Angela's Testimonial

by Angela Grindle (July, 2009 – March, 2010)

Once upon a time there was a girl named Angela. Angela had often dreamed of teaching in a far away land but something had always held her back. Then…one day Angela awoke to find herself in the magical land of smiles, the land that is Thailand. After asking herself how she had got there? she set about exploring her surroundings. This fledging teacher gazed in wonder at the creatures which before now had appeared only in the pages of books and as images on television. A statuesque Elephant strolled past her house, an impertinent frog was sharing her shower, a curious gecko watched over her as she slept.

Young Angela thought about the castle that she had left behind in Scotland, the sanctuary in which she had spent many comfortable years. The new abode was not what she expected, which perplexed her for a long time. Suddenly the dimly lit room that she had newly acquired filled with glorious light from the day break and then came the moment of clarity. Angela realised that although things had not been as they were before, this was actually a very good thing. Why would we try anything new if we wanted it to be the same as everything that we had ever done before? Everything changes, even when you don’t want it to. Embrace the change and slay the dragon of fear. If you never do anything that scares you, do you ever stop treading water?

It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience is different. What’s good for one person is definitely not for another but what Angela realised was that you’re not being fair to yourself if you don’t give things a chance. Not everyone will have a fairy tale ending, but she certainly did.

I wish I could tell you in more detail about her experience but honestly she wants you to find this out for yourself. It is so much better to explore than to not explore. Open your heart and mind and you’ll be just fine. Surat Thani is a fantastic place to teach, especially if its your first experience. Also, if you’re half as lucky as Angela you’ll meet the most amazing, diverse, interesting and FUNNY people you could ever dream of. If I had could ask you all one question as you finish reading this, it would be…Why wouldn’t you come and teach in Surat Thani? There is no bug big enough or toilet/shower dysfunctional enough to have made this experience any less magical.

T-each in Thailand don’t delay,
E-xpand your horizons in every way
A-bsorb yourself in the culture that is Thai,
C-hallenge yourself, spread your wings and fly
H-ave a dream and watch it come true,
I-nvisage something exciting and new
N-ever forget now lucky you are,
G-azing out at an ocean lit up by stars
.
I-magine a country where EVERYONE smiles,
N-ot forgetting the beaches that go on for miles
.
T-ravel in the holidays, wherever you like,
H-op on and off trains, or get on your bike
A-roi mak mak, every day!, I-ce cream wrapped in bread..no way!
L-emon fruit shakes with salt, why oh why?
A-mazing students that bring a tear to your eye
N-ew beginnings and excellent new friends
D-ays with no beginning and no ends………
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Testimonial – Observations and Lessons

by Chris MacInnes

SE Teacher, November 2009 – October 2010

I’ve found that whenever I start talking about anything from here, I’ve stumbled and overworded it, and made it more complicated than it really has to be. I’m therefore going to take a page out of the Surat Thani book of life, and break it down. Simplify. Here now are the observations and lessons I’ve learned during my year in Super English, each in 50 words or less.

