New teachers in Thailand often give plenty of thought to where they want to teach and how much money they want to make. But strangely, one question few teachers seem to ask themselves seriously is what kind of students they will be happy with.
I have only ever taught adult students and corporate groups in Thailand. Most of the adult students were going on to study for degrees overseas and needed to hone their conversation, listening and reading skills, whilst the corporate groups studied the usual business English. They were always the students I felt most comfortable teaching. You could measure their progress and feel like you had really achieved something. And if you had a corporate class that weren't towing the line, you could always go and complain about them to the HR / training manager (although that didn't happen often)
Kids just aren't my thing!
On the very rare occasion I had to substitute a kids class for an absent teacher (and it happened about 3-4 times in 15 years) the end of the lesson could never come quick enough! Teaching kids has never been my bag. I just don't have the training or the skills necessary to keep the little monsters occupied for any length of time. But of course, there are teachers who love teaching kids. They wouldn't teach any other age group. And this is a question you have to ask yourself - what kind of student am I going to be most comfortable with? Make the wrong choice and you open yourself up to a whole world of hurt.
The terrible teens
A lot of inexperienced (and experienced for that matter!) teachers enjoy working with elementary and primary level students best of all. At this level, the students are not babies anymore but neither have they reached that 'difficult age' (as my Mum used to call it). Once students hit secondary level, you are dealing with the onset of the dreaded puberty. Students often become difficult to control, rude, lazy and easily distracted. Biological changes can bring out a rebellious streak and as a teacher, you're standing right in the firing line!
Good luck trying to get your class to understand subject-verb agreement when most of them are far more interested in the pretty girl on the other side of the classroom or what's going on outside. Anything can be more interesting than your lesson at that age!
There are of course teachers who find this notoriously difficult age group challenging, and you may even work at a school where you don't even have a choice. However, be prepared for frustrating experiences on a daily basis if you opt to teach the terrible teens.
If you are teaching grades seven, eight and nine, you might encounter problems with students talking in class or falling asleep at their desks. Mobile phones of course have become another curse. Students of this age group will sometimes be 'naughty' and push a teacher's buttons simply to see what they can get away with. It's all a game to them. And did I mention the shouting, punching, kicking and throwing things?
Grade four fun
Elementary and primary level students (grade four and below) are a lot more fun to be around. They will embrace whatever classroom activities you have planned and they are much easier to keep entertained. Students of this age just seem to enjoy laughing more and are more likely to channel their energy in the right direction.
Much of course depends on your personality as to which age group you most enjoy teaching. Only you know you.
Another advantage of teaching grade four and below is that the target language is not that complex. You probably won't spend a huge amount of time planning lessons and fretting how to make lessons entertaining enough to keep the group's attention.
At many Thai schools, if you are teaching the lower grades, you will have a Thai teaching assistant. And contrary to common belief, they will actually assist and make sure your lesson goes to plan.