Where It All Began
So let me tell you about this crazy adventure known as the “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages course” (or TESOL, for short). It all begins as soon as you step onto the ground floor at the airport in Bangkok. XploreAsia arranges for an airport pickup in one of their spacious, air conditioned vans (groovy, right?) and brings you straight to your temporary accommodation where you can meet up with all your co-teachers and friends-to-be.
After some rest and relaxation, the journey to becoming a TESOL certified teacher begins. This process is filled with both essential information and training for becoming an effective teacher, as well as a cultural orientation that involves sights and experiences that give you an intimate look into the face of Thailand. From a gorgeous mountain-top Buddhist temple, a pineapple plantation, to an elephant sanctuary where you actually get to FEED the elephants pineapples, you will find yourself falling in love with this tropical country. But let’s not forget the most important part: learning the art of teaching. Let’s get into the details:
The Cultural Orientation
The cultural orientation experience includes in-class learning and in-the-field excursions to an amazing variety of exotic locations. The orientation begins with a series of animated and engaging lectures on Thai culture and politics by Michael Volpe. He gives you the low-down on the customs, politics, history, and taboos of the nation.
These discussions are followed by some stunning field trips that expose you to the look and feel of Thai geography and culture. The trip to the mountain-top temple on the beach was a deeply calming and spiritual experience. After climbing up the gnarled and winding steps carved into the mountain, I sat under an ornate stone gazebo that lay at the foot of a giant, golden meditating Buddha statue. I just sat there listening to the soft whisper of the waves and the breath of the wind, and it was beautiful. Likewise, going to the pineapple plantation and collecting pineapples to feed elephants was equally inspiring.
It was amazing to behold such giant and powerful creatures that could crush you in an instant, yet had the ability to be so gentle when they took the pineapple out of your hands with their trunks.
Now, I’m not trying to scare you, but you have to fight a Muay Thai boxer and survive in order to pass the orientation. Just kidding, you don’t have to survive. But seriously, XploreAsia offers an exciting Muay Thai boxing lesson with REAL Muay Thai specialists! The realest of the real! They’re actually Thai! And if you enjoy physical activity or martial arts this excursion offers a safe and respectful learning environment to practice Thailand’s most famous martial art.
These excursions are all topped off with Thai language classes that will help you learn how to speak like the locals. Upon completion of the course, you will be welcomed to your new TESOL certified world with a beautiful beach barbeque and ceremony with all your new friends!
Let’s take a look at the course itself.
The TESOL Course
The TESOL course is taught by individuals who have been on the front lines of teaching. They are seasoned with real-life experience and are here to guide you in everything from setting up a bank account, to finding a placement, to teaching a classroom full of children. The course itself has been hugely instrumental in my ability as a teacher and has equipped me with the tools to navigate the teaching environment. The course includes:
- Teaching theory and different teaching methods
- How to structure a lesson plan and curriculum
- How to teach language skills
- Classroom management techniques
- What various age groups mean and school expectations
Notice the “Camp” there in all caps? Yeah, pretty eye-catching isn’t it. Well this event will probably be one of the most exciting of the entire course. After weeks of training and practice lessons in the security of your TESOL cocoon, you will dive into the wild waters of an actual Thai school! Don’t worry, mama bird will be nearby to help you fly if you need it, but you will mostly be making your own lessons for the 2-day camp with your partner and then letting it loose upon several classrooms filled with adorable Thai children. This is the testing grounds that will catapult you into teaching readiness. I am so grateful that the camp was part of the curriculum because not only did it prepare me like nothing else could, but it also was huge relief from the emotional burden of doubt.
After actually experiencing a Thai classroom I realized that the students aren’t sharks hungry for my tears, they are in fact mostly cooperative and polite students who only occasionally need to be reminded to be respectful. This allowed me to go into the first day of my new job as a TESOL teacher with confidence and knowledge.
Written by: Brian Mule