  • The spiders here will not kill you, and very rarely do you see one big enough to make you question your decision of coming here.
  • Getting hired by Super English makes me feel less like an employee, and more like an Island Getaway winner.
  • It won’t rain for long, but it will RAIN. That still doesn’t guarantee you’ll have water in your taps tomorrow though. Conserve!
  • The term “farang” is usually used not endearingly, not racially, but more in a sense of astonishment that we actually leave our houses at night.
  • Unless you have prior experience, 95% of you will just barely eke by with the Thai language. 99.9% of you will not learn their alphabet.
  • Just because that bug fritter stand in the night market is gross doesn’t mean that you’ll never buy any.
  • I was here with a culinary connoisseur, and she couldn’t identify most of the ingredients in the food. Just sayin’.
  • It’s surprisingly easy to carry a guitar while driving a motorbike. A bag of unfolded laundry? Not so easy. A basket is a sound investment.
  • The children whose classes you’ll walk into will grab your heart from the very first word out of their mouths. Make sure that you leave them with many more English words coming from their mouths.
  • About classes, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: When in doubt, dance.
  • There are only a few Surat Thani locals that speak really good English. There is a good chance that you will meet and befriend most of them.
  • The majority of residents of this city don’t speak any English whatsoever. Their personalities are sometimes enough to befriend them anyways.
  • Kindness may be a universal language, but it took the Thais to truly become fluent in it. Remember this when you struggle to get your point across: They’re already bilingual.
  • If you hear the King’s Song, stop, stand, and pay respects.
  • Read a little bit about the King before you get here. You’ll be surprised at how interesting a guy he is. He really is amazing.
  • Make sure you don’t tell everyone here anything otherwise.
  • Do you like sports! Great! By the way, do you define sports as “snooker, takraw and English football?” Ooh, I’ve got bad news for you then.
  • Things worth their weight in gold: English movies and books, cheese, real coffee, beef.
  • Food oddities: Sugar goes in your dinner, salt in your dessert. Corn is an ice cream topping, and tomatoes are in fruit salad. Sandwiches are bitesize. Durian is loved by some, which is the biggest oddity of all.
  • Try everything at least once. You’ll fall in love with many foods you’ll never expect, and if not, then at least you can brag back home that you’ve eaten congealed pig’s blood.
  • Foreigners are not designed for squat toilets, so don’t feel too embarrassed the first time you attempt it.
  • There are only about 100 English speaking foreigners living in this city. You’ll run into them all eventually.
  • If people tell you that a place is worth checking out, that means it’s probably crawling with either culture or foreigners. But it’s usually good for a reason.
  • If you have a question about anything related to this job or country, read the website. If you can’t make it to a computer, your co-workers are usually good for it.
  • The best places in town get whittled down to [food type][gender] because they don’t have names. For example, I ate at the Muslim rice lady and soup lady today. From that, everyone here knows where I’ve been.
  • The school systems in Thailand are chaotic. The only thing orderly in that school will be you, and probably Sister Principal.
  • The Super English classes are difficult. They will sap the day’s last ounce of energy out of you. But when you see your class succeed so well within and outside Super English, you’ll feel like you can lift a car.
  • Collared shirts are a necessity. However, you should see what the other ESL schools have to wear.
  • Sweatshirts? No. I know, you think “Maybe…” But no. And don’t get me started on flannel PJ pants.
  • Three sheets. Fold thrice. Apply. Fold in half. Apply once more. Fold and put in the bin. Toilet hose optional, but awkwardly worth it.
  • Riding motorbikes are only scary if you drive like you do back home. Conversely, driving back home will be horrible if you pick up habits from here.
  • One motorbike can fit five children along with the driver, if properly Tetris-ed in there.
  • You can brag that back home you rode around on a motorbike for your entire stay here. Just don’t mention that back home you’d be ridiculed for riding a scooter.
  • Put it in perspective when you get ripped off by a Tuk-Tuk driver. I mean, he probably needs that forty-five cents more than you do.
  • If cars honk at you, it’s their way to politely let you know they’re coming up in your blind spot. If you honk at them, you’re probably angry.
  • The people who work ESL here are here not for money or fame, but for experience and adventure. They bring that attitude to class. They make damn good teachers.
  • Even over the scenery, the culture, the experience and the adventure, the best thing about Super English are the people that you share all these things with. The best people in the world work for Super English.
  • Thai music sucks. It’s like Nickelback, N*Sync and a second-string house DJ had a lovechild.
  • Thai TV lesson: The Thai word for “Punchline” is actually a cartoony ‘boing’ sound. Also, Thai TV is funny in that “home movies” kind of way.
  • They’re not laughing at you… Actually, yeah, they’re laughing at you, but it’s in a nice way.
  • I came to Thailand for three reasons: To gain experience as a teacher, to accelerate my class’ English abilities, and to watch someone get kicked in the face. Lucky for me, Mui Thai kickboxing has me covered.
  • The beach is less than an hour away. A day trip to the ocean is commonly acceptable. A weekend trip is much more enjoyable though. That month-long trip between semesters though? Flawless.
  • Scorpions, upon further analysis, scare the living snot out of me. But not as much as groups of stray dogs.
  • In schools, your kids will cheat at every game possible. Don’t let it drive you insane when kids from other teams whisper answers, even though it defeats their own team. Watch out: it goes for tests and notebooks too.
  • Creativity isn’t really promoted here, so when every kid uses the same answer you do, don’t sweat it. Just give more examples next time.
  • Super Students don’t have that problem as much, because with only 15 per class, WE CAN CATCH THEM.
  • My favourite locations out of town are worth seeing multiple times, but many times, the ride there is even better.
  • Bring your camera EVERYWHERE. You’ll see.
  • I may never see another gecko in my life after I leave here, and I’m actually very depressed about it.
  • If you’re not picky with your alcohol, you’ll do fine.
  • Never ever drink Sec and Pui’s magic elixir they keep in a giant mason jar in the kitchen at Earth Zone. It’s good for joints, bowels, and tear-welling headaches the next morning.
  • One day, in the box of a pick-up truck with my co-workers, eating a full roasted chicken and sipping whiskey, looking out at the scenery whizzing by, feeling the wind in my hair, I had my first ever true moment of peace. You’ll have one too.
  • When you read your class list, try not to laugh too hard at the kids named Pee, Fuk, Model, Fluke and Nut. It’s either call them that, or learn their real names.
  • My last moment at Super English involved me hugging a student named Gun on the way out the door, and weeping openly that this would be my last time seeing any of them.
  • I will never have a job as good as this in my life ever again.
  • I can’t believe it’s been a year.
  • This isn’t the most glamorous job in the world, and the pay may look bad from where you are now, but this is the best job you’ll ever work.

