Survival Thai for the Classroom

My students hard at work
My students hard at work

I find in my own daily teaching that Thai commands are much more effective than English ones. I can’t count the number of times I ‘shushed’ my class just to have them all mimic me loudly for the next 5 minutes because it means nothing to them. Here are the commands or words I find the most effective (or just the most fun to use):

*sidenote: pair this guide with the Pronunciation Guide for super Thai speaking abilities!

1. ‘Nee-Up!’ (knee-up): “Quiet!” Emphasize the ‘nee’. For maximum results, deliver loudly and harshly.

 2. ‘Liaow Liaow’ (lee-ow lee-ow): Hurry Up! Quickly!” I find this phrase most effective when my students are dragging their feet to do something, like leaving the classroom or getting out their books.

3. ‘Put Maak!’ (poot mawk): “You’re talking too much!” This is usually delivered as a scolding. I bust this baby out when my students won’t stop talking. Very effective.

4. ‘Kao Jai Mai?’ (cow jye my): “Do you understand?” If the students’ English level is low, this is a great way to check for understanding. I love it when my all-male classes answer me with a resounding ‘Kahp!’ (Yes!)

Monks I taught in Chiang Mai for 3 weeks
Monks I taught in Chiang Mai for 3 weeks

 5. ‘Put Tam’ (poot tom): “Repeat”. If you can’t get your students to repeat after you, throw one of these out there.

6. ‘Alai-na?’ (uh-lie-nah): “What was that? Come again?” The respectful way to ask, huh?

 7. ‘T-t-t-t’: Okay, I have no idea how to write out this sound, but it’s a clicking sound made behind your teeth, like when you call a cat or something. If you put your finger in front of you in the ‘quiet’ formation and do this, it means the same thing as “Shh!”. Thai’s don’t use “Shh”, and I often find it has the opposite effect that I’m looking for (aka, the kids find it hilarious).

8. “Bai Lao!” (bye laow): “Let’s go! Here we go!” This phrase has a lot of meanings, but whichever one you’re going for, it’s best used with enthusiasm.

Do you have any Thai phrases you use in class to add to the list? Let me know! Email me at leavesfrmthevine@gmail.com

Quick Thai Pronunciation Guide

My Thai teacher Aom and I
My Thai teacher Aom and I

 
This Pronunciation Guide focuses on sounds in the Thai language that are difficult for English-speakers to pronounce (I base this on personal experience, here). I have tried to use the same spelling you see out and about in Thailand to make it easier. Enjoy!
 
 
 
 

  • ‘bp’ as in ‘bpai’ (go):

The bp sound is a difficult one to make for a lot of foreign speakers, as it’s the simultaneous sound of a b and p. You could describe it as a harder and more aspirated ‘b’.

  •  ‘k’ or ‘kg’ as in ‘kung’ (shrimp):

This is an extremely difficult sound to make. It’s like a ‘g’ sound (as in go), but you make the sound farther back in your throat and shorten it so that it’s more like a ‘k’.

  •  ‘ph’ as in ‘phet’ (spice):

This is just like a ‘p’ sound but more aspirated, like you’re whispering, hence the h in the spelling. Add some air to that P! Unfortunately, some people read it like English and make the f sound. No! Hard P only. Don’t be like that person who said ‘fuck-it’ instead of Phuket! (poo-ket)

  •  ‘th’ as in ‘Thai’ (Thai):

Just like the ph sound, the th is always a hard ‘t’ like in time. One of my favorite parts of Hangover 2 is when Alan keeps calling it ‘Thigh-land’ in his speech at the reception dinner. Don’t be like Alan!

  •  ‘v’ as in ‘Suvarnabumi’ (the major international airport in Bangkok):

One of the most confusing things about Thai language is the ‘v’ and ‘w’ mix-up. If you’ve ever taught English, you know most Thais find it confusing too! The ‘v’ sound in Thai is always pronounced like a ‘w’, as in water.

  •  ‘r’ as in ‘tao rai’ (how much?)

