I volunteered as an English teacher at Kuraburi Chaipattana High School for 9 weeks from Mid-January to Mid-March 2018. It was the last semester of the academic year before the summer break.
With little to no experience in teaching students formally in my home country (but my friends always filled me in with their teaching adventures), I set foot at Kuraburi Chaipattana on Monday, 15th January 2018, just 24 hours after turning twenty-six years old. I was attached to the Foreign Languages Department under the supervision of the Thai English teacher, Kru Arunee who is quite fluent in English Language.
On the first day, I was briefed on my task as well as the classes that I will be teaching. The classes that I taught were M1, M4, M5 and M6 (Grade 7, 10, 11 and 12 respectively). It was a mix of speaking, listening, reading and writing classes. Overall, I had twelve hours of classes per week. I was also told to not expect anything so I didn’t.
On a Wednesday morning, I was instructed to introduce myself in front of the whole school during the morning assembly. That was daunting, I know that they are just high school students, but having to suddenly speak in front of a place that you are not accustomed to, it was pretty nerve-wrecking. The day before I practiced writing a script to introduce myself, in Thai. Just simple introduction of my name, where I come from and what I was doing there.
It was also the day of my first class – Reading & Writing for Grade 12. I was shown the room to the class and next thing I knew, I was left alone with 13 eager and pretty looking faces. I was shocked, I thought that I would be observing or at least co-teach with a teacher during my first class! I guess they could sense my nervousness as I only managed to introduce my name. Then, I thought of the class list and began to take attendance while trying to pronounce their names. What I just found out too at that instant is that they have their name and also nicknames. So, I had to write down their nicknames as well – I didn’t think I would be able to memorize them (but somehow, I did within a few weeks).
I did not come prepared due to my assumption that I will be co-teaching so I thought “what shall I do for the next 100 minutes!?” Well, I just winged it – I created a lesson, then and there at that instant (thank you, critical thinking!). We did an introduction to Thailand and Brunei. It was also a way for me to test their writing and reading skills. After that they basically bombarded me with questions as they huddled around me. Very adorable.
For the first week, I did introductory lessons for all my classes just to see which level they are at individually. Creating lesson plan was probably the most challenging task for me, I had to cater to different needs and level of each class. There are free teaching resources online that helped me a lot. It was a once in a lifetime learning on the job experience! Overall what I noticed was that the students enjoy activities such as Pictionary, mime (acting) as well as singing.
How did I survive the language barrier? Well, I don’t know – I somehow did! Most of the students in a class usually has an average level of English but there are one or two who are quite good so usually they can translate it to the rest of the class. Gestures and Google Translate app helps too!
The school also place emphasis on projects and events so when I was there I witnessed three school events. There was a moral project showcase, an open house event (like a university’s Open Day) and the M5’s musical week. It was really interesting to see how the school come together to work for the events. Especially the students! They created performances, they set up and decorate their booth amongst other things. It was a teamwork like I have never seen before, or should I say, school spirit!
The teachers are all very friendly and welcoming. For most of them, my only interaction was doing the Wai with “Sawadeeka” and a smile as most do not speak English. Sometimes they go out of their way asking me “Bazilah, have lunch.” Otherwise, I normally speak English and Malay to the English and Malay speaking teachers.
Despite having to teach independently and create my own set of exam questions which in the end is actually an enjoyable challenge, I am glad that I volunteered at the school. If you want to learn about Thai culture and experience the friendliness of the Thai people, this is the place to be!
I could go on and on but you can learn more about the school in the volunteer guide 🙂