Whilst teaching in Thailand I met many new people and made many new friends, one of which was Kevin. Kevin taught in Thailand for a year, a term in a rural area in central Thailand and a term in Phuket. Here’s what Kevin had to say about his experiences…
1) What drew you to teaching abroad?
It was the culmination of a lot of different things at the one time really, and a lot of the usual unoriginal reasons. When I made the decision to teach in Thailand it wasn’t through any ambition to travel or see the world at the time. It was just more that I felt at a bit of a dead end in my life and wanting to try something new. I wanted to go somewhere and experience something that I had never seen before and give myself a new challenge. A bit of finding myself and escapism as well really. I think the last two are why a lot of people choose to go travelling or work abroad, they want to forget about their lives back home and reality for a little while.
2) Why did you choose Thailand? What was the appeal?
I had a friend that had went to Thailand, I honestly don’t think originally I knew what I was expecting/letting myself in for… which was down to my own ignorance more than anything else. I’d quite like to think that’s changed for the better now though.
3) You’re doing your PGCE now-what are the differences between teaching in Thailand and teaching in the UK?
I’d definitely say the biggest challenge in Thailand is overcoming cultural barriers rather than the difficulties in the classroom. In both the UK and Thailand there is the classroom management challenge and being able to manage the behaviours in the classroom. In Thailand I was teaching English as a second language whereas I am currently training to be a primary teacher and could potentially be teaching the full early, first and second levels of the Scottish Curriculum to my class, depending on what stage I am teaching. Also in the UK I definitely think (perhaps because we are native speakers?) that we strive more to meet the individual needs of the learner as well as balance those with the direct teaching of a whole class. While of course this was the case in Thailand as well, because in the UK I am a native speaker and I see my class on a more frequent basis it is a much more natural process and I usually find my planning is a lot more responsive to the needs of an individual and that my planning is usually modified on a day-to-day basis despite forward planning weeks in advance.
4) What are the pay/working hours/holidays like?
The pay in Thailand is usually around £600 a month, which doesn’t seem like a lot but in Thailand is actually a lot of money and you will find your money in Thailand will go much further than it will in the UK. Working hours in Thailand are usually from 8am until 4pm. You will usually find you’ll get around two months off at the end of each term and then you have random holidays dotted throughout the year, I know people who have turned up at the school to find the gates were closed… that isn’t uncommon.
5) Where in Thailand were you situated? How did you settle in? What was it like?
Originally I was based in a very very small town in rural Thailand that had a population of a few hundred. It had one street and two native English speakers. Originally it was tough, especially for me, it was definitely out of my comfort zone and I’ll put my hands up to be the first person to admitting that when I arrived there I thought “what have I done”. I really thought I’d be on a flight home within a matter of days, but once I did settle I really did enjoy it. Despite not being able to speak any Thai, and the people living in the village not being able to speak much English I came to discover how friendly and caring Thai people actually are.
I was then based in Phuket which was completely the opposite. Here I settled a lot quicker and built up a close circle of friends that I still have to this day. There are a lot more expats and foreign teachers living in Phuket because it is such a sought-after destination in Thailand to teach. I think that when you are travelling and working abroad you form bonds with people much quicker than you would in the UK.
6) What is school like? What are the main differences between school in the UK and school over there?
I think again the single most difference in Thailand was overcoming cultural barriers whereas in the UK any other barriers are curricular based and ensuring that you are up-to-date with curricular changes. Also in the UK there is a focus, particular in the Primary classroom of focusing on assessment on a more ongoing and formative basis and modifying your planning to reflect this, while in Thailand it was a collection of data.
7) What is a typical day like for you teaching in Thailand?
Normally I’d have to be in the school prior to 9am when the school would start. The whole school would go outside for the national anthem and the whole school, children and adults would stand while this plays. Then I’d be teaching between the hours of 9am and 4pm. Normally with a twenty minute morning break and a one hour lunch break. Typically, I’d teach anything between two – five hours of those days. Teachers in Thailand would normally find they are teaching up to twenty hours per week. The non-class contact time would be used for either marking and/or planning. Typically I’d be able to leave the school at 4pm as I would have all my planning and corrections done which is another major difference to teaching in the UK.
8) How did you find your job? Did you apply before you went? Did you use any particular company?
I had my first job directly via the TEFL course I did with teachabroadthailand. Through this they will automatically place you in a position with Media Kids Academy, an English teaching agency in rural Thailand who place you into your school. The job in Phuket I applied for whilst in Thailand via ajarn which is a job posting website for teachers in Thailand.
9) What have been your highs/lows so far?
I can honestly say I enjoyed the whole experience. I originally went to Thailand as an experience for me but I did find that I enjoyed the teaching and working with children side of things, so much so it inspired me to apply to do my PGCE but overall the experience for me was more about finding myself and going on that clichéd journey of self-discovery. It gave me a confidence I didn’t have before. The highlights for me have to be the experiences that I have shared with individuals rather than a particular thing I have done or a tourist attraction I have visited. I have friends I met in Thailand that I know I’ll have for life and it’s them who helped me come into my self more and find my individual voice and to stop worrying about trivial things.
10) Would you recommend teaching in Thailand and why?
I would yeah. I think I’d recommend it to people who want to try something new or want to get away but don’t necessarily know that much about travelling or want to settle in a country for a while. The good thing about Thailand is that while you have the cultural side of things there is parts of Thailand that aren’t too different from home. Unless you’re placed in the sticks (which I was!) then you will find that there are enough western comforts that will remind you of home and it’s such a tourist-populated area as well you won’t find yourself too far out of your comfort zone.
Thinking of teaching in Thailand?
A big thank you to Kevin for sharing this information and the best of luck with your PGCE!