There are an array of teaching styles, priorities, and opinions when it comes to being a TESOL teacher in Thailand. And I've often observed that each individual teacher tends to promote and conduct the teaching style they themselves received or that is conducted in their homeland (Though, of course, personal flair accounts for a lot as well).
But as I've progressed in my time teaching here, and reflect on the different styles, I've noticed one constant difference again and again in the way that some teachers tend to teach. This difference is between the belief that it is of chief importance that students memorize and know all the complex and elaborate rules of grammar, and the somewhat contradictory belief that knowing the rules is not as important as basic speaking skills.
Now, of course, a balance is to be found for sure between any extreme of either opinion. Assuredly, students learning English need a balance between knowing the rules of grammar and knowing how to implement them in speech. But I personally feel that it's silly to teach a child complex grammatical structures when they can't have complex or even fluid conversation in English.
There is a standard- oft applauded mainly by non-Western TESOL teachers and supervisors- whereby student achievement and fluency is not based on fluency but on a student's ability to recite a rule about the blah blah blah continuous tense. And if the student is able to relay the rule, they're learning. But in my experience, students recite the rule or know the rule or learn the rule and maybe even vaguely understand the rule, but then you ask them a basic question and they don't understand.
Often, students that are made to memorize complex grammar rules are not anywhere near the level where they can fathom and really implement it. It seems a bit foolish to me, to be honest. I think the focus should be, first, on their ability to have basic conversation and understand basic vocabulary.
Maybe it's a matter of personal style. Maybe there is no right answer. Perhaps it varies by student, even, and some students truly will fair better and learn when they've learned the grammar rules first. (Though I personally still lean towards trying to improve speech and understanding of vocabulary.) Maybe it's just another chicken/egg debacle. What comes first? The speech or the grammar?