And that’s all I can think of. Thanks for the year. I’ll never forget it, and I’ll always wish I was still here.

Not really goodbye, because I’m leaving so much of myself behind.

-Christopher “Moss” MacInnes

Tips for New Teachers

Getting scared about the idea of teaching now?

I’ve compiled this short list of thoughts for teaching high school students. It is more for new teachers who are beginning to fear the idea of teaching before they have even touched down in Thailand. Boring to some, useful to others, I‘ve compiled these thoughts with non/ low experienced teachers in mind.

You’re going to have a good time here! I don’t know you, but I know the Super English Management and current staff. If you are a worrier that will upset people with your fretting before you leave, please print a copy of this for their sake, show it to them, put your mind and theirs at ease, and say, “I’m looking forward to my time in paradise!”

Want to go to work?

Always wear a smile.

Patience.

Speak VERY slowly.

Expect NO second language from the students. It makes each day beautiful.

Have a collection of games available in your bag at all times.

Be silly/ stupid. Be “The Jester”.

Don’t expect any miracles. A large amount of teachers don’t understand the logic in other countries teaching methods, but no one has succeeded in changing them, except Peter.

Speak Very slowly.

Don’t get STRESSED. Nothing in the world pays enough for stress and its dangerous side effects.

Instigate your rules of the classroom within your first meetings of the students. When they know how you want the class running they will happily comply with your rules.

When you have any problems, remember your management and peers are there for you to offer advice and solutions, any time of the day.

Set a goal for your students from the beginning, something they think impossible but you can guarantee them they will be able to achieve in time. For example: by the end of this term you are going to speak for 5/6 minutes about your family, hobbies, future goals, likes and dislikes.

Speak Very slowly.

Encourage positive reinforcement and clapping in the classroom. Witness how much the students get from this.

Keep returning to previous weeks teachings to incorporate all your lessons. Continuity of targets and various ways to use them will reinforce your teaching.

Don’t expect too much from the students. Teach them the same target again using slightly different words.

Sing songs with the students. Provide them with the lyrics but delete ten of the words. Then listen to the song to determine and explain the missing words. Then sing! They love it.

Get to know as many nicknames as possible. I regret not asking my students to make a badge for me that they could wear each lesson.

Talk to as many students as you can, not just the ones you teach but people you regularly see in the corridors. Introduce yourself to the whole school.

