This compilation of sayings and doings has been collected over the school year in a small notebook or on my iPhone. It includes things that have occurred to either myself or other teachers at my school that have made us crack up (including photos we managed to snap). I hope there is enough context here for you to get as much out of them as we did. Enjoy! Continue reading The Hilarious, Silly, and Strange
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!)
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 email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org