When it comes to teaching English in Thailand, many westerners arrive in the country with little or no training, look for a job and begin to teach.
While you could be a good teacher if you worked hard and put your mind to it, without much training or even direction when it comes to how to teach, chances are you may soon find yourself struggling.
Here then are a few tips on how to be a good English teacher in Thailand. Or, at least, one that your students (and their parents, if they are children) will love.
Get some teacher training
The most important thing when it comes to teaching in Thailand is to get some kind of teacher training and teacher certification.
That training can be something as simple as a 4-6 week TEFL certification. With many language schools in Thailand offering them at much lower prices than many other countries, obtaining teacher training plus a TEFL certificate is fast and affordable. Once you have it, it really will pay you in spades.
Here are some tips on how to choose the best place in Thailand for your TEFL as well.
Learn about Thai customs and culture
Before you ever set foot in a Thai classroom, you should know something about Thai culture and customs.
What is appropriate in a classroom for a teacher and a student, and what is not. What things will quickly get you in trouble in Thailand, even though they may be acceptable or even ‘the norm’ in the country you come from. What things will just as quickly get you fired.
Just a small amount of knowledge about Thailand and its customs and culture can go a long way towards ensuring you have a successful teaching career here.
Little or no knowledge of Thai customs could mean you are fired just a couple of months into your new teaching job. Something that has happened to many culturally ill-equipped teachers in Thailand before you.
Learn effective classroom management skills
Having effective classroom management is key when teaching students in Thailand, and especially so if teaching children.
Spend the time necessary in learning how to effectively manage your students.
That means things like being able to stop your students from talking in class without resorting to shouting at them, being able to motivate them to learn, establishing a good rapport with them, explaining clearly defined consequences of poor behavior and sticking to them, and creating an atmosphere in which every student has the ability to learn.
Take a TEFL certification program that teaches classroom management skills.
You can also learn even more from one of a slew of books on the subject. Just be sure to buy one or two before you leave for Thailand, as finding them in country can sometimes be a chore.
Know your subject
Whether you are teaching English grammar, listening or speaking, be sure you know the topic of your lesson inside and out.
If you do, you will come across as confident and relaxed, and your students will feel as though learning is fun. You will also be able to answer any questions they may have, and explain things they may have difficulty first grasping.
Boning up on grammar points before teaching a grammar lesson so you can explain it simply and effectively is important. The same goes for knowing why we pronounce words in English the way we do, and being able to explain that to any Thai student that asks.
In other words, spend the time necessary to properly prepare each upcoming lesson, and you will never find yourself in a classroom struggling to explain to your students what they need to know.
Remember too, it is absolutely acceptable to answer a student’s question with “I am not completely sure, but I will find out and tell you at the beginning of the next class”.
That way you do not give out information that is incorrect and that could cause your student to misunderstand something important. (I had to do that a couple of times with more complicated grammar points, and both times my students were happy to wait for the correct answer).
Just remember to explain what you have discovered in the next lesson. If not, you will quickly lose your students’ trust.
Learn how to give a good lesson
An English as a Foreign Language (EFL) lesson should be informative, interesting and easy to understand. If you can make your Thai students laugh, you will do even better. In most cases, they will learn faster too.
Make sure you learn how to put together an effective lesson plan, and how to give a good lesson from it while still taking your TEFL certification.
If you feel like the course you took did not explain this well enough, Busy Teacher explains what you need to include in a good lesson plan. The site also offers thousands of free lesson plans, and a huge number of free worksheets you can print out.
Here are some lesson plans on Tasty Thailand that are suitable for Thai students of all ages to help you get started.
Be upbeat, friendly, relaxed and approachable
The way you interact with your Thai students from Day One will set the tone going forward when it comes to how to be a good teacher in Thailand.
If you are relaxed and easy-going, you will often find your students respond better to you as well.
That means being upbeat, friendly and approachable, while also making sure you establish boundaries your students should not cross. If you can balance both well, while still staying relaxed, you will find your students respect you as a teacher, but are not afraid to ask you if they need help.
