Settling In

by Tristan Rentos

Time really does fly when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? I have been living in Surat Thani now for 15 months, and in that time I have gone from having to struggle to get fed to almost being part of the furniture around here. It’s interesting to look back on how I made this place home; it’ s taken a while to get everything the way I want it and here’s how I made it happen:

My house – Super English houses are every bit as different as Super English teachers. My house, which I share with our new teacher Brian, has been a bit of a “project in development” since I moved in last July but it is finally starting to come to fruition. When we moved in, one of the old teachers and I started furnishing the house the way we wanted it, buying tables, chairs, shelving, a TV and utensils. Since Dave left in February, I have bought a new TV that I can connect to my notebook which has been great for watching movies. Next on the list is more shelving for the kitchen, a new couch and (eventually) a new fridge. I really feel that getting my house sorted has made my Surat Thani experience a lot better and more comfortable than I could have been.

My job – When I started last year, it didn’t take very long for me to find my feet and get comfortable with the idea of fronting up to 55 kids at Thida School every day and putting on a show. Now that I am teaching P1 it’s even better, because instead of walking into work and getting inundated with emails and orders from the boss (like my old job back in Australia), I walk into work and have half a dozen kids run up to me and give me a hug. I still have my bad days and not every single thing that I try works the way I want, but those days are now very few and far between, especially during this current semester.

I think that the best part so far of my teaching career has been my level 9 class at Super English. I still remember when I started with these kids in May 2009, my first lesson with them was “On my holidays, I ______”. Now I can have a class-wide conversation with them in English for 10 minutes or more every lesson and they can write their own short stories without my assistance. Watching these kids grow has been the reason that I stayed for another year, and it has been well worth the effort.

My friends – I have had some great times so far with my colleagues here at Super English, both inside and outside the workplace. There always seems to be a trip to wherever going on (usually beach or national park) or a party going on at someone’s house or a pub. I don’t get out as much as I used to these days as it’s a case of ‘been there, done that’ for most of the tourist stuff around Southern Thailand, so I’m now looking for a different, quieter adventure off the tourist trail to satisfy my traveling needs.

The locals – Getting acquainted with the locals doesn’t require a massive amount of effort, all you really need to do is smile and be friendly. Thai people are great when it comes to accepting outsiders, especially the ‘farang kruu’ (foreign teachers) who are teaching their kids English. Most people in Surat cannot speak any English, including my girlfriend Kan. It has been almost surreal dating her, not because she’s Thai but because I have to converse in Thai with her, I don’t have a choice. When we met, my Thai was a lot better than her English (not that my Thai is that good, believe me) so we just went with it. Before I came here I couldn’t speak any other languages, so I’ve basically gone from zero to speaking a foreign language at home in 15 months. It’s been a steep learning curve for both of us but well worth it.

The food – The food here is great, no question. When I started to learn Thai and learn how to order food in Thai it opened my eyes up to a whole new way to eating, which is basically constant snacking (the way the locals do it) instead of 3 larger meals a day. You can’t ride your bicycle/motorcycle 100 metres down the road without coming across a vendor selling something to eat, so I never go hungry.

The bottom line – Great job, great food, great house, it’s hot every day and I wake up feeling relaxed every morning. Where’s the downside?

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Acclimation Proclamation: Two Weeks in Surat

by Brian Steinbach

The Arrival:

Upon arriving in Surat, you’ll probably be met at the airport by either Peter or Wen. You’ll stand at the luggage carousel nervously hopeful that your luggage wasn’t lost somewhere along the way in the craziness of your long (LONG) journey to your new home. From here you’ll probably be shuttled directly to your new house, where you will be able to meet your new roommate(s). In my case, I was dropped off around noon, and was able to check out my room a little before my roommate came home and took me down the road to buy lunch.

