How a Teacher Can Earn Respect From Children Learning English in Thailand


Most EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers know, those teachers who are able to earn respect from the children they teach are often the most successful. Being respected usually means the children you teach listen more, enjoy class more and consequently learn more. But how does an English teacher earn respect from children of a different culture and with a different way of doing things? Plus, as an English teacher who is also dealing with a language barrier, how can you earn respect from the children you teach so, you too, can be more effective in the classroom?

Be Well Prepared – The first rule, so you can gain the respect of the children you teach English to, is to always be prepared for your class. Even the youngest children can tell when you haven’t prepared very well and will often act up accordingly. Being well prepared and walking in the classroom ready to start class makes you more relaxed and the children more secure which, in turn, makes them trust you more and, so, respect you more.

Know Your Students Names – I’ve worked with English teachers in the past who, because they teach several classes, have never managed to remember the names of their students. Unless you’re literally teaching hundreds of children a week, it’s unfair to your students not to learn their names. Particularly for children, if they feel like they’re a nameless, faceless number to you, you’re not likely to gain respect from them.

Figure out a way of learning their names, whether it’s have them wear name tags for the first week, sit in the same place or draw yourself class seating charts….whatever it takes, but you should know most of the children’s names going into the second or third week of classes.

Don’t Have Favorites – Treat each child the same. Discipline them the same way and reward them the same way and don’t have favorites. Of course, it’s human nature that we’re likely to prefer one child
over another but the biggest mistake an EFL teacher can make with children is to show it.

Children realize quickly when a teacher plays favorites and many will lose respect for the teacher thereafter. If however you make an effort to never show which child you prefer and which child you don’t, you’ll gain respect from all the kids you teach as you’ll seem to be fair.

Listen to Your Students – You expect your students to listen to you in the classroom, so make sure you listen to them too. Children who are learning EFL, even if they struggle speaking English, often have a lot to contribute. If you, as a teacher, don’t listen to them though, they quickly feel ignored and act accordingly, which usually means respect for you is the first thing that goes out of the window.

Draw a Line and Stick To It – In the classroom, I’m a very relaxed EFL teacher. I like to have fun, I like to tease my students and I do allow a lot of leeway when it comes to being a bit loud and crazy if the circumstances warrant it. But…..I do have a line and the children I’ve taught know from day one where that line is and not to cross it.

Point out the rules to the children you teach on the first day of class and tell them the consequences of breaking the rules. Then, when rules are broken, make sure you follow through on the discipline you’ve warned them about and they’ll respect you a lot more. Those teachers who constantly allow the line to be pushed further and further back in an attempt to please the kids, will find themselves one of those unfortunate teachers their students like but do not respect.

Earning respect from children you teach English to in Thailand is actually quite easy. It just means establishing some ground rules right from the beginning, both rules the children know about and rules for yourself about how you will behave and then….stick to them. You’ll probably be surprised how quickly the children you teach respect you and how much easier that makes it to control them.


Photo – Children posing in Thailand – copyright Hanumann, Creative Commons License