Teaching and Travelling in Thailand: James’ Story

Travelling and experiencing new cultures has always been a passion of mine. TEFL has provided me with the opportunity to travel, live and work in a different culture. My journey with TEFL started in November 2016; I was sat bored in my office job dreaming about having the money to live and travel in a sunny location. As my plan to win the lottery hadn’t paid off, I looked at different ways to live and work abroad. Teaching English as a foreign language really stuck out to me as the best option as it was something I was passionate about and there were a number of opportunities around the world.

My wife and I decided to take the plunge and start the 120 hour TEFL course. The course consisted of a 100 online hours and 20 hours in a classroom. The online course provided everything, from the basics in the English language, to the twelve different tenses and classroom management. The 20 hours in the classroom however, were what really provided me with the skills and experience to feel confident as a TEFL teacher.

James with students in Thailand

We finished the TEFL course in January 2017 and started to apply for different jobs on the TEFL jobs website. There were hundreds of jobs available and the real struggle was deciding which country and what age we wanted to teach. We found the perfect job through the company Mediakids who had a vacancy in North East Thailand in a place called Sakon Nakhon. I was placed as a Mathayom 4 (aged 15-16) and 6 (aged 17-18) teacher. The company helped us with accommodation, sorting visa’s and work permits and provided us with an orientation in Bangkok which included basic training and helpful advice on living and working in Thailand.

The following week we arrived in Sakon Nakhon. The city is one of the largest in North-east Thailand and we were fortunate to be placed at Sakolrajwittayanukul School. The school has 4500 students and a highly regarded foreign language department. The other foreign teachers and Thai teachers at the school offer invaluable experience and guidance for how to teach and survive in an area where English is rarely spoken. I teach 18 hours a week on the ECD programme (English communication development) where I focus on building confidence in speaking English and encouraging natural speech. Thai students are taught English grammar from an early age yet their speaking and listening skills tend to be far behind. This can mean that students have a lack of confidence and are shy when asked to speak in English which makes the job of a TEFL teacher really important to help students feel like they can speak freely.

James standing in front of a temple in Thailand

The average day in Thailand consist of: gate duty at 8am where you welcome students to the school, morning assembly, lessons and lunch then afternoon lessons. The school day finishes at 4:30pm leaving you the whole evening to relax and enjoy the adventure of living in Thailand. As I only have 18 teaching hours a week, the other hours are spent planning my lessons and marking which means I never have to take work home with me after school or at weekends.

In Thailand, the class sizes are large with around 50 students in a room. The classrooms are basic and the ability and willingness of students to learn ranges from all levels, meaning teachers have to have a range of activities planned for each lesson. The educational system here in Thailand is very different to what you see in the western world and some teachers may need to adapt to the system. However, if you come to teach with an open mind, teaching in Thailand will be one of the most life-changing experiences.

James with students (left) and standing by a river (right)

Thailand is one of the most beautiful countries with such a rich culture. Thailand is known as ‘The land of smiles’ as this is evident especially the further you travel from the tourist tracks with Thai people always going out of their way to help you. Living and working in Thailand has allowed me to travel and see all the things I had dreamed of in England.

I have been teaching in Thailand now for nearly 4 months and have just renewed my contract to stay at this school for the rest of the year. This has been one of the most amazing, exciting and fun experiences of my life. This qualification means that I can travel the world, not just taking what I can from a country but actually giving something back. Working as TEFL teacher has allowed me to really make an impact to student’s lives and enhance mine.

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4 thoughts on “Teaching and Travelling in Thailand: James’ Story

      1. I have a question  related to job placement of non native speakers. Are there same  opportunities for non natives or either they get some difficulties because i have been starting my 120 hours online TEFl course. I am non native and no teaching background as well. So if you help me in this regard i am greatful to you.

        1. Hi Zainab, there are EFL teaching opportunities available to both native and non-native English speakers. You will find that some schools state “native speaker” or “native level speaker” in their job advertisements – I would still recommend applying for these positions as you will have the necessary teaching qualification to apply for these roles once you have completed your course.

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