When I decided to move to Thailand to become an English teacher, one of the first things that I knew I needed to do was get my TESOL certification. I knew that there were options to do it online, but I opted to take the course once I arrived in Thailand. Lo and behold, taking the TESOL in Hua Hin, Thailand through Greenheart Travel’s in-country partner, XploreAsia (XA), was one of the best decisions that I have made so far in my teaching adventure!
Here are a few reasons why getting TESOL certified is important and how to balance the course work and wanderlust during your first weeks in Thailand.
Enrolling in the three week TESOL course prior to my English teaching placement included 120 hours of hands on training, in-class demonstrations, and much more. From day one, you begin building your own lesson plans and curriculum.
At first, these tasks were incredibly intimidating, but by the end I was able to quickly create and execute a seamless lesson plan from start to finish. Pretty impressive for my first time ever!
My favorite, but also most challenging, part of the course, was the student teaching at the English camp in Thailand. We arrived at the school on Thursday morning with no idea of what to expect. What ensued next was complete chaos! It was frustrating because I was excelling when we practiced our lessons in class, but during the real situation everything just seemed to fall apart.
Thankfully, when I went back for my second day of teaching everything ran according to plan. I am extremely grateful that my program included student teaching as a part of the TESOL course so that I was able to work out the kinks before arriving at my permanent school.
1. Make a routine and keep it.
As soon as the TESOL course starts, you begin to realize that you are no longer on vacation and it finally hits that this is a more permanent part of your life. So it’s time to act like it!
One of the best decisions that I made was giving myself a daily routine. I woke up every morning to exercise and got coffee before class with a few friends.
I also made it a point to eat dinner with other people every single night. With all of these new things happening it is so easy to fall into a rut and just grab dinner to eat alone in your room after class. While it is definitely okay to feel this way, I had to actively push myself to get out there and say “yes” to trying new things.
2. Treat yourself every now and then.
It’s all about work/life balance, right? A small group of us made it a priority every Friday night to go to the night market for massages, corn on the cob, and drinks.
On the weekends a group of us would treat ourselves to a Western breakfast (hello eggs and bacon), and then we would go to a local coffee shop to work on some of our assignments for the week. Talk about a well-deserved treat after a long week at school.
3. Explore Thailand with your TESOL group.
One day a weekend we planned excursions as an entire group. The first weekend we took a songthaew to Phraya Nakhon Cave. We arrived at the national park and hiked for 30-minutes to the temple inside the cave.
At the advice of the in-country TESOL staff, we went early in the morning which made for fantastic lighting and so that we also avoided a lot of the tourists who were coming later in the day.
The next weekend our group organized a trip to the Pala-U Waterfalls. Located just west of Hua Hin, Pala-U is a set of 11 levels of waterfalls, although only five are open to the public. This hike was a bit more technical and difficult, but all 25 of us made it to level five!
These unofficial group outings were one of my favorite parts of my TESOL experience. The fact that everyone chose to hang out together during our free time really speaks to the organization and environment that Greenheart Travel and Xplore Asia fosters.
4. Keep an open mind.
I consider myself a go-with-the-flow kind of girl, but even sometimes my patience was tested by avoidable situations. Be open to constructive criticism and suggestions on your lessons plans and teaching demonstrations. Sometimes it can feel harsh, but it is really only going to make you a better teacher in the end.
5. Bring supplies from home.
I wish that I had brought a set of markers, white board markers, construction paper, scissors, a glue stick, and tape. This would have saved me time and many frantic trips to the stationary store at the mall!
6. English Camp is hard, but it doesn’t reflect your talent as a teacher.
I wish someone had just told me flat out when I was preparing that English camp would be hard. I wish they would have said, “Hey! You’ve put in all of this hard work planning lessons and materials and you’re going to get into the classroom and it’s going to be chaos, but that does not reflect on you as a teacher.”
So when the chaos ensues, or you start questioning if this is still for you – it is. Stick it out and don’t doubt yourself.
These are just a few tips and pieces of advice to make your TESOL course, initial classroom experiences and first weeks in Thailand as stress-free as possible. When challenges do arise, remember, you are here for a reason; you have all of the skills you need. And the rest is out of your control.