Teaching: How Different is it Here?

Teaching here is actually quite similar to teaching at home. Back in the States, I taught literature to high school students. Here I am an English Language teacher. I still assign reading—although not the same books—and require my students to write reports.

Thai grammar is actually much easier than English grammar so students here struggle with it more in my opinion than back home. Learning the alphabet is easier, too. My students here are always surprised at the letters. There are 44 consonant letters in their alphabet and 15 vowels that form combinations. It is a whole other system of writing. Even their number system is different and basically looked like squiggles to me for a long time. The students here are always happy to know that the number system I teach them is the same for most Western countries.

If I am being honest, one of the major differences I have found is in attitude. The students here seem more respectful, at least within the classroom. Aftward it is anyone’s guess. I am sure that the students are probably talking to each other about me after class but I have no idea what they are saying. Not that my American students didn’t, but if they were in earshot at least I understood their comments!

Another difference I am certainly enjoying is on more of a personal level. Here my students will ask me questions about popular culture in the United States and be interested in my answers. That didn’t happen often at home, trust me! I was definitely not one of the “cool teachers” that the students liked talking with after class. I was not up on the lingo, or fashion, or celebrity romances. But I make more of an effort now that I am here to research that stuff so that I can connect with the interests of my class. I feel that if they are going to ask me a question in English, they certainly deserve an answer. It is the least I can do to make that answer be the actual truth!

For the most part, students are students. In the habits of my students here, I recognize many of those I had in my American classrooms. This is especially true when it comes to writing reports—the overachiever who writes exactly what he or she thinks I want to read; the underachiever who uses a big font or changes the margins to pad a report to make it look longer; the plagiarizers, whether it is because they simply didn’t know how to credit a source or because they were attempting to pass something off as their own. It is actually a little reassuring to see that kids are the same the world over.