First Day Teaching In Thailand: Teacher Becca

Thailand’s Sights, Sounds, and yes…Smells

 

It is 7:15 AM but the heat outside of our door would suggest high noon. Before our morning shower, we can already hear the sounds of music honouring the recently deceased king of Thailand. Little did we know, that this loudspeaker would become our daily alarm clock.

The background music is the sound of motorbikes, tuk-tuks, and the occasional car or van circling through the courtyard to drop off the 1,300 students who attend Yuchieo Primary School. It’s time to experience the first day of teaching in Thailand.

Tuk Tuk in Thailand

As my roommate Louise and I walk out of our room ready for the day, we smell strongly of bug spray.

The distinctive smell of diethyltoluamide, fondly known as deet, is just one of many indicators that we are indeed foreigners. The students and 80 odd teachers will soon call us suay, and point out those other indicators with a smile.

Getting to know new students

 

As we pass the balcony and walk down the stairs, we are greeted by a swarm of tan, blue and forest green. Today is Wednesday, so it is scout uniform day. In other words, it’s just another day where our students are donning delightfully cute uniforms. In addition to the normal wai, we are also greeted with a two-finger scout salute.

Being none the wiser, we bowed to what seemed like every single one of the thousand plus students. To an outsider looking in, it was very clearly a frantic attempt to mumble “sawasdee ka” correctly, while bowing and giving a scout salute to every pair of legs that walked by us.

One of the Thai teachers in the English department took pity on us. She walked over with a bright smile, and in a combination of English and hand gestures, told us to only bow at fellow colleagues and not students. Phew. By this point my ears are buzzing from hearing “good morning teacher” on repeat, the loudspeaker music, and what I would classify as rush hour traffic.

Teacher Becca at Assembly

Fast forward past the blur of greetings and a whirlwind of a school tour, and my stomach is grumbling noticeably. Usually this index of heat prevents me from feeling hunger, but the vat of spicy something and pre-scooped bowls of white rice had my name on it. My new name that is…Teacher Becca. Fortunately for me, Rebecca is easily shortened to a more pronounceable Becca.

Unfortunately for my roommate, Teacher Louise is confusing for the children to say, despite the lengths to which your vocal chords may go.

Teacher Becca with smiling pupils in Thailand

Lunch at school and a break

 

In the canteen, my ears are buzzing again. This time from the sound of small metal spoons on blue and pink plastic bowls amidst a sea of smiling faces. I will be taking the lead from the students on this one, and filling my bowl to the brim with this deliciously mysterious lunch.

Fast forward twenty minutes later, when, despite the sensation that even my eyeballs are sweating, all I can think of is what else is in store for this afternoon!

School lunch at school in Thailand

A few hours later, we are in our rooms relaxing with what I swear to be the best air conditioner I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  We had spent the afternoon seeing some classes and smiling and nodding to our various welcoming committees.

After cooling down, Louise and I had a chat about some of the highs and lows of the day.

Looking back on the day

 

It was clear we were going to need to bring a lot of energy to the classrooms to match the enthusiasm of the children. After spending five days of orientation with our English-speaking counterparts, we had seriously underestimated the language barrier. We knew it would be important to take excellent care of our health as the climate, children, and cultural differences demanded it. That being said, we already had a sense that even if we gave 100%, the children would return that tenfold in love.

After dissecting every aspect of our busy day, it was shockingly already time for food again! So, one American and one Brit decided to wander about Kanchanaburi looking for tea…

Teacher Becca Pro Tips

 

•  Drink water. Duh, right? But you can’t underestimate the necessity for your body in this heat!

•  Get sleep. Restful sleep. Make sure you have a routine for falling asleep and waking up refreshed. Even though I am so #blessed to have air conditioning, my body was not used to sleeping with only cold air, so I quickly realized that my best overnight option was the fan.

Double Bed Image symbolizing sleep

•  On the subject of routine: create one at the beginning. Yes, the teaching brings something new and exciting every day.   But, you can’t give from an empty cup! Whether it’s recreating (to the best of your ability) your routines from home, or creating a new one in Thailand, go Nike and Just. Do. It.

 

Until next time,

Teacher Becca

If Teach Becca has inspired you to give teaching in Thailand a try for yourself, then take a look at our Thailand TEFL Experience: https://www.i-to-i.com/teaching-internships/tefl-course-internship-thailand-volunteer.html

More tips from Teacher Becca coming soon!

Kanchanaburi, Thailand: an insider’s guide

I am falling in love with this city, and I want to give you a piece of it! I have compiled a list of tips for you based on my experiences so far. Hopefully you can use them someday if you’re ever able to visit. If not, you can live vicariously through me.

Backpacker’s Strip

If you’re traveling through Kanchanaburi, then you absolutely HAVE to stay on the backpacker strip (also known as foreigner’s road) in the heart of the city. There are many quaint and affordable guesthouses, as well as a variety of food and bars. On our first night there the westerners were craving pizza, so we stopped by Bell’s Pizzeria and it hit the spot. However, if you’re just passing through and want some good Thai food there are many restaurants you can try, including On’s Thai Issan or Nut’s Restaurant. I spent my first two weekends in Kanchanaburi town, and I stayed in two different guesthouses. Blue Star Guest House was absolutely beautiful and very affordable. You walk outside of your room and you are surrounded by nature.  However, I would not recommend this place if you are looking for a hot shower, Wi-Fi, and a spacious room. The accommodation is very basic and you also run the risk of some “friends” in your room. I found a bug in my blanket in the morning! Otherwise the experience was wonderful. The next weekend I stayed at Noble Night, which was only a little more expensive and very nice. There is a pool, more space in the room and bathroom, Wi-Fi, a hot shower, and a comfy bed. I would highly recommend Noble Night and would definitely go back again. Other recommended guesthouses are Sam’s guesthouse and Tara Bed & Breakfast.

