2018-2019 Articles

  • Finding the Right Words

    by: Caitlin Ashworth

    Moving to to Thailand is a big change. Learning how to drive motorbike through hectic traffic takes time, as well as getting the tongue (and stomach) adjusted to spicy Thai food. But for some people, like myself, teaching is also completely new.On the first day of class, I had no idea what to expect from my students, or what the their level of English would be.

    Super English teachers are involved in two programs at Thidamaepra: The Intensive English Program (IEP) and the Mini English Program (MEP). For the MEP, I teach math, science and English for about three hours everyday along with a club of my choice once a week. IEP is only 50 minutes each day.

    In all the classes I teach, the level of English is across the board. And as an English teacher in Thailand, I am challenged everyday to explain assignments and instructions to both the students and Thai co-teachers. For the weekly club, I decided to do “Art Club.” I had so many ideas: Watercolors, oil pastels, Roy Lichtenstein-inspired pop art and self portraits.

    I started out with simpler assignments such as ink techniques using lines and dots to create value. But all assignments needed detailed instructions, which many students didn’t follow. I decided to do a long-term project, spending about six weeks on one-point perspective. For the project, the students draw a horizon line and vanishing point, then draw a road and buildings that get smaller the closer they are to the vanishing point. The drawing creates the illusion of being three-dimensional.

    I passed out step-by-step instructions. I drew examples on the board. I repeated key instructions numerous times. “Draw lightly so you can erase” and “Connect lines to the point.” It was still confusing, and frustrating. I helped some students one-on-one draw their buildings, but with 30 kids in the class, it was difficult to make sure everyone had understood how to do the assignment.

    Although many of their drawings weren’t proportional, once they adding color, their drawings came to life. The project taught me a few things about being an English teacher abroad: Talk slow, be clear and have fun.

  • Making the Leap from Marketing to Teaching

    by: Sarah Anderson

    First off, I will admit that although I majored in English in college, I had virtually no formal teaching experience before I moved to Thailand and started at Thida, so I was about as apprehensive as you might imagine. I distinctly remember the several panic-stricken days before I started teaching where I questioned whether my decision to leave my full-time marketing job of three years in Virginia to move to another country and start a completely different career was altogether sane. But after six weeks of learning through trial and error, I can say that the experience has been truly rewarding, and I can’t picture myself in any career except teaching from now on. In order to hopefully help future teachers make this decision easily, here are a few things I’ve learned from and loved about my first six weeks in Thailand:


    Things I love

    1. The look on my fifth-grade students’ faces when they start to understand something new and they’re excited about an activity
    2. The point when I finally started to get to know my 39 fifth-graders and some of my first-grade students on an individual level, learning how to make them laugh and understanding how they interact with each other
    3. When I find an activity that even my shyest students will participate in—(relays work especially well for students who are reticent to volunteer)
    4. High fives, fist bumps, handshakes, and hugs from my students—there is almost nothing better than being mobbed every day by dozens of first graders who want a group hug and a million high fives/fist bumps as soon as they see you.
    5. Running into students around town—they are sometimes very shy, but always excited to see you; I came across one of my very shy fifth-graders outside of school, and she opened up to me more than I ever would have dreamed, telling me about the work she had done on her science project over the weekend, taking me to meet her baby sister, and showing me pictures from a recent trip she took to an aquarium.
    6. Playing with my first-grade students at recess, which involves making extraordinarily long human chains, participating in the Thai version of Duck, Duck, Goose, losing at Rock, Paper, Scissors, and creating archways with our arms that fall and trap as many students going underneath as possible.

