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How to motivate your students

9th May 2013

I worked at a small government school in Bangphli with one other English guy and of course the Thai teachers. I have nothing but praise for all the teachers and staff at that school it was a great experience for me. Last September when I left, the kids and teachers were genuinely upset that I was leaving, and I was quite sad myself but I had made my decision. In fact I flew home after my last day. The kids made me cards, bought me presents and we had a fantastic last day - one I will always remember.

My job there was to teach English, maths and health which I enjoyed tremendously. A minority of the kids were hardworking and as we all know the rest were lazy and sometimes disruptive. It was an intensive programme so I had the kids all day. I just had the two classes which meant I had to do something to encourage the kids to work and a full day of English and maths needs breaking up. In England I was a fully qualified rugby league coach plus I had served with the Royal Marines in England. Now all of you teachers who need a helping hand to get your kids motivated read on.
The thought of using another book for health would tip most people over the edge so I told the kids that if they all gave maximum effort in English and maths I would take them outside and do some real exercise. Well the kids jumped at this idea. Here we are, books away, going down to the covered area used for assembly for our first session. The excitement was bubbling over and the kids were too. After a while they calmed down. I had already planned their exercise routine for that morning so I put them into four teams sat them down and explained what we were going to do, so far so good. About fifteen minutes into our exercises they started messing about so I took them back upstairs and got their books out. Lots of complaining and whingeing followed. I then explained that behaving during the exercise period was also a requirement not just for me but for their enjoyment. The next day down again and low and behold the smart kids got them in teams, sat down and we never looked back.

My classes were mixed boys and girls and the girls were just as keen as the boys. we would do a set routine running, different exercises for one hour. Thai kids don’t do any real keep fit stuff and this new thing that they had been introduced to was not only tiring but they were getting fit and having fun.  After a few days they would walk down in a line get into teams sit down and give maximum effort without any messing about. In the end we even had a big audience of parents and passers by each time we went out.

Every day after that the smart kids helped the other kids with their maths, everybody got involved in English and the class was fantastic. Never had I seen such a transformation in kids in a Thai school. As soon as I walked into the class it was what time is health? Same answer - once maths and English were finished.

These kids passed every test I set them after our keep fit regime started. Carrot and stick works every time if used properly, but I suppose it helps if you know what you are doing. I know all teachers don’t have the freedom I had but do try it if you can. Thai kids are very competitive once you get them playing against each other and they really do respond to teamwork. Hope this helps some of you folks out there. Try and enjoy.

I have been back home in England for seven months now and have never looked back. I got a job just after getting back and everything is looking up here now. I took my my Thai girl back with me and she loves it here. Thailand will always have a special space in my heart and so will all my ex-students who turned into real stars.

Stephen Salter

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About was started as a small hobby website in 1999 by Ian McNamara. It was a simple way for one Bangkok teacher to share his Thailand experiences and pass on advice. The website developed a loyal and enthusiastic following. In 2004, Ian handed over the reins to Phil Williams and 'Bangkok Phil' has run the ajarn website ever since. has grown enormously and is now the most popular TEFL site in Thailand - possibly even South East Asia. Although best-known for its vibrant jobs page, Ajarn has a wealth of articles, blogs, features and help and advice. But one principle has always remained at Ajarn's core - to tell things like they are and to do it with a sense of humor. Thailand can be Heaven or Hell for an English teacher. It's always been's duty to present both sides of the equation. Thanks for stopping by.