"Teacher, you go to the island with many women?"
Let's face it. There's a stereotype that comes with being a male English teacher in Thailand. That is, we're all sex-tourists.
If you're single the cards are stacked against you. If you're married to a Thai national, and even better, have children together - well, that bumps you up the ranks in Thai society.
With this in mind, at the beginning of every corporate course, I tend to introduce myself and show my students pictures of myself with my wife and daughter with the hopes that it will build rapport between us. But it doesn't always work.
I still get a few students in each class who think I'm a sex tourist spending my nights and weekends sleuthing for bathhouses in Bangkok.
To say this doesn't bother me would be a lie. I love teaching and I spend a lot of time in the classroom trying to connect with my students on a personal level. But in some of their eyes I'm only teaching to make enough money to feed my vices.
If only they knew how a typical day went for me, then just maybe they would change their minds. If only they knew I wake up at the wee hours just like they do, fight traffic to get to work on time just like they do (or don't), go home and spend an hour or two at the park mingling with other parents with my wife and daughter just like they do, and even go food shopping on the weekends, just like they do, then maybe they would see me in a different light, as just another productive member of Thai society doing mostly mundane things.
So in an earnest attempt to win over the hearts and trust of all my students I usually play a Q&A game with them. I tell them they can ask me any questions they'd like (this gives them practice using question words) and in return I have to answer their questions as openly and as honestly as possible.
I find this creates a deeper relationship as it gives them a chance to get to know me on a personal level, and it lets them clear their minds of all the questions they've so eagerly been awaiting answers to.
"No, Golf. I don't go to the island with many women. I do go with my wife and daughter though. And between the two of them they're all the women this man can handle."
For the male teachers, how do you build rapport in the classroom? How do you win over the trust of your students?