Extra Clothes word of warning. — by Joe

In the most recent Big House transition of teachers we ended up with a few bags of extra clothes. Most are in good shape but don’t fit me or anyone else sticking around here. We chose a couple favorite items and let the rest sit there for a while just in case guests to our house wanted a party favor. However, it was now time for these clothes to go but we didn’t want to just throw them in the trash or leave them on the street in the rain. There is a big used clothes store on Amphur right next to Bali Bar and we’d been kicking around the idea of trying to sell the clothes there. Today was the day for that mission.
I was hoping the woman who ran the store would be excited about these clothes and we could maybe get 200 baht or so with these 25-30 items of clothing.
We pulled out our bags of clothes and used our basic Thai, “ao mai??” song roy baht??
She looked at me with a confused look and for a brief moment I thought my estimate was too cheap.
Nope, she didn’t want to pay for the clothes, ok, plan b; do you want them for free. nods all around, we headed for the bike.
She comes out of the store talking rapidly at us in Thai, we gave our best farang shrug and smile and said we don’t understand.
After some gesturing back and forth it was clear she did not want Michael’s awesome clothes. MAI AO! she said. I was sad because she didn’t even look at them and I really wanted to contribute to the local Thai economy.
I also didn’t want to take the clothes back to the house so we tried to ascertain where we should take the clothes. A temple (wat)? They gestured to the big garbage truck driving by.
We tried to explain that we were trying to be nice and give you free clothes for you to sell but our Thai wasn’t even close to go enough to get that across. End of the story is that they let us leave and kept the clothes. Maybe destined for the trash, and maybe for sale soon.
So word to the wise, that used clothes store, has some fun stuff that they sell (we bought our full moon outfits there), but they will take donations and might get angry about free clothes.
Apparently I’ve found the snag in the free wheeling entrepreneurial Thai economy. They don’t trust farang bearing gifts. Or at least me.

Ginger — by Shelby

No, this blog isn’t about that ginger. It’s about the root. Not the gross ginger they give you on the side of sushi (oh how I miss, you), or a flavor to often be avoided.

Some of the newbies are probably packing up now and wondering just what all they might need. There is one thing that I grabbed based on a rumor, and I am very glad to have done so. Ginger. That’s right, I brought it with me from Texas, and you didn’t even know.

Studies have been done to see the exact effects of ginger. It has been found to help with motion sickness, those ill from chemotherapy, nausea, and just a general upset stomach. Moving to a new place can be attached with tons of nerves. Eating Thai food when your stomach is used to mildly spicy previous to this venture, results in some pretty fun stomach flops.

I for one, get pre-school jitters. The first day before classes start, even when returning, makes me a bundle of nerves. I don’t know why. You know what helped me sleep and calmed my nerves that began in my stomach and grew all the way to my mind? Ginger.

When the Thai food finally got to me, ginger saved the day as well. There’s a plethora of pharmacies in Thailand. You can’t drive anywhere without seeing at least one. However, ginger is a nice “natural” remedy, and it can be bought for super cheap almost anywhere. I believe I got mine near the vitamins in good ol’ Wally world.

Peter’s Practical Guide to Teaching

by Peter C. Meltzer

People often ask me if they need a TEFL certificate or which TEFL certificate I think is a good one. The simple answer is you don’t need one to work with Super English. While some teachers have said better things about some programs than others (once), in my opinion they are all relatively ineffective. This also happens to be the opinion of nearly everyone who has done one. Some are even counterproductive, not necessarily to all types of teaching, just perhaps only to the particular style of teaching which we do at Super English.

This isn’t necessarily the fault of the TEFL programs. They simply can’t simulate a real classroom environment on a day to day basis, which is the only way to learn how to teach. As a result, the TEFL programs, as well as other approaches to teaching education, resort to theoretical approaches and practices. These are not useful in the type of classroom you will most likely be facing. In fact, they may confuse you. You won’t have time to discover whether this child is an auditory learner or that child is a visual learner. Most likely you’ll end up covering both anyway without thinking too much about it.  There are a lot of kids, a lot of things going on, and you’ve got a lot of material to cover.

