So, you might be thinking about teaching English in Thailand. Awesome, I’m super happy for you! But, have you thought about what it might actually take to become a teacher?
Have you asked yourself the difficult questions if teaching English in Thailand is right for you?
Teaching English in Thailand sounds like a pretty sweet gig. And I’m not going to sit here and tell you anything less, because IT WAS AMAZING! But it wasn’t all fun and games, travel and freedom.
Many people have these misconceptions about teaching English in a foreign country. And honestly, I was once one of those people. I didn’t know any different. I never really had any reason to think about what it really would be like.
You might hear...
“You are going to love teaching little kids.”
“Oh, Thailand is so cheap, you’ll get to travel so much.”
**Personally, I found very little difference between them and some Thai schools will hire you with either. In some cases, Thai schools will hire you without a TEFL or TESOL.**
Teaching English in Thailand isn't always that easy.
Becoming a teacher in a foreign country is one of the most rewarding, yet challenging, opportunities you’ll ever have. I wouldn’t trade my time as a teacher abroad for anything. I’m a huge advocate for moving abroad and teaching English. It is a great way to get out and see the world. Plus, it really does teach you a lot about yourself. But, it’s not always the easiest.
Before you go, I want you to ask yourself these 5 Questions if teaching English in Thailand is right for me.
1) Why Am I Going?
This is a deep question, I know. But, I really want you to think hard about your “why’s” for moving abroad to Thailand. Knowing these will help tremendously you once you arrive into Thailand. I knew several people during my time in Thailand, where teaching ultimately wasn’t what they thought or hoped.
Maybe they thought they’d have this easy job teaching little children simple English. They might have thought they’d live in the popular cities or in cities near the beaches. Several of them ended up leaving before the job even started, or shortly after.
This experience might come up short from expectations, if you don’t think about your “WHY”. Teaching abroad is not the same as traveling around foreign countries. It not the same as moving abroad to just live in another country. You are becoming a teacher. A teacher that holds a full time 40+ hours a week job with roles and responsibility.
That being said, whether your reason of moving abroad to Thailand is to push your self out of your comfort zone or in need of a change, be ready.
Your reason might be because you’ve just finished college and not sure your next move. It might be that you’re going through an early career crisis, like me. Regardless, I want you to understand something.
Teaching English abroad will open you up to so many new challenges, difficulties, and stressors. But, at the same time, it will also broaden your heart, mind and soul to something so unexpected.
Teaching English in a foreign country is an experience so indescribable and so ridiculously amazing. It doesn’t matter if you are early 20s and just graduated or later in life, post-career or mid career. This experience will change you and will be one you’ll never regret.
2) Am I ready to be a teacher?
Another one of the questions to ask yourself if teaching English in Thailand is right for me is if you are ready to be a teacher?
Teaching in Thailand isn’t a cake walk. It is an actual job. You are still going to have roles and responsibilities at work. Many schools require their English teachers to make their own lesson plans and exams. Plus, you might also have teacher duties like attending morning assemblies or greeting students at the gate. In many schools, you’ll likely even be working a 7:30 am – 4:30 pm day. That’s a 9 hour work day, and sometimes, you’ll work longer.
I don’t want you to think that teaching English is going to be this easy, walk in the park type job. It a job and one that the Thai teachers and Thai society take seriously.
Being a teacher in Thailand is a respected position. The position held as a public school teacher is also a government position. Schools pay a lot of money for native English speaking teachers (and other foreign language too).
Many teachers hold their position as a teacher with pride. They can tell very quickly, your attitude and responses to teaching. They can tell those who truly try to be the best teacher they can be verses those just going through the motions. The kids can tell too.
Many times the kids are moving through native English teacher after native English teacher. Many times they switch teachers ever semester. It takes it toll on them and the Thai teachers. I want you to understand that when you move abroad to be a teacher, you are becoming more than a teacher.
And get ready, because your life is about to change for the better!
3) Will I be able to teach any age of student?
I really want you to think hard about this question. Many people believe moving abroad to teach English means you’ll be teaching elementary school. I don’t know why this is, but it is a common misconception.
To be honest, I kind of thought that’s what I would be doing, especially since I have a background in teaching younger kids (I’m a speech pathologist by trade). However, once I actually moved to Thailand, I quickly found that teaching English goes way beyond the elementary age. There is so much that you can experience with teaching middle and high school aged students. Be open to it.
High School or Matthayom Level
As a foreign language English teacher to sophomores and juniors in high school, I felt that I could really build a bond with the students. I was able to have strong conversations with them, and in many cases, I could relate to issues they are going through. Because let’s be honest, I remember what life was like as a teenage girls.
