Learn Some Thai Language!
If you are planning to live and work in Thailand then do yourself a massive favour by learning some basic Thai language.
Whilst many school programs prefer their English teachers to not use any Thai in the classroom, a basic knowledge of Thai assists greatly when communicating with other teachers or having a laugh with students in an informal setting outside the classroom.
Thai people are extremely proud of their culture and your efforts in speaking Thai will be appreciated. Don't forget the different dialects that exist in regional Thailand. Picking up a few local phrases is a sure way to win some friendly Thai smiles!
Furthermore learning another language puts you in the role of a language student. This is very insightful when you are teaching English because you gain an appreciation of the requirements you need as a language learner. Endow your teaching practice with the qualities that you find helpful in people who assist you with your Thai learning endeavours.
You will quickly understand that friendliness, patience and encouragement are prerequisites of an empowering language teacher.
Control Your Emotion
Adopting a tolerant and patient attitude will minimise frustrations that occur when you interact with Thai people in the workplace and wider community. Be sure to act politely with a happy countenance and keep your outward face free from displaying any negative emotion.
From my experience of teaching in a rural village, the Thai mindset seems to be based around the concept of "jai yen yen" or staying cool. Not losing your temper must be a key policy of your teaching practice.
Don't over react to small classroom management issues, or become unsettled by the perceived indifference of your Thai work colleagues. Sure Thai people lose their tempers with each other, but as a foreigner make it a priority to remain calm when dealing with Thai people about any issue.
Prepare Effective Classroom Management Strategies
When coming to teach in Thailand for the first time take care not to fall for the fallacy that Thai students are compliant and easy to control. If you are a teacher of limited experience then prepare to be tested by unmotivated and mischievous students when you come to Thailand.
Talking from my experience of teaching in a government secondary school in rural Thailand I have had to deal with several classroom management issues. Compared to secondary students in Australia there is no doubt that Thai students are far better behaved and more respectful of their teachers, but adolescents armed with mobile phones will still seek to subvert their teacher, regardless of being Thai or Western.
So take some time to prepare and develop some effective classroom strategies for your Thai classroom. Establishing classroom rules is a must. Many teachers like to have the students develop the classroom rules through discussion with the teacher or create a set of positive rules that avoid using negative words like"do not" and "must not."
Personally I prefer to implement a set of rules that are applied by the school across all classes. I have the rules written up in both English and Thai and placed in a clearly visible position at the front of the classroom. This strikes me as being more fair to the students as they are already aware of the school rules in their other classes. If a student offends you can make them stand up and have them read the rule to the class in both Thai and English.
Should they offend for a second time you can take further action by asking them to sit elsewhere in the classroom or to write out the rule twenty or thirty times on a page. This occupies and silences the student allowing the teacher to get on with the job of teaching the rest of the class. Should the student continue to offend and you need to bring the matter up with a head teacher, then because you are using the school rules, the Thai staff will understand the problem and be more likely to provide appropriate support.
Vary Your Classroom Material and Teaching Pace
Generally most misbehaviour occurs because the students lack motivation or feel that they do not understand the lesson material.
Varying classroom tasks with a mixture of music, videos, drawing and games, keeps students motivated and reduces the occurrence of student disruption. One one hand it is important to keep challenging your students to achieve but outbursts of misbehaviour can indicate that pupils are struggling to understand the requirements of an activity. Be prepared to simplify your task or differentiate learning materials. Take care to speak more slowly and to simplify your explanations.
Having 3 or 4 highly effective games (the more the better) that are relevant to your current lesson is a great method to re-engage unruly students. Some of the games that I have used include, Pictionary, Word Bingo and Blackboard Race. The rules for these are available at my site
Learn English Grammar
Improving your knowledge of English grammar is a beneficial habit to develop. The study of grammar can be a bit dry, but even just spending 30 minutes a day studying English grammar is a great way to assist the clarity of your explanations whilst building your own personal skill set.
Being more sure about grammar will build your teaching confidence and will your career development prospects.
Give Yourself Time To Develop
Successful good quality teaching is never a "walk in the park." As you prepare to teach in Thailand really try to focus on being there for the students. The more you concentrate on prioritizing the well being of your students then the less you will be derailed by things that occur beyond the classroom.
Importantly don't get upset if you have a difficult class, as commitment and diligence will ensure your long term teaching success. Like any trade, teaching competency improves over time. So ride over the short term speed bumps with a smile and remember that it generally takes around five years for teachers to develop their skills to full potential.
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