Sure, there are probably schools where your TEFL certification would be crucially helpful. Maybe very quiet, very serene international schools with 7-10 kids per classroom whom you stay with all day. Let me know when you come across one. Based on my experience, the only way teachers learn is from practice, support, class specific advice and continued training. Trust me, once you get in front of your first classroom pretty much everything in your mind goes blank. When that happens (and later), theoretical approaches to teaching won’t be much help. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. Only practical methods and advice will be of any help to you. With that in mind, here is:

Peter’s Practical Guide to Teaching

  1. Lego Language
  2. Excellence of Execution
  3. Everything is Actionable
  4. Make ‘Em Laugh
  5. Three F’s
  6. Starting Strong
  7. Finishing Strong

I have been teaching for nearly a decade in Thailand and these are the things I have found work well. I don’t claim to be an expert but I have been reasonably successful in the field of teaching. These articles are maybe (hopefully) helpful to some. They are not authoritative statements or general treatises on Teaching. They are merely offered as possible help in learning more about teaching ESL. If you have any questions or comments after reading, please feel free to contact me via the email address above.

Advice to New Teachers

by Mitch Burbick

So, you’re coming to Thailand. Good on you. It’s nice here. Rest assured, you will figure it all out pretty quickly once you get here but these are a couple things that might be worth wrapping your mind around before heading to this side of the globe.

First off, it’s hot here. Like, really hot here. I know people come from all different parts of the world but coming from America’s west coast, the only thing I’d experienced that was slightly even maybe kind of close to this type of heat and humidity was the one summer I spent when I was 10 in rural Wisconsin chasing fireflies around with my Midwestern cousins. I’ve read books that describe hot and humid climates like being wrapped in a blanket, and that’s really what it is. It’s hot, it’s wet, and it’s more than a little bit sweaty almost all the time.

However, this is merely a fact and the advice that I’d try to impart to you is to not bring heavy clothes over. I brought a few pairs of slacks over here to teach in that were wool and they are a no go. I seriously wore them the first week I was here and never again. (Full Disclosure: There may or may not have been a slightly embarrassing amount of trouser-dampening sweat involved.) Traditional button up shirts work fine if you have anything to cover up (tattoos or the like), but polo shirts are probably the better option because you still look good when they’re not tucked in and short sleeves are better vents than long sleeves rolled up. A rather unique fact of life is that I am not a girl, so my advice in this realm for women is a little less helpful, but seeing the way that other women teachers here dress, it’s probably advisable to either bring or procure here skirts of a flow-ish nature. This makes it much easier to ride a bicycle or a motorbike to work as well. A certain someone I know bought a selection of really good looking high quality skirts before coming over and never wore them past the first day. Write this equation down and commit it to memory: tight = impractical. Girls are welcome to wear polo shirts as well but can get away with a little bit more as far as tops go seeing that the neckline isn’t too low. The kids like to stare. They like to stare a lot.

(Anecdote: I half lifted my shirt and scratched my stomach absent mindedly in front of my fifth graders the second or third week I was teaching and I still hear about it from them. A typical thing one of them might say while coming up to me scratching his/her/its stomach is: “Teacher scratch stomach,” while three of them roll on the ground laughing. They think this is hilarious.)

The second bit of advice I’d dole out is to try packing lightly. I know, I know, you’re leaving for a year. I came here with an individual who is one of those people who will pack a full on suitcase for an overnight trip. Not pretty. Half of the things brought over haven’t been touched since that first week. You can find pretty much everything here. Really, you can. Clothes-wise, bring what you need to teach in and wear around town for a week or two. Really, you’ll need a much smaller variety of clothes than you think. I’d say pick a few things that are really important to you, your luxuries, and bring them on over to make sure you’ll have them. For me it was a French press for coffee, a couple of beer cozies, and a few – even by my standards – oversized books of poetry.

Now this next piece of advice strikes particularly close to home because, by nature (I blame my Dad), I’m not a patient person. Thai people take their times with things. Thailand takes it’s time with things. Don’t ever expect your bus or train to be on time. Planes, you’re alright with, but bus and train, seriously, give yourself a few hours leeway. When you need them to be on time they’ll be only an hour late, and when you need them to be only an hour late, they’ll be six hours late. If you’re one of those people that needs everything planned out to the moment, someone who needs hotel reservations before stepping foot out of the door and a detailed sight filled action packed plan for every minute of the day, try relaxing a little bit. Things move at a different (slower) pace over here. It really does turn out to be quite fantastic, so just take it easy.