Give the students a fresh start every week, even if their class behavior is consistently poor.

Talk with your students as a friend for 5/10 minutes at the start of each lesson. Start with simple questions and then advance to harder ones.

Expect many unexpected changes! Holidays, canceled classes, and on and on!

Draw/Explain each new word in great detail.

Encourage describing: “I don’t know the name but it is made from…..and used…..

Always tell the students when you are upset, Do your best not to leave the class in frustration or anger. This means the students have won.

Re-seat your students if the classroom environment is not positive. Keep notes and inform your assistant teachers.

Interview repeat problem students with your assistant. Keep in mind they have a lot more going in their lives than what you see.

Adventures in Baby Teaching

You might not think so considering the simplicity of the material, but teaching young students can be every bit as challenging as teaching teenagers, even more so. After spending one year teaching grade three and this semester teaching grade one, I am not without my tricks in the classroom. Here’s how I do it:

1.The Method

Remember when you were young and your parents tried everything to get you to eat your vegetables, going so far as to ‘disguise’ them with gravy or the like? You have to do a similar thing when teaching 6 year olds English. Think of it this way – you are a foreigner speaking a weird language they can’t understand, and the average 6 year old has the attention span of a mosquito. To make things even more complicated, you have to keep these kids attentive for 1 hour a day (if you are teaching our English Programme classes). The easiest way to keep a young child entertained is to dance around and act up, but you can’t focus too much on the entertainment because your job is to teach and you are expected to keep up with the syllabus. What do you do?

The best way is to structure your lesson in the most interactive way possible, and believe it or not, the best way to do this is with games. If you try the ‘old fashioned’ method of teaching, grade one students will switch off in an instant if you stand in front of them and lecture in English. You can’t do this, nor can you just open a book and start reading to them. When I say games, I don’t mean games such as monkey in the middle or heads down thumbs up – these games have no educational value. The educational games that we use focus on some facet of the English language, usually reading or speaking. My favourite is a game I call flashcard retrieval, which involves the students collecting flashcards from around the room, reading what’s on the cards and the placing the cards within sentences I have written on the board. The students must then read the complete sentences and tell me if they are correct. This game does have educational value because it contains reading, speaking, and sentence structure comprehension.

The kids love these sort of games because it gives them a break from how they’re normally taught (Thai teachers conduct their lessons the ‘old-fashioned’ way, as I described earlier). These games should not take up the entire lesson, maybe 10 or 15 minutes at most, but are invaluable when you need to get the kids to participate. This is how I structure a typical lesson:

1. First 2 minutes: Do something funny to get the kids laughing and relaxed.

2. 5 minutes: Review yesterday’s lesson (very important for young kids). I always ask many questions to keep everyone on their toes.

3. 10 minutes: New vocab target. Explain very slowly and as simply as possible. Ask Thai teacher for assistance to enforce target. Demonstrate physically if possible. Total time spent speaking at the kids: 15 minutes.

4. 10-15 minutes: Educational game

5. 10 minutes: Book target (from textbook)

6. 15 minutes: Writing task for the day.

Total lesson duration: 1 hour

One very important thing to remember is not to go too fast. I spend 2 weeks on any given target, I start out very simply then increase the difficulty when they are ready. For example, I would start with ‘Do you like _____?’, an easy question with a yes or no answer, and work my way up to ‘What/Who do you like?’, a more complex question with varying answers.

2. Interacting with the kids

It is important to find a balance between being a fun, caring person and an educator who is in charge of the classroom (it is your classroom – the Thai teachers are there to assist you, not the other way around). For new teachers, Peter will teach you the techniques we use to keep the students under control and focused when you are training. I try to be as fun as possible in my classes, because I have developed an excellent rapport with most of my students and I know what works and what doesn’t. Each class is as different as the person who teaches it, but your students need to know that you always have their best interests at heart, especially the young ones.