Like the ‘v’ sound in Thai, the ‘r’ is not usually pronounced as an English r. Thais have a difficult time pronouncing it, so it usually comes out as a straight ‘l’ sound, like in ‘love’. Sometimes the r is trilled like a Spanish r, but that is considered more formal.

  •  ‘ai’ as in ‘mai’ (no/not):

This is an easy sound to make, it sounds like the ‘I’ in kite and it’s very difficult to mess up.

  •  ‘ae’ as in ‘gafae’ (a):

This sound is a bit more tricky. It’s like the ‘a’ in apple meets the ‘eh’ sound and is drawn out a little longer. My Thai teacher taught me to show my whole tongue when I say it to help make the sound.

  •  ‘ao’ as in ‘mao’ (drunk):

This sounds just the way it looks, like the ‘ow’ sound in ‘ouch’.

  •  ‘iaow’ as in guay tiaow (noodle soup):

This is a group of sounds found in a lot of words and is pronounced like ‘ee-ow’, as in ‘knee’ and ‘ouch’

  •  ‘i’ as in ‘ti ni’ (here) and ‘i’ as in ‘sip’ (ten)

The ‘i’ in Thai is used to note both the ‘ee’ sound, like in ‘knee’ and the ‘i’ sound like in ‘lip’.

  •  ‘u’ as in ‘wan gur’ (birthday)

The ‘u’ sound in Thai is tricky, as it often sounds more like ‘uh’, as in ‘what’. It’s much more guttural. 

Have any questions about this guide? Shoot me an email at leavesfrmthevine@gmail.com

Brushing up on your Spanish

learnspanish2Now that I’ve applied to the Auxiliares and BEDA programs it’s the waiting game for the next few months. So, what’s a good way to pass the time? By brushing up on a little español. I’ve listed here the free websites I’ve been using to practice Spanish, and some info about their benefits and drawbacks:

 

1. Duolingo: Emphasizes grammar and sentence structure over vocabulary, but still exposes you to a lot of vocabulary this way.

 What I like:

  • Uses listening and speaking (there is a microphone application that allows you to practice verbal translating and pronunciation)
  • Placement test option which lets you skip the more basic skills you already know
  • Builds on previous vocabulary and grammar so you maintain those lessons as you go along
  • Tests at the end of each unit allow you to measure your understanding
  • Diversity of questions keeps your mind active and engaged
  • Tells you the different ways you can say the same thing, which helps for learning more ‘natural’ Spanish
  • Points and levels give you tangible goals to work towards
  • Progress bar at the top shows you how close you are to finishing the lesson
  • Introductions at the bottom give you the gist of the ‘rules’ or grammar you are working on
  • You can get the app on our phone!

 What I don’t like:

  •  Minimal vocabulary introduced in each unit (usually around 10 words)
  • No practice of the ‘vosotros’ form

Who I would recommend this site to: Anyone really, from a total beginner to an advanced student that wants some practice with grammar and vocabulary

 2. Memrise: Works more like a series of flashcards and therefore stresses vocabulary and sayings more than grammar.

 What I like:

  • You have the option to select an image to go with the word or saying you’re studying. I found them generally funny and helpful
  • Flashcard set-up exposes you to the word over and over again, helps with memory
  • Carries vocabulary words and sayings so that you get to keep using and practicing them
  • Spanish sayings and vocabulary are very useful for daily life, especially if you have no Spanish skills yet
  • You can get the app on your phone!

 What I don’t like:

  •  Each lesson is quite long and there is no progress bar to see how much further you have to go
  • There is no real introduction to grammar or vocabulary, it just starts showing you basic structures and you are supposed to remember them (no instruction)

Who I would recommend this site to: Someone who wants a vocabulary refresher for basic Spanish or someone who has very little knowledge of Spanish

3. Lang8: This is my favorite website to use. You write journal entries in the language you are practicing and native speakers edit them for you sentence by sentence.

