Teaching inThailandThere are several things that you can either do or avoid doing inThailand to make your entire experience a lot easier and happier.Some things relate specifically to the classroom, while other thingsapply to living in Thailand in general. In addition to a differentlanguage, weather, food, and traditions, there are differentcultural standards and societal expectations. Common practices inone country can be a major source of offence in another. On hereare some useful pointers that can help you keep on track while inThailand.“When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Well, here in ThailandI would not suggest you do that.
The Do’s1.Dress ModestlyIn Thailand, as a rule of thumb, your shoulders should be covered anddresses or skirts worn to work should reach to your knee. Thais are fairlyconservative in their dress standards, and although you may see some ofthe younger Thai teachers wearing very short skirts, you should avoiddoing the same unless you want to be reprimanded.Schools usually prefer men to wear to wear full button up shirts. I havefound that it is very good to even wear a suit to start the new term. If youare unsure as to what you are expected to wear in the classroom, asksomeone.
2.Wear Certain ColorsSome schools will expect teachers to wear tops corresponding to thecolour of the day. If you are told to wear certain colours on certaindays, do so. Monday is yellow, Tuesday is pink, Wednesday isgreen, Thursday is orange, and Friday is light blue. There are other dayswhere you may be told to wear certain colours; these are usuallybirthdays of members of the Royal Family and special religious days.On the King’s birthday, for example, you will be expected to wearyellow, regardless of what day of the week it as, as the King was bornon a Monday. You may be asked to wear a school uniform, if asked it isa good idea to do that.
3.Use the WaiThe wai is a sign of respect, and is used to greet people, bidfarewell, apologise, give thanks, and in a whole host of other socialsituations. If somebody wais you, you should return the gesture. Ifyou see someone in your school who is older or holds a more seniorposition that you, you should wai them first.With your students, wai also and even use English with. Like wai andgood morning! This in not rude and may help your students practicemore English.
4.Respect Thai Beliefs and ValuesAlthough many beliefs may be different to your own, alwaysshow respect for the beliefs of others.The best thing for you to do, if your new here in Thailand or if yournot, is to learn as many beliefs and traditions as possible. Believeme it will help you.
5.Remove Your ShoesIt is customary to remove your shoes before entering a home, as wellas some offices and shops.A helpful hint is that if there are piles of shoes outside adoorway, you should also remove yours. Some schools may requirethat you remove your shoes outside the classroom. It is best to ask ifyou are unsure. If you do need to take your shoes off in theclassroom, cast your eyes around the floor for any sharp objectsbefore you start your lesson. One time when I took off my shoes, Iwas chastised for doing so. I was told “You are a teacher, you do nottake them off to enter the classroom. Boy was I shocked by that. Ifyou are not sure, just remember, ‘ask your students’, they knoweverything.
6.Try and Learn a Few Basic Thai PhrasesWhilst you will not need to use Thai in the classroom, and someschools actually specifically prohibit foreign teachers from using anyThai, a few basics can really help you outside of your school.This is particularly useful in more rural areas where many locals willnot be able to speak any English. The best way to learn some Thaiphrases is from your students when you are talking about themeaning of some phrases in English that you happen to be teachingin that lesson.
7.Attend the Flag CeremonyEvery morning at 8am the Thai National Anthem is played.Most schools will hold a small flag raising ceremony at this time onsome days of the week. It is important that you attend this ceremonyunless specifically told that you do not have to. I have worked in aschool where a flag ceremony was held every morning. I have alsoheard that in some schools they only held a ceremony on Mondaysand Fridays.By doing this faithfully, it shows just how punctual you are andbelieve me your students will see this and it might just help improvetheir attendance.
8.Stand Still When You Hear the National AnthemThe National Anthem is played every day at 8am and 6pm.You should stand still for the duration of the song. This is especiallyimportant if you are walking around your school, in a bus station, or in asimilarly public place. The Royal Anthem is played in cinemas beforemovies start; patrons are expected to stand throughout this song also.When you show how respectful you are, they will be respectful to youin return.
9.Be PatientThe Thai way of life can be much slower than the quicker pacethat most westerners are used to.There is nothing that you can do to change this, so be patientand accept the differences. And remember, everything worksout in the long run. It always has and always will. So just chillout.
10.Have Fun!Embrace the new challenges of living and working in a differentcountry and have fun!Enjoy yourself here and people will enjoy with you. For sureyour students will want to come and learn when they feelthey are having fun learning. They will learn more also.