One crucial thing to remember is that under no circumstances should you ever lose your temper in class, for two main reasons. Firstly, if you show anger then you will lose face, which is a big deal in Thai culture – you may lose the respect of your Thai teacher. Secondly, your kids will get scared and they will not contribute anything to the class. If you students do act up it isn’t because they don’t like you, it’s because their other classes are so strict and rigid that they see their English class as their fun time away from the ‘iron fist’. Also, these students are too young to understand why English is so crucial to their future, and they don’t care that much about school results.

The bottom line…..

If you can teach young students without them realising they’re being taught, you are most definitely a Super Teacher!

Tristan's One Year Testimonial

by Tristan Rentos

Where have the past 10 months gone? I honestly have no idea, it still feels like I arrived in Surat five minutes ago and I’m standing in my new house, wearing my flannel shirt, cargo pants and hiking boots trying to figure out how this place works.

I still remember my first night in Surat quite well. I was by myself in the Chalokrat house with two fans about a metre away from me. Despite not having slept for 24 hours thanks to my flight schedule, I didn’t sleep that night and the difference in timezones had nothing to do with it. I had never taught anyone anything in my life, and while I had been to Thailand twice before I decided to come here as a teacher, I was not expecting the locals to speak no English whatsoever. When I ‘woke up’ the next day, I was by myself and struggling to get a meal into my stomach, so getting myself properly acclimatised seemed a long way off. It was time to get back to basics.

10 months later and I’ve been promoted to Senior Teacher, I can speak basic conversational Thai and I feel that I can confidently walk into any classroom, at any school and any level and deliver a great lesson that the kids can enjoy and learn from. I have moved house over to the other side of town and possibly have the best setup out of any Super English house. My classes at Thida and Super English are going very well and unlike 10 months ago I’m thinking ahead instead of thinking about my stomach.

Without trying to blow my own trumpet too much, looking back on everything that’s happened and everything I’ve gained has been (for the most part) as a result of my own willingness to drop all barriers and try to get myself on my feet. As for me becoming a half decent (I won’t say good just yet) teacher, Peter and Vic have been invaluable with their training and advice on the journey, and they continue to be even though I am now a more experienced teacher.

The main reason that Super English works is because nothing is too difficult or too arduous for Peter and Vic to handle. They have seen or heard it all before and they know how to fix it without any drama or finger pointing, and they know everyone makes mistakes. This is imperative in such a close knit environment such as Super English, because once you start playing the ‘blame game’, all the trust is gone and that’s it, it’s all over bar the resignations. Nobody is playing any silly games here, the students, teachers and teaching come first and everything else is taken care of second.

How has living in Thailand changed me? I feel that I am a more patient person than before, which is a great asset in a place such as Surat. I like having my weekends off and having time to do my own thing, such as my extra voluntary classes I do three times a week for those who have the desire to learn English but not the bank account to pay for lessons. I have also discovered some great places to spend my weekends; my favourite is Khao Sok National Park. Angela calls it the ‘haven of relaxation’ and that sums it up pretty well.

I am very happy living in Surat and working for Super English, so much so that I have agreed to stay on another year. As the old saying goes – if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.

Without any more rambling, here are my top 5’s!

Top 5 silly things your kids might say in the classroom:

  1. I like coke in the evening (self explanatory)
  2. They are tripping at a party (when asked “What are they doing at a party?”)
  3. He has a brown shit (supposed to be shirt)
  4. My brother likes to watch XXX (I hear this a lot in my second SE class)
  5. I eat poop in the toilet (I hear this a lot in my first SE class)

Top 5 substitution:

(Surat is not like Bangkok – there are many things you just cannot get here, especially western food products).