The Overwhelming Euphoria:

The feeling is hard to describe, and I’m sure it’s a bit different for everyone. But whenever you catch that minute to yourself at your house, there is a weird euphoria that might accompany your new surroundings. Your mind will be racing with a million excited thoughts and questions that will probably make relaxing for the first couple of days (reading, watching a show, etc) from being as easily accomplished as it should be. And that’s all pretty much normal. You’re in a foreign country, you’re about to start a new job, have no idea how to get from point A to point B without a guide, and you don’t speak the lingo. More or less you will feel pretty lost for the first week or so. Thankfully, around the one-week mark you’ll squash a lot of the problems preventing you from functioning independently. In the first week and half that I’ve been here:

  • I’ve learned how to order food at local vendors and the amazing Night Market (just outside of Super English).
  • I’ve learned how to get to work and other Super English teachers’ homes from my house (that may not seem like much of a feat, but there’s definitely an awesome on “terra firma” feeling when you get the point of being able to get from A to B un-escorted by helpful co-workers/roommates).
  • I’ve learned how to speak some simple Thai phrases that help me to get by for the time being.
  • I’ve found several Internet coffee shops that are pretty convenient (and air conditioned to boot!)
  • My roommate has shown me a lot of the ropes around town, and helped me to purchase a number of smaller, harder to find items (SIM cards, groceries, kitchen/bathroom supplies, hangers, power strips, water bottles, etc).

There are probably a lot of other things I can’t even think of to add to the list. If anything, that’s a sign of how quickly we learn and start to take advantage of the things we take for granted, like being able to get from A to B.

When you’re immersed in a totally foreign experience, that extreme sense of being lost WILL be countered by an extreme sponge-like absorption of new knowledge. That said, I still have a lot to learn about Surat, its people, and my job. Thankfully, everyone at Super has been unbelievably helpful and friendly.

In Good Company:

Before coming to Surat, I had repeatedly heard about the friendliness of its citizens. But I didn’t expect the Super English crew to be as helpful and outgoing as they have been over the past couple of weeks. My co-teachers have gone out of his way to show me around a lot of the town between my house and Super (different routes, multiple cool cafes, food places, and bars). People frequently contact each other to meet up for cards, drinks, or just to hang in general. As an example; this past Sunday, I didn’t have any plans for the day, and certainly wasn’t expecting a call from another teacher asking me if I would like to go to Monkey College (who could refuse, right?). I ended up having one of the best days since arriving, all because of a phone call leading to an impromptu Monkey college excursion. And this upcoming weekend, I’ve been invited by some other teachers to go to Khao Sok National Park for the extended weekend.

In the way of advice, I’d say that your fellow teachers are your greatest assets to settling into Surat Thani. Even if you’re the kind of person whose idea of relaxing is catching some quite time with a good book, try to take people up on offers to go out and about the town. That’s especially advised during your first few weeks. It’s one of the best ways to acclimate yourself with the town and its many stops (and thus making your more comfortable in the town as a whole).

Everything is Cool:

Keep an open and flexible mind while you’re adjusting to Thai life. Always remember that that discombobulated feeling you have during your first week is only temporary. Soon enough, between your own personal experiences and your joint expeditions with the other Super teachers around the town, you will feel a thousand times better and have a growing confidence about where you are and your many adventures to come.

Motorcycle Diaries Surat

by John Phelps

This is an article about a young idealist man who travels around southern Thailand fomenting rebellion and wearing silly facial hair. Oh wait, nope… that’s the other article. This one is about all the amazing places you can see from Surat for super cheap via the most celebrated method of Thai transportation: the motorbike. The sights include two of the tourist circuit must-sees (the Khao Sok National Rainforest and Ko Samui) and two lesser known gems (Khanom and the Monkey Training School).

If you worried about motorcycle travel, you should be, at least enough to keep you from being an idiot. It is the easiest and freest way to travel in Thailand, as you don’t have to worry about where and when to catch a bus or being harrassed by tuk-tuk drivers once you get there. For short trips, you can cram the most amount of leisure into the least amount of holiday time. Why being a little worried is beneficial to your health: it will make you wear a helmet at all times and drive slowly on the shoulder of the highway.

Destination #1: Ko Samui

This is the “Island Paradise” everyone says that you should visit. I certainly don’t think it is the best island in Thailand. However, it is a very large island with anything you could possibly want to do on it. The water is beautiful, and the sand is especially great at Chaweng Beach. Chaweng is a great place to people watch, as it is an especially huge strip of clean (really, it is actually perfectly clean) mean beach-walking machine. You can rent sailboats, catamarans, jet- skis, and beach chairs there, depending on your style. You can even kite surf (unless your name is Piglet).

You can stay for cheap and nice (500 baht/night) on Bo Phut (Big Buddha) Beach, and ride to the other beaches for fun. There is a great fruit market near the golden Big Buddha where you can buy super cheap food and stock up if you are on a tight budget. Also, a great rotee (pancake) stall that will stuff you silly for less than 50 baht, depending on what you choose to throw in it.

