Posted on November 27, 2019 | By Isabelle Sudron
01st Jul 2019
It’s hard to imagine what your life will be like when you move across the world and start a new career. For most people moving to Thailand to do TEFL teaching, it will be the first time teaching English. And for some of you, it could even be your first time leaving your home country!
No matter how much experience you have, you’ll be signing up to a new country with different cultures and traditions to what you’re used to. You’ll be surrounded by a foreign language, different food, new architecture and even different facial expressions and body language! There’s a lot to take in and get used to but nothing that you can’t handle! Here’s a little insight on what to expect teaching English in Thailand.
First and foremost, you need to know what the requirements are to teach in Thailand. To legally teach here, you’ll need fluent English, a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate. This is a common requirement in many Southeast Asian countries at the moment, such as Japan, Vietnam and South Korea. However, unlike many of these countries, Thailand is much less strict about passport requirements. You won’t need to be a ‘Native English Speaker’ to find a TEFL job here, you’ll simply need to show that you have a high level of English, both spoken and written.
A typical day for a teacher in Thailand is jam-packed with classes and activities. There’ll be very little time to be bored or lazy while you’re at your school or language centre. You may find that plans change suddenly or that you’re not told all the information you need until the last minute. However, despite the struggle to keep your plans in order, you’ll likely find the fun outweighs the chaos!
As with any country, different cities in Thailand can have an entirely different atmosphere. This will affect not only your daily experience of living in Thailand but how the school you work at operates. For example, you could find yourself rushed off your feet in Bangkok, shuttled from one lesson to another before you can catch your breath. Or you could find yourself with a much more laid-back routine with a few late-running lessons on a Thai island. Lots of Thai employers place you in a city rather than give you the choice of where to work, so make sure to do your research on where you’re placed before you accept a job. However, it’s also worth being open to places you’ve never heard of – there’s more to Thailand than just Bangkok!
It’s not unusual to have a range of different aged students in the same class. A lot of your classes will be arranged by English language level rather than age, which works pretty well until you find kindergarten students and high school students in the same class! Be prepared to come up with some pretty inventive ideas and activities to make these classes work. Ask your fellow teachers what they recommend and prepare to occasionally have a couple of different activities running simultaneously.
As we mentioned earlier, your experience will differ depending on where in Thailand you live and at what kind of school you end up teaching. However, there’s no doubt that there are a lot of schools with huge classes in Thailand. You may find yourself teaching classes with up to 70 students! However, this is quite normal here and students will be used to this kind of set up.
If you work at a government school, you’ll quickly notice that there’s a nationwide uniform that even includes strict haircuts. Boys are expected to have short hair and girls are expected to have hair no longer that their chin. This can make it quite difficult to recognise your students – it’s worth making a seating plan where possible to help you learn students’ names faster.
On top of a school uniform for students, teachers are also expected to wear a particular type of clothing too. You’ll need to wear modest clothing that is long enough to cover your shoulders and knees.
In most places in Thailand, you’ll have an array of transport options. You can rent a motorbike or bicycle to get to work yourself, hop on a bus, tuk-tuk or motorbike taxi, or just take the old-fashioned route and walk! As a general rule, you’ll find yourself able to get from A to B with very little effort or expense. That includes travelling to other cities for day trips or weekends away – though admittedly, it may not always be a fast journey!
Private language schools tend to offer you 18-25 hours of teaching per week and government schools offer 15-40 hours per week. Even with 40 hours of teaching, you’ll find you have a comfortable amount of time to explore and adventure. Plus, because your fellow teachers will usually work similar hours, you should have plenty of people to spend time with.
Although the salary in Thailand is enough to live comfortably, socialise lots and travel a little, you won’t be coming away with bags of cash. There are lots of places in Asia where you can earn enough to live a luxurious life as well as save a little cash, but typically Thailand isn’t one of those places!
You’re likely both excited and terrified about your move to Thailand. There’s a lot to look forward to; a new culture, scenery, food and friends. On the other hand, there’ll be some things that make you a little nervous too, such as trying to communicate when you don’t speak the language and navigating the cultural faux pas. You’ll find that both sides of your expectations are met in some ways, but don’t worry if you’re overwhelmed by nerves and stress at first! It takes a while to settle into a new country as well as a new career. Give yourself a fair amount of time to settle in and don’t expect Thailand to feel like home immediately.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like: Everything you need to know about teaching English in Thailand.