There were countless classes where we would get sidetracked from a funny youtube video they saw or instagram story they were all watching that day. There were many times I would catch the students boomeranging or instagramming in class. I made it a mission to sneak into their stories in the middle of class. There were even a few times where I felt more like an older sister to the students than I did a teacher.
I got involved with the students beyond the typical teacher-student relationship. I became a volleyball coach and a life long older sister to several of my students, many of who I still talk to today. It truly is special watching them move on to their next journey in life.
Whenever the teacheors asked me to helped I did. I helped with speech and debate team and was active in the English competitions. I was a mentor, a supporter, a judge, and a teacher all wrapped up into one. It really opened my eyes to an area of school life I never participated in during my school years.
Don’t be afraid to take on those older children. You might think moving abroad to teach English means younger children, but promise me you’ll be open to the chance you might not get younger children.
The opportunity of teaching middle school and high school age students might arrive. Be willing to teach through those typical teenage behaviors, the awkward phases, the emotional phases and the dramatic phases. Don’t be afraid to take on the challenge of teaching English as a foreign language to any aged child. You won’t regret it.
4) Will I be able to handle being placed in a small town in the middle of nowhere?
This is one of those questions about teaching English in Thailand that many don’t think about. But, I want you to think long and hard about it. Especially if you are going through a recruitment company or agency. Many native English speakers want to teach English in popular places like Bangkok, or Chiang Mai, or in Trang (a beach city). They can often be difficult to find jobs in these places because of the popularity. I want you to be prepared that it might not happen.
Every school in Thailand hopes for a native English speaking teacher and are willing to pay extra for one. This means small town places can occur. This means schools in rural Thailand in the Northern region, Issan Region, Southern regions, and coastal towns are all hoping for an native English speaking teacher.
There is a chance you might end up in towns no larger that 10,000 people. There could be a chance you get placed in village towns, where it’s over an hour by bus to the nearest “big” city. This means that there might not be a lot going on or other foreigners placed in the town.
Be prepared that you could be on your own or, that there may only be a few other foreigners in the same city. I had teaching friends placed in the small town of Tak, a small town of Phayao, Chumphon, Surat Thani, Hat Yai, and many more.
Teachers are placed in every size city of cities throughout the country. Don’t freak out. This isn’t met to scare you or deter you from moving to Thailand to teach English. I just want you to be aware that you might not be in the main, big, popular cities. But, also know that you might learn more about yourself, about Thai culture, and see more Thailand than you ever thought possible.
It will open you up to so much more by being open to the possibility of placements in smaller, lesser known towns, cities, and regions.
5) What do I hope to get out of this experience?
The last of the questions to ask yourself if teaching English in Thailand is right for me has to do with the outcome of this experience. What do you hope you get from teaching in Thailand?
Before I left to teach English in Thailand, I really only thought about myself and my reason. I was looking for a new adventure, a way to find myself again. After a long 2017-2018 school year living life on an island post two Category 5 Hurricanes, I just needed to escape. But, I wasn’t ready to move back stateside. I wanted to keep up my adventurous lifestyle (semi) abroad.
As my departure was approaching, I really thought about what I wanted to gain for the experience of teaching English in Thailand. What I realized was that I wanted more than just the ease of travel or eating all the Thai food.
I wanted to gain back my love for teaching. I wanted to get connected with the Thai culture. And I wanted to make friends who are locals.
I didn’t want to do the same things I had been doing stateside or on the island. I wanted to push myself out of my comfortzone. Ultimately, I found that the more I thought about these things, the more I was willing to try.
It might not be true, but I feel like I got more out of my time teaching abroad than many. My time abroad connected me with a group of volleyball students that I hope will never break. I made connections with friends that I know will always been there.
Over the course of my 3 semesters in Thailand, I learned a lot about myself. I pushed myself into situations I’ve never been in before. There were things like speech and debate, English competitions, and Muay Thai (though never fought) that I don’t think I would have normally done. I also ate more strange foods than ever before.
I cannot recommend moving and working abroad more. There are so many positive reasons for taking on the challenge of living abroad. Teaching English in Thailand is truly a life changing experience and one I will never forgot. These 5 questions to ask yourself if teaching English in Thailand is right for me, just barely touches the surface.
But, if you’re up for the challenge, the experience, the culture shock and the cultural lessons you’ll learn along the way, then I promise you, teaching abroad is the right choice. Be ready to have your heart explode with happiness and your belly full from food.
If you like to learn more about how to move abroad to teach English, check out Greenheart Travel. As a recruitment company, they offer a guarantee placement policy and non-stop support during the preparation stages. They also offer TESOL certification in the selected country you’re interested in and assistance with visas. In addition to Thailand, they offer opportunities for teaching abroad in several other countries, and programs for all ages, including exchange programs for teenagers.
If you are interested in volunteering abroad as a teacher, check out Teach Thailand Corp for more information.