Teaching, as a profession, is never easy. Add in a language barrier and communication conflicts and that'll kick things up a notch.
Welcome to teaching in Thailand.
I teach kindergarten and primary students in Nakhon Ratchasima (“Korat” for short) at Plookpanya School, a private school situated on eight acres of farmland on the outskirts of the city. The campus is beautiful and massive; there are classrooms for pre-K students to high school students.
An early start
My days start bright and early at 6:00 a.m. I have to be at school no later than 7:30 in the morning, so I like to give myself time to wake up and drink plenty of coffee. (I’ve never been great at waking up early.)
My partner, Justin and I are usually out the door by 7:15. We hop on our motorbike and head to school, which is only about 500 metres from our apartment. It’s not a far walk, but we like to save ourselves from getting drenched with sweat before the day even begins.
Once we arrive at school, we scan our school ID cards at the gate and greet the teachers standing in front of the school for gate duty. Every couple of weeks, Justin and I have gate duty ourselves, so we have to arrive even earlier to drop our bags in our offices and get to the school gate at 7:30 on the dot.
If I don't have gate duty, I'll settle into my office, enjoying my coffee while I check my email. I usually try to prepare any activities or crafts I plan to do that day beforehand, so I'm not rushing around in the morning trying to finalize my lesson plans.
Mornings with kindergarten
Every day, my mornings are busy from 8:30 until 11:00 with nursery classes (ages 2-3), followed by my K1 classes (ages 3-4) four times a week and my K3 classes (ages 5-6), one time a week. The curriculum in nursery and kindergarten is focused on Jolly Phonics—a UK-based curriculum that covers the 42 main sounds in English.
Each week, I focus on a different letter and sound. I like to keep my classes active and fun, with lots of interactive songs, dances, games, activities, and crafts, all based around the letter and sound of the week. I enjoy the flexibility I have in planning my lessons and the ability to be creative. I hope the students are enjoying it, too.
While I wish I could spend every day on a Thai island, sipping fresh coconut water and getting paid for it, that's not my reality.
Phew, my mornings are busy. But after 11:00, I have a nice break until lunch at 12:30. This gives me time to take a bit of a breather and prepare any activities for the week or upcoming weeks. I'll also use the time to check over students' papers and worksheets.
Our hour-long lunch break is always the highlight of my day. It’s nice to catch-up with other teachers and enjoy a tasty (free!) meal. Every day, the kitchen staff prepares delicious food. They try to use as many fresh ingredients from the on-site farm and garden as they can—vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat, herbs. . . you name it. Even if what they make isn't from the farm, they still try to source locally.
Afternoons with primary
My afternoons are spent on the primary side of the school. Four times a week, I co-teach an upper-level English skills course with the grade five and six students (ages 10-12). These students are at the top of their class in English, so we focus on researching, writing essays and presenting.
In addition to these primary courses, I’m responsible for planning an afternoon after-school class for my K1 students two times a week. For this class, I plan different themes every three weeks. Every class, we'll warm up with songs and dance and then work on a craft that falls under the theme of the week. Once the students finish their craft, I'll read them a story that continues with the theme.
If I don't have any after-school classes, I'll do a few preparations for the day ahead. Then, it's out the door around 4:30 in the afternoon and back to our apartment. I try to end the day with a short yoga session when I can—it's a nice way to unwind after a day with young students.
Then, it’s usually dinner-time with a fun show or movie before an early lights out. The alarm goes off early, after all, and we need the rest do it all over again the next day.
In the end
While I wish I could spend every day on a Thai island, sipping fresh coconut water and getting paid for it, that's not my reality. Most days, I'm at school. I work hard, and save as much money as I can so I'm able to travel when I can.
Despite not being able to travel as much as I'd like to (I mean, wouldn't we all like to travel more?), simply living and teaching in Thailand has been a wonderful way to immerse myself in the Thai culture and make so many wonderful connections with students, families, and teachers. I'm incredibly thankful to have these opportunities every single day.Add this article to your reading list