Be passionate about English
If you are passionate about English, and enthusiastic about teaching it, your students will be much more likely to be passionate about learning the language.
On the other hand, if you stand at the front of the class droning on about the subject without any enthusiasm at all, they will quickly lose interest and tune out.
I probably have the least patience of anyone you will ever meet in my every day life. When it came to teaching Thai students English, however, I discovered I had unlimited amounts of it. That ability was one of the big reasons my students always seemed to love me, and why their parents held me in high regard.
After all, there isn’t a student on the planet that wants to be taught by a teacher who is constantly screaming at them, or who is so stressed out they lose their temper at the drop of a hat.
Having patience, being laidback and not getting stressed out when things are not going to plan will go a long way towards helping you become the best teacher. And in making your students like you. Especially in Thailand where the Thai phrase “Jai yen yen” (keep a cool heart) rules.
Stick to that mantra in a Thai classroom and you should never have a problem.
Your students will also respect you even more and, if you are patient and do not lose your temper, you will often discover you are more effective as a teacher that way as well.
If you are not a patient person, Classroom has a few good tips for achieving that.
Know your students
During the first few weeks of teaching any new class in Thailand, I always spent time getting to know my students.
Learning about their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses when it came to English, if they were quiet or outgoing, and even about their home life, hobbies and things they liked went a long way towards figuring out how to teach each one.
Remember, no class is one solid entity, but is made up of individual students instead.
Know each of your students and learn what makes them tick, and you will suddenly find teaching that class becomes much easier and your teaching more effective.
Students learn in different ways — be aware of that
Each student you will teach learns the best in a different way. That could be by reading, listening, speaking, watching English language movies or TV shows, playing video games (hidden object games can be excellent for English vocabulary learning) or listening to music.
Learn how each of your students learns the best, and make sure each new lesson plan you teach has that mode of learning somewhere within it.
Find different ways to teach English — a subject that can often be tedious, frustrating or even intimidating for any number of students.
This can mean teaching English with games, with music videos or scenes from a TV series, or with role playing. It can also mean starting your students off on projects that they can then take the lead in and organize themselves.
For instance, a fellow English teacher in Thailand and I once organized a sponsored walk for the entire school, with money raised going to a local Thai charity. The whole project was carried out in English, and organized over a month of English classes in every grade. Students that took part in it learned a slew of English vocabulary they were not familiar with before the project began.
Giving your students a huge amount of leeway when it comes to the activities you do in class, while still fitting their activities within a specific framework, can also go a long way towards making learning both effective and fun.
After all, many studies show the students that are able to learn in ways they feel comfortable with will often learn much faster than those that are forced to stick to rigid rules.
More than just about any other nationality, Thais love playing games. That is why I always had one game in four out of every five English classes I taught, and this applied to both teaching children and Thai adults.
In fact, if you want to be a good teacher in Thailand, the biggest tip I can give you is learn how to create English language games for all levels of student, start a private library of lesson plans that include a game and use them often.
Interestingly too, studies have shown students that learn via games often learn faster and retain the information for longer. There are many other benefits as well.
Give positive feedback
Even when Thai students make mistakes when learning English, it is always good to give them positive feedback. When they don’t make mistakes, it is even more important.
Students that are given positive feedback, and so feel like the teacher knows they are making an effort, tend to enjoy learning English more and, in most cases, try harder as well.
Positive feedback can be as simple as “Well done” or “You tried really hard. Good for you!”. However, you decide to do it though, make sure it is evenly distributed among all your students so that no-one ever feels left out.
Being a good teacher in Thailand is not that difficult. Not if you follow some or all the suggestions above.
Pair them with a good attitude, hard work, showing up on time, treating your students kindly and well and dressing appropriately, and teaching English in Thailand is fun and easy to do. It is also incredibly satisfying.
For even more information on teaching in Thailand, from obtaining the right visa to lesson plans to how to get along with your Thai co-teacher, check out tons more articles on Tasty Thailand here.