If you want a quiet, rock bound beach with lots of opportunity to reflect, there is Ton Sai Beach. From the Big Buddha (the west side of the NE finger of the island), you just take your first left and then follow the arrows downhill until you get to Ton Sai Resort. You can park your bike here and enjoy the crags and the pristine resort-less view. The resort has a nice staff and a good iced coffee, with cheap beer on offer as well.

How do you get to this “Island Paradise”? Easy. The main street that runs through Surat is called Talad Mai. You just head North East on that road, and it becomes Route 401. You take this for about an hour until you come to the “Don Sak Intersection” where you take a left to head for the ferry at Don Sak. You ride about thirty more minutes and arrive at the Sea Tran office. They charge you 140 baht to take you and your motorcycle two hours across the ocean to Ko Samui. When you arrive at Ko Samui, you will be at the uninteresting West Side (Ao Makham). This is where having a bike saves you a ton, as any tuk-tuk will charge you around 500 baht to get to any other beach. (Plus you would have had to pay the ferry on top of that) Motorbike gas, round trip, should be no more than 200 baht (automatics will use more gas).

Destination #2: Khanom

I LOVE KHANOM! Shh… don’t tell anybody. Then they might go there, and then it will be a place people go to! No! As a Surat teacher, you are a member of the select few foreigners that get to experience this amazing place. The beaches are empty, almost always. The water is clear and aquamarine, filled with luminescent creatures at night. This is the most consistent place I have seen the night luminescence, where you can actually make floating light angels by just moving your arms and legs in the water. The sand is great, waves are slight, and there are seashells everywhere. You can eat fancy at a new brick oven pizza place on the beach, or you can go for the best cheeseburger at Thai-Fi (a Thai Finnish place). Khanom town has a good night market and plenty of restaurants as well. You can stay on the beach for 500-800 baht for a fan room here (Old Rabiangsai and Khanom Hill are favourites). Or you can camp on the beach in front of Cece Bar, they will let you use their shower and restroom if you buy something now and then. If you ride your bike out to the point, past the Ratchakiri Resort, to the end of the road, there is a great camping place run by some friendly Thais. Gas, round trip, should be no more than 200 baht, 250 if you go back and forth a few times from town to beach. >> How do you get to this place-that-you-will-tell-no-one-about? Take the same route down Talad Mai, as if you were going to Don Sak. At the Don Sak Intersection, keep going straight on Route 401, for about another 45 minutes. You will see signs for Khanom, and after you go downhill for awhile, you will turn left onto 4014 (passing some jumping dolphins, don’t worry, just a statue). You are now on the main road that takes you into Khanom Town. Once there, you can stop and get food (turn right to get to the night market if it is afternoon) or just go straight to get to the beach. After about a kilometer, the main road dead ends onto 4232. Take a right, and you are on the beach access road, which takes you to Cece Bar (on your left), Old Rabiangsai (2nd sign, cheaper and more quaint), but keep going and take a left at the top of the hill to get to Khanom Hill or to go out to the point.

Destination #3: The Monkey Training School

Why would anyone train monkeys? They become excellent English teachers! We will all be out of jobs in about 5 years because of this school. Actually, they use exclusively positive reinforcement to train monkeys to harvest coconuts. They can climb, shake the trees, rotate the coconuts, and even dive two meters to save dropped equipment, coconuts, or Timmy (who is still waiting on that stupid Lassie to figure out how to dive and get him out). This place is amazing, I won’t tell you much because I don’t want to spoil it. If you go alone, a tour is 300 baht. That means they put on a whole educational monkey show and tour just for you. The monkeys don’t do the tour unless they get to educate you. It is cheaper if you go with a few friends. Motorbike gas, round trip, less than 90 baht.

How do you get there? Again, go North East on Talad Mai. Look for the giant sign, and take a left on 2001. 2001 dead ends at the Kradae Chae Monkey Training Center. No more than a twenty minute ride from Surat Thani. >> Destination #4: Khao Sok National Rainforest

The oldest rainforest in the world. You can not not see it. The glaciers never came here, and this forest has never burned down or been completely turned into furniture. You can swing on vines into crystalline waters. You can swim through caves to visit roaring waterfalls. You can see wild elephants and monkeys. All without a guide. (You might want one if you are going elephant- watching, though).