The Don’ts:1.Get AngryThais rarely show anger or extreme emotions in public.If you do either, you will often be considered as being slightlyunhinged. Although you may need to shout in a classroom to beheard and make students be quiet, do so in a controlled way. Do notbecome angry in the classroom, no matter what happens. If you loseyour temper, students will probably laugh at you, which will make youfeel even worse.If you find yourself in a spot where you know your are going to getmad and explode, just do this: Excuse yourself from the class and goand get a drink of water, juice or soda, then go back in.
2.Touch Anyone’s HeadA person’s head is considered the most spiritual part of theirbody, and to touch someone on the head can be verydisrespectful.If another teacher sees you do this, it can cause you manyproblems with the other staff at the school, even though youwere just trying to be friendly.
3.Point Your Feet at AnyoneThe feet are seen as being the lowest part of the body andso using the feet to point, or directing the feet towardssomeone or something, is seen as the height of rudeness.Pointing your feet at some one in your class is a little difficult todo, if you are sitting or standing or moving around the class, butjust remember to try not to.
4.Act Disrespectfully Near Buddha ImagesBuddha images are sacred in Thailand.You should not climb on statues for pictures or act in an inappropriatemanner near statues or pictures. You should point your feet awayfrom Buddha images. In some areas, posing for photographs in frontof Buddha statues is considered offensive.
5.Discuss Religion or The Royal Family in ClassesBuddhism and The Royal Family are both highly revered in Thailand.While you should avoid criticizing either in any situation, it isbest to also avoid these topics altogether in the classroom.Interestingly, be aware that speaking badly of The Royal Familyis actually a criminal offence and punishable under the “LeseMajeste Laws”.I have found that some students like to know something aboutThe Royal Family that did not know or were told different. Forexample I like to tell my students that their King was born inBoston Mass. USA.
6.Be Affronted if Grades or Scores are AlteredThis was something that I found difficult to understand whenI first started teaching in Thailand.Many schools operate a no fail policy. This means that if you areasked to test students, you can do a lot of work, assign fairgrades, and then the grades will ultimately be altered. It can seemvery pointless, but it happens very commonly. Understand ithappens, accept that you cannot change it, and do not take itpersonally.You do not have to sit there and just take it. Be polite and ask foran explanation as to why they were altered.
7.Use Playing Cards in the ClassroomAlmost all forms of gambling are illegal in Thailand.Cards are associated with gambling, even if there is no gamblingactually taken place. There are many great ESL activities that usecards; do not use them in a Thai school. I have known people getinto a lot of trouble for innocently doing so.If you really want to use them in class for a special lesson, ask forpermission first. This is acceptable to do and you will gain morerespect for you peers and the higher ups.
8.Ride a Motorbike Unless You Know What You are DoingI would say do not ride a motorbike unless you have alicense to do so, but so many people, myselfincluded, hire motorbikes for convenience.With a high death toll on the roads, and uncountable accidentsinvolving motorbikes, do not be tempted to think that riding amotorbike is easy. You would not do it at home, so don’t do it inThailand. The rules of the road and road conditions are certainlydifferent than in your home country. Take some instruction beforehitting the roads, and don’t ride if you are not confident.And, always wear a helmet, even as a passenger.Even though you will see many people even teachers riding withouthelmets, don’t do that. Set the example for them.
9.Dabble in DrugsThailand is known for its hedonistic areas, wherealmost anything goes.It also has strong anti-drug laws. Not only is it veryunprofessional as a teacher to mess around with drugs, but itcould also land you in a lot of trouble with the law if caught.
10.Pet Strange DogsSome schools, as well as most streets, have stray dogsroaming around.Temple schools especially have a lot of dogs walking around. Theymay wander into your classroom and your students may beperfectly fine with them. It is wise not to pet any straydogs, whether in your school or on the street. They are notdomesticated pets like you are used to, they probably have not hadany rabies vaccinations or other health care, and they can be veryunpredictable.
You will no doubt quickly find your own dos and don’ts to add to thislist, and it is not meant to be an inclusive and definitive guide of howto act. Hopefully, though, these tips will stand you in good stead foryour first few weeks of living and working in The Land of Smiles.What other dos and don’ts would you add to this list?Are there any vital tips about teaching in Thailand that you feelhave been omitted and would be useful for others? If so just sendme an Email.email@example.com@yahoo.com
Classroom ManagementArent All ESL Students Well-Mannered? Classroom Management forthe Adult (and Not So Adult) ESL StudentOften, when I tell other teachers what I do, teach ESL students at thecollege level, they exclaim, “Oh, that must be great! You don’t have anyclassroom management issues. Because your students really want to learn.”Well, yes and no.
