Article Published on International TEFL Academy’s Official Blog – “The Start of a New Chapter After Thailand”

Screen Shot 2019-07-27 at 1.59.50 PM.png

Link to this post on ITA’s blog:  

By: Courtney Clark 

Hi, I’m Courtney! I took my TEFL certification class in January 2016 and worked part-time for a while to save up money to teach abroad. I finally decided on Thailand as my destination because it was somewhere I always wanted to visit and the timing coincided perfectly with the start of their school semester. I left for Thailand in April 2017 and taught kindergarten until October 2017.

I had 33 students and would teach English, science, math and art lessons each week. All of the students had very unique personalities, which always kept class interesting. Some of my favorite moments include pretending to be zombies and chasing each other around on the playground, dancing to the video “Baby Shark”, and a day where everyone brought in food, and I taught the students how to make sandwiches.

Teaching English in Thailand

From the moment I gave notice that I would be returning to the U.S., I knew it would be incredibly difficult to leave all the people I met there behind. It was so hard to say goodbye to all the friends I had made, my Thai co-teachers who had become like family to me, and my adorable little students. However, I had to leave for my own reasons, which were to be able to grow as a person in new ways and to really get started on my career.

Upon arriving home in the U.S., I immediately noticed so many differences between the lifestyle I had grown accustomed to in Thailand and the one I grew up in but that now felt so foreign to me. I forgot about the “hustle bustle,” busy, rushing lifestyle that is the norm here in the U.S. I also forgot about the importance and stress placed on productivity rather than a peaceful state of mind. I felt unsure about my ability to adapt back into such a stressful environment.

Teaching English in Thailand

Reverse culture shock is a real thing. Whereas everyone in grocery stores in Thailand left me alone, here it felt like I was being bombarded by retail workers about store sales and being forced to remember simple things such as small talk about the weather. Whereas all the signs in Thailand were in Thai, and I learned to disregard them, now everything was bright and distracting in giant English letters. The simplest way I can describe this feeling is “sensory overload.”

However, once I finally got over my jet lag and reverse culture shock, I remembered that this fast paced lifestyle is what has always motivated me and pushed me to be the type of person I am which is constantly trying to improve and grow and learn in new, challenging ways. Although I learned so much about myself, Thai culture, the complexity and responsibility of being a teacher, and will always be overwhelmingly grateful for it all, I feel that I have found another opportunity that is a perfect fit for me at this time.

Teaching English in Thailand

My new opportunity is a position in my field of study. I worked on school newspapers from high school all through college and really enjoyed writing and editing all sorts of different topics. Naturally, I majored in English. During my last year of college, I also completed a book publishing internship. I always thought I would continue along this line of editing/publishing but had trouble finding a job after graduation even with all my prior experience and a writing portfolio. However, once returning from Thailand, I added that experience to my resume and felt like I started to get noticed more and received more responses from jobs I applied to.

After several interviews that didn’t feel like a great fit, I finally landed on a marketing company that was looking for a copy editor. After the first interview, I could tell it would be a very exciting opportunity where I would really be able to test my copy-editing and project manager skills. I am very happy to say that everything worked out, and I am now working in my field and beginning my career. I have a picture of my teachers and students from Thailand on my desk. I am thankful every day for the experience and will never forget all that I have learned and how I got to the place I am today.

Teaching English in Thailand

A lot of people ask me if I would ever teach abroad again and the answer is a giant YES!!! I don’t have any plans to in the near future, but it is a priceless life experience I would absolutely love to try again later in my life. I highly recommend it to everyone I meet.

Sabai sabai  (a common Thai phrase meaning “everything’s good” or “not a care in the world”)

Courtney Clark is 25 from Bloomingdale, IL,with a BA in English from Roosevelt University. She worked as a writer/editor for several years before deciding to teach kindergarten in Thailand.

Screen Shot 2019-07-27 at 2.03.33 PM.png

Teaching Kindergarten Part I

Here I am with my Co-teachers Ploy and Pou.

I work at a school that has students from pre-k up to 6th grade. I teach a kindergarten class of 33 students. Here they separate kindergarten into K1 and K2 so there are two years of it. I am teaching in the K1 year so they are fresh out of preschool and around 4 or 5 years old. I don’t have much previous experience with kids except for a program I volunteered at as a sophomore in college at my park district. There I was an assistant for an after school program for kindergarteners.

nap time!

The first big difference here is the language barrier. There is a Thai teacher and a Thai assistant in the classroom with me. The Thai teacher I currently have speaks incredibly good English and helps me understand what the kids are saying sometimes (it’s usually them telling me about toys they have at home which I think is pretty adorable). She also gives them Thai lessons and has helped me get my footing in the classroom and taught me a lot about the routine the kids are used to. The Thai assistant mostly works on discipline with the kids and she is very good at that and keeping them focused.

Lunch time!

For the last two weeks, I have been working as a part of their summer camp program. There is one half of a week left and then there will be a week and a half off until the actual semester begins. During that time, I will be going on another mini vacation so get ready for a lot of photos and eventually a blog post about it! (That post probably won’t be timely seeing as the semester begins almost immediately once I return). During this camp, I haven’t had to plan very many activities but have been more of an assistant helping out with planned activities, observing and getting to know my students.

Story time!

When the semester starts, I will be planning all my own worksheets, activities, etc. but there is a set list of topics for each week. The first two weeks just say orientation so those topics are somewhat up to me but the rest of the semester the weekly topics are more specific like shapes and colors, body parts, the five senses, food, etc. Additionally, there is one letter we are supposed to work on each week beginning with A. I am at school from 8am-4pm and when I am not teaching, like during their lunch and naptime, I have office hours to work on classroom plans for the week.

Play time!

The kids all have “English” nicknames some of which are funny since they’re random English words instead of names (i.e. Nail, Dream, Brownie, Focus) or a lot of the time not even words in English (i.e. Pood Pard, Cha-aim, Taff). It’s been a nice introduction to the school during this camp. I have learned that we really need to supply our own paper or risk being unprepared for class when the office runs out. I have met around 10 other English teachers at the same school that are from the U.S. and England. It’s also already really easy to see which kids behave during class and which cause a lot of problems in the classroom. I’ve also noticed there are a few kids in my class who need extra help with writing and aren’t used to holding a pencil properly yet, however, most of them can and can write fairly quickly.

This is a different class I helped out in since they haven’t found a teacher for this class yet.

I’m happy to say I’ve finally learned all of their names and they’ve learned mine as well. I’ve also gotten to practice some explanations so I can improve how I phrase things reminding myself I’m not only speaking to kindergarteners but also in a language they’re not accustomed to. I’ve seen what sorts of activities and videos work with them and what happens when you don’t hold their attention. I’m preparing for a lot of repetition, songs and educational games.

Did I mention how CUTE my class is???????