Sam Thompson

Moving on

The lives we teachers touch and the impact we have.

I seem to have a rule of 3s for teaching: my first teaching gig in Thailand, a Thai government school (as per the usual), lasted three years before I moved on to another school, this time international—and I’ve officially finished a three-year stint there too. 

It’s all been great experience and largely positive overall, but onward and upward, as they say—for me, that’s Korea! (More on that later.)

Students at schools in Thailand are used to foreign teachers coming and going; it’s the nature of the game, I suppose. Growing up, I really don’t remember many teachers coming and going. In the rural schools I went to, if you were hired as a teacher, you were pretty much there for life — roots down, kids there, part of the community, the works. 

As an expat teacher though, that’s often not true, and I’ve noticed it’s hard for kids to wrap their heads around why teachers are often coming and going, even at international schools.

When the end of term arrives, and word gets out of what teachers are staying and which ones are off, there’s always the kids that take it in their stride — thanks, good luck (or good riddance), etc—and those that are genuinely upset. 

It certainly makes sense, considering some of these kids spend more time with their teachers than they do at home, so it can be jarring to have such a change. I know I always grow attached to “my kids,” especially those students that for whatever reason I have directly worked with every year at the school; I keep in touch with many former students, and watching them grow up makes me feel especially old. Still, for them, a teacher leaving can seemingly be like losing a family member.

Obviously, different teachers connect (or don’t) with different students in different ways, but in my school-leavings thus far, I have just been blown away by how caring kids can be — especially those that you could have sworn didn’t give a toss about ever seeing you again. 

This round, I had a group of students make a full-on going away video for me, complete with individual interviews and video editing that had all of us tearing up on the last day — where was that effort for assignments anyway? Other students, ones I may only have encountered a few times, wrote the nicest notes and/or gave parting gifts, lamenting highly specific situations I otherwise wouldn’t have given a second thought to; who knew?

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that, as a teacher, you never know whose life you’re going to make an impact on. There are always those days that make you wonder what it is you’re doing with your life, but I would argue there are few professions that can allow a person to make so many direct contributions to the lives of others.

Trying to balance between professional career growth and… loyalty, if you will, isn’t easy as a teacher, but I’ll always remember the advice a veteran teacher gave me when I first started that didn’t really resonate with me then: students will always be great, no matter where you go. 

In my limited experience thus far, I can definitely agree; still, parting is indeed such sweet sorrow. 

I hope you enjoyed my blog. If you would like to get in touch or perhaps e-mail me with a question, I would love to hear from you - All the best, Sam Thompson.


Enjoyed the read, Sam - followed you off and on since you started 6 years ago (and I was teaching in Issan). I treasure the unsolicited, handwritten notes some of my students gave me when I ended a teaching job in China 4 years ago - rewarding to know all that hard work (for relatively low pay) didn't go to waste. All the best to you in Korea!

By Scott, Colombia, South America (25th June 2018)

Yes it true teachers come and go or leave more often than not in the Land of Smiles. I believe it is simply a case that there is no benefit of teaching in Thailand anymore. Actually I sincerely believe that teaching EFL in Thailand is dangerous for one's sanity and health. Yes we are needed here...but NOT wanted...especially by the powers that be!!

By Dave, SE ASIA (24th June 2018)

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