I indeed think it’s a great job. And adult ESL students rarely haveclassroom management issues like throwing spit wads and shovingeach other—they do, however, make and receive cell phone callsduring class and update their Facebook profiles. ESL students, likestudents in general, come to the classroom for a variety ofreasons, intrinsic love of learning is probably not primary among themin most cases. This is complicated by divergent notions of what isappropriate classroom behavior—not only from what students weretaught in their past education experiences but also from instructor toinstructor on the same campus. One instructor may not be botheredby the student text-messaging under the desk—or at least, not sayso—while another may come unhinged. So how does the teachermanage the classroom under such circumstances?
1.Get it in writing: Put expectations in syllabusIf you are really bothered by use of cell phones and otherelectronics during class time, say so in the syllabus. If you’dreally prefer students spend the majority of time speakingEnglish in class, rather than breaking into discussion groups intheir primary languages, say that as well, and give a reason.
2.Have a planHave a plan. Break course objectives down and have a plan for thesemester, week, and day.If students are busy doing relevant work, there is less chancethey will become classroom management concerns.
3.Transparency is the keyMake your plan transparent. Put the day’s or week’s orsemester’s plan on the board or class website sostudents know what they should be doing moment tomoment.
4.Have a classroom management plan, tooAlso have a classroom management plan in place, whether it isin your head or in writing. But think through what you would doin certain situations: what you would do if you find a studenthad plagiarized her paper or what you would do if a studentcould not seem to stop talking through your lectures.
5.Vary grouping strategiesStudents tend to get bored when in one activity or grouping fortoo long. If I’ve done a teacher-fronted, whole-class activity forten minutes, often my students begin to drift and to hold sideconversations. This is a sign that it’s time to vary theinstruction, to break students into small groups for furtherpractice. Usually once the activity has changed, the negativebehavior disappears.
6.Discuss it in privateAlthough classes as a whole tend to have a specific “climate,”and often it’s the case an entire class is just difficult tomanage, sometimes there is an individual student withproblematic behavior, such as consistently (and disruptively)arriving late. If behavior like this develops in one student, it’susually best to meet with the student privately and discussthe situation. Often the student is unaware that there is aproblem and is very apologetic and promises to improve. Othertimes the student knows the behavior is a problem, but it isrooted in some other academic or personal concern, like lossof transportation or simple misunderstanding of howimportant it is to be on time in a U.S. classroom. The teachercan discuss the situation with the student, and often theproblem can be solved with one meeting.
7.Be polite but directBe polite but direct about what you want students to do ornot do. If you are bothered by a student bringing food and drinkinto class and loudly consuming it throughout the class, it is allright to tell the student--privately, so the student isn’tembarrassed--but usually students who demonstrateinappropriate behavior like this are not going to pick up onsubtle hints that their behavior is inappropriate, so being directis necessary.
8.Don’t let them cross the lineIt is rare but not unheard of that student behavior can cross the linefrom merely inappropriate and annoying to alarming, especially ifthere are suspected drug abuse or mental health concerns. Forexample, a number of years ago, an immigrant student who had acteda little odd all semester, enough so that most of the other studentsavoided him, was in an ESL class. One day, when apparently upset overhis failing grade, he came into the teacher’s office, shut the door, andasked, “Do you love your husband?” Startled, she replied simply thatshe did. He then asked, “If you love your husband, why don’t you loveyour students?” The behavior of shutting the door and then the bizarredialogue was enough to alarm her into dropping a note to mydean, who she thinks must have then had the student into his office fora stern conversation because the student disappeared from theprogram shortly after. Of course in most cases, this is not the outcomewe would wish, but in reality not all students are able to benefit fromall educational settings.
9.Last resortInvolve authorities as needed. Although ideally instructors shoulddevelop the skills to deal with the vast majority of classroommanagement issues within their own classes, it is all right in certaincircumstances to involve higher authorities—sometimes the police, if youfeel your immediate safety is in jeopardy. Although it is rare, sometimesstudent behavior warrants intervention from others. Instructors shouldhave on hand the phone numbers of their dean, campus security, and thepolice to be notified depending on the level of behavior: a case ofrepeated plagiarism should be referred to the dean, for example; calls tosecurity or the police should be reserved for threats to property orpersonal safety.