 What I like:

  • You can add friends, which allows you to develop pen pals that you can practice with more regularly.
  • Capability to add Skype information to your profile, so you could potentially Skype your new friends!
  • Mutually beneficial. You can edit the entries of people who are trying to learn English, which I find to be fun, interesting, and rewarding.
  • Editors look for grammar and spelling, but also for ‘natural flow’. This was super helpful for me, because I wanted help with writing more fluently and sounding more ‘Spanish’. I have already improved a lot just after a few entries.
  • You often get multiple editors which ensures that no mistakes go unnoticed!
  • Allows you to be creative and write about whatever you’d like, which keeps you more engaged and interested in your Spanish learning.
  • The editors are really patient, even when you make a lot of mistakes

 What I don’t like:

  •  Nothing! I love this site.

 Who I recommend this to: Someone with more advanced knowledge of Spanish who wants more complex practice or an enthusiastic beginner.

Do you have any sites you find helpful in practicing Spanish? Any experience with these ones? Let me know! Email me at leavesfrmthevine@gmail.com

How to Apply to the Auxiliares de Conversación Program in Spain

auxiliarespic In this post, I will (hopefully) give you all of the information you need about applying to the Auxiliares de Conversación Program for North Americans in Spain. I know there are already a lot of ‘How to Apply’ posts out there, but I have attempted to combine the most important information and answers to many recurring questions all in one place, here in this blog post. There’s a lot of information here, so feel free to skip down to your specific questions or concerns!

Step 1: Start Researching and Gathering Necessary Materials

Documents you will need for the application:

1. A scanned PDF copy of your college transcript or diploma

 Many people have asked whether an unofficial transcript is acceptable in place of an official one or a diploma. I have read in a few places of people who submitted unofficial transcripts only and were admitted. However, that being said, if you are a worrier like me it may be best to order a copy of your official transcript and scan it to your computer. You will need it one day anyways, so you might as well get it now if you have the time! A scanned copy of your diploma will work just fine as well (that’s what I used).

2. A PDF copy of a letter of recommendation from a professor (if you graduated university in the last 5 years) or an employer

The guidelines for the letter can be found here, but basically it needs to be on official university letterhead and signed by the author. Tips: I highly recommend you send out a request sooner rather than later, and give your letter-author at least 2-4 weeks to write it for you. You don’t want to be like me, worrying during the days leading up to the application because you don’t have it yet. Apparently you can mail it in separately, but just make it easer on yourself by having it sent directly to you via email so you can upload it right onto your app.

3. A letter of intent written in English or Spanish 

This should be about 300 words long and should have your name signed at the bottom and should be addressed to your regional coordinator, whose name and address can be found at the bottom of this page. Tips: Many people have asked, what if it’s not quite 300 words? What if it’s too many words? What if I submitted it but didn’t sign it? From my research, it seems like the program doesn’t put too much stock in this letter and as long as it’s around 300 words, you should be fine. Update: this year my regional coordinator asked me to physically sign the letter and re-upload it. However, my boyfriend was moved to ‘admitada’ status by the same coordinator without signing his. I’d recommend signing it just in case.

*2nd years are apparently required to write it in Spanish

4. The first page of your passport, scanned

Tips: Don’t have a passport at the moment? Have a temporary passport? Then you may be better off trying to organize the arrival of your permanent passport by the end of January. Since your online application doesn’t have to be completely finished when you apply, you can take some time getting your hands on your passport. That being said, please do yourself a favor and get this taken care of BEFORE January. It will save you a lot of stress, I promise! When that baby shows up in the mail January 30th, you can take a breather knowing you still have time to scan and upload it.

Things I Highly Recommend Researching Before you Apply:

1. The Profex Manual: Read through this manual before the application opens to know what to expect. This will also answer some of your application questions ahead of time.

2. Check out Profex itself: Did you know you can register and enter all of your information into Profex any time before the application period begins? Log into Profex following the Manual and start filling out your CV and upload your documents if you have them in the ‘Documentos Anexos’ section. This will save you a lot of time the morning the application opens up. They even recommend doing this in the guidelines!

