are our top ten tips to ensuring your experience teaching in Thailand is an unforgettable one.
Teaching in Thailand: Top Ten Tips
Find Inspiration Every Day
As often as possible, document your journey. Upon arriving in Thailand everything is new and fascinating. Journaling about the adventures of every moment is exciting. Filling a camera with photos of majestic temples, postcard-worthy beaches and super happy selfies is unavoidable. But eventually, finding the time for those things can be challenging. Discover a perspective you’re passionate about and blog, journal, draw, photograph or do whatever will allow you to express and share the things that inspire you.
Release All Expectations
Many things work and function very differently in Thailand than they do in other parts of the World. For people who are used to being in control of most day-to-day situations this can become an extremely frustrating part of adapting to the new culture. Detach from your ego, accept the way things are and be willing to let little things go without feeling the need to rationalize them. When unexpected challenges arise at school, always remember to ask, “Why am I teaching?” Your answer will keep the big picture in perspective.
Accept the Truths of Being a Teacher
As the saying goes, you only truly appreciate your teachers if you become one. This role has an amazing ability to inspire humility and a sense of duty to the school community and beyond. Teaching in Thailand is so much more than just a job. In Thailand, teaching is seen as a virtuous service regarded with a lot of respect. The fact that this title follows you even outside of school is a blessing in disguise. Accept the responsibility and know that you have the opportunity to make a lasting impression on many lives.
Learn Some Thai
Becoming fluent in the Thai language is not realistic in the 1-2 years most teachers spend here, but with some time and commitment anyone can speak enough to impress the locals. There are endless resources online to get you off to a good start. Practice with Thai teachers, chat with people at markets and become a regular at cafés to make some Thai friends. My favorite website has been thai-language.com. This site also has a wonderful iPhone app that I probably use more than any social media app.
Develop Healthy Habits
Whether you’re a health nut or someone who can’t seem to find the time for an active lifestyle, develop healthy routines as soon as you settle into your new home. Find a go-to food stall that provides healthy options with lots of vegetables. Walk and explore as much as possible. Sign up at a gym or create a little workout space in your apartment. If you have never practiced some form of meditation, use this journey in Thailand to at least explore it. I guarantee 20-30 minutes of meditation every day for a month will change your life. Teaching in Thailand is an exciting job, but it’s exhausting. Add the intense Thai heat to the mix and there will be days when you can’t seem to function after 6pm. Eating well, exercising often and focusing on your mental health will give you the extra energy needed to prevent sleep-ins and inspire amazing adventures.
Developing friendships and being accepted into Thai circles is a very important part of the Thailand experience. Make a conscious effort to start learning names of students and teachers from day one. Knowing students by name will help build strong relationships with your classes, which in turn will motivate them to participate in that ‘community’. Remembering the names of the Thai teachers you see every day will create instant bonds. They will see that as a sign of respect and will accept you into the teacher family when they recognize you putting in the effort to acknowledge them.
“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” – Dale Carnegie, How to Make Friends and Influence People
You’ll quickly discover that Thai teachers love to share food. If you have dietary restrictions or happen to be a vegetarian (mangsa-wee-rat) like myself, you’ll find Thais will go out of their way to find you some wonderful food that meets your needs. Return the favor. Take time every few days to grab some fruit from a local market or just pick up some treats from Lotus that you can share at your school. This simple, kind gesture will go a long ways.
Participate in Activities
When teaching in Thailand you’ll experience so much more than the classroom. Schools in Thailand have many events and activities throughout the school year. Whether it’s one of the countless Buddhist holidays, a Thai-style Christmas celebration, or the infamous Sport Day, ask your students and the Thai teachers what’s going on around school and how you can be a part of it. Some activities will feel very random and spontaneous. Be proactive and find out what food to bring, what color to wear and when to bust out your camera.
Incorporate Cultural Experiences
When possible, bring some personal background into the school. Halloween, Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day are great times to bring your Western culture and experience. Students and teachers love learning customs and traditions from your home countries. Dressing up a bit and planning fun lessons and activities during these times of the year brings a lot of excitement to the office and into the classroom. Here is a link to an easy paper Christmas tree design that makes for an awesome lesson: http://krokotak.com/2013/11/fold-a-fir-tree/
Have this Adventure for You
Everyone comes to Thailand for different reasons. Whether pushed here by the struggles of the past or pulled by possibilities of the future, experience this journey for yourself. The time spent here will make a great story. Allow it to be a story of learning and growth and gaining new perspectives. Don’t forget home, just maintain awareness in each moment and be present.
Zach came to Thailand in 2014 and served one year as an English teacher. His experience in the classroom and traveling around the country inspired him to become a TESOL instructor with XploreAsia and help future teachers adapt as they begin their journeys.
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What are your tips for teaching in Thailand? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!