Life as a teacher in Chachoengsao
Dear Samui TEFL Considerer,
Today I had one of those moments of realising exactly how far I had come. I was sitting cross legged on the floor of the Kindergarten enrichment room watching my students as they were told a story by the Thai teacher. It, of course, was all in Thai but her movements and liveliness needed little translation and the children’s glittering eyes followed every turn of the page. I peeked out the window to see if the moody weather had once again changed only to find the vivid red roof of the temple next-door splashed against the bright blue sky. These are the magical moments of teaching in Thailand.
Let me say that if you currently have even a glimmer of thought about the Samui TEFL course, do it! It taught me everything I needed to know about teaching English to non-English speakers but more than that it taught me so much about myself both in and out of the classroom. It was one of the most frightening and beautiful experiences of my life just as teaching is. Equal parts frustrating and wonderful.
I am currently employed through Teachers for Thailand and decided to work for a temple school here in Chachoengsao. It’s about an hour and a half outside of Bangkok which means that you get the opportunity to explore the city on the weekend but don’t have to deal with the higher cost of living. In all honesty, it was a shock to go from the vibrant and lush location of Samui to such a small town where you catch people looking at you, the foreigner, no matter where you go. What came to enrapture me about this place is my fellow teachers both foreign and Thai. The school I work for has an extensive English program meaning that there are twenty-five other English teachers at my school alone. There are also two other schools in the area who employ English teachers making for a large and mostly welcoming community. In just these few short months I know I have created long lasting friendships. These are the people with whom you spend your free time. There have been weekends exploring the region with Bat Temples and giant pink Ganesha statues but also weekends that saw a lot of Netflix and Pizza Company.
As for the school, I am currently teaching Kindergarten, which is its own beast. The first week or so consisted of a lot of blank faces. I felt taken aback in the staff room when my fellow teachers in higher grades were telling me about conversations they had with their students when mine couldn’t even tell me their names. I had to adjust my tactics and used a lot of miming and modelling to get my students to understand what I was trying to get them to do. The first week just like that of the TEFL course was the hardest because you don’t know the rhythm just yet.
To break it down a little further in terms of the school environment, it’s very laid back. We sign in and out via a sheet that the administration holds us accountable for as well as the ability to leave school grounds for lunch. My workday usually involves getting there at about 7:15am, teaching from 8:30 – 11:00am, lunch from 11:00am -2:00pm and then back in the classroom for the last block of teaching from 2:30-3:30pm. They don’t require lesson plans, however, I do make myself small ones as a general guideline for what I am trying to accomplish in a lesson. Even in kindergarten you get given a set of school books as your piloted curriculum. Again, because I am teaching kindergarten, 5 years old to be exact, I teach all the subjects with main focuses on math and English of course. We have free access to printers and computers. The classrooms come with air conditioning. However, try to be ready ahead of time because things break or the electricity goes out and then you are left empty handed and sweaty.
I came to Thailand with almost no expectations but a lot of research. I knew for the most part what I was getting myself into, but I’m still surprised by how much I have enjoyed all aspects of my time here, even the ones that felt difficult at first. It’s been a defining experience in my life even after only being here a few months. However, one of the things I discovered during my time in the classroom at Samui TEFL is my wish to go back to school. I wanted this experience to travel and maybe save a little bit of money while trying out what it means to be a teacher in some form or another. What I found was that my desire to be a teacher goes hand in hand with my desire to be a student. I had no thoughts about whether this would be long term or a “gap year” but with my impending need to apply for Masters programs for next fall it appears I will be returning home sooner than I thought.
My advice even as a gap year – it’s worth it. Take the leap because it has changed my life in so many ways even just after 3 months. It’s one of those feelings, you know when you’re shaking with anticipation just before a roller coaster and with each step you can feel your heart beat a little faster then after you’ve made that first run you want to go again? Well buckling your seat belt on the plane will feel the same as buckling your seat into a roller coaster, you will want to do it all over again.
With Love and Wanderlust,
The Exuberant Traveler (Molly Butler, Samui TEFL graduate)
Samui TEFL Blog