i-to-i interns relaxing at Bells' Pizzeria in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Waterfalls

Kanchanaburi is known for its plethora of beautiful nature spots, and I can attest to this. By tuk-tuk or taxi, you can get to the Erawan waterfalls in about an hour. Sai Yok is also an option for waterfalls, but my travel group chose to go to Erawan. Be sure to bring some cash, the entrance fee is 300 baht (8.50 USD or 6.50 British Pounds). Also keep in mind that if you are going during Thailand’s hot season (March-May) there is a chance that the waterfalls will be dry, so check beforehand.  I had a blast at Erawan, but I definitely ran into some surprises that I was not prepared for. First off, dress appropriately. The Thai culture has a strict dress code and they do not allow bikinis or men without a shirt. I wore sandals expecting an easy walk, and I was absolutely not prepared for a rigorous hike. Wear good hiking shoes or you’ll be slipping and falling like me, oops! Another thing I was not prepared for was the fish in the water. Yes, real fish, and they’re not shy. Don’t get in the water unless you’re ready for a swarm of fish to swim up to you and nibble (gently) at your feet. It is also important to pack lightly if you’re going to hike all the way up to the 7th waterfall. The hike is an hour up and an hour down. Overall, Erawan was a beautiful experience, and I hope to go back again.

i-to-i TEFL interns sitting at Erawan falls in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

WW2 History

Kanchanaburi is also full of World War II History, including Death Railway and the River Kwai Bridge.  I recommend starting your day at the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre and then catching the train and on the Death Railway from Kanchanaburi, over the River Kwai Bridge, through the Wampo Viaduct, and all the way to Hellfire Pass. At the end of the train is Hellfire Pass where you can find the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum. To give you a little backstory, during WWII Australians and English prisoners of war were captured by the Japanese and were forced to build the Death Railway, which the Japanese were hoping to use to get materials to Burma. It is a fascinating piece of history, and also offers some beautiful scenery if you go by train. My group stopped at the Krasae Cave instead of going all the way to Hellfire Pass on the train, and that was a really cool experience. There is a giant gold Buddha in the center of the cave that tourists often pray to for good luck. This is also a great place to get off and take some pictures of the railway and the river.

i-to-i interns in a tuk-tuk in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Elephants World

This past weekend I visited Elephants World in Kanchanaburi, which was my favorite experience yet. Elephants World is a sanctuary for retired elephants, and it is a safe place for the elephants. Their motto is “Where we work for the elephants, and the elephants not for us”. They are a non-profit, and the only place I would recommend in Kanchanaburi for interacting with elephants. You can feed them, bathe them, and watch them give themselves mud baths and swim. The staff is also friendly and really cares about the animals. I highly recommend Elephants World!

Elephants at Elephants World in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

What makes a great TEFL teacher?

Teaching English overseas could be the start of an amazing adventure around the world for those who are ready for a challenge. Many would-be TEFL teachers may be put off by niggling doubts; can I do this? Am I capable? The truth is, TEFL teaching needn’t be scary. When you jet off to teach English overseas, you’ll be starting out on a brand new journey that’s likely to be unlike anything you’ve experienced before. You’ll use skills you will have picked up throughout your life, and you’ll carry them forward with you into your future education and professional endeavours. Here are the skills that will make you an unbeatable TEFL teacher!

 

Be enthusiastic about what you’re doing.

Understand that the language you’re lucky enough to speak is an international tongue that unites and connects people; and by teaching English in overseas communities, you’re giving this gift to the students you teach! Speaking English opens up a huge new world of opportunity for your learners, so hold your head up high and throw yourself into planning some really engaging lessons.

i-to-i TEFL teacher with students in Ayutthaya, Thailand

Remember to be patient.

When you’re starting out in a new school, in a new community, in a brand new country, there are bound to be a number of culture points to get used to, so don’t work yourself up into a tizz the second your hot water doesn’t seem to work. Similarly, your students may need further support and a little more of your time to explain concepts and learning that you may take for granted; remember the language and lifestyle differences may form a barrier, but over time you can dismantle this with really rewarding results.

Use your creativity!

The TEFL classroom can bring out the Picasso in even the most ham-handed teacher, so don’t be afraid to crack out the felt tips! Visual aids such as photographs, pictures and flash cards make the learning process much smoother for learners of all ages, and creative time in the classroom can also be used as a way for the students to get creative and share information about them. Trust us, when you’re repeating your point again and again the hand-made aids will seem like lifesavers!

Open your eyes.

TEFL allows you the opportunity to get under the skin of some of the world’s most unique cultures; those that are markedly different to ours here in the West. While the culture shock can seem overwhelming at first, we believe the beauty of life comes from experiencing brand new things, so get stuck in! Make friends with your fellow teachers, share lunch with your students, explore the local area and learn some more about the context your students are learning in.

Statue at a temple in Thailand

Don’t lose your sense of fun!

Teaching young people will always be a good laugh, but delivering lessons to older learners can be really fun too. The fact is, sometimes your lesson plans might not work, sometimes your class might feel unruly, sometimes lesson plans may get changed around at the last minute. Just take a deep breath, crack a smile and have a laugh about it! Whilst teaching is a serious business, sharing this amazing learning experience with your students should be fun.

If you’re after a new adventure or a change in career then becoming a TEFL teacher could be for you! Check out our range of TEFL Courses here.