I was a long term volunteer, helping to teach English in a School in North Thailand. I can remember my first day of school clearly as I did not know what to expect at all and was feeling very nervous. I was placed with my friend and our host mother took us to school as she was a teacher there. As soon as we arrived at the school all of the children were staring at us as they were curious as to whom we were. We went to the staff room and were introduced to all of the teachers who were very friendly and we were also greeted with flowers they made which were lovely. Me and my friend were given 2 timetables 1 to teach primary, grade 4, 5 and 6, and the other timetable was for grade 1, 2 and 3. We did not have any preferences so picked at random and I was teaching grade 1, 2 and 3.
A teacher took us to our classes where me and my friend had different experiences. I was asked to teach grade 1 when I arrived as the children were sat waiting though I only had 8 children in my class. On the spot I had to think of what to do so I introduced myself and asked children there names.. I then played some ball games with the children, throwing and catching and sang some English songs. So just be aware you may be expected to teach on the first day so it will be helpful to have some games or activities in mind but do not panic. My friend was just asked to observe her class and introduce herself so everyone will have a different experience.
I then planned activities for the week for each class which consisted of games, songs, and group activities etc from the VESL hand book and also ideas of the internet and workbooks from the school. I covered various topics including body parts, colours, time, furniture, transport, alphabet, animals and food. You will soon get to know what songs and activities the children like and they will teach you Thai songs as well which is a lot of fun.
Teaching English did not just happen in the classroom but also in our free time and lunch break as the children would come and sit with you so through general conversations children will naturally learn and hear English.
We were lucky as we had limited but different teaching resources available at the school including a photocopier, paint, glue, paper and plastacine, however, it maybe best to see what resources your school has. I was able to do group painting activities which the children were very enthusiastic about and enjoyed. There group work was also displayed in an English resource room that me and my friend made with a book corner with English books for the children, crayons and paper. We made English books for each grade so all of the work they did was kept together so they could refer back to their English work.
Our school day started at 8.30am and finished at 4pm Monday to Friday so during the weekends your host family may take you out travelling and meeting friends as they will want to show you off. Our host family took us to different temples which were beautiful, we have been to Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, and various tourist spots. I will never forget our first trip to the local market where we saw some of the interesting food types consisting of dead beetles on a stick! Learning the Thai language is also very helpful even if it is only a few words to start off with, the children and teachers taught us some Thai as we taught English.
The first few weeks can be quite overwhelming until you begin to know your surroundings and find a routine with teaching the children and get to know everyone. It is surprising how quick we settled in. Everyone was so helpful and caring.
I have had the most amazing experience teaching – it was just so rewarding listening to the children speak English together and see their confidence grow.
Caley Vye, VESL Volunteer, Thailand, 2010