Tag Archives: TEFL

A Day in the Life of an English Teacher

The old school building at Wat Ben
The old school building at Wat Ben

Here is a typical day for me as an English teacher at an all-boy public high school in Bangkok. Remember, I mostly teach Math and Science in English, so my experiences may not be the norm, but hopefully this post gives you some insight into what teaching here is really like:

6:45 Wake up and get ready for work. Sometimes I have breakfast or walk my ‘hood looking for fresh fruit (pineapple, watermelon, bananas) and coffee. Sometimes I splurge and get a latte and muffin at the nearby Starbucks (don’t judge me!).

7:25ish-7:45ish I ride to school on the back of my boyfriend’s moto. I’m supposed to be at school by 7:30 but no one really cares since most of the teachers can’t be bothered to make it by 7:45. This may not be the case for all schools, but our teachers definitely believe in the concept of Thai time (make it in on time if you can, oh well if you can’t).

Me, on a moto :)
Me, on a moto 🙂

7:45-8:30 Prep for my first class of the day, chat with the coworkers (foreign and Thai), maybe get 20 baht (65 cent) breakfast down at the canteen, have some tea or coffee.

8:30-11:00 Depending on the day, I have between 2 and 4 lessons, all 50 minutes (for my coworkers who teach English conversation, writing, and reading, 4 lessons a day is the norm, but some have as many as 6 a day). I teach math, science, and conversation in English, so I have a lighter schedule. I always have lunch from either 11:00-11:50 or 11:50-12:40

Hanging in the office
Hanging in the office

11:00 Get lunch from the canteen, the local outdoor kitchen behind the school (30 baht dishes, so yummy) or drive down the road to another outdoor kitchen with more options. This is where I get most of my Thai language practice (im maak! – very full!).

11:50-3:30 Finish up lessons, chat with students, use the wifi in the computer lab, watch shows on my laptop, nap in the secret corner behind the bookcase (yeah, napping is totally allowed in Thailand!), read, give make-up tests for absent students, chat with coworkers, help the Thai teachers with proofreading, or plan for upcoming lessons* later in the week.

*My lesson planning is more intensive than other teachers’ because I teach math and science to students with a really low level of English. This means I usually have to make up most of my worksheets and quizzes (unless we do activities in their textbooks). I don’t mind it though and I imagine someday, when I have actual useful resources at hand, teaching will seem so easy! Right…?

Bonus: Since I have to be at the school for about 8 hours a day and only spend 3.5 hours max actually teaching, I have a lot of unsupervised down time. That’s one of my favorite parts about this job – arranging my own free time.

Our office (foreigners are in here, the Thai teachers are in the bigger office connecting to this one). We each have our own desk and you can see the napping area behind the bookcase where the chairs (aka our bed) are poking out
Our office (foreigners are in here, the Thai teachers are in the bigger office connecting to this one). We each have our own desk and you can see the napping area behind the bookcase where the chairs (aka our bed) are poking out

3:30ish Leave school and head home (via moto).

3:30-10:30 Endless free time! Since there is so much downtime at work, I NEVER work at home (unless something comes up, like a forgotten test that needs to happen the next morning). This leaves time for working out, watching movies, reading, exploring the neighborhood, meeting up for drinks or dinner with friends, going out to restaurants, working on my blog, planning upcoming trips, seeing cheap movies at the cinema, etc. I also tutor for an hour and a half on Wedensday’s, but even that work doesn’t tire me out since it’s reading and writing practice.

View from my apartment roof
View from my apartment roof

So, here are what I think are the benefits of my typical work-day:

-No supervision, so I make my own free time.

-Very low stress level since I have plenty of down-time to plan my lessons.

-Most days, work is not tiring so I have plenty of energy for extra tutoring hours after school.

-Time between classes allows me to go to doctors, dentists, or visa appointments without missing anything important or ruffling anyone’s feathers.

-Plenty of time after work to do what I want and socialize.

-Short commutes make for minimal transportation time and costs (we spend 5$ a week putting gas in the moto)

Here are what I think are the cons of my work day:

-Believe it or not, on days when I only have 2 lessons, I can get pretty bored/lazy and it’s actually way more tiring than teaching all day because the day seems to drag on and on (yeah, I’m ridiculous, I know).

-Even if I finish classes by 10:10 (Fridays), I have to stay at school until at least 3:00.

 

What is your daily schedule like? Do you find you have a lot of free time? What do you think are the advantages/disadvantages to the teaching schedule in Thailand? How does this differ from teaching English in other countries? Let me know in the comments!

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A Typical Science Lesson (English)

One of my M1 classes (12 year olds)

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)

The same class pictured above, working
The same class pictured above, working

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)

The class featured in my example lesson plan
The class featured in my example lesson plan (Mue is on the far right, Ken has his hand in the air, Boom is right in front of Ken being strangled from behind)

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)?

Ken: Exosphere!

Me: No, that’s this layer, closest to Space. What is the layer closest to Earth (point at giant Earth I’ve drawn)?

Mue: Troposphere

Me: Good! Now, what do we find in the troposphere?

Boom: Plane!

Me: Sometimes, but they fly in the stratosphere, here, remember? What do we find in the troposphere? Look at your notes.

Mue: Human!

Me: Yes, very good Mue (draw a picture of a human on the board)! Now, what else?

Boom: Cloud!

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!

This is why I have to confiscate cell phones...
This is why I have to confiscate cell phones…

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**).

Source
Source

*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!