When I arrived at the school where I was about to become a voluntary English teacher, I felt nervous and unsure as to what I should expect. I am an Engineer and I have never taught before. Yet here I was, standing in a classroom in front of 30 beautiful children smiling from ear-to-ear. The minute I began to speak, it felt incredibly naturally and it was wonderful to see how happy the students were to learn new English words.
Initially I found it difficult to communicate with the students and teachers, but this encouraged me to learn some Thai. The teachers all made a tremendous effort to speak English and I soon felt that the atmosphere in the school rapidly changed; becoming relaxed and feeling like home. I loved establishing friendships with the teachers; to hear their stories, the way they view life as well as the way that they live. The students’ improvement in English was slow but very rewarding and gave me a feeling of being useful as well as providing me with a positive approach and outlook to my work.
My main challenge was to find a fun way for the students to learn so that they could build their confidence and motivation to learn effectively. I started splitting the lessons into 15 minutes vocabulary teaching and the rest of the hour playing games or quizzes related to the first part of the lesson. This approach worked really well and made the class so much fun. One of the best classes I had was teaching the kids about sports, competitions and teams and after the vocabulary part we organized a relay sprint tournament for all the classes entirely in English!
Now as I am writing this, I am thinking about the moment when I will have to say goodbye to all of them in two weeks time. I can feel the tears forming in my eyes, but I am also happy at the same time to have made a little difference in the school and to have gained some very special friendships with the teachers.
The other lesson I learnt during my time there is that in our day-to-day life, we are so focused on our jobs and day-to-day stress that we tend to forget about the bigger picture. By volunteering in Thailand where I worked and lived with the local people, I realised the importance of appreciating that a lot of people around the world need help- whether it is in teaching, care, or just having some friends to share stories or memories with.
Having had such an amazing teaching experience, I have now realised how fun and rewarding this type of job gave me. I have decided to change my career and become a trainer in Engineering so now I can focus on helping, teaching and influencing people whilst also making a difference in my students’ lives!
In the future, I would like to teach again as a volunteer in Thailand as well as other parts of the world as it has made me realise that it is the best way to discover new cultures as well as meeting amazing people while helping others. I am hoping that one day I will return to NongThale School and see the students and teachers again. Until then they will remain with me in my memories and remind me to smile even on the long rainy British days!