After a year spent teaching in the humid reaches of Southeast Asia’s Land of Smiles, I look back on my time in the classroom with real joy. Not only was it an opportunity to hone my EFL skills in a real world environment, but the experience taught me loads about a different culture, language and people. Oh yea, and I got to sun myself on the Koh Samui sands and party in the bamboo bars of Pai along the way!
Perhaps you’re just finishing your TEFL cert, are thinking of enrolling on an EFL internship in Thailand, or are just wondering about the various benefits of opting for this enclave of Southeast Asia to teach in. Well, whatever your circumstance, be sure to check out this list of five things I learned while on the ground.
Bangkok Skyline | © Swaminathan/Flickr
Everyone’s nervous to begin with
Nail biting, thumb twitching, wobbly knees and butterflies in the stomach – these are the preserve of first-time teachers all over the globe. Whether it’s the sultry city climes of Southeast Asia (like me) or the bucolic, off-the-beaten-track schools of Latin America, there’s no question that standing in front of that first class will be a nerve-wracking experience. Remember though: everyone’s in the same boat, so there’ll likely be a great support system around you (another thing I learned!). Oh, and you’ll soon forget all about that stress, it’ll help you build character, and get you bossing that classroom like it’s nobody’s business!
Planning makes perfect
During that TEFL course, internship or online program you hear it time and time again: proper planning of lessons is the way to success. And boy is that the truth! In fact, I’d go as far as to say that pre-lesson prep is the single most important aspect of foreign language teaching. I came across oodles of folk who’d simply waltz into school each morning with the idea of ‘winging it’, only to discover later what a disaster their lessons had been: kids unsure what to do; unfinished modules; bouncy balls being thrown (I actually took one right on the button once, but that’s another story). Just be sure to have a clear understanding of what it is you want to achieve each day, plan a series of activities and never, ever repeat the same games!
Phra Nang Beach | © Mark Fischer/Flickr
There’s more to life than money
Many first-time EFL teachers will be upping and leaving the nine-to-five, while others will be thinking about funding their gap year, and others will just be embarking on a career path abroad. Well, no matter who you are, it’s important to remember that while not all TEFL destinations pay the same (think Korea, China, UAE vs Colombia, Thailand and Argentina), the riches TEFLing will offer, go far beyond bank notes and bucks. They come in the form of cultural enlightenment, worldly experience, exciting lack of routine, fulfilling work, and plenty, plenty more!
Mae Hong Son, Northern Thailand | © Eugene Zagidullin/Flickr
Make the most of the country around you
During my time in Thailand I was determined to make the most of every weekend and holiday I had. I ranged from the dusty hills of Mae Hong Son in the north to the sun-splashed beaches of the Andaman coast in the south. I rode elephants, volunteered in backcountry towns, saw the River Kwai, ate deep-fried insects (something of a rite of passage on Khaosan Road) in Bangkok, partied the night away under a full moon – the list goes on. And that’s all before the fascinating cultural and religious knowledge I’ve come away with too. Yes folks, always make the most of the country around you.
Language learning is no walk in the park
If – like many – you’re interested in TEFL because it will allow you to immerse yourself in a whole other language while teaching, then be prepared to realise that nailing that foreign tongue isn’t just a case of being somewhere. You’ll be sure to pick up a few phrases here and there from daily life, but for really getting to grips with those turns of phrase and grammatical nuances you’ll likely want to find yourself a 1-to-1 tutor or sign up to an afternoon language class. But hey, with cheap living costs and plenty of free time, it’s fantastic opportunity to pick up an extra language.
Ready for your own trip?
With all MyTEFL online courses we provide support to help you find teaching jobs around the world – including Thailand! Check out the employment packages and criteria for unique destinations on our Job Placement Service page.
Still need your TEFL certificate?
Getting your TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification is the first step to starting your life overseas. It only takes 120 hours to complete from the comfort of your own home (that’s about 6-8 weeks) and shows schools around the world that you’re qualified to teach.