Sam Thompson

Thrown to the wolves

Teaching kindergarten for the very first time

As I mentioned before, I was told at my interview last weekend that I would have a class to teach on Sunday (tomorrow). At several points throughout the week, though, the fellow that interviewed me (very nice British chap) called me to offer me a class, and then two, to fill-in for on Saturday (today). I couldn't say no having just been hired, so even though it only pays 420 baht/hour and takes an hour and a half to get to their office, I went for it.

I won't lie: I was more nervous for the class I was to teach today than I was (and am) for the class I'm scheduled to teach all day tomorrow. Well, as nervous as I get, anyway; I'm not usually one to worry.

Today's class was my very first 2-hour stint with a group of kindergarteners. I've never been the world's largest fan of little kids, not because I don't like them, but because I have no earthly idea what to do with them. Well, all things considered, I'd say my class went quite well! I think they learned a few things, if nothing else; today's topics were clothing and pets, and I had them color a sheet that required them to practice saying pet types, counting how many of each, and specifying colors.

Afterwards, I couldn't resist making them all get on the floor with me and act out each animal. That was fun. I think I may have enjoyed crawling around acting like a cat, dog, mouse, hamster, snake, and bird more than they did.

Phew, I don't know how kindergarten teachers do it. I only had a class of seven kids for two hours, and it was utterly exhausting. I managed to hold their attention for a good 30 minutes before they started disintegrating into madness, and after that it was essentially guided babysitting. I would feel bad about not getting more accomplished had I not gone to that interview at the Montessori school a month or so ago and seen the utter madness in the kindergarten class there.

They were all quite sweet kids, and insisted I carry them around the room, colored on everything they could find, and ran wild with some random large dolls in the room. The parents seemed pleased afterwards, and I was told by my interviewer (the director of studies at this language school) that the parents and kids liked me. How about that.

After a cheap lunch right around the corner (my first Thai omelet that I've ordered, quite good), I had another class of older students. There were only three, around age 15, and I must say: it's fun to teach small groups. They seem to get exponentially more out of a lesson than larger groups due to the sheer amount of attention I can spend with them.

Keep in mind, here, that I put in zero preparation for either class. I had to play it by ear; I am a fill-in for these classes, after all, so I just went with what felt right. That said, I did go by the office last night (the night before) and picked up the materials I was to use. I'll be honest: I didn't even look at them; a friend I met in Bangkok before I moved here happens to be in town this weekend, so I met up with him and his friend (who is about to start a charity in Fiji, I might add... very cool) and hung out for most of the night.

I did learn, on a side note, that it is nearly impossible to get a taxi to take me home after the bus system closes down around midnight. The taxi drivers won't even attempt to understand where I'm trying to say I need to go (Sripitum University). I did finally find one taxi that spoke good English, but it took hailing down 6 or so taxis in a matter of 30 minutes before that occurred.

Back to the school, though: apparently, my older class of three (in the class called "cool cats," which I find amusing) liked me so much that I was requested, almost begged, by the director of studies to become their regular Saturday teacher! Apparently the parents almost demanded it. How's that for appreciation! I'm seriously humbled, especially being that I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I did agree to do so on the stipulation that I'll pick up another class on Saturdays now to make it worth my trip out there. I have mixed feelings about it, though; this schedule means that I won't have any days off every week, which is nothing new to me, but still severely interferes with my ability to go out to bars with my colleagues on the weekends.

This weekend, especially, is problematic being that my friends I hung out with last night are here, and a friend I met in England last year is in town from Australia too. It's a convergence of old friends in a new city! It's unfortunate, then, that I must be at the language school by ten in the morning to teach an all-day class.

A note on that class: apparently, the American Embassy has some kind of program for "underprivileged" students, and they are who I'll be teaching: about eighteen 14-18 year olds who come from "disadvantaged backgrounds." We'll see what that actually entails, but I have been told to keep an eye on my wallet by the director. Hopefully it'll go smoothly. Again, I have no idea of what I'll be teaching them or how I'll keep them occupied for six hours, but what's the worst that can happen?

If nothing else, I plan on harassing them about pronouncing "R's" as "R's" rather than "L's," just like I did with my class today. With practice, I think they'll get it!
I calculated how much it costs me, round trip, to get to this language school from my apartment and not counting the time involved (about an hour and a half), it costs me roughly 200 baht.

Because of my friends in town, and because I'd have to make the trip there and back 4 times in less than a day's time, I decided (once again) to just stay at the hostel I seem to frequent in the Nana district. At 400 baht a night (it's high season here as of December 1, apparently, so the price goes up 50 baht per night), it's still cheaper than going back and forth home, I'll save a solid 6 hours of travel time over the next day, and I won't have to worry about being late to school in the morning if things get a bit out of hand tonight.

I'm already tired, unfortunately, being that I didn't get back home last night until well after 1:00 a.m. due to the taxi situation, and having to leave by 8:00 this morning to get here on time. But hey, as I frequently say, you only live once.

So, two jobs will once again be my life! Even so, I'll only be working about 50 hours per week, of which most of that is planning time at my school. I'm used to working a solid 80 hours in the US, so I think it'll be dandy. I'm still hoping to get into some corporate teaching, so that's the reason I'm pulling these Saturdays at the language school; get in good with them, get some corporate teaching gigs. Should be fun.

I should also note that my particular language school is owned and run by a Thai foreigner celebrity, so if nothing else, it should look good on my resume. Everyone I've met working for the company thus far has been great, so I foresee it as being a great experience in the long run.

Well, tonight will entail a lot of meeting and greeting with old chums and new ones, so I think it's high time I hit up the 7/11 for a Leo beer and chill for a bit. After all, I can sleep... well, eventually.

In my next entry, I'll note how tomorrow's six hour class goes. It should be interesting, and will certainly


Whether you work 50 or 80 hours is probably a personal thing - and I'm sure you know what suits you best. What I really liked about your post was the positive attitude you have regarding your teaching. I like that!
Kindergarten kids can be the most appreciative of kids to teach - but they do what they want to (more or less), when they want to - and it's definitely not everybody's idea of "teaching". Trying to keep their attention and not "losing" them after just a few minutes is very difficult and I can certainly admire the guys that manage to come away from being with the kindergarten kids with no injuries and their head still intact.
My ideal lesson for these kids lasts around 15 minutes - and then I'm off (and quickly!). I only do a "sudden" lesson like that when my normal classes are away - and where no-one thought to inform me beforehand. I like the experience of engaging with the small kids - and hopefully I'll be able to build up a long(ish) program or two along the way. Maybe this will be useful at some time in the future.

Good luck with your classes - and more blogs, please!



By Pete, Thailand (9th December 2012)

wow very interesting! im teaching anuban and i agree with you. good luck with ur life as a teacher here and ur workload! not easy here :)

By dalcy, bangkok (5th December 2012)

Tim, yes... you're not the first person to tell me that. :) Believe it or not, I rather like working 50 hours a week. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I wasn't busy.

Well, yes I do know what I would do with myself... I'd party every night. haha Working, in my eyes, is like making double the money you actually make: you get your salary, PLUS (perhaps more importantly) you're not spending any money. I get bored easily, and bored = money.

Teaching toddlers, granted, isn't my idea of an ideal job just due to the energy required. But, luckily I was just filling in for that.

Otherwise, I enjoy the adventure!

By Sam, Bangkok (4th December 2012)

I don't envy your life. 50 hours with no days off, teaching toddlers or troublesome kids and a travel time that makes no sense at all. There must be an easier way to make a living.

By Tim, Bangkok (3rd December 2012)

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