Hi. My name is Amy, and I'm here in Thailand doing the paid teaching abroad program through GeoVisions. In the States, I have been intermittently working on getting my teaching certificate for a number of years, so have a bit of experience with education and classrooms.
I recently completed the 120-hour In-Class TESOL course here, and LOVED it. I found it extremely well thought out, and extremely well taught. It (and I quote from the course description) “provides significant instruction on the theories, strategies, and techniques of teaching English as a second/foreign language.”
That’s true. I'm confident I can take this learning to any country and apply it. I like Thailand, but there's a big world out there to be a part of.
I now have a valuable tool with which to contribute, and earn a living.
The course design is clear and consistent. Even if someone has never been near a classroom, after taking this course, one has the information needed to survive, and even flourish, in a classroom…with children of most any age. There was enough practice time and feedback for the teaching pattern to become ingrained and lesson presentation skills good.
There were enough lesson plans we had to create to have it become second nature. I don’t say that casually; the first lesson plan we were assigned, felt huge/overwhelming. By the end of that week, we all had enough practice and confidence and resources. Teachers and co-students were generous in sharing websites for flashcard images, or exercises. (Did you know there's a website where you can type in your focus words and the site will create a cross-word puzzle for you??? Amazing!)
Classroom “management” was addressed, as were Thai cultural standards. The best part, and here is where I say I can’t imagine anyone teaching in this country having done this course on-line, is… we got to practice. We got to go into actual classrooms and teach and observe for two full days.
We were coached on how to interact with teaching staff and administration as well as the kids. Thank goodness the practice days (we called them “English camp”) weren’t two days in a row because those days were really intense, filled with surprises and opportunities for feedback and improvement. For example, my co-teachers and I walked into our first assigned classroom of 43 little 4-year-olds, exchanged bows with the teacher, and she immediately disappeared. Gulp.
OK… did I mention none of the kids had any experience with English? Well, our team bravely inched though the planned lesson, until co-teacher Tom, imitating a fierce lion (the lesson was on jungle animals), roared, and the kids scattered to all corners of the room—most laughing, but at least one dissolved in tears! After that, chaos reigned until the teacher showed up again, and it was time to change classrooms. The rest of the day, we tempered the roaring!
Each classroom was different—different ages, ranging from 4 to 15 years. Within each classroom, the English ability ranged from nothing to fluent. The TESOL training gave us ways to manage all the variations. The next day, back in class, each group recounted their horrors and amusements, and made us glad we had time to refine our learnings and be supported. Topics like classroom management or teacher relationships, that were just words on a board or page previously, came alive.
Classmates and staff who had taught before shared tried and true techniques we all hungrily committed to memory. The second day of camp, we were REALLY ready and most teaching teams sailed through the day, happy to practice (for real) what we knew. Granted, we were all ready for happy hour to share our classroom anecdotes… we were tired, but proud.
One of the best surprises TESOL gave me during this paid teaching abroad experience was a sense of community.
I was looking forward to Thai community once I started teaching, but it started the first day in Bangkok. Who knew? There were 28 people in my class, from the States, from the UK, from South Africa. Most traveled alone. Some came with friends. We all bonded. There were adventures to be had—markets to uncover, food to be tried, elephants to pet, pineapples to taste, neighborhoods to be explored, Thai friends to be made.
At any given point, someone in the group was “up” for sharing whatever adventure was possible. Being so far from home suddenly didn’t feel so far. Someone could acknowledge their fear and not feel isolated. Birthdays were celebrated. Photos were shared on FB, twitter. Friends were electronically introduced to family and vice versa. Bewilderment about traffic or language became amusing and a situation to figure out together. We agonized over lesson plans, and felt 8 years old again, studying for quizzes and facing our exam fears. We had stage fright together the morning of the first camp, and ok, a little the second two…but it evaporated fast—ha!
As placements started happening, our bonds had grown so strong, many found it hard to leave. FB and text connections became even more important. Now, a few weeks later—we all find ourselves integrating into our Thai communities in a natural rhythm, but we know a co-TESOL person has our back at any moment… to laugh with, to cry with, to beg for curriculum ideas, to tell us the best islands to explore during our next break. Small groups have already rendezvoused in places like Chiang Mai or Bangkok to continue exploring the country together.
My sense is that those are forever-type bonds. Those, as much as exploring a new culture, change one’s life. That works for me.