If you want to stay in a treehouse, you will have to pay around 1,000 baht (sleeps 3-4 people) at Our Jungle House. Or you can camp, always a cheap option, on the National Park. You can find a bungalow at Nung House for 400 baht, best deal for what you get (thanks to our friend Tristan). Looking around, budget places will give you a 400 baht rate for a nice fan room. All the guesthouses will arrange excursions for you, or you can walk down the main path, through Art’s Bungalows, to get to the Monkey Swimming Hole. You will probably walk through a huge troop of monkeys on the way. (Watch out! They are sneaky, and they will take your camera!) You can use the rope swing, and have a blast for free! Or, walk the other way, pass Nung House and take a right on the main road to go to the Park. A ticket is good for 24 hrs, so you can do an evening hike and the whole next day on the same ticket. Bring your passport with worker permit, and you get a discount price of 50 baht (the tourist price is 200 baht).

How do you get to this amazing wonderland? No, no, don’t tell me…. Talad Mai. Well, I’ll be danged. But, go South West, to the Tha Kup Intersection. Take a right here on 4213, then take a left on route 401. Stay on this road for 2 hours, until you lose your mind from karst mountains jumping out of the earth. After the mountains start, the first bus stop with an office you see on your right is your stop. This is the main street through the town that serves the Park. You’ve got Italian food and great Thai food, but pass over the river and take a right to get to the guesthouses.

There and back, gas is between 250 and 300 baht.

Che or not, you can see some great stuff from Surat on a motorcycle. You will have flats, all that, but it will be fun!

Some Basic Do’s and Don’ts

by Emily Nass

Teaching is as unique an experience as the students making up the class. Having experience in the classroom is an invaluable benefit. Something to keep in mind, however, is how distinctive each and every school can be. Several of you who read this may already have an abundance of teaching experience and knowledge behind you. That is wonderful. Others may be starting their teaching career with Super English. Regardless of which you are I hope you will find this article helpful on many levels.

Because teaching in Thailand is such a matchless experience in itself, one can only imagine the small nuances that set each school apart. The following are some helpful do’s and don’ts of teaching at Thida and Suratpittaya. Some of them may seem odd while others seem commonplace. The main objective of this piece is the hope that it will help you gain a well-rounded perspective on the teaching environments when you work for Suer English Language School. At both schools teachers are required to fill out lesson plans, monthly reports and hour sheets.

Thida:

Like many schools Thida has several expectations that are written and well known and several that are simply implied. At Thida you are required to sign in and out everyday in the Teacher Book located in the Teacher’s Office. Secondly if you are at the school for morning classes, standing outside of the office for the King’s Song and Flag Raising will show respect and good manners. For the English Program (EP), teachers are expected to assign some type of homework every day. The homework could range from a written assignment to reading a specific passage. As long as the homework is assigned the school and parents will be happy. Having a good working relationship with the Thai staff and Nuns at Thida is not a written rule but it is beyond a good idea. If you want to have a successful teaching experience at Thida it is very important to cultivate good friendships with your teaching assistants and show proper respect to the Nuns. As the Nuns run the school, and thus your job, it is a good habit to Wai them. A secondly important unwritten rule is attitude. Thailand is a very “face value” culture, and puts quite a bit of pressure on appearance and how you present your emotions. It may sound easy, but even if things are going awry keep a smile on your face and a calm voice.

On that note, when plans are changed do not show disappointment or frustration. The only thing you can plan on in Thailand is that plans will be constantly changed. This is expected and will happen often. The best thing to do is to not let it bother you and to simply go along with whatever the school has decided day to day. Do not complain to the Thai staff or others at the school. We are guests in Thailand even though we are teachers. It is extremely bad form to complain about Thai ways and culture. If you need to complain about something you think is unfair or irritating, save your thoughts for your head teacher after school hours. Do not sleep at school. Though at times you may feel that the only thing you need is a nap, the school is for working and home is for sleeping. If you see a Thai teacher sleeping keep in mind that it is their own choice and not a double standard set for the foreign teachers. On a separate note, do not touch your student’s heads. This is a tremendously rude and condescending act, even when done in good humor. Do not step over anyone at any time. Your feet are the lowest point of your body and should at no point be elevated above or pointing at another person. Lastly do not sit on a table or desk. Similar to your feet it is impolite and disrespectful to sit on anything besides a chair.

