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!
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