The last thing I’d advise, and something that I’m sure Peter has mentioned, is to drink as much delicious beer as you possibly can before you leave home. This country has absolute garbage for beer. If this sounds impassioned, it is because about this subject, I am impassioned. Beer here does the trick, but it’s kind of like an eerie reliving of my high school drinking experience, pushing through the taste to get the effect. I’m not saying that it’s always terrible. There are certainly some days I come home from work or have been out in the sun and find a cold Thai brewed lager to be quite the refreshing drink. I’m just saying that it’s usually pretty terrible. As far as other non-Thai beer options go, there are a few. Heineken is the only import available everywhere (for a pretty ridiculous price) but if you’re like me, you’ve always viewed Heineken as Europe’s Coor’s Light so take that for what it is. In Bangkok and Phuket you can find a wider variety, but they’re invariably expensive and seeing as how we’re hours from either of those towns, you won’t be finding them on a weekly basis. So stock up my happy and full beer drinking friends. Stock up and enjoy the sweet taste of delicious beer.

PS – If you bring me an IPA I’ll be your best friend forever. Forever ever.

Just Say Yes

by Chris Ansell

I don’t remember much from the introductory meeting John, Janet, Chris and I had when we first arrived last October, but one thing Peter mentioned stood out.

Just say “yes”.

Back then I was a nervous Chris. I was nervous about the job. I was nervous about meeting new people. I was even nervous about simply going out for food having a lonely “Sa wat dee Kup” in my Thai repertoire.

By saying “yes” to a variety of things however, my time in Surat has been the most exciting and memorable of my life so far.

The most valuable part of saying “yes” is the friends you will make through it and the authentic Thai experience you will experience through them. You will undoubtedly make some close friends amongst the Super English teachers as well as those teachers working for other language schools. I feel my experience has been completed though, through my Thai friends. Most of the Thai I can speak is thanks to them and knowing a little Thai can get you a long way as a farang.

Pooey and PeeSak are unquestionably my best Thai friends. They are owners of my favourite restaurant in town, Earth Zone. Pooey is a great chef and is always excited for me to try new recipes and various Thai delicacies that you can’t get in the UK. Lately it has been the pink eggs you see everywhere which are actually black in the middle and should be eaten with onion and garlic, as well as Pigs stomach. I have learnt to say “yes” to anything Pooey puts in front of me. I’m waiting for her to put one of the waitresses on a plate but am losing hope of this 😉

A month or two ago Moss and I were the last customers in the restaurant and were sitting at the bar having just paid the bill. It was getting late and I sensed Moss wanting to leave. We were momentarily halted however when we noticed Peesak holding a big jar of what looked like a coiled up snake in brown earthy water. My fear of snakes automatically made me reel back from the bar but having been reassured it was actually a root of some kind of tree or plant I hesitantly returned to my seat. Apparently this concoction was a traditional Thai whiskey that had been developing in the jar for over 5 years. According to Pooey, and Pooey’s mother, and Pooey’s mother’s mother and well yeah you get the point, this powerful drink can cure pains in your back. After a good 5 minutes of giggling and gesticulating Pooey also revealed it is good for a man’s member and offered Moss and I a shot. We could have said “no, sorry, it’s late and we’re pretty tired” and I thought this would be Moss’ response but we chose the other response, the response I would recommend you saying however unsure, nervous or apprehensive you may be about anything. An hour later Moss and I stumbled out of Earth Zone with big smiles on our faces and big, well, err, yes.

I have had some fantastic days out with Pooey, Peesak and their two adorable children Kaofan and Gong. We pent a morning painting on Ko Lampoo and playing in the park as well as a day at a Chinese temple and market. Through my friendship with them I have made friends with some of their friends, one of whom is a talented artist and another whom owns a number of Surat’s crazy nightclubs. Last night we had VIP treatment at Bar Code, drinking the best whiskey in the house and dancing the night away. All of this because I said yes when they invited me to their table at Earth Zone a while ago.

I am glad that what Peter said when I first arrived stuck in my head and would urge you to have a similar mindset throughout your time here.

Learning the local language

by Tristan Rentos

At Super English, we receive many questions from incoming teachers and potential applicants regarding Thai language. How much Thai do I have to learn to get by? What’s the best way to learn Thai? Is it difficult? Does Super English have Thai language teachers? I am not an expert in speaking Thai, but seeing as though I have been living in Surat for over a year now, I thought I’d have a go at trying to bring a simple explanation to this potentially complex problem.

How much Thai do I have to learn?

This is somewhat of a “how long is a piece of string” question, there is no simple answer. Let me put it this way: Surat Thani is not a tourist area, 99% of tourists here are just passing through on their way to Koh Samui. Therefore, with no tourists to look after there is no need for most of the locals, even the shopkeepers or restaurateurs, to learn English. Even at a global MNC (like 7/11 or Pizza Hut – we have both here) the staff will only speak Thai.