Suratpittaya:

Thida and Suratpittaya are very similar on several points. The only differences are as follows: Thida is a private catholic school and is run by Nuns. Suratpittaya is not. In place of the Nuns is a school board that should be respected in the same way as the Nuns at Thida. Secondly, because of the layout of Suratpittaya once the flag ceremony begins you cannot get into the school without driving through the ceremony. It hopefully goes without saying that this would be the worst idea any teacher could have. If you do not get into the school before the ceremony you can park your bike outside and walk in behind the ceremony. Never, I repeat never, try to drive into the ceremony.

Since Suratpittaya is not EP teachers do not have to assign homework. If you want to you can, though keep in mind that you will only see your students once a week and will have around twelve sections of each level. The English Improvement Program at Suratpittaya is a special program for the students who want to receive extra help with their English. You must stay in the office for your EIP hours and be ready with ideas for the students who do come in for extra practice. The paperwork at Suratpittaya includes the small amount of paper work for the EIP program. The extent of this is writing a short description of what you discussed, the student’s names and their class numbers.

Aside from the few differences, both schools require very much the same respectful and appropriate behavior from their teachers. If you are ever in doubt of an activity, lesson, action or method of handling the seemingly chaotic manner of scheduling, ask your head teacher. The head teachers know their stuff and are a wonderful tool for new teachers. So whether you are a new teacher all-together or simply a new teacher to Super English, keep these few reminders and warnings in mind. If you do, you will have a successful and low stress experience teaching for Super English. Which is something that any teacher will say is a good thing.

Why Super English Rocks

by Brittney Johnson

I have been aware that Super English rocks since my first encounter with SE. The entire process of getting hired to teaching classes has been a smooth and positive experience. The management and staff have been transparent, personable and accessible from the beginning.

I taught English in Korea last year. So far my experience in SuratThani has been completely different, in a positive way. I had never taught before going to Korea. So as a new teacher I expected to get a lot of feedback and things to improve on. There was no oversight or anyone to go to with questions. I was never told if I was doing a good job or not. The school was run more as a business than a school. So the focus was keeping the parents happy and making money. Not on quality teaching. And they didn’t make us feel comfortable asking questions. I just had to figure it out on my own.

My first week at Super English has been incredible! Everyone has made me feel so welcomed. Even though I had a short training, it felt very thorough. I observed the director, Victoria, for 2 days. She made sure I was prepared, confident and ready to teach my own classes. She took extra time to help me plan my own lessons. The other teachers have taken time out to show me around Surat. I feel that the management and teachers are all accessible if I have any problems or questions. Everyone has been incredibly encouraging and supportive. In Korea, I had to figure out everything for myself. I didn’t have an entire staff of people there for me if I needed anything.

Super English encourages teachers to be creative and effective by not having to follow a strict curriculum. We have targets that we focus our lessons around, but it’s not limited to that. We have a lot of flexibility. In Korea we had so much pointless paperwork to do everyday. We spent hours upon hours on paperwork that didn’t help in our teaching. It actually took away from quality teaching because we spent more time filling out paperwork than actually teaching. SE’s motto is to put your focus in the actual classroom. SE truly cares about the staff and students. SE focuses on having fun, because if the students aren’t having fun, they aren’t going to pay attention and therefore will not learn. SE stresses both, have fun and learn! I’m still figuring out ways to achieve both. But that is the beauty of SE. Peter, the owner and founder of SE, encourages teachers to try new things. If it works, great! If it doesn’t, oh well, at least you tried. The possibilities are endless at SE and I’m so excited to be part of such a well-rounded, positive team!

In conclusion, SE rocks because of the people who work there and the way the school is run. The people are who make SE what it truly is. They make it more than just a place to learn English. SE really focuses on quality teaching. You can tell that SE cares more about its students and maintaining good teachers than making money. This is extremely important. The teachers are treated with respect and given quite a bit of responsibility. SE is all about empowering their teachers. We take our jobs seriously and give it 100%! But the best part is if we need help, there is an entire staff there to lend a hand!