  1. Cheers beer for Victoria Bitter (it’s actually pretty close!)
  2. Pork for beef (I miss steak and lamb soooo much!)
  3. A bicycle for my Honda Civic (the performance isn’t quite the same….)
  4. Siam Commercial Bank for Commonwealth Bank (They still use passbooks over here – how quaint!)
  5. Teaching English for Conference & Event Management (one is a fun job, the other isn’t – no prizes for guessing which is which)

Top 5 bad habits I have gotten into during my time here:

  1. Saying ‘OK krap’ like Thai people
  2. Riding my bike the wrong way down the street
  3. Eating lollies (candy) – I rarely ate lollies in Oz and for some reason I’m buying a packet every week here
  4. Being lazy on weekends (I’m making up for lost time as I spent almost ten years working in restaurants)
  5. Being addicted to inhalers (I seem to always have one up my nose – still, it’s not the worst thing you can put up there…)

Testimonial

by David Modini (May, 2009 – March, 2010)

I certainly wasn’t expecting this. Thirteen months ago, if you had told me what my life would be like 3 months later, I would’ve had you committed to an insane asylum. A mixup in the Australian immigration office made me have to leave the country almost immediately, so I came to visit my friend in Surat. Who, as a backpacker/tourist, makes Surat their first stop in Thailand? Surat grew on me however, so that when I left to do some proper traveling a couple weeks later, I thought that I would actually miss it. Two months later, the opportunity to teach here presented itself suddenly the day before I was to fly back to Australia. The semester was starting in two weeks and a teacher was needed desperately. Momentum took me to Australia, but the desire to come back to Thailand and teach brought me back two weeks later.

It was a whirlwind, arriving on a Saturday and teaching my first class that Tuesday. I did not know what to expect, but my fellow teachers were telling me that I’d be fine. I decided to trust them, and that was the best decision I could’ve made. What do you do the first moment you see the faces of 55 six-year olds looking at you expectantly? I discovered that whether or not I am a good teacher today, I had the sense and desire to become one. Interacting with the children, helping them with their work, and genuinely caring about them came so much more naturally to me than I could have ever imagined. It was so surprising to uncover that part of me. The same guy who atrophied working in restaurants, office jobs, and call centers found something he loved to do more than anything in the world.

It wasn’t easy, but by no means was it difficult. Once your heart was in it, the rest was cake. Within two months, I had memorized the name of every student – all 160+ of them. I loved every minute I was in the class with them, and I hope the feeling was mutual. The way they would mimic everything I did was so funny. Usually it was the good habits, such as speaking correct English. Sometimes it was funny habits, like saying “eenie-meenie-minie-mo” while trying to choose a student for a game. Other times, it was not so great habits, like when they were learning adjectives and instead of saying “It is a quiet student,” they would say it was a “be quiet” student because in my normal conversation with them, those two words were used in conjunction all the time. But the best part was discovering something that would make them laugh while teaching them. Whatever you were teaching them was thenn guaranteed to stick.

Teaching the six-year olds was not my only gig in Surat. If you make the effort to branch out and experience other teaching situations, it makes everything so much easier. As it is, I taught at least one class of every age level from Prathom 1 (the six-year olds) all the way up to the final level of high school. My other main teaching experience came from teaching the adults at the hospital. That was a very unique experience. While not as much fun as teaching six-year olds, it was still a very rewarding experience. Even if they are used to seeing foreigners in their official work setting, I detected a sense of relief to actually interact with one in a less restricted setting. And I also discovered, much to my surprise, that adults like playing silly games just as much as children.

As rewarding as this teaching experience was, I wholeheartedly acknowledge the fact that it working at Super English was the reason for such a great experience. It was very comforting to know that I had the support I needed whenever I wanted it. It’s difficult settling in another country, and looking back at the year that has past, I never felt let down at all. Peter and Victoria always had my back, and for that I am very grateful. Every other teacher here was supportive as well. I like to think I made myself available for them too.

Not to mindlessly spout a cliche, but you definitely will get out of this experience what you put in. I am going to miss Surat very very much. It’s nice to feel a part of a place, and doubly so when you are such an outsider to begin with. Yeah, I still don’t speak Thai very well at all, and I get a little nervous on my motorbike. But life here is simple and pleasant. The people are so friendly, even though their driving leaves a lot to be desired. The food is good and the most beautiful beaches in the world are within a day’s trip. Once you realize how some of the things you are accustomed to are so irrelevant, life is even better. So, thirteen months after I first stepped foot in Surat, I leave with some sadness in my heart, but so much more gratitude for my time here.setstats