3. Regions: Start thinking about and researching the regions you would like to select on your application beforehand. You can only choose one comunidad autonoma from each group, and not all of the ones on the list are regularly participating. For an updated list on which regions each nationality can participate, see this PDF that I found on Trevor Huxham’s application post. Also, if you want to learn about the Spanish Comunidades, how reliable their pay is, or get first hand accounts from bloggers living there, etc., I recommend checking out this blog post by Liz Carlson. Also, she has a budget guide for 30 cities in Spain that I found helpful. Grupo A: Asturias, Ceuta y Melilla, Extremadura, La Rioja, Navarra, País Vasco Grupo B: Aragón, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Cataluña, Galicia, Islas Canarias Grupo C: Andalucía, Castilla y León, Islas Baleares, Madrid, Murcia, Valencia For US applicants, I’ve crossed out the regions we are unable to participate in this year, 2014-2015 Also, know that you have the option to select a type of city preference. This year, it was: Ciudad Grande Ciudad Mediana Ciudad Pequeña Rural No Preference I have been told the coordinators don’t really take these into account and place you wherever there’s space in the region, but hey, it can’t hurt either!

4. School preferences: If you have a preference for who you would like to teach, you can select an option. This year they were something like: -Adults -High School -Primary School/Babies -No Preference Once again, I have been told it makes no difference which you select, but it’s worth a shot, eh?

Step 2: Right Before You Apply

When that fateful day arrives and you enter full-stress mode like I did, you will want to be organized and ready for your application. As many people have said, getting a low inscrita number is your best chance for getting your preferred region, a guaranteed placement, etc. Here are some things I did to ensure a smooth and quick application process (#46 baby!)

1. Have all of your documents ready in one place: Even though people say you don’t need to have the documents on the actual application (you can add them into documentos annexos later), I didn’t want to take any risks. I had all of my documents in a folder on my desktop so that uploading them while applying only took another minute or two extra. Once again, if you are a worrier like me and want to do the same, put them somewhere easy to get to.

2. Have the Profex Manual up: I can’t even begin to stress how important this is. I saw SO MANY APPLICANTS desperately trying to go back in and edit their applications because they did something incorrectly. Not only can you not retrieve your app once you submit it, but you waste precious time trying to figure out where you’ve gone wrong. If you are already familiar with the Profex manual and are following it step by step, you should be fine. I can personally attest to this (it took me 7 minutes to apply with the aid of the manual, inscrita #46)

3. Have a live forum open in case you run into problems: I had the Expatriate Café – NALCAP open just in case I had issues while applying. The people on the website were very helpful when you encounter issues. I also found many posts on the 2013-2014 NALCAP Facebook page with app questions, though I don’t recommend this since it’s not really what that forum is for. If you are really stuck, run through the posts already on there to see if your question has been answered. Also google your question, odds are someone has had the same issue! Once again, this can generally be avoided if you have the Profex manual up and have done your research ahead of time.

4. If you want the lowest inscrita number possible, be logged into Profex before 12:01. I can’t say for certain that this helped, but already being logged into the system meant I could start the app as soon as it popped up. I experienced zero system crashes or errors and uploaded/submitted without having to refresh once! I would recommend it. It worked for me!

Step 3: The Actual Application

1. The Manual: Follow the Profex Manual step-by-step. This should ensure zero errors.

2. Regions: Make sure to select your regions and order them 1-3 correctly. You can’t go back and edit these, so make sure you have them right the first time!

3. Partner: Traveling with a partner? Select ‘Si’ when asked if you are applying with a pareja, and select ‘Si’ when it asks you if they are applying for the program as well. I included the name of my partner in the ‘Notes’ section to make sure there was no confusion. It seems that applying as close together as possible increases your chances of being placed together (or at least that’s what other bloggers are recommending).

4. Submit: When you finish submitting, you will get an e-mail that has your inscrita # at the top. It looks something like this:

14_1AXC000046

The last digits of this code are your inscrita number, not the first two.

5. Registration: After getting your email, you need to print out the PDF document of your application. You don’t have to get it right away-you can always access it through the ‘Presentacion Solicitudes’ link on Profex under the ‘Auxiliares’ Tab. Even though it says to ‘make sure you register’ in the Profex Manual, this just means print out the PDF.