A Work in Progress

by Mitch Burbick

When I first stepped into the classroom containing, and I say containing in the barely- holding-about-to-burst-at-the-seams-why-isn’t-this-a-cage way, the 55 children making up my Prathom 5/2 class (5th grade), I was shocked, overwhelmed, and just slightly intimidated. Fast forward two months and I no longer spend hours the night before thinking about how to keep them entertained, fret about the time left while I’m teaching a class, and work smoothly through the lessons more often than not.

This class has been challenging from both a teaching and personal growth standpoint. My teaching has improved considerably in the two months since I started seeing them for an hour every day. I have my strong points. I’ve learned that there really is something liberating about acting like a clown (read: dancing for your life) in front of a class packed full of kids that could easily mutiny if they only knew their power. I have begun to remember what it was like to be in fifth grade, how much energy I always had, and how boring class could be.

My perspective of the class has changed from one of apprehension to one of begrudged adoration. Most of the kids are adorable: there are some rotten ones. Their names range from Kong to Jane to Yam to Book, and the longer I teach them, the more I like them. Strange right? Being a class that I see everyday has really allowed me the opportunity to learn almost all of their names and become a semi-regular fixture in their school lives. This has been challenging, but rewarding.

The challenge is to be continually coming up with new ideas for similar material. Thinking of games, exercises, and goofy things to get them into the lessons can be tough. This though, has also changed in the few months that I’ve been teaching. I’ve become semi-pro at turning anything remotely fun into a way to learn English. Here’s a hint – they love battleship. And jeopardy. Thank you Mr. Trebec.

From a personal standpoint, I’ve grown more comfortable with myself. I have always been someone embarrassed easily, someone who doesn’t like to dance, someone who doesn’t really like being around people I don’t know (I sound lame huh?), but with these kids, it’s a whole new side of me coming out that has honestly been very surprising. The children are honest. The children are fun. Learning to become silly with them has made this job go from something that would cause me a bit of anxiety, to something that’s usually pretty fun. I wouldn’t go so far to say that it doesn’t feel like work, but a great thing about the classes is that they require so much energy and attention, that it’s near impossible to not have fun with the students.

The class as a whole is quick with concepts and lessons. Like every class, there are a few students who are very smart and I’ve learned to use the bright and willing as examples first to introduce material to the rest of the class. We do a lot of role playing and acting, games that get them up and running and moving around. Active involvement. Doing this first and then introducing writing or vocabulary words usually works best, letting them get some energy out while hopefully retaining information from the game they’re playing. The class has gotten through the textbook easily and we’ve done occupations, family members, have/has, reoccurring actions, school supplies, age, his/her/we/their and they are surprisingly adept at using the past tense.

With a long time still left in the year, and even semester, there is much left to learn for both the students and myself. My goals for the class are to keep having fun in an educational way, to continue cultivating the relationships with the kids that I’ve started, and to keep them involved. For myself, I hope to become better at checking my frustration when things don’t go so well and to continue becoming more comfortable with myself. They’re kids after all. Go wild. They love it.

My Super English Journey

by Brittney Johnson

This story begins long before accepting the job offer at Super English. My traveling journey began when I studied abroad in college in Spain. It was then that I started developing a passion for cultures different from my own. I realized there was an entire world out there to explore! My eyes were suddenly opened. I have lived and worked abroad ever since I graduated from college 6 years ago. I love learning about and learning from other cultures. Rather than comparing and trying to change them, I have learned to embrace our differences.

So, my name is Brittney. I’m 28 years old, from Texas. I have lived and worked in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Central America, Caribbean and Asia. Prior to last year I had never been to the “real” Asia so when I was deciding on where the next adventure would be, I decided to step into the unknown. Asia always seemed like this distant, mystical, far off land. All of this intrigued me. I love challenges and taking risks….so Asia it was!

My first year in Asia was spent in South Korea. At first, teaching jobs in Korea seemed almost too good to be true. They pay for your flight, visa and accommodation. There were so many schools to choose from. I finally decided on a private language school in Seoul. It was my first time teaching so I didn’t know what to expect. I figured I would learn, observe and be trained everything I needed to know, since I had no prior experience. I was wrong. I was given almost no feedback, encouragement or support from my boss. The other 2 foreign teachers gave me some tips, but they were first time teachers as well. I had no way of knowing if I was doing a good job or not. There was no communication system set up. I kept going with what I thought was right. Of course I ended up loving the kids. Unfortunately I can’t say the same about the school. The school was run as a business first and a school second. The main thing was to keep the parents happy. The school wanted more kids and more money. But as we all know, mo money means mo problems. I was thankful for the experience and the people I met in Korea, but 1 year was enough.