To avoid any awkward situations, such as getting ripped off or receiving the wrong meal, you will need to learn the following:

  1. Numbers (most important).
  2. General greetings and pleasantries (How are you, excuse me etc.).
  3. Ordering food and drinks.
  4. “Take me to _____” for Tuk Tuk drivers.
  5. How to bargain (not imperative, but a good skill to have in Thailand)

These are just the basics, however if you are prepared to learn above and beyond the aforementioned then your Thai experience will be richer. The locals will appreciate any effort you make to speak Thai, even if you make a right mess of it (they will also laugh at you, but they don’t mean anything bad by it).

What’s the best way to learn Thai?

To learn properly, you need to have a native speaker assist you. You cannot learn Thai solely from a book, the tones are too complex and you will mispronounce many words! The Thai staff at Super English will be happy to assist you, we also have many Thai friends who have been helping teachers for many years and will be prepared to give you a hand. It does help to have a good Thai book to build your vocabulary, I can recommend Thai for Beginners (orange cover) by Benjawan Poomsan Becker. It’s easy to follow and the transliterations actually come close to the Thai script when pronounced.

Regarding the method, I found that the best way to start conversing in Thai is to find a native speaker who will be patient enough to sit with you, teach you new words, fix your mistakes and have a conversation (this is where the aforementioned book comes in handy). This might sound a bit far fetched but Thai people are very sociable, they really like foreigners and are always up for a drink and a chat after work.

Is it difficult?

Yes and no. Thai language does not have many of the complexities that English has, such as tenses and articles. There are also less words to learn, and some words have more than one meaning depending on the context. Thai people also commonly omit pronouns if the context is made clear. The difficulty in learning Thai comes with the tones. There are 5 tones in all, which means that any word could potentially have 5 different meanings depending on how it’s pronounced. For example, maa could mean horse, dog or come depending on the tone. If you get the tone wrong, then you have changed the word and changed the context of the sentence; this is usually when confusion and misunderstanding comes in.

When you first hear a Thai person pronounce the 5 tones, they all sound similar and you can’t help but wonder how they manage to hit the right tones when they speak so quickly! I started off by practicing each word with the different tones and took it from there.

Does Super English have Thai Teachers?

Yes – our Thai staff will conduct lessons 3 times a week for any Super Teacher interested in learning the basics.

If you have any more questions, feel free to email me at trentos_81@hotmail.com

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!

Super Teacher Fashion

By Chris Ansell

Thailand is hot, very hot. True, I speak as an Englishman. Like many Englishmen back home, I would consider 20ºC / 70F to be a hot day; worthy of whipping the shirt off in the hope of catching a few of those rare rays! But ask any of our teachers, including those who have left warmer climates than mine, and they will readily agree that Thailand has its own distinct “heat”. What we choose to wear in Surat (both in and out of the classroom) is largely governed by this. Light and breathable fabrics such as cotton will make your day that much more pleasant than spending the day teaching in polyester for example (which another school in town actually have their teachers wear!). Laundry is cheap, which is fortunate as you will be using the service regularly. This is due to the following simple equation:

Heat* + Teaching a lot of kids = Sweat

*the “Heat” can be attributed both to the proximity of Surat Thani to the equator and the vast quantity of chili that the Thais seem to take a sadistic pleasure in adding to most of their dishes!

But heat is not the only factor that determines what people wear in Surat. The Thais are an incredibly nationalistic people. They love the King as one loves their father. There is even a shirt, aptly and ingeniously named the King shirt (a polo shirt with the King’s emblem on it), which is extremely popular amongst the locals and quite acceptable to teach in. These shirts can be purchased on just about every other street in Surat, for roughly the same price as a cheeseburger. Each day of the week has its own colour and so these shirts are available in various colours too (except black). On Mondays, for example, the colour is yellow, whilst on Tuesdays you will see more people looking pretty in pink than any other colour. Wednesdays, like the sky, the sea, and part of the Thai flag, is blue. Thursdays, much like the weather I am used to waking up to back in Blighty, is grey. Fridays is a free choice. It is possible to wear one of these tops every working day of the week, in which case you wouldn’t have to worry about packing your “school uniform” at all!

