Switching from a rural vocational college to a Bangkok university
So. Finally. After three terms it was time to say goodbye to Udon Thani, the vocational college and the Isaan region and to say hello to Bangkok and a private university. As mentioned in my last blog and many of my blogs on my own website: I will miss all of my students and appreciate every moment spent with them. Having that said I promise that's all of the corniness for today. Time to focus on new things. Time for Bangkok Cityyyyyyyyy (Da Endorphine style).
No shirt no service.
The first thing that changed significantly in my new job: The dress code. Finally I can (have to) get rid of those colorful shirts I had to wear at ‘R-Chee Wa' all the time. Here at our (private) uni it's like we're used to it from the business world. Shirt, Tie, Suit. Nice! Makes the whole thing way more professional.
The students however do look a little different. While the focus on ‘correct' outfits is high with first year students, most Ajarns don't say anything if a senior students dress a little more inappropriate (welcome to the ‘my skirt is shorter' contest). I sometimes feel a little puzzled when I see students dressing up like this since I think the focus at Uni should be studies and not the sexy outfit (man, I'm getting old) but as long as it's within the rules everybody has the right to feel happy. No problem with that.
The overall atmosphere here is, of course, completely different compared to the poor governmental college where I started my Thailand teaching experience. A/C in every room, projectors, staff who copies my stuff for me and prepares classrooms.... Probably nothing new for you guys in international high schools - for me, it's awesome.
Poot pasat angrit: dai!
Alright. I work at an international college now. You expect people to speak English. Of course. However, having worked with English teachers who didn't speak English, I was a little sceptic at first. Everybody here speaks English though and that makes the daily life a whole lot easier.
When I was in Udon everybody said that students in Bangkok can speak better English than most Isan students. And well, yeah, you might come across more people who speak English. However that's because of Bangkok's size. There are simply more people and more tourists who influence them. When looking at my students: Sure, many can speak English (It's a Uni here, everybody attending Uni should speak some English!) but still a lot of them struggle. A lot. Taking into account that usually only students attend the international college who are aiming on doing something, tada, international, it is quite surprising to see so many students with English problems.
Let's go inteeeeeeeeeeer
Thailand is always crazy about doing something ‘international'. They call every conference, meeting or get together ‘international whatever' (right now only matched by ‘ASEAN whatevers'). Our international college however actually deserves its name and it's pretty cool to work with so many different students from different cultures. Right now I'm teaching students from the States, Europe, Africa and Asia. It's a lot of fun and forces me to always come up with new teaching ideas and to use different approaches.
All that glitters is not gold
Alright. I talked a lot about the differences and about how cool it is to work with people who actually speak English and to have real teaching facilities and modern technology to help my teaching. Like always, however, not all that glitters is gold. Even though it is an international college here, the organization and ways off how things work are still Thai.
Even though everything appears professional and international the ‘Thai style' of tackling (or not tackling) problems and getting things done remains. Everything happens slowly and only after asking again and again and again. But, as we all know, that's simply the way it works here so there's no need to complain about that. Sabai sabai.
The hardest part
Is letting go, not taking part. I admit, credit for those words doesn't belong to me but it shows somehow a huge difference between the teaching approaches. At the college in Udon I was more than ‘just' a teacher. Everything was more personal. This might have been rooted in the fact that other teachers also did this in some way or that it was my first teaching job but I took everything more personal. The problems of each student became mine and I tried to solve them by all means necessary.
(And yes, I know that one of the first things you learn when doing your teacher license is not to take things to personal and not to take them home with you.)
Here at uni it is, of course, different. More students, older students, more professional. There's no time to and need to always be there for them. Furthermore classes are way more professional. While I tried in Udon to get the biggest part of the class to understand what I'm teaching at uni the focus is more on make them understand how to understand and how solve problems on their own.
After all I have to say that the step to a teaching life at Uni was, right now, the right decision. My teaching approaches change and, at least I hope, are getting a lot better. However, as mentioned in the beginning, I'm still happy about my past experience and think it helped me a lot to understand some basic student problems.
This was now kind of a short intro to my new work. I tried to keep it a little more formal than my usual blog posts on my own website. However that won't stay this way. Next time I'll be back with more personal insights and thoughts. Promise.