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
Each of my lessons at my all-male public high school are 50 minutes. Here is a general break down of how I do my science lessons:
Since there are no breaks built into the schedule between classes, I typically wait about 5 minutes before I get to class so the kids have time to mellow out – it’s really a waste of time for the teachers to show up on the dot because the kids need the transition time and they will have it whether you’re there or not. The Thai teachers show up anywhere from 5-15 minutes late, but I don’t like to push it past 4 or 5 minutes.
For the first 10 minutes or so, we usually review what we did the previous class (I see my students twice a week, so review is essential). My students haven’t quite mastered the meaning of ‘review’ and I often have to walk around and tell them not to copy the notes again in their notebooks. Most of the time though, review means ‘I don’t have to listen for the next 10 minutes’ so sometimes I call on the kids who aren’t listening as a way to say, yes, you’re supposed to be paying attention to this.
Then for the next 10-15 minutes I introduce a new topic on the board and have the students help me write the notes: have you seen this word before? What do you think it means? What’s the Thai word for it? Can you give me an example? Etc. I always make the students copy the notes because it’s a great way to get them focused and Thai school culture heavily emphasizes note-taking (though the students usually don’t ever bother to read the notes again)
For the last 25 minutes or so of class we usually do an activity to check for understanding. This can be a worksheet, an assignment in their workbook, a game, or my favorite, an episode of Bill Nye. (When my students see that I’ve brought in my laptop, they always desperately ask me if we’re watching Bill. If I say yes, they start chanting Bill! Bill! Bill! just like in the intro. Even my 14 year olds do this!)
Sample lesson plan: Weather (12 year old students)
5 minutes spent wrangling:
Me: Please get in your seats! Bank, please stop hitting Ken. Take out your notebooks, please. Not your textbooks, we don’t need those today, your notebooks.
Student: Teacher, notebooks?
Me: Yes, your notebooks.
10 minutes reviewing:
We have already done these notes together and did an assignment to check for understanding, so all the students have to do is pop open their notes and feed me the answers
Me: Ok, what is the first layer of the atmosphere called (with visual on the board)?
Me: No, that’s this layer, closest to Space. What is the layer closest to Earth (point at giant Earth I’ve drawn)?
Me: Good! Now, what do we find in the troposphere?
Me: Sometimes, but they fly in the stratosphere, here, remember? What do we find in the troposphere? Look at your notes.
Me: Yes, very good Mue (draw a picture of a human on the board)! Now, what else?
Me: Yes, weather, good job Boom….
15 minutes introducing new topic:
Weather: Here I rely heavily on visuals drawn on the board. What kinds of weather are there? I have students brainstorm the different aspects, like rain/snow (precipitation), wind (speed and direction), sunny or cloudy, etc. I introduce new vocabulary (precipitation, humidity, air pressure, etc. They may or may not have any idea what I’m talking about). Then we do pronunciation practice of all the words, and I make them watch me make the sounds and try to mimmic me, etc. Yeah, I make this stuff up as I go but it works!
20 minutes watching Bill Nye episode, ‘Atmosphere’ and Worksheet
For practice and something fun, I give the students an easy worksheet* about our Bill Nye episode (fill in the blacks, short answer, multiple choice, etc.). We look it over and then watch the episode. The students chant Bill! Bill! Bill! in the intro and laugh inexplicably throughout the entire thing. I frequently stop the video to point out key concepts and check for understanding, or to point out answers and replay the crucial parts (they follow almost none of the English, but luckily there are a lot of visual cues). I spend the rest of the video confiscating cell phones and uno cards in funny ways to get the students to laugh, since they crave entertainment after all, and sometimes Bill just doesn’t cut it (sorry, Bill). Then we go over the worksheets if we have time, or I collect them (there is usually desperate, frantic copying going on in the moments before I collect worksheets**).
*Thai teachers really like to use worksheets and like for the foreign teachers to use them as well. The students are conditioned to do worksheets, so it’s often a more effective way to get them working with the material than to do writing assignments or abstract discussion-based activities.
**As I said in other posts, copying is always permitted by the Thai teachers at our school (and it seems sometimes, even encouraged). I had to reconcile my own opinions about copying with those of the ‘school culture’ and find a happy medium. Don’t judge me!
Do you have any tips for lessons with ESL students? Have you taught science in Thailand before? What are your experiences? Let me know in the comments!
1. The students are wonderful
It’s a bit of a culture shock walking into a Thai school. Discipline can be non-existent and it’s tough getting over the fact that student success and learning is not prioritized. Once you get used to the way things work, though, it’s so much fun.
Even working at an all-male high school, my worst nightmare in the US, none of my students are malicious. They worry about me, make a little fun of me, but they never try to hurt my feelings. And we have a great time together, making jokes and playing with words. It’s extremely rewarding and the English level does improve over the year.
2. Living and traveling in Thailand is inexpensive – really inexpensive.
Teacher wages are more than enough to live on comfortably. Apartments and condo rentals are extremely affordable. Food is less expensive than in Western countries, especially if you’re only eating Thai food (we’re talking 1$ meals here).
Travel is also super cheap, especially if you take trains and local transportation. Hotels and bungalows on a backpacker budget are easy to find and once again, food is very cheap throughout Thailand (being only slightly more expensive in major tourist areas).