Yes, classroom management is a challenge, and most classes donot magically organize themselves into active and respectfulgroups of students—not even classes of adults, not even ESLstudents.This requires the hard work of a teacher. However, the well-conducted class can be achieved with planning, varyinggrouping, being direct, and involving others when needed.
Student’s PerformanceWhen ESL students don’t do so well on the test, what do you think?That they didn’t study? It’s not that simple.Although no one questions the importance of preparing for atest, success in passing or getting good scores in an ESL test isdetermined by several factors, most of which come into play waybefore the actual moment students take the test. Here are thefive factors you should keep in mind and what you can do to helpyour students achieve success.
5 Factors that May Affect YourStudents’ Scores or Performance1.Self-study TimeFirst on the list is a factor that a lot of students underestimate, particularlyadult learners. They show up for class, pay attention, actively participate andleave the classroom thinking, “My work is done.” This could not be further fromthe truth. The work your students do in class is actually only the beginning. Thismay not be the case for other subjects or classes, but ESL is a whole otherballgame. Let’s backtrack and think about why students take ESL lessons. Theyneed to improve their English communication skills. And they won’t achieve thisgoal, let alone do well on the test, simply by attending classes, no matter howhard they work during class.What to do: Whether you have young learners or teens who are accustomed todoing homework, or adults who say they never have time, you must encouragethem to do some extra work at home on a regular basis. Now, if you give themreally creative and fun homework assignments, there won’t be any excuses.
2.AbsenteeismOut of the five, this one’s the most obvious reason why some studentsdon’t do well in tests.And this is often a big problem in adult ESL learners. We must accept the factthat they have busy lives, impossible schedules and often make a huge effortto come to class. But if they are absent one too many times, it willundoubtedly affect their performance.What to do: You can’t force students to come to class. But you can help yourstudents be accountable for what they fail to do. If you have students who arefrequently absent make sure they understand what the consequences are.When I was teaching, I would tell my students on day one: “If you are late – Iwill deduct 5 grades points foe each time being late. If you are absent andyou do not notify me – you will loose 10 grade points” I had very few peoplelate or absent. But I never did deduct any points from them, but they didn’tknow.
3.Test AnxietyThis is a factor that comes into play when students are taking standardizedtests like the Cambridge ESOL or TOELF, TOEIC, etc…Have you ever had students who did brilliantly in the practice tests, but thenfailed the real deal? Sometimes students don’t do well on a test, not becauseof a lack of preparation but because, simply put, they get so nervous theycan’t perform to their full potential.What to do: Training and preparation for a test goes a long way towardssoothing nerves and insecurities. Make sure they are more than familiar withthe test structure and know exactly what is expected of them. Finally, thebest way to calm anxiety or panic is to tell them that they should simply dotheir best. In the worst case scenario, they can take the test the followingyear, and they will have a valuable testing experience under their belt.
4.Understanding of the Test structureOften, students don’t do well on a test because they don’t understandthe test structure:they don’t know what they’re supposed to answer orwrite, or how they should respond.What to do: Naturally, when students are taking tests like theCambridge ESOL, they should be familiar with all of the sections andparts and what is required of them in each. For your own tests, don’tforget to tell students exactly what to expect. Will you be giving them amultiple choice test? Is there are speaking task? A writing task? Don’tsurprise them with these things on the day of the test.
5.Focus on FluencyThis is one of factors that you should be paying attention to right from the start.Let’s assume your students are taking ESL lessons to improve their Englishspeaking skills – their goal is to attain fluency. But some students lose sight ofthis fact and don’t study to attain fluency, they study to pass the test. So theymemorize rules and make charts and lists, which is fine, but when you askthem to reply to you in a conversation they don’t know what to say.What to do: Studying English as second language is not like studying math orscience. In fact, it’s not even how kids in English-speaking countries usuallystudy English. In ESL, the focus is on acquiring a second language andimproving communication skills in this language. Help your studentsunderstand they should strive to communicate in a meaningful way, in writingor speaking, instead of memorize the rules for reported speech. They won’tbe asked the rules on the test, but they will be expected to use real, everydayEnglish.
Now, why is all of this important?While it’s great that you give your students plenty of chances toreview before a major test, it’s also essential that you keep thesefactors in mind from the start, not only to guarantee good testscores, but also ensure that your students are getting the level offluency they aim to obtain.If you have identified any other factors that affect student performanceon tests, please share them with firstname.lastname@example.org@yahoo.com
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