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Marika Travels After College to Teach English in Thailand

Posted by GeoVisions Participant | Aug 6, 2019 12:00:00 AM

Before I decided to teach English in Thailand, I was feeling quite lost and confused in my life back home.

Teach English in Thailand Marika and her boyfriend, Ethan, take part in Wai Kru (Teacher Appreciation Day) as part of their Teach English in Thailand program

I graduated college a year ago.  And as I think is common for my demographic, had hardly any idea of what I wanted to do with my life next.

I studied biology in college, and had dreams of taking my bachelor’s degree to a conservation or wildlife management job, which were proving hard to get without an advanced degree or years of experience. Taking this as a sign (among other signs) I wasn’t meant to be doing that sort of thing at that time, I decided the time was ripe to live abroad for a while and to teach English in Thailand.

I come from a long line of teachers in my family.  While I always swore backwards and forwards I wouldn’t become a teacher, I did eventually admit to giving it a chance. Happily, my longtime boyfriend was on the same page about taking this time to travel and to try out a new career path.   Together we decided to come to Thailand to teach English.

One TESOL course and several meetings with a placement team from XploreAsia, and we were placed to teach in a public high school in Amphawa, Thailand.  I teach grades 10, 11 and 12, and to be perfectly honest, these are exactly the grades I was hoping I wouldn’t be assigned to teach. Being only 23 years old, I don’t feel that removed from high school myself, and I stressed constantly that my students wouldn’t take me seriously or respect me as a teacher.

Teach English in Thailand Marika gets to travel around Thailand, and see places like the Phraya Nakhon cave in Sam Roi Yot National Park

To a degree, these fears were valid.  Many of my students are disrespectful- but I’ve come to see it doesn’t have much, if anything, to do with my age. These students don’t respect their Thai teachers either, a fact that all the teachers I’ve spoken to about it just seem to accept.

Classes in Thailand are broken down into rooms 1 through 6 or 7 for each grade level- so mathayom (or high school) grade 4 (which equates to 10th grade in the US) has 4/1, 4/2, 4/3 and so on, where room 1 are the “best” students and room 7 are the “weakest” students. These divisions aren’t based on English or language ability, however, but rather on skills in such subjects as math and science.

This system also has the unfortunate byproduct of sending students in lower rooms the message that teachers don’t really care about them, don’t expect much of them, and they are bad students in general. So when I’m faced with these lower rooms in the upper grades of high school, I’m encountering a great deal of apathy, resentment, and occasionally aggression that makes teaching these classes very rough.

The higher rooms (1, 2, 3, sometimes 4) are usually a joy to teach, being dominated by motivated, or at least respectful, students. I’ve just finished my third week of teaching now, and despite the negative aspects that exist in this situation, things are undeniably starting to smooth out.

Teach English in Thailand Marika shops at places like the floating market in Amphawa (Photo by Ethan Parrish)

I struggle very much not to take things personally, and this is a perfect environment in which to practice that very skill. There will always be those classes and those students who don’t want to be there at all- and those who try their best to make you not want to be there either.  But the challenge is to not give up on them and to remember all those students who do appreciate the opportunity presented by your classes and who do want to learn English.

Since arriving here and beginning to teach, my new goal for myself is to hold these students firmly in my mind and remember it’s for them that I get out of bed and walk into those classrooms each day, so they may benefit from my being here as much as possible.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to reach just one of those students that thought they’d been given up on and inspire them in a new way.

--Marika Lou

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