5 Survival Tips for Teaching in Thailand

I often get people asking me about my experiences teaching in Thailand. I spent a year teaching there and had the best time of my life. I met lots of new people from local people, my students and other travellers, I indulged myself into some of the spiciest foods, adapted myself to a local rural lifestyle and even learnt a bit of the language. I took myself out of my own comfort zone and decided to make a small difference in some lives in a country that stole my heart.

When arriving in Thailand I was armed with a TEFL qualification and my recently earned degree certificate and that was all.  I had a one-way ticket and no plans except to find a job teaching English. I didn’t have much money to get back home if everything failed. In fact, this had to be probably the riskiest thing I had ever done. So I started to apply for jobs using Ajarn.com and teachingThailand.com. The same day I got a message back from a company called Media Kids Academy offering me an interview. They are a great company, with positions all over the country. I ended up getting a job with them teaching in rural Thailand at a local primary school. You can read about my experience with Media Kids here if you like.

Teaching in Thailand was great fun and the experience has made me want to continue teaching all over the world but it wasn’t without some difficulties. There are some simple things that I wish I knew before becoming a TEFL teacher in Thailand.  So here are some of my tips on teaching English in Thailand (I am not going to tell you how to teach because everyone is different, just merely some tips of how to make life as a teacher easier for you):

Dress smartly.

In Thailand appearance is key, you will be respected at a higher level if you are dressed smartly and respectably.

For women, a skirt below the knee with a long-sleeved t-shirt that covers the bust area, teamed with some smart shoes is redeemed as respectful. Keep it loose fitted, tight clothing means ‘too sexy.’

For men, dress trousers with smart shoes, shirt and a tie are referred to as respectable. Simple and easy.

Uniform is very important in Thailand. Schools tend to have days that are dedicated to a particular type of uniform or a colour. For example, on Tuesdays everyone might wear pink, on Wednesdays everyone must wear sportswear (or in my case a Buriram United shirt) or on Thursdays everyone must wear a scout uniform (Not the foreign teachers, but if you have one then feel free to wear it for extra points, they will think its great and will love you even more).

As a teacher, you are highly respected in Thailand. The ranking of respect is important in Thai culture and usually, the order will go; the King, the Monks then teachers. So you will do well if you can look the part.

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Don’t shout.

Thai students are relatively respectful of their teachers, but they can get over excited about having a foreign teacher and will try to push buttons, you will do well to keep your calm and not shout. They don’t like confrontation or anger in Thai culture and you will be quickly disliked in the school by the teachers and your students. Leave the punishment to the Thai teachers but do be warned, corporal punishment is still a thing in Thailand, its something that can’t be changed and unfortunately as hard as it is, you have to turn a blind eye to it.

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Don’t try to change anything.

The Thai education system is not the best and things will annoy you, no matter how hard you try to not let it bother you. In fact, recently it was dubbed as one of the worst systems in S.E. Asia and it is worsening every year. There is nothing you can do about, so your best off just doing your job and getting by. The whole experience is about what you get out of it. With any experience in life, the more you put in the more you will get out of it. Just keep that in mind.

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Take part.

During your time teaching in Thailand you will be involved in lots of different celebrations, from mothers day, fathers day, Wai Khru and lots of other days, be sure to get involved as much as you can. You will be respected for it and you will see how passionate everyone is about their own culture.

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Wai Khru

Always smile. 

Probably the most important. Smile and be happy. Wearing a smile in Thailand is the best thing you can do. It makes you more approachable, the students will feel more relaxed with you and it will help you both build a fantastic relationship sooner. Like I always say; they don’t call it The Land of Smiles for nothing.

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Have you taught in Thailand? Would you like to teach in the Kingdom of Smiles?

If you would like any advise please let me know.

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