3. The food is amazing
I assume this is obvious, but to someone who is not well acquainted with Thai food, you’re in for a treat. Thailand is renowned for having one of the best cuisines in the world. The food is very fresh, often bought that morning from a local market. The flavors are out of this world – sweet, sour, salty, spicy, everything you could ever want in a mouthful of deliciousness. The major ingredients used here are cilantro, spicy peppers, onions, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, tomatoes, papaya, and an assortment of spices and other meat and veggies.
4. The people are kind, funny and generous
I don’t like to make cultural generalizations, but in this case, it’s a pretty solid one. Most Thais love to have fun and joke around, and they can be very open and generous to complete strangers (like me). Don’t get me wrong, some people are definitely put off by foreigners since they have a bit of a bad reputation in Thailand (thanks a lot, belligerent tourists). But I have had so many different experiences of people joking with me, being helpful, and generously offering meals and advice, that I have an overwhelming fondness and affection for the people here.
5. Getting a job is pretty easy
Probably the most attractive thing about teaching in Thailand is how easy it is to get a job. See my post here about how to go about it. The requirements are very minimal and teaching experience is not required. If you want to see if teaching is for you or you want a fun and rewarding job to support travels and pay off students loans, teaching is a great way to do it.
THAT BEING SAID, please don’t abuse it. Don’t be one of those teachers that just uses teaching as a means to an end and can’t be bothered to put effort in at work. Seriously, it’s not fair to the students. Be responsible or don’t bother.
6. Thailand is well-connected to many other countries
Thailand is right smack in the middle of some pretty amazing places to visit. Angkor Wat, one of my all-time favorite sites, is less than a day’s journey from Bangkok. Southern Thailand, Malaysia, and the Laos border are all accessible by train (beware, the train to Malaysia takes 24 hours!) Also, Bangkok has a lot of great budget airlines passing through to popular destinations like Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Indonesia, Borneo, the Philippines, etc.
7. Awesome festivals nearly every month
One of my favorite parts about living in Thailand is that there seems to be some cause for celebration nearly every month. Songkran itself often goes on for over a week! New Years is a multi-day affair. Loy Krathong in the North goes on for days as well. At my school, we seem to have at least a day or two off a month for some holiday or another, usually accompanied with fun activities and delicious food.
What do you think is the best reason to teach in Thailand? What’s your favorite Thai festival? Did I miss anything important? Let me know! Comment below or email me here.
In my junior year of college I decided to go to Spain on a whim. A serious whim (as in, no real planning went into this decision). I didn’t know anyone in the study abroad program, I knew nothing about the culture other than what I learned in class, and I was trying to finish up my minor degree in one semester. I was having some other life crises at the time as well, but that’s another story…
So, with the program, I moved to Cádiz in Southern Andalucía for four months (Andaluthia, if we’re being really accurate here). I had an amazing time. I made lifelong friends that I was able to travel with and see Europe for the first time. I tasted delicious food, wine, coffee, and pastries. I saw so many amazing pueblos and Spanish cities that looked untouched by time and modernization. I also had a warm and caring host mom who force-fed me tortilla and gazpacho on a regular basis, and I loved it!
However, I did have a few regrets at the end of the journey. I think I went for the wrong reasons and therefore did not fully appreciate being there. I was afraid to speak Spanish so I relied on English and didn’t immerse myself in the language. It was also my first time in Europe, so rather than using free weekends and trips to see the rest of Spain, I went to see other countries, like Ireland and Morocco. As I said before, I had a wonderful time! But by the end of my four months there, I was homesick and distracted and ready to move on.
Now, nearly 4 years later, I have an intense desire, dare I say need, to go back to that wonderful country and appreciate it in all its glory. I want to keep traveling, to keep teaching English, and most importantly, to use my Spanish! I miss the food, the people, the lifestyle, the small towns, the lisping S’s and rolling R’s. I want to do well by Spain this time, to be a true and caring lover (yeah, I’m using an affair metaphor here, that’s how serious we’re talking!).
So, I have applied to two English teaching programs in Spain that will allow me to legally live there for a year. So far in this blog, I am writing about my efforts to get into the programs and the torturous anticipation of the waiting process. In the meantime, I will regale you with my stories of European travel and weigh you down with my hopes and dreams for my future year abroad. Or, for something a little different, you can always check out the Thailand portion of this blog. Enjoy!
I currently have the privilege (or some days, the burden) of teaching the all-male students of Wat Benchamabophit Matthayom School:
Wat Ben is a high school, so the students are aged 12-18. They are all males, though we have a healthy population of sassy lady-boys (and I mean, sassy!) I only teach grades 1-3 (ages 12-15) but I still get warm ‘HELLO TEACHER!’s from the older students. I teach Math and Science in English, which most days is a struggle but also a lot of fun.
For example, I had to teach Sexual Reproduction to a bunch of 13 year-old boys. Naturally, it turned into us laughing for 30 minutes straight – me, because they kept saying ‘wageena’ (vagina is near-impossible for them to say, those pesky V’s!) and them, because their female teacher was saying ‘penis’.
There is a lot of pride in our school, because it’s located on the grounds of a famous wat – Wat Benchamabophit. The temple was built around 1900 by a famous king of Thailand, King Chulalongkorn. Real marble was imported from Italy for the grounds, hence it’s nickname, the Marble Temple. It’s so infamous, in fact, that it’s on the back of the 5 baht coin! (Yeah, I bust out a 5 baht coin whenever I proudly state where I teach, don’t judge me!)
Despite our prestige, the school itself is unexceptional. The students perform at the average level and there are some major organizational and disciplinary issues. That said, the kids are a joy to teach and always surprise me. They are my own culture and language teachers and at the end of the day I’m really grateful to be their teacher.