Teaching English in Thailand: My experience in a kindergarten

Teaching English in ThailandLook, this is how you smile

This article was written by Adrian Fleur, the author of Market of Eden. Make sure to check out her blog if you wish to move to Thailand or you are just curious to know more about The Land of Smiles and, in particular, Chiang Mai.

In this article I’m going to share my experience of teaching English full-time in a kindergarten in Thailand. First, let me tell you, I was pretty new to Thailand at this point (about a few months in), and at the time, I was working through an “agency”. Basically, the agency were the same people I had done my TEFL course with, and then once I’d finished I stayed on with them out of convenience (or laziness).

They had sorted out my visa for me with little hassle, and offered me all kinds of jobs, from private lessons to substituting, so it made sense to me to keep up the relationship.

teaching english in Chiang MaiNow I’ll show you how to do it!

The Kindergarten in the Countryside

One of the jobs they offered me was a part-time job at a kindergarten, about 12 km outside my city of Chiang Mai. This quickly became my favourite gig, for three hours a morning, Monday to Thursday, for a generous salary. After all, I was being paid to teach and play with gorgeous little munchkins. I didn’t even mind that no one at the school spoke English, and that it was so isolated and out of the way. It was a good deal, and I was happy to keep things that way.

Unfortunately, agencies don’t work that way, and during the school break, I was offered some sour news: the job no longer exists. The agency saw an opportunity to make more money out of the school, while giving a foreign teacher less money and more hours. That teacher was going to be me. Because I had little teaching work lined up for after the holidays, my obligation to The Man kicked in. I had to earn a salary, even though it was going to be a few thousand Baht more than the gig had paid before, and I would be working 7:30 – 5 every day.

On top of that, they pulled on my heartstrings a bit: “No one else is going to teach the little kids, we can’t get a teacher out there!” and so on. I loved those kids. I loved all those so-polite-it’s-awkward Thai teachers, that always tried to do everything for the kids, while I always tried to get the kids to do everything themselves. And most of all, I loved having the security of a visa and work permit, that I knew would be in risk if I turned down this job.

how to teach English in ThailandOooooh!

From Part-time to Full-time…

So, the full-time job began. I would arrive at 7ish and stand outside to greet the parents. This wasn’t so much greeting as having parents tell me I’m beautiful and stroke my skin. (If you are of the paler persuasion, with any sort of water-coloured eyes, feeling like a human show horse is another surprising experience in Thailand). This went on for an hour. Every morning.

Then it’d be time to show the kids something on the projector (I thought this was a great idea, and had an arsenal of learning programmes to show them) but then a teacher told me I wasn’t doing enough while the children watched, so I was told to teach while they watched. This was difficult, as kids that small have limited streams of attention, and could never focus on me while I redundantly repeated what was being said on TV. After some research, I didn’t think that’s what I should be doing anyway.

English teacher in ThailandUp, strangling his best friend Parn.

Kindergarten Teaching Methods

Let’s move onto the lessons. My lessons at this school were half an hour for the classes that weren’t in the English Program, and an hour or more for the classes that were. (This is probably where I should mention that I taught every single kid in the entire school, including pre-Kindergarten, whether their parents had paid for it or not – probably another reason I was getting paid in pumpkin seeds).

My formula for the lessons were as follows:

1. Songs of the week, like “Hello, Hello”, “ABC”, “Head, Shoulder, Knees & Toes” all with actions. That should take from 10 – 15 minutes.

2. Students repeat phrases and understand context through teacher’s actions combined with flashcards and modelling and drilling – a fancy way of saying I will teach them the allocated vocab through flashcards. That should take 20 or more minutes.

3. Do a creative activity like a worksheet or a craft. I would give them worksheets they could work on throughout the week, like a cut-out of a doll that they had to stick cut-out clothes onto after they had coloured everything. Of course I could only do that if the week’s theme was clothes. But this would take up most the time so it was good to give them something completely engrossing.

4. Play a game, like Simon Says, or The Attention Game. There are millions online. They usually fill the rest of the lesson.

teach english in thailandNaptime.

Why I Left the School

Eventually, as you can guess, I moved on from this job after a few months, and although I was sad to say goodbye to the kids, I wasn’t sad to say goodbye to the 12 km journey there and back every day, or the fact that the school was in the middle of nowhere and it was impossible to find lunch (they didn’t provide it) or the loneliness, boredom, and feeling of being cheated by my agency. On top of that, I never wanted to work full-time in the first place, as I always preferred private teaching, and I had other things to pursue, like writing, cooking, learning, and daydreaming.

teach english in thailandStriking a pose.

adrian-fleurIf you have any questions about working with a teaching agency in Thailand, please get in touch with me through my blog, Market of Eden, or my Facebook page.

Photo Credits: Photos by Adrian Fleur

16 thoughts on “Teaching English in Thailand: My experience in a kindergarten”

  1. linktrixmanpower

    Hey Adrian, it was a beautiful experience reading this write-up – not only because of your fluent style of writing, but also because of the lively snaps that you’ve attached. Your experience of teaching was quite nice as it seems, and I believe the other jobs in Bangkok, too, can offer such an amazing experience. What do you think?