Step 4: After Applying Electronically

Once you get to the email with your inscrita number, you are only half finished! You are now in the inscrita phase (see a list of meanings of each ‘category’ on page 13 of this link)

1. Now you need to print out this checklist as well as the PDF file found in the ‘Presentacion Solicitudes’ tab on Profex. Make sure you are using the FIRST TWO PAGES of this document. They should say ‘para registro’ at the bottom and NOT ‘para interesado’. *Extra materials are needed from New York applicants and European passport holders

2. Sign, date, and initial where necessary per Profex Manual instructions, making sure you have actually done everything necessary on the checklist.

3. Mail these documents to your regional director, whose name and address can be found at the bottom of this link

4. Once the coordinator has received and processed your documents, your inscrita status in Profex will change to registrada and then ‘admitida’ which means you are now eligible for selection, but not that you have an actual placement.

You can also join the Facebook group for the current program (Auxiliares de Conversación 2014-2015) or for the new program (Auxiliares de Conversación 2015-2016) for more up-to-date- info.

Frequently Asked Questions and Extra Information:

1. My incrita number is ###, will I get into the program? What are my chances of placement? I found a really great blog, Conquistadora Careese, that answers this question very thoroughly. This girl has some serious detective skills. Here is a summary of the information you can find on her blog: In 2012, there were only about 1800 teaching positions filled. Around 900 were renewals, and 900 were first-year applicants. However, over 4300 applicants were offered positions (including non-North American applicants). This means that even if you have a number in the 3,000’s or even 4,000’s you may still have a chance. In 2013, there were 4600 applicants offered positions. Now, she also points out that renewals get priority placement over first-years, so expect that about 900 people will be placed in front of you, and accordingly add +900 to your inscrita number. Is it still around 3,000 or less? Then you will most likely get placed, though the higher your number, the later you find out. This is because many applicants reject their offer, so there are multiple rounds of offerings.

2. When will I find out if I’ve been placed?! Based on the forums and other blogs I’ve read, it looks like they do the first round of placements starting in late April and early May. After that, they continue to send out offers for regions as spots open up from applicants rejecting their offer.

3. I don’t have all of my documents ready. Can I still apply? Yes! You can submit your application and go back later to upload your documentos anexos. This ensures you will get a lower inscrita number. Just make sure you go back and add them all before you mail in your PDF and checklist, so there are no issues processing your application.

4. Does ‘admitida’ mean I’m in the program? Not necessarily. ‘Admitida’ means that you have successfully submitted both your electronic and hard-copy application. They have received and processed all of it, and you are ready for selection. However, there is still a chance that you will be wait-listed or that there will not be enough positions for you to be selected, based on your inscrita number (this is pretty unlikely unless you have a really high inscrita number like 4800, and maybe not even then).

Do you have any additional questions? Did I forget to include something important? Do I have the wrong information? Are there any tips you have that you found helpful in applying? Let me know by e-mailing me at: leavesfrmthevine@gmail.com

How to Get on Good Terms with your Thai Co-Teachers:

My lovely co-teachers posing for Christmas
My lovely co-teachers posing for Christmas

At every Thai government school (and probably most private schools), you have a Thai co-teacher that sits in on all of your classes. Their role is mostly to assist you if there is a language barrier or try to quiet the kids down when they’re getting crazy (all boys here). Some Thai teachers may give you advice on how to teach differently or more effectively, but most will just let you do your thing. I have math and science co-teachers with varying levels of English. Most of the time they just hang out and do their work, but sometimes they help explain my topic to the students.

So why should you worry about getting on good terms with these teachers? Well, since they watch you teach, they have some input about how well you’re doing. And, according to one of my co-teachers at school, they are often intimidated by the foreign teachers. Think about it: Many co-teachers struggle with or are insecure about their English. A new native speaker comes in and can judge their speaking abilities right away. It’s intimidating! They’re speaking with a pro. Sadly, this intimidation can sometimes be met with attempts to find problems with your teaching style, lesson plans, disciplining, and even your appearance (I got in trouble once for having no back strap to my shoes…) So, to ease into your new school and minimize the awkwardness and intimidation, follow these easy steps!

