It is the day before you start your job of instructing the future of Thailand. All you can feel are nerves running through every inch of your body. Sit back and let me calm you down a bit. Teaching in “The Land of Smiles” is no simple job but there are many ways you can improve the work environment and create as relaxing of an atmosphere as is possible. It may come as a surprise that many of these suggestions have absolutely no relation to teaching whatsoever. Appearance and show are the name of the game when creating a great impression on the first day of school.
Having been through two first days of school I have garnered a few skills in setting a good precedent for the year to come. Hopefully you find some of these useful as well.
1. For God’s Sake, Smile
Smiling is of the utmost importance. If you are not smiling then you are either sad or taking the job too seriously. Get some practice in because your cheeks will be hurting after your first week.
2. Treat the Schedule as More of a Guideline
You have a schedule? Wonderful! Now forget about it and be ready to have class times cut in half, assemblies occur unannounced, Sports Day practice, or be told to go teach a completely different class altogether. The key point is to be adaptable.
3. For Men, Shave
This is more of a “better safe than sorry” suggestion. On the first day I came in clean shaven even though it gives me a serious case of the baby-face. Many Thai teachers find this look far more professional (read: handsome) than even the most well kept beard. Just another step towards building rapport. It also means they will be less likely to speak up when you decide to let it grow out. Get on their good side and after a short time you can let out your inner Grizzly Adams.
4. Follow the Dress Suggestions
Very similar to the previous advice in that it is all about initial appearance. Look good your first week. I mean really good. Like “going to church on Sunday” good. It will only make it easier for you to dress more casually later on.
5. Befriend Your Thai Teacher
Most of you will have a Thai co-teacher in the classroom with you (God have mercy on your soul if you do not). Do all you can to get on her/his good side. Just like any workplace it will only make your time more enjoyable and they will be more willing to step in and help coral the kids when they inevitably become too much to handle. This can be done by simply asking for her suggestions, gifting a Thai coffee in the morning, or incorporating her into your lessons as well.
6. Don’t Teach!!!
I know what you are thinking. “I’m a teacher and therefore I should teach them something new.” Wrong!!! At least do not make it apparent that you are teaching the kids something new. Work ideas and concepts into games. Make it fun and lighthearted. Just like the smiling it is all about appearing less serious at first so that it becomes OK to be serious later.
*Note: This rule only applies to the first week. You didn’t think I meant “don’t teach ever” did you?
More than likely the children are brand new to you and this is your opportunity to learn about them. The students will either know less or more than the materials you have prepared. Class may be too short to cover what you had planned or the kids finished your worksheet 20 minutes early. Have something up you sleeve to use for situations such as these.
8. Have Fun
I know, such a cliché saying but it really is essential. Nothing will go as you planned. Situations will do their best to frustrate you to the bitter end. Just bask in the fact that you made the decision to teach abroad. You are here so now it is time to sit back and enjoy it. Throw away your inhibitions. You made the decision to teach in Thailand, how hard can it really be right?
Many of the suggestions can be applied to a teaching job in nearly any country. Just come in with an open mind. I promise it will not be as serious as you think. Any tips I may have missed?
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