My experience working as an English teacher in a lost village of Thailand
Sending resumes all over Asia, I contacted an agency that was looking for foreigners to work as an English teacher in Thailand. The agency was called Mediakids and it was specialized to send teachers to a rural areas of Thailand.
Ten months I spent in Spain between holidays and junk jobs. I inevitably missed my life in Asia again. It sounded good to work in Thailand for a while as an English teacher. Besides, living in a rural area, in a small village, was something I had been waiting for for years. So I didn’t think twice. I signed a four-month contract and in May 2016 I started a new stage in Thailand.
I was assigned to a lost village between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, where no one ever stopped. Specifically, in the province of Kamphaeng Phet. The village was called Khlong Khlung and in the google maps appeared near a river and surrounded by nature.
When we arrived in Bangkok, the agency paid us for three nights in a hotel and gave us a training course in Thailand, its customs, the educational centers and the methodology we should follow. We were about 50 foreigners from all over the world looking for a new adventure. Most of the teachers were native speakers, although they did not have any experience as English teachers.
The agency had schools all over northern Thailand. In some areas they commanded up to 5 or 6 foreigners. In my province there were only two of us, a Filipino girl and me. I was about to spend 4 months there without a single foreigner in sight.
On the fourth day, once the course was over, we went to the village. Halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai a small road forks to the right, and there, two kilometers away, is Khlong Khlung. With a river on the side and surrounded by fields but not a single mountain.
To the north, Khlong Khlung was an hour away from the city of Kamphaeng Phet and, to the South, was another hour away from Nakhon Sawan, the provincial capital of the next province. I was 5 hours from Bangkok and 5 hours from Chiang Mai. I was in the middle of nowhere.
Teaching English in Thailand: Khlong Khlung, Khamphaeng Phet
The contract included paid residence, so they gave me a nice hotel room. It was a kind of bungalow. The truth is that I loved the place. It was 5 minutes from the river on foot and 15 minutes by motorbike from the school.
The Filipino girl lived next door. The school was about 10 km away so we just rented a motorcycle between us. I learned to drive that same afternoon and the next day I drove to school with my co-worker behind me. And on top of that, in Thailand they drive on the left…
But we managed to get there safely. The school was next to a secondary road that led to other villages. All the students from the surrounding villages, from kindergarten to primary school, were here. Kindergarten students are called “Anuban” and primary school students are called “Prathom“.
The school was huge. Just past the entrance was a main courtyard filled with mango trees. At the end of classes you could pick up mangoes and then take them home. They also had 4 very nice dogs that always were wandering around the dining room.
The main courtyard was surrounded by one-story houses. To the left was the dining room and in front of it was the only two-story building. The first floor was for Anuban‘s classrooms and the second for the elders (Prathom 6) and the director’s office. To the right of the courtyard were the classrooms of Prathom 4 and 5 and the teachers’ office. In the back there was a natural grass football field and a basketball court. Both were also surrounded by classrooms for Prathom 1, 2 and 3.
English teacher in Thailand: The schedule
The schedule for the English teacher was this:
- 8-9: Gate Duty. Morning Talk. Prayer. Raise the flag. Meditation.
- 9 to 9:50: Class with children in nursery (Anuban) or first grade (Prathom 1).
- 9:50 to 11:50: Two hours of class with one of the primary levels (Prathom).
- 11:50 to 12:50: Meal break.
- 12:50 to 14:30: An hour and a half of class with one of the primary levels (Prathom).
- 14:30 to 16:00: Break to prepare classes, correct homework, prepare exams…
Working hours were from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Once a week each teacher had to stay at the main door welcoming the students (Gate Duty). At the end of the day, the teachers also had to say goodbye to the students at the main door. Also, once a week each English teacher I had to give a talk or teach something to the group of students gathered on the basketball court (Morning Talk).
At 8 a.m. the students arrived at the school. They listen the Morning Talk, then they prayed together and hoisted the flag. Finally, before classes began, students cleaned the classrooms or started meditating together.
Meditation was something to see. Sometimes, during class, when the children were very excited or misbehaved, if you called them “Nansamati“, they would sit across their legs in the chair and start meditating.
From 9 to 9:50 I had a class with the children in the nursery. Three days a week and each day a different class. Then, from 9:50 to 11:50 and from 12:50 to 14:30 I had a class with the primary school children. There were 5 levels and I had 3 and a half hour class with each level per week.
English Teacher in Thailand – Teacher Homework
Image is very important in Thailand. Thai students and teachers wore a different outfit every day of the week. On Mondays they wore the school uniform, on Tuesdays they wore purple, which was the color of the king, on Wednesdays a traditional dress, on Thursdays a boy scout suit and on Fridays sportswear. I always had to wear shoes, fag trousers, a shirt and the blue tie that the agency had given me with the Mediakids logo.
Mediakids gave all the school supplies to both students and teachers. All the students had their textbooks and activity books. The agency had informed us that we had to send to the agency every two weeks the didactic units of the following two weeks.
Also, in the fourth month, we had to present the semester evaluations or we would not get the salary of the last month. The students could not fail, so if any of them didn’t do well in the exams, we had to raise their grades with homework or class activities.
English teacher in Thailand – The students
Teaching Thai children are the best memory I have of this experience. They are all very good, always smiling, very open, very handsome and very crazy.
Between rest and rest the students always asked me to play songs and we started dancing like crazy. When the time ran out the class would start again as if nothing had happened. It was great the fact that both at the beginning and at the end of the class I always received a hug.
The negative point was perhaps that in Thailand, as in China, and as I suppose in almost all of Asia, they have problems notifying you in advance or informing you well about others.
There is a communication deficit. For example, the evaluation system was not well explained to me until last month, so I had to change my evaluation several times. Or things like suddenly classes were cancelled because it was a Buddhist holiday and the children went to the temple to pray and I found out that same morning.
But in general, I couldn’t complain. They gave me absolute freedom to teach, and if I managed my time well, when I left work I had no other concerns than preparing classes, correcting homework, or taking exams. Almost every afternoon I would go to a bar by the river and stay there with a beer doing my homework. Khlong Khlung could be boring, but you could breathe calm and tranquility.
English teacher in Thailand – My free time
My co-worker, the Filipino girl, was very nice even though she wasn’t much of a party girl. On weekends I would go alone to Nakhon Sawan or visit other provinces of the Thailand’s countryside. To look for friends and to look for something to celebrate. Other weekends I would ride my motorbike around the area and get lost in the surrounding villages. It was all peace and tranquility, although much, much solitude.
Last month, on one of my afternoons sitting on the river, to my great surprise I ran into two foreigners. It was a couple from South Africa who had come to teach a village near where I was teaching. I showed them where I lived, they loved the bungalow and the bar by the river so they moved there too.
That month, thanks to their company, it was much more enjoyable. In the afternoons we would get together to drink beers and play board games and on weekends we would go around together.
Four months passed, although it seemed to me that it took more than a year and I decided not to renew the contract. The experience had been good, curious and relaxing, but I couldn’t stand so much loneliness. I had friends in Kunming who told me to come back, that I was better than ever and that there were good job opportunities.
With a lot of pain, at the end of the semester I said goodbye to the children almost with tears in my eyes. I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again or even if they’ll remember this “crazy English teacher“, as some called me, but for me they will always be in the drawer of my best memories.
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If every 8 years old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.