*Every school and group of teachers is obviously different, but from the few schools I’ve taught at, these aspects have made the biggest difference in getting on good terms with my co-teachers.

1. Look the part: I can’t stress enough how much stock Thais put into personal appearance. I have seen great teachers fired because they looked ‘messy’ on the first day and never got a chance to redeem themselves afterward.

For women, dress modestly with dresses and skirts to your knees and a collared top if possible. NO sleeveless tops and absolutely NO cleavage. Yes, it seems a bit absurd when you consider the booty-hugging pencil skirts and see-through blouses most Thai teachers wear, but that’s how it is! Also, closed toed shoes are a must (I prefer flats, though most wear heels).

Men, shirts must have a collar. Your best bet is a long-sleeve, button-up collared shirt with slacks. Shirt must be tucked in, and if you don’t wear a belt, the teachers will think you’re crazy. A tie is a nice touch, but not necessary. Closed-toed dress shoes are a must. Facial hair is acceptable though the Thai teachers seem not to like it. Also, piercings seem iffy on men.

Side note: Whenever I wear really Thai outfits, like a collared top in a pencil skirt, all the Thai teachers make a big point to tell me how beautiful I look. I think it’s their way of trying to encourage proper clothing choices.

P1080734

2. Make an effort: Although it can be intimidating, seeking out the Thai teachers for conversation and help can really solidify positive relationships with them. Bridging that initial awkwardness is crucial on the first few days. Thai teachers are shy to talk to native speakers, so if you show them you are approachable and non-judgmental they will be less shy with you. If you are one of those English teachers that hides out in the office and is afraid to talk to the co-teachers, on your own head be it! But I would recommend against that course of action. The Thai teachers can be really enjoyable to socialize with and an invaluable resource when you have questions about culture, language, apartments, food, etc.

3. Attend lunch and other activities: Sitting with the Thai teachers at lunch solidifies the idea that you are ‘one of them’. Meals, like in all cultures, are very important and social in Thailand so make the effort to enjoy them with your co-teachers. This is also a great way to learn the names of your favorite Thai dishes, or get some recommendations for new ones. If you are invited to participate in activities at school, definitely do so. Not only are they usually fun but you also earn the respect of the co-teachers who unfortunately are used to English teachers being really flakey and uninvolved.

One of our foreign teachers dressing as Santa to the delight of the students
One of our foreign teachers dressing as Santa to the delight of the students

4. Don’t talk down to your co-teachers: This is a tough one. There is certainly a large gap in the English speaking abilities of the Thai teachers and the abilities of the foreign teachers. Thailand unfortunately has a pretty low standard of English, which means the English teachers sometimes struggle with the language too. But once you get used to it, you learn how to grade your language. Don’t talk loudly or in ‘Caveman English’ to your co-teachers, like some of my lovely coworkers like to do (WHERE I GO NOW?). Just find ways to simplify your language, slow down your speech, and when that fails, think of different ways to say what you mean.

       Me: Ajarn, why is there no assembly today?

       Ajarn: Huh?

       Me: There are no kids here today. Where are they?

       Ajarn: Because, finished already blah blah blah…. (you get the point)

The worst thing you can do to alienate your co-teachers is act frustrated, arrogant, or like they are stupid/children when you talk to them. This is completely unnecessary and unfortunately I see a lot of foreign teachers do just this. Please don’t be a dick, remember that you are speaking in YOUR native language and respect that your co-teachers are speaking a language that is structurally completely different from their own. Give them a break, man.

5. Make a lot of jokes: In my experience, Thais love to joke around and have a good time. If you can keep things light and fun and not take your job too seriously, you will fit right in. Enjoy it!

Have any recommendations to add to the list? Can you relate? Have any of these worked for you? Let me know! Shoot me an email at leavesfrmthevine@gmail.com

Shoulds and Should-Nots for the Thai Classroom

teachingmonks

As a foreign teacher new to the Thai classroom, the cultural norms can be a bit overwhelming (and contradictory to what you’re used to). Here is a quick guide for things you should and should not do in your own classrooms to get you into a more comfortable flow (for you and your students!)