  2. How it works: Inside picture about fake job agencies in Thailand who could go on with scamming for so long because teachers salaries didn’t go to the teachers but to the agency instead. Nicely paid by the school under contract with that agency. Even after these schools were fully informed about missing salaries and money cheatings by agencies pointing back to usually 2 famous persons in the Education world named Kirk Pathumanun and Suwit Khunkitti. The teachers still didn’t receive their money and on top of that they were just sacked. Schools like Chanhun Bamphen School, Sarawittaya School and Streesmutprakan School are somehow in on the deal with so called job agencies. Usually but not always both parties gain something out of this system but the teacher who is doing all the work gets his or her salary late, deducted or plain nothing. Funny thing is the schools and agency always get angry for teachers just leaving after not receiving any salary. In case you’re cought up in this downwards spiral and really to avoid worse it is best to walk away and dissapear to lateron share your story anonymously on the internet. The scam will probably not be stopped but they’ll have trouble finding other teachers or their contract ends suddenly with the involved school. Remember some countries like Thailand have laws against naming and shaming people or companies who scam you…

  3. Hello! My name is Michelle and I plan to take off to Thailand to teach in Chiang Mai next spring. I have a bachelor’s degree, and a bit of experience with kids. What I am wondering is whether I should pay an agency to find me a job before I leave, or if I should go to Thailand, do the TEFL certification and hope to find a job afterwards. Like you, I really only want to teach part time, though I would be open to full time if the right job came around. I’m not super worried about money, but I do need to make enough to meet my basic needs and that is about it. What do you recommend? Were you able to find a job easy enough once you decided to leave? I only plan on doing one semester (though of course if everything is working out just right, why not stay?) But I don’t know if TEFL is worth it if I only do a semester and never return to teaching again (I will be pursuing the legal profession once I arrive back home).
    I do interview well and am from the pacific west coast of Canada, so I have all that going for me, including a very neutral accent and pleasant and professional appearance.

    1. As a kindergarten teacher in Thailand i suggest NOT getting a TEFL if you have a degree. They will not ask for it if you have a degree. Go on websites such as Ajarn.com to look for jobs all over the country. It is very easy to find a job, especially if you are female under 40 years old. They are looking for that. Good luck!

  4. Yes, Sarah, it is a great selling point for agencies. People who just move to another country have very few ways to accurately suss out whether an agency is the bee’s knees or not. It takes time to learn the in’s and out’s of a city just like anywhere, and these people do help you with that initially. But then you become wiser than them and say Sayonara! Haha. I’ve seen this happen with so many people I know abroad. Maybe one day they’ll catch on and learn how to keep both themselves, the teachers and the schools happy. =)

  5. I think the convenience of having work as soon as completing your TEFL is a good selling point for the provider. It’s too bad about the agencies, I think they ruin the experience for students and leave teachers less motivated to continue teaching. Their focus is profit driven and doesn’t contribute to bettering the education system. Your students look lovely and I’m sure they missed you once you left.

  6. Oh yes, Jeff! I completely agree with you! I had to stay with my agency for personal reasons but myself and my employers knew what a scam it was. Thankfully I’m no longer with them and I’m always honest about the particular one I worked for when people ask me about it. I agree that applying directly to schools is a far better option. Agencies do serve a purpose for some people however, based on certain circumstances. I have a friend who has been with one for years and is perfectly happy, but many of them are only out for their own profit. Terrible!

  7. I’m quickly learning most agencies are crooks. My wife and I have interviewed with several here in Bangkok. They basically want warm bodies to fill slots regardless of qualifications. It also helps if you are female. I have my TEFL with some teaching experience and my wife has neither. guess whose phone doesn’t stop ringing! I highly recommend applying directly with the schools. Cut out the middle man and you won’t get screwed by him. The one we met with yesterday didn’t even want to supply a 12 month contract or a work permit. I won’t bother mentioning which one but if you do go through an agency they are making a lot of money off of you so don’t settle for spending your money doing a visa run every couple months. I’ve got an interview today with a school making double what the agencies offered plus health insurance, work permit processing, 12 month contract, and breakfast and lunch! A little more work pays off in the end!

  8. Great post -thanks for sharing your experience! I just finished my TEFL Certificate with U of T TEFL Online. I am SO excited to go abroad to start placement!
    If you guys are looking to get your certificate done to teach, I really recommend them! Here’s the link:
    I did the 120 hour course, and specialized in Teaching English to Korean speakers and Teaching Young Learners!

  9. Thanks for reading, Lea. I hope you do come to Chiang Mai to teach. My private students are some of my favourite people in the world! And you get to really connect with them and see their progress compared to a big class. Let me know how it goes!

    1. Hello,

      My name is Roslyn and I am seeking a full time position teaching in the kindergartens in Chiang Mai. i have been offered positions in China but no real interest. It is Chiang Mai.
      I am retired so wanted to know how hard if any knows to get a visa over 60. I want to stay in Thailand and get residency.
      I hold a BA in Art History and Humanities -Asian.
      Sounds like no one likes teaching the little ones full time. Could you explain why? Is discipline a problem or creating lesson plans. Do most schools have their own lesson plans or is it the teachers responsibility?

  10. Theodore Rustaflilian

    I’ve always wanted to teach in Thailand. This is such an inspiring post! I will definitely be following your blog more because it’s super sweet. Those kids are very cute.

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