As a kid, I contemplated becoming a teacher. I played with toy animals teaching them and my little brother. It’s what thought I wanted to do, but I found other dreams more exciting as I grew up; such as, becoming a writer.
Becoming a writer didn’t pan out very well, but it looks like I’m a teacher now and not just any teacher. Instead of going the traditional route and gaining my teaching certification to teach in Texas, I obtained my TEFL certification and now teach English in Thailand.
I was skeptical at first. It was a major career change, and I wasn’t 100% sure about teaching… All I knew was that it got me to travel. It was a way to get me closer to my dream of traveling and writing. Turns out, I haven’t written as much as I planned nor succeeded where I intended, but I have discovered new things about myself.
When I first started teaching, I had no clue what I was doing. These weren’t adults or kids with a good understanding of English. These were first grade students (primary 1) and all they knew were a few words here and there. My job was to teach them how to create proper sentences with correct structures. It was a lot harder than I expected.
English is my native language, and I majored in it in college. Yes, it was creative writing, but it’s more of an intensive writing and editing course than the English degree. Even with all my background I felt incompetent. It didn’t help that most of the material was UK English, so there were some major differences I had to remember.
The first few weeks were utter chaos. I was continually undermined by my co teachers due to my nationality and age. They saw me as the incompetent foreigner. I continually made mistake after mistake. At times I felt I should give up and leave; I was obviously ruining the kid’s education.
I was continually run down each day, and every sickness a kid had I caught. My co teachers didn’t like me, and one kept tossing away my grades every time I completed them. I felt defeated and discouraged most of the time. It wasn’t helping I had to adjust to the heat as well. That already put me in a pissy mood. I couldn’t communicate with my co teachers and it seemed I was the only one being treated differently.
I wanted to give up. Teaching wasn’t for me. It was a stupid idea. It’s good I tried it, but another failure I could add to my list. It seemed as if I couldn’t find where I belonged or where I could even fully support myself. I’m 23 almost 24, I should have everything figured out by now; or at least society believes I should, but the reality is… I don’t.
It wasn’t until about January that I fell into the routine of things and grasped a good handle on teaching. I had a good structure and flow going. The co teacher causing me trouble left, and I found I got along very well with my other homeroom co teacher. The students were comfortable with me and started to open up. They would talk to me outside of class about something new they saw or what they liked and didn’t like.
It was then, that I started to see the difference I was making. It might not be a whole lot, but it was a little something. Some might not have the best grammar, but at least they were speaking and willing to reach out and explore new ideas.
My section two class has excelled as well… Well, at least some of them have. Most of the students have trouble reading and writing. This isn’t their fault. It’s the teachers. All semester long, I’ve been told I’m too hard on them. They shouldn’t be able to read at this point and won’t be able to. They’re wrong. At this point in the semester they should be able to read; especially, when I read it out loud.
The problem is they don’t listen and their Thai teachers do the work for them. They baby them too much. I’ve had difficulty with those co teachers, because I’m seen as too harsh and told to lower everything when I should in fact be doing the opposite. It’s the Thai method of teaching, and it needs to change. Even the head teacher agrees, that we should begin implementing methods from other countries.
To let you understand the difference, here’s a scenario I recently faced at the end of school.
I gave a test to both sections for English. It was extremely simple: matching, filling in the blanks, telling me what their favorite animal is, and adding and subtracting. They’ve done all of it before, so I know they could do it. I read through the test with them, but even after reading each problem and the directions 20 times my section 2 class still couldn’t understand.
I was frustrated. I told them to go to the next section and go back later if they needed to. The co teacher became furious and said that I had to repeat the questions, because they can’t read. I told her I’ve done so 20 times, but after that I’m not going to do it anymore. They should have understood and completed the question by now. The kids just weren’t listening. She got mad and proceeded to give answers to some of the students which I got on to her for.
The test wasn’t hard, and my section one class proved that.
Section one excels in reading, writing, and speaking. Since their reading and listening skills are good, they’re able to excel. I hardly had to repeat the questions, and to be honest, they wanted me to shut up and let them work on the test on their own. The only things they really asked help for were clarification of directions and spelling. Most of them aced the test. It just goes to show that reading and listening are important skills.
I’ve known these things from the beginning, but it’s taken me until now to be adamant about them with my co teachers and make sure they don’t interfere except to explain directions or discipline.
For so long, I doubted myself, but being able to spot these differences, what makes each kid tick, and seeing the kid’s improvements has made me realize I do like teaching. I can do well in this profession. It also helps I can put my loud mouth to use.
Dad always said I’d be a good teacher, because I could break through noise cancelling headphones.
There are times I miss my old office job. I miss getting things done immediately and using my brain on a higher level. But I’m coming to find the little joys in teaching English; especially, to students abroad. They have greater appreciation and always seem cheerful.
So, what I have to say is if you have just started teaching and find that you want to quite within the first week, month or few months, don’t. Stick it out at least 5 months. You might find you love it.
Your first semester is going to be rough. You’ll feel like a complete failure and incompetent all the time, but you’re not. You’re just getting your bearings.
I hated teaching in the beginning. I hated it with a passion and thought it was stupid of me to fly half way across the world to do it. But now, I couldn’t imagine not making that decision.
Teaching may not be what I want to do for the rest of my life, but it’s helping me to see the world and experience new cultures; something I’ve always dreamed of doing.
Who knows, teaching might open up new opportunities for you and you might find you truly love it. If not, you’ll at least experience a new culture if you decide to teach abroad.