You should learn as many of your students’ nicknames as you can. (Trust me, they’re much easier than their Thai names!)

You should not call your students hurtful names or pick on them.

You should let your students get up from their desk during class. I was completely insulted the first time this happened and tried to phase it out, but I soon realize they are going to do it anyways! The students just get confused if you tell them to stay in their seat, because the Thai teachers allow them to get up and ask a friend for paper, pens, liquid paper, etc. during class.

My students don't know how to sit at their individual desks
My students don’t know how to sit at their individual desks

You should not sit or stand on desks or tables. If you need to for some reason (and you will), wipe it off afterward as a sign of respect. Even the kids take their shoes off before standing on a chair!

You should be affectionate with your students. The student/teacher relationship in Thailand is very different than most foreign school systems where it’s considered wildly inappropriate to touch a student (i.e. put your hand on a student’s shoulder). One of my friends even gets daily hugs from her younger students! I find patting kids on the back or putting your hand on their shoulder builds trust and reassures them when they can’t understand what you’re saying with words. Obviously, this depends on your own level of comfort and personal boundaries as well.

You should not hit the students. This is a tricky one because a lot of Thai teachers carry bamboo sticks in the government schools to discipline students with (especially in my all-boys high school). I find it is much more effective to hit desks or the board to get the students’ attention, rather than hands or bums (yeah, it happens). Since I do teach all boys, I’m not afraid to swat them lightly with a book as a joke, but you have to be very careful with personal boundaries. Never hit a student out of frustration or as punishment.

P1080762

You should use a lot of multimedia in your classroom: videos, books, magazines, movies. A lot of Thai classrooms are really well equipped thanks to a huge education budget, and all of my Thai co-teachers love when I play short videos or clips for the students. They even scold you if you use too many lessons straight from the book! My science classes in particular love Bill Nye. They have begun chanting ‘Bill, Bill, Bill!’ along with the intro song.

You should not walk into class without a lesson plan. This is a personal pet peeve of mine because foreign teachers often think they should put zero effort into lessons. The students’ level of English may be low and you may be able to get away with ‘winging it’, but it doesn’t mean you should! Your kids will learn more and you will have a smoother and more successful class if you come prepared. If your students aren’t learning, it’s your fault. Make it easy on yourself by making the effort!

You should use a lot of worksheets. Thai teachers love worksheets, the kids love worksheets and you get a well-earned break from teaching. I like to have some extra games and word searches on hand in case I run out of things to do during class. The kids go nuts for word searches.

You should not be surprised if you are going through the material faster than the students can understand it. Unfortunately, your school often holds you to a ministry of education schedule that is prioritized over students’ actual learning. Perhaps private schools are different, but I have found this to be the case at most government schools (and most private ones too). Better to accept it now than to fight it. It will save you a lot of frustration and stress. That doesn’t mean that you have to accept mediocrity for your students though! Plan some awesome lessons to get them excited to learn and practicing the material.

teachsing

You should play a lot of educational games. Whether Thai teachers like it or not (some do, some don’t), my students love to learn through games. It is a great way to practice English and get the students involved, and you build a lot of rapport with them this way. Not to mention it’s great leverage during class (Oh, you don’t want to do the work? I guess we won’t get to play hot seat at the end of class then….)

You should not get frustrated when your students cheat. For some reason, it is completely accepted, nay, almost encouraged in Thailand! Students here just have no concept of cheating being morally or ethically wrong. This was such a shock the first few weeks I taught that I ended up ripping multiple tests in half in frustration and disgust. Things have changed as I’ve seen Thai teachers turn the other cheek to cheating during midterms, but I’ve created my own balance: Lax with copying homework or ‘working together’ but an absolute no-cheating policy with testing. It’s the best compromise I could manage for resolving our two education cultures.

Have any other recommendations from your teaching experiences? Do you disagree with some of these suggestions? Do you have any questions about classroom do’s and dont’s? Let me know in the comments or e-mail me at leavesfrmthevine@gmail.com

Information and stories about living and teaching abroad

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