Karisa Blake

Confessions of a new teacher

What I learned in the first five months

Allow me to introduce myself. 

I'm Karisa and I couldn't be more of a cliché: a blonde, American, recent college grad who decided to go teach in a foreign country! Don't be too impressed with me; I'm hardly unique in this expedition to teach English abroad. Taking a year off after graduation is the new black.

For many American college grads these days the choices are:

A) Get a "real job" (If you can find one)
B) Work 3 shitty part time jobs (because you can't find a "real job")
C) Live in mom's basement while you "job hunt" (for that elusive "real job")
D) Go to grad school! (Didn't you just finish four years of school?)
E) Travel (Aka running away from choices A-D)

For me, the choice was obvious. 

My B.A. in History was worthless without a master's degree and I was not ready to dive right into two more years of research, lectures and living in the library's basement archives. There was also no way that I was going to continue working three jobs that hardly paid for the apartment I shared with three other people. 

Moving home to Boringville was NOT an option. This left me with choice E, Travel. I hadn't saved enough money to do the extended backpacker thing so I decided that teaching English abroad was the choice for me!

I graduated from college and almost immediately I moved to Asia! After completing a one month TESOL course, I moved to Bangkok and got a job at a language school. Easy as 1 2 3! Before working at the language school, my teaching experience was minimal. I had worked as a tour guide for about a year and a half but I had never taught English before. I've now been working as an English teacher for five months and I've learned A LOT! The following are five confessions of a new teacher.

1. The English language is ridiculous 

It's amazing how you go through life never even knowing the intricacies of your own language! In the past five months, I've learned more than I ever wanted to know about English grammar. The most important thing I've learned: English is both difficult and ridiculous. Present, Past, Future! Simple, Continuous, Perfect! Active, Passive, Conditional! And dear God, the articles!! 

For every rule there are 5 exceptions. For every regular verb there are 5 irregulars! I find myself apologizing to my students for corrections that I can't explain properly. "Remember your articles! Oh, but don't use an article with 'dinner.'" I'm sure they think that I'm making up the rules as I go. Because English is ridiculous!

2. Teaching English = Long Days

Because I work at a language school, I am at school when my university and working students are available for class. This means that I work in the afternoon and at night, usually for 9 hours a day. Most days, I spend about 11 hours per day commuting to work, working and commuting home. These long days are not easy and they are often really draining.

3. English School = English Bubble

I came to Thailand with the best intentions of learning Thai, really! I studied the language and alphabet while in America, I bought a Thai book and downloaded Thai lessons to my Ipod. I assumed that once I lived in Thailand I would magically absorb the Thai language and become fluent in no time! However, I've learned that it's quite difficult to learn and practice Thai when you are trapped in an English bubble for 9 hours every day.

My school is an "all-English" zone and my fellow teachers and I must reprimand students for using Thai. Outside of school, all of my friends speak English, native speakers and Thais. The only Thai I speak during the day is when I buy food on the street and take motorcycle taxis. It's possible that my Thai has actually gotten worse since I arrived!

4. Teaching= 50% Monotony and 50% Creativity. 

I find myself saying the same things day in and day out. "Remember to add 's' to verbs with he/she/it subjects." "Remember articles with countable nouns." "Speak English!" I teach the same pre-prepared lessons regularly, which is both good and bad. This repetition is countered with the 8 original activities I get to create every month. 

I really like making these activities and I can choose any topic I want. I've made activities about Thai soap operas, Lady Gaga songs and an imaginary Bangkok snow storm. It's fun to inspire the students and watch them have fun while practicing English.

5. My Students Make My Day!

No matter how long my days are, how badly my Thai is suffering, how monotonous my days are and how ridiculous English is, I know that my students will always make me smile. Most of my students are around my age and they are very interested in talking to me and learning about my life and why I came to Thailand. I truly love them and they make my day.


English is easy.... The grammar is straightforward, the tenses are logical. 90% of the verbs are regular.
It is a common misbelief that English is complicated and all that - you should try Mandarin! Or Arabic!
Or even German, just the basic grammar book of German is three time the size of the English one...

By Skoj, England (20th July 2013)

Welcome, Karisa. Great article and good to see you enjoy teaching here. I work at a large school far north of Thailand and that has forced me to learn a bit of Thai just go communicate with students. I came to Bangkok this vacation to learn more Thai only to do what you are doing, teach at a language school. Definitely an English bubble there. Still I can use my nit noi Thai at the mall and occasionally with little ones who mai kao jai me.

By Roy, Fang Thailand (2nd April 2013)

hi somchai!
it might be a good idea for you to take up some english humour classes (now there is a great businessidea!!
seriously if most students accept the english language as crazy as it is instead of trying to understand the grammar of it.....
learning it'll be a breeze!!
somchai please go easy on your reply ok?

by the way... Karisa you have a great teaching attitude keep it up gal!!

By betterdeals07, phuket (1st April 2013)

Nice use of punctuation and grammar Somchai. Are you a teacher yourself or just a hypocrite?

By Albert, Bangkok (1st April 2013)

Great Article! Well written and witty :).

Enjoy your time in Thailand and have fun with your students and don't get too caught up in the grammar rules. After all you got through university without knowing them, now think how important is it for the students to know them?

Hope to see more articles from you as you go through this adventure.

By Scott, Bangkok (31st March 2013)

Somchai. Idiotic.

By Rene Jay Ordman, North Thai (31st March 2013)

Wow, welcome aboard the TEFL wagon Karisa. I bet your male students can't keep their eyes on their textbooks with you in the classroom :-)

Seriously though, I hope you enjoy your time here in Thailand - and don't worry about the Thai language. Lots of foreigners have been living here for years, and still can hardly utter a word in the local lingo, hey forum guys!

P.s Phil it's about time you made these comments do-follow!

By dave, usa (30th March 2013)

if you canot speak a language yourself dont be so ridicluos that you think you can teach it to others

By somchai, bangkok (30th March 2013)

Welcome aboard the ajarn train Karisa. Choo choo!

Tom Tuohy

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (30th March 2013)

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