Fast forward 1.5 years later. I have been in Surat Thani at Super English for 3 weeks now. I have found SE to be completely different than my school in Korea. But I realized this before arriving to Thailand.

Let me back up. I am planning on attending graduate school next year. So I decided to go teach English abroad again in the meantime. I was open to teaching anywhere: Africa, the Middle East, Europe, South America…wherever. Even though I thought Thailand was beautiful and fun, I didn’t really consider teaching in Thailand because I thought the pay was too low. So I looked around and started applying to different schools and different countries. I got a reply from Peter at Super English. We exchanged some emails and as soon as I checked out the website I was very impressed by how “real” Super English seemed to be. All of a sudden, the pay wasn’t as important to me. I talked with Peter on Skype. He told me everything I needed to know about SE. I was impressed by how flexible, supportive, fun, laid back and encouraging the school and staff seemed to be. He was completely open, honest and transparent about how things were done at SE. I told Peter that my main concern was the pay. He then explained there are many ways to earn extra money at SE. I can teach extra classes, write stories for the website, and other ongoing and new projects. One thing Peter really stressed was how everything is up to the teacher. There is not a strict curriculum to follow. No one hovering over your shoulder, but they are there if you need them. The teacher can decide what, how, and how long to teach a topic. Overall, SE has 100% trust and confidence in their teachers.

So I arrived in Surat on a Friday. I was able to meet my fellow teachers and see a bit of the town. My roommate, Dez, took me all over Surat. Everyone was so nice and made me feel super welcomed. They went out of their way to make sure I had everything I needed. It can be stressful when moving to a foreign country and not knowing anything. They have done a great job of taking me under their wings, but also allowing me space to figure some things out on my own. It’s been a great balance!

Honestly, I was nervous about how my teaching skills would compare here in Thailand to Korea. We didn’t have to think much outside of the box in Korea. And Super English’s motto is to give the teacher the flexibility to teach what we want. I knew it would be up to me to create fun and effective lesson plans. But, need not fear. My fellow teachers have been there to give me tips, suggestions, and answer any questions I have had.

I observed the teacher I would be replacing, Victoria, for 2 days. She did an incredible job of explaining and showing Super English’s method of teaching. Even though 2 days isn’t very much, I think it’ s best to just jump in with both feet! In life, you learn the most by experience, and the same is true with teaching. I began teaching on Wednesday. Of course I was a little nervous. My morning classes are at the new Thida school. And I must say how fortunate I am to be at this school! It is a new huge building with, yes, air-conditioned classrooms!! I teach 3 2nd grade classes a day, with 55 students and a Thai teacher in the classroom. At first, the number 55 freaked me out! I was used to teaching under 10 kids in a class in Korea. But honestly, it’s not as hard as it seems. I’m incredibly thankful to have a Thai teacher in the classroom with me. She helps with discipline, and from time to time explaining things to kids. I was wondering how I would remember 165 students’ names! But even just after 3 weeks, I am getting to know each student!

After my morning classes, I teach 2 classes from 4:30-6:30pm at Super English. These classes are much smaller, but smaller does not always mean easier. I was particularly nervous about these classes because the ages have a wide range. I was worried about how to make the teaching relevant for every student in the class. After 3 weeks, I am slowly but surely making progress with these 2 classes. I’m still getting a feel for the class, figuring out personalities and classroom management. I know it will take time to feel super comfortable. I need to be patient and not get discouraged. Teaching is a continuous learning process. I will continue to try to figure out how to be an effective teacher during my time here.

In my short time here I am already loving my students! Thai kids are very affectionate and loving. They also have a lot of energy and show tons of excitement! Teaching with Super English is going to be a completely different experience for me. The way of teaching is opposite from most schools. I have definitely been stretched and challenged since I’ve been here. But I know it will only get better, and that truly excites me! I know there is a team of teachers and staff behind me, and that is refreshing.

So the journey begins. Throughout my time here in Surat, I will be journaling my experience. I will expand on teaching and living in Surat. I’ll include everything from work, living conditions, everyday life, social life, traveling, eating, and everything in between. Join me in experiencing the “real” Thailand!