On Being a Teacher

Teaching is hard.

Teaching is exhausting.

As a brand new teacher with just one month of TESOL training under my belt, teaching is a HUGE learning curve.

I teach four Anuban (the Thai word for kindergarten) classes at my school–two Anuban 2 classes, each composed of 32 four and five year olds, and two Anuban 3 classes, each composed of 23 five and six year olds. Whereas some English teachers in Thailand have hundreds of students and see their classes only once or twice a week, I see my Anubans everyday. This is great because I really am getting to know them. I’m developing relationships with them and because they see me everyday, they are able to get used to me and my teaching style with a lot more ease than if they only saw me once a week. Given that the small kiddies thrive on stability, this is a major plus.

For all the benefits of seeing my kids everyday–oh and their cute, shiny faces definitely are a major plus–it also means that I constantly have to be keeping them on their toes. What works for one class doesn’t always work for another. What worked yesterday might not work today.

My Anuban 3s are quite a bit more mature than my Anuban 2s, so I am finding that I can push them a lot more, whereas I’ve been constantly finding that I need to simplify my lessons for my 2s. Each of my four classes is very different and they require different needs and different forms of attention. I’m still trying to understand those different needs three weeks in and it certainly hasn’t been easy.

My school provides me with an in-depth curriculum that includes complete lesson plans. This is nice in that I have a very detailed idea of what I should be accomplishing each week in class. That said, in a way, it also makes my job more complicated because I know that some of the included lesson plan materials wont work for my classes. This means I’m constantly trying to rethink curriculum activities to fit the needs of my kids. In some ways, I feel like it would almost be easier to come up with lesson plans tailored to each class on my own. It would certainly take longer, but it would also mean I have full control over my lesson planning and I’d feel confident that they would work well for each individual class.

My students. They’re adorable, but they can be crazy. They don’t like to listen. Classroom management has been hard. Even if they are being good overall, they’re so young and their attention spans are so short.

That said, I’ve only been working here for three weeks and I can already tell you that I absolutely love these kids. For how difficult they can be, they are also so fun to work with. They show me so much love and gratitude. Having a student come up and hug me after class is one of the best feelings in the world

— — — —

I’ve had a couple really crappy days this week, where I’ve really questioned my role as a teacher; a teacher fresh out of TESOL, at that. But I’ve also had some really good days. I had a moment in class today where a light bulb went off in my head in the middle of teaching and I thought, “I’m doing something amazing right now.”

And it just made me feel so strong. So invigorated. 

Because it is amazing. Being here in Thailand. The way I dropped myself without practically any qualms in a new country and culture just like that. Teaching English to these small, small students who are just now mastering Thai–and now they’re being asked to learn English. It is amazing and don’t want to forget that.

I only hope I can pass some English along to these kids…but, if nothing else I know that, without a doubt, I am a positive influence in their lives. Just me being here, showing  them that I care and that I’m supporting them both inside and outside of the classroom–that’s something they will take with them for the rest of their lives.

And that. That is pretty amazing.

So yes, being a teacher is incredibly hard. Especially being a new teacher and especially being a teacher in a foreign country where there is a huge language barrier.

But I can already tell you that it is so worth it.

 

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14 thoughts on “On Being a Teacher

    1. I think there will be more good days as I continue to adjust and get the hang of teaching. I’m really so happy to be here and I can’t imagine myself anywhere else right now…but teaching IS a learning curve–it’s a process to get used to, especially while simultaneously acclimating to living in a foreign country.

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  1. It is such a rewarding job and your kids will pick up even the smallest of things without you even realising at times. Keep up the good work! I’ve been teaching in Thailand now for 8 months and I love it! Your right though, I teach 5-7 yr olds and their attention span is so short! Enjoy it!

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    1. I am so happy to be here! I can’t imagine being anywhere else right now and though it’s certainly been difficult adjusting to teaching and to Thailand in general, I do love this country and I absolutely love seeing my students everyday.

      I checked out your blog and noticed you live in Chiang Mai–I spent the entirety of last month there taking a course to be TESOL certified. I absolutely love it there and really miss it–especially all the vegetarian options, since I don’t eat meat!

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      1. Thailand is such a great place to live, especially as there are so many amazing places to visit too! I can identify with you there, it is hard to adjust and to have the confidence to stand in front of 30 kids and teach them having never taught before. I only became a teacher here in March so have just finished my first semester. It just comes naturally after a while, once your settled, you actually start to enjoy it alot more! Glad your enjoying it so far! Yeah Chiang Mai is awesome! Where abouts are you based now?

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      2. It does get easier as time goes on, that’s for sure. I don’t really get nervous going into class, but it still is a struggle to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I’m constantly changing and developing the way I teach these days!

        I’m currently living in Nahkon Pathom Province, 45 minute west of Bangkok. I love it here. I live in a great little town and it’s close enough to the BKK that can easily get there if I need to!

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  2. Glad to hear that you’re enjoying your teaching experience, despite the stress and exhaustion. I admit that for me, I am still trying to get adjusted to my teaching situation. I am teaching middle school and high school students, who immensely differ from kindergartners. While the middle schoolers are willing to learn, it’s been difficult to get the high schoolers motivated to speak up and improve their English. Students are at once similar and very different from each other, and it’s going to be a long struggle in terms of getting them to improve. But I have hope, and hope that you will continue to enjoy your experience as well!

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    1. It certainly is a learning curve. I love my job and my kids, but there are still some really hard days.

      I’m sure as time goes on, things’ll be easier for you. I was originally supposed to teach middle schoolers ad high schoolers in my first placement. I’m sure it’s a whole different experience with the older kids. I would have been fine teaching them, but I do so love my kindergartners and can’t imagine teaching any other level right now.

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      1. That’s great to hear! Yes, the teaching job isn’t a piece of cake, and I do agree that many times it can be very difficult to handle the students. But the times when they have mastered something that you teach them in class, well, that’s a rewarding feeling. I hope for more rewarding experiences to come, for you and me both!

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  3. Oh, Britta, you’ll have to forgive me; I haven’t been keeping up with your blog–or anyone’s blog for that matter (not even mine). I’m only just catching up and I must confess that I miss reading your posts! I’m glad you’re loving your new role as a teacher. I would love to sit in on one of your classes. When you write about your students, you infuse the words with love and meaning. It’s so beautiful.

    I can imagine teaching is hard. (If teaching college students is hard, I imagine teaching children is even harder.) But I can tell you’re an excellent teacher, and you’ll only improve with time. Although we don’t know each other outside of the blogosphere, but I’ve gotten to know you through your writing on a personal level, and I can only say that I miss you!

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    1. You do not need to forgive anybody, Gema. Life gets busy and it’s all too easy to fall behind on blogging. Even though I’ve been blogging a lot, I’ve been terrible at keeping up on blogs (Thailand is surely responsible for that).

      Thank you so much. Teaching IS hard, but it can also be very rewarding.

      Haha, well, if you miss me, just stop by my blog a bit more often a miss me less. 🙂

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