Very importantly, in terms of clothing in the classroom, the more professional you appear the more respect you will get from both the students and the Thai teacher. This certainly helps discipline in the classroom, which is no bad thing. As far as no no’s are concerned one could consider the little song that you will no doubt use at some stage to teach the kids body parts. You know the one…heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Hats and caps are off limits, as is showing off shoulders, too much leg and tootsies. Jeans are not allowed and would be a rather unwise choice anyway given the heat in the day. You need not pack any teaching garments at all, for Surat can generally provide anything you will require, although the one item I would advise bringing is a pair of dress shoes for work. Thai people tend to have small feet and thus the shoes (as with much of the clothing) aren’t manufactured with westerners in mind. If you have largish feet and do require shoes the best bet will be one of the large supermarkets in town. I managed to find some UK11’s, but as far as women’s sizes are concerned, you will have to search high and low for anything above a number made in heaven…size 7. Hiking boots too would be useful to pack, as the beautiful Khao Sok national park is little more than a stones throw away and offers some great trails.

Clothing and accessories in Surat tend to be cheap. I managed to find a great deal on a set of Ray Bans. The price of 100 Baht (about £2) was so good that I felt it unnecessary to even enter into a bartering battle. There are deals to be found on every street. For the same price as the next can of coke and snickers that you buy, you can pick up a Ralph Lauren polo shirt here in Surat. Further…a bottle of booze = Converse shoes. Oh yes, you can find cheap Armani in Surat Thani. There is a snag. Can you guess? No? Okay, I’ll break it to you gently. They’re all fakes. Don’t despair, however, if you have a penchant for the real article. These can be found as well. There is a new department store on Talad Mai (Talad Mai is to Surat what Oxford Street is to London and 5th Avenue is to New York) where you can buy all the labels you desire, but at a price not too dissimilar from those found in the west.

One of the cheapest places for clothing will be at the day and night markets. Here you can purchase an array of shirts, skirts and shorts for anywhere between 50 – 250 Baht (£1 – £5) and usually towards the lower end of this range. Much like Bangkok, the teens of Surat are a fashion conscious sort, and the designs on display reflect this. Their catwalk is the street. You will see flashes of bold colours and prints. If the wild colours and poorly (although very amusing!) translated tops don’t appeal, then a wider selection of styles and sizes (for much of it has been donated by the farang of yesteryear) can be found at the many second hand stores scattered around. Cowboys are rare in Surat at present, but their old shirts (especially the ones with those neat pearl buttons) frequent these little establishments. Smart clothing, suitable for strolling into a room of up to 55 students, can also be discovered, again, at very agreeable prices. What’s more your Thai numerical skills may be practiced and polished should you wish to barter a little. Finally, if it’s a fancy dress outfit you require (and you will require one at some stage!), you shouldn’t have to search much further than these used clothing outlets (especially if the party happens to have a country western theme).

One little pleasantry of the heat is the heightened pleasure that can be found in submerging oneself in the cool water of a swimming pool. Here it is acceptable to wear just a swimming costume, although the Thai people will usually wear a top as well, which is just not functional when you’ve got a tan to consider! For girls it would be advisable to be slightly more conservative at these pools than when at the beach for example, where sarongs, thongs and suchlike are de rigeur. While dress may be casual, this does not extend to undress: topless sunbathing, which, while it does occur, is frowned upon by Thais who are usually too polite to say anything.

Many of the classroom rules I mentioned earlier should be extended to when visiting Buddhist monasteries or other religious sites. Here girls in particular should cover their shoulders and knees. Revealing shoulders is considered very risqué, more so than revealing cleavage in the West. Girls should be aware of this, especially on a night out or at least traveling home, having painted the town proverbially red. Some of our current teachers take a small, light shirt in their handbag to put on when leaving, which seems a sensible option. As one of only fifty or so white people in a city of two hundred and fifty thousand you will stick out where ever you are, whatever you are doing and whatever you are wearing. Around fellow farang there are no problems but, when it comes to what women wear some Thai men can be guilty of judging books by their covers. Revealing shoulders may be considered as an invitation of sorts so if you wish to remain more inconspicuous, it would be wise to cover up in certain environments.

Size and shape depending, Surat can ultimately cater for all your clothing needs. A tidy-casual look is how I would describe most people’s choice of attire here. Regular teacher attire is clean, neat, and presentable. Think business casual wear for the summer. My advice would be not to try and pack as much of your current wardrobe into your suitcase/backpack as humanely possible but instead only select items you KNOW you will definitely wear and leave everything else. Bon Voyage!