Teaching English abroad is a great way to live in a new country and experience the local culture a bit more in-depth than a typical travel experience. I was looking forward to relaxing on the beach during my days off and teaching the youth of Thailand during the week. I expected to find a stable job making a monthly salary.
Well, my experience was slightly different.
The program I went through, Language Corps, (which I definitely recommend, leave a comment and I’ll certainly send you details!) was wonderful in that it was a month long, full day lessons that even included student teaching and Thai lessons.
It gave us the tools to go out and find the jobs that we wanted.
I started my search in the beach towns of the Krabi province hunting down schools. Ultimately, for a lot of reasons, I wound up in Bangkok teaching one on one to mostly adults at Berlitz International.
Bertliz is huge in Japan, so most of the Japanese companies that outsource manufacturing to Thailand will send Japanese managers for the factories and operations and have them learn English to communicate with the Thai workers.
Hence, where I came in.
Teaching 1 to 1 was a bit different:
Different type of coworkers
I imagined my teaching being immersive, in that I’d be working with Thai staff and getting a feel for the true Thai culture. Instead, I worked with a handful of Thais and mostly middle-aged white men expats.
I did have a Thai office manager that tried to uphold Thai cultural nuances such as don’t put your feet on a chair, definitely got written up for that one once.
Lesson planning was basically nonexistent
Berlitz has set lesson plans and guides to teach from so my lesson planning for a day full of lessons lasted about 15 minutes and usually meant teaching myself about some of the more advanced business English terms.
Each student had a chart that told me which lesson and in which book the student was on and all I had to do was glimpse at it to make sure I understood what was going on.
My job was 95% small talk
Most of the students were over 35 years old and had moderate to advanced English. They often preferred to just chit chat about the news, their jobs, life, celebrities, etc.
The Japanese are very finicky about how they are perceived so many wanted to perfect their pronunciations and word order in common everyday conversations. Fun fact: I can easily talk about Tiger Woods for an hour and a half now.
I had a lot of No Shows or Cancellations
Most students were very motivated to learn English as they typically were promoted or received raises as their level of English improved, however, because most of the students’ companies were paying for their lessons, often they would not show up or would cancel at the last minute.
The beauty of it all was that I would still get paid for the lesson if they cancelled less than a certain number of hours before the lesson.
Finding relevant examples was a challenge
When teaching English, you don’t want to teach the rules or use their native language to give examples, etc. This proved really challenging when I was in Thailand as an American, teaching Japanese businessmen.
I’ll never forget trying to teach the different types of stores. Supermarket? They don’t have Wegmans or Whole Foods in Japan OR Thailand. I had to do my research for that lesson!
Charades and Pictionary are your best friends
Most lessons had their own images to help with teaching it. But at times, it was super necessary to use gestures or to draw my own pictures to get the student to understand a concept.
The lesson teaching prepositions was always fun; spoiler alert: it often included me hiding “under” a desk or walking “around” the room or other various hilarious things.
Sometimes the students were pretty funny
Let me set the stage: You’re in a 6’ x 6’ room with just you and your student. All of a sudden they say they are lonely in Thailand or they want to take you out to dinner or what the word “slut” means. You don’t get to deflect, really. You’ve got to challenge that bull and deal with it.