Looking back at my first 4 months teaching English in Thailand: the struggles and the rewarding experiences I had:
I am tired.
That is because I am learning a new skill – teaching. When I think about it, most of what I do doesn’t really matter as the Intensive English class is not considered a core subject, so neither the school, nor the parents or the kids view it seriously. The level is very low and the bar for the lowest grade you can give is continually getting raised. So even if the kids are only able to look at you and breathe they still get 60%. When I was at school, you had to put in quite a bit of work to pass, but here they take it as a given.
Kids come to class 10 minutes late, it takes 20 minutes to calm them down and gather attention during the class (it’s a constant battle), which leaves you with approximately 20 minutes of teaching time at most.. Added to that, at least half of the kids won’t do anything without the adrenaline rush caused by the teacher standing behind their back.
The book that I teach from is designed for 5-6 hours of classes per week, and I only have three 50min lessons. Each lesson has at least 5 vocabulary items, a new complex grammar point, listening exercises, reading comprehension, several written exercises from the book and even more from the workbook. To top it up, we have to submit so many grades for every unit that we need to grade the girls almost every lesson. My kids are learning past perfect and reported speech, yet they can’t put a simple sentence together about what they did last weekend. It seems as if nobody cares if the kids actually learn anything…
But still, I put so much effort into it. During the first month I was surviving on just a few hours of sleep per night. I would take tons of work home, plan lessons right up to going to bed and start again first thing in the morning. I wanted to somehow make the material understandable and interesting for the girls. I changed the slides, added my own, created worksheets, and designed interactive lessons where the kids could get out of their desks for something other than “Teacher – toilet?”. I even brought in and did a full lesson with a teddy bear giving orders and requests, with the girls changing them to reported speech. I don’t know how many times I went round the class, taking the time to explain new grammar individually – even to the girls who showed no effort whatsoever.
Sometimes I wonder – is it really worth it…?
I taught these girls for a few months now and most classes became manageable. I can see my efforts paying off as a noticeably larger number of kids started to work. There are even a few who looked hopeless initially, but suddenly in the last month started to actually understand what they’re doing.
And it’s so rewarding when the smart ones ask me a question, and instead of answering I give them a question back – there’s a pause of thinking… Suddenly their little faces light up, and you can just see that ‘ah ha!’ moment in their eyes. And at that moment you know they understand. You should see the joy it gives them – priceless.
Ok, maybe what I do doesn’t really matter for this school. But for me it’s worth it. I try out different things and I get to see what works and what doesn’t work when teaching. If anything, it helps me to develop as a teacher and, more importantly, as a person. Whatever I decide to do in life, I put my 100% into it. I give it my best. I get to keep the knowledge, skills and experience I gain. The more effort I put in, the more I develop myself. The more I grow as a person.
Everyone has a blueprint, an idea of their own perfect self. But it’s not possible to get there in an instant. You take little steps, overcome hurdles along the way, go through different experiences – you grow as a person. With time, your blueprint changes. It becomes even better, something you couldn’t imagine was even possible. But if you don’t put your 100 % in on the way, you don’t grow and cannot reach your full potential.
If you could reach something without putting the effort in, you would miss out on this journey of self-development. When you grow, your goals grow with you, making you become your better self. But if you’re not willing to give it your 100%, is it really worth doing?