    Things I’ve learned

    1. How to create games and science experiments with practically no resources, such as making a Twister board out of Post-it notes and discovering how to light up a lightbulb with a balloon
    2. Be careful about erasing the whiteboard with your hand and then absent-mindedly touching your face while teaching, or you will be met at the end of class with shouts of “Teacha, you have blue on your nose!” and “Teacha, you have blue on your eye!”
    3. Always look at worksheet pictures closely, even if it is a worksheet specifically designed for ESL students in Thailand and created by the organization that you took your TEFL certification course with. Otherwise, you may end up finding out almost too late that there is a cartoon of a woman with exaggeratedly long legs that you have to quickly skip over, causing your students to plead the rest of class to be able to see question number 3.
    4. You can never predict how a day at school will play out—one week half of your students might disappear without warning, and when you ask where they are, a student will reply, “Teacha, they are camping.” On another day, you might find yourself watching Ice Age and making Mother’s Day cards in all your classes while your fifth-grade students go in and out of the classroom for an hour because they keep thinking their parents are coming to pick them up.
    5. In Thailand, there is a specific color for each weekday, and if someone gets the wrong information about a color for that day, it wreaks havoc and causes Thai teachers to think you do not know what day it is.
    6. Do not say “one second” without thinking or at least one student will reply with a smirk, “Teacher, it has already been one second.”
    7. If you need a banana for a science experiment, but all the bananas are gone that morning and the only substitute is a “butter sandwich” (I’m not kidding), the 7/11 employees will take the sandwich you are buying and toast your science experiment without warning.
    8. Only greet someone formally once a day, even if you run into them several times, or you will be met by endless teasing.
    9. If you do a science experiment with fifth-grade students that involves letting them put their foot through a plastic bag to test its breaking point, bring LOTS of bags.
    10. Dogs are to be feared here, as I have been chased twice already, once on foot by a pack of dogs and once even when I was on a motorbike.
    11. Don’t ride over gravel too quickly on your second day driving a motorbike, or you will find yourself in the middle of the road with a bike on top of you and then limping into the nearest pharmacy, looking like your elbows and knees have been through World War III for several weeks.
    12. On that note, there is a very hot pipe underneath the motorbike that I was unfortunate enough to discover with my leg a few days later, earning myself a second-degree burn as well.
    13. Avoid ice cream that contains what looks like green and yellow candies because it is actually ice cream with corn and green beans. Unless that’s your thing—in that case, by all means eat all the veggie ice cream your heart desires because it’s only 10 baht!
  • Baby Shark or Bust: Working at Thidamaepra School

    by: Amber Gonen

    Through the perspective of a foreigner in Thailand, Thidamaepra is an organized chaos of sticky children, roaming nuns, weird snacks, and baby shark songs. While there is a routine schedule of classes every day, a typical day at Thida does not exist. It is completely normal to miss two hours of class for the Virgin Mary’s birthday, or have “milk” assemblies, or have holidays and vacation days announced last minute. While some might see the unpredictability as a negative aspect, I personally love not knowing what to expect every day. It takes the monotony out of things. 

    The first thing you will learn about Thida is the expected appearance and presence of the “Teacha.” Thai people are big fans of aesthetically pleasing things, and value putting effort into appearance. Getting some nice button ups and some slacks will go a long way for a new teacher. You can be tired, ill prepared, or may just have a bad lesson; but if you look sharp, those things may go unnoticed. The “backpacker look” is not a good look to be sporting at Thida because they usually associate this look with distrust and lack of reliability. 

    Getting along with co-teachers and fellow Thai staff makes for a pleasant work environment and can lead to some nice perks and treats. A bad relationship with your co-teacher can lead to classroom management problems. I am usually shy to make the first move in a friendship, but found the initial effort goes a long way. Thai people are also quite sensitive (compared to Americans, at least) and non-confrontational. At first it’s very hard to tell if they like you or not. From my experience, the co-teachers like you if: they take pictures in class, randomly give you little treats, start a conversation about non-work things, or if they wai you and compliment you.

    The last but best thing about Thida is the STUDENTS! They are the little bundles of sunshine that can anger you enough to reach your boiling point or love you enough to make your heart melt. I am a P1 MEP teacher, meaning I teach Math, English, and Science to one class of first graders. I also have two IEP classes, which are larger classes that I only teach English to. My favorite classes are IEP because you can do a lot of relays and fun games. I was incredibley nervous before getting in front of a class of fifty students, but now they are my favorite classes. Thai students are also very respectful compared to children I’m used to working with in the States.

     The best advice I could give a new teacher is to go with the punches and not be afraid to make a fool of yourself, because eventually it will happen. Eventually, some assembly will require that you sing “Baby Shark” over and over in front of the whole school. Or you will realize that the students will only remember some vocabulary if you say it in a silly voice or sing it. If you can let go and have fun, teaching at Thida can be the most wonderful experience!