"We're not teachers, we're entertainers!" That's a dangerous little meme and it's something I've read countless times on countless websites as it concerns teaching English in another country, especially Thailand. Let's think of our own experiences in life, and we can even use a wide range of scientific resources to back up our experiences.
When we were students in school, K-12 that is (or whatever your country calls primary education), which classes were the ones where we retained the most of the intended material? Essentially, which classes were the ones we learned the most from? The ones that were fun with an engaging teacher. The classes we practically ran through the halls to get to. The classes we thought of as the bright-spot of the day in a rather bleak 8 hour stretch of rote-memorization and ineffectiveness.
What I've been reading on this website for some time now is this illusion that qualified teachers were going to come to Thailand and continue on in whatever teaching trend they had established over the years in another country, expecting to not have to adapt to a new culture with a new set of values.
Here are some things that we all have in common as human beings.
1) We learn best when we are enjoying ourselves and there isn't any tremendous stress involved.
2) When there is a significant language barrier, we have to resort to new methods of communication to get our messages across.
Entertainment through games and human energy are powerful means for getting students to actually learn something, for if any teacher was to stand and lecture at 99% of the schools in Thailand, you can be sure that 100% of the students will understand 0% of what is being said. The language barrier is so strong in Thailand, I fail to see any other option when it comes to methods of teaching other than games and entertainment.
I came to Thailand with a notion that I would be a good teacher, effective and respected. What I did not know is that I would have to look at my definition of what teaching is and see if it was an actually correct view of teaching at all. My definition was correct, but it was incomplete, and I'm now starting to question where the lines between teacher and entertainer actually stop intersecting. Where is the distinction made? Perhaps Thailand, despite all of the aberrant flaws existing, is actually teaching us what it really means to be a teacher.
Am I a walking talking head with lots of information to spew all over students who won't understand it anyway? Or am I a human that can connect to students on a variety of levels using other methods of teaching other than just a moving mouth and vibrating voice-box?
The question I intend to leave this letter with, the one I feel is most important towards growing as English teachers abroad, is this... Where does the distinction between teacher and entertainer actually lie and who is to say that to be a truly effective teacher in Thailand we shouldn't be both?