A day in the life of an English teacher in Thailand

I thought you might be interested in exactly how a day goes teaching here in Hat Yai, Thailand, so here goes…

  • Wake up at 05:45.  I have gate duty and assembly duty at school so have to be there at 07:30.  It’s still dark.
  • Turn off aircon/fan and inspect for mosquito bites.  Ease out of bed and stretch.  I still haven’t got used to the VERY hard beds in Thailand and it takes me a while to get out of bed.  I refuse to believe this is because I am now 40.
  • I shower and try and be grateful for the fact that I have warm water.  Not all apartments in Hat Yai have hot water.
  • Have a quick breakfast and leave the apartment just after 7am.
  • Walk out of my apartment grounds and up the road to the front of the hospital next door where a group of motorbike taxis wait to offer their services. They all know me now and between the 3 of them, I never know which one will give me a ride to school but they’re all friendly and one even tries to to teach me random Thai words on the journey to school.
  • The journey to school lasts about 15 minutes and I sit side-saddle on the back of his bike with no helmet. That is the way in Thailand.  Legally, just the driver needs to wear one. I always feel safe even when they turn up one-way roads and sneak into small gaps in traffic.
  • On the journey, I pass old Thai people working out in the park, babies being washed in plastic tubs in front of houses, Thais having their breakfast at the various street stands or little house/restaurants along the way, stray dogs picking up what scraps they can, birds tweeting and sometimes I see the Thai people lighting incense and saying prayers outside their houses.
  • Arriving at school, I pay my motorbike taxi driver and mumble something about seeing him tomorrow which I’m not sure he understands.
  • Entering school, I see all the kids running around the playground before assembly. I am approached by some shouting, ‘Teacher Colleen, Teacher Colleen!’.  It never fails to sound amazing and sometimes actually makes my eyes water.
Children getting ready to head to their classes at the beginning of the day.

Children getting ready to head to their classes at the beginning of the day.

  • Gate duty consists of greeting students, parents and teachers as they enter the school. This involves the traditional Thai Wai which is bowing slightly with your hands in a prayer gesture just under your chin.  It is the official greeting here and is full of respect and tradition.
  • Assembly lasts roughly 25 minutes. I stand with my teaching assistant on the edge of the rows of children. It starts with some chanting and then everyone proudly sings the national anthem while the flag is raised. Everyday in Thailand, the national anthem is played at 08:00 and 18:00.  If you’re out and about, you are expected to stand still and give it the respect it deserves.  I’ve been in a market once when this has happened and it’s an incredible moment to see everyone just stop and stand tall, staring straight ahead and then carry on as normal once it’s finished.
  • Classes start and my assistant and I spend the morning jumping around and singing with my kindergarten kids (and of course teaching too).  This involves getting very sweaty and I gave up on wearing any sort of make-up about 4 days into teaching.  My hair has also gone completely curly because of the humidity and now refuses to go straight.
Having fun with the older students.

Having fun with the older students.

  • During the free lesson, I plan what I will teach my kids next week and give my assistant details of what needs copying or printing. We chat about what went well during our lessons or perhaps how to handle things differently/better next time.  She is a lovely girl and we get on really well.
  • Lunch break means walking down the road and taking advantage of the numerous street food and fruit stands.  The other teachers and I often eat in the noodle shop or I often get rice and curry from the ladies over the road from the noodle shop.  Delicious and cheap.
  • Afternoon is more classes but this time with the 9yr olds and while there isn’t singing and jumping around, it involves speaking VERY loudly and trying to keep them motivated for 50 minutes.  This isn’t always very easy.  I try a lot of group work and I like to get them to write things on the board.  I try to be fun and smile a lot and this does go down well but, like I said earlier, it isn’t always easy.
A class full of smiles.

A class full of smiles.

  • After school, I continue planning my lessons for next week.  This means checking out internet websites for idea and pictures, going through old lesson plans to see what I can build on and chatting with other teachers about their methods, games and ideas.
  • After school, I sometimes go for ice cream with the Thai teaching assistants.  We have home-made coconut ice cream with all sorts of strange toppings including sweetcorn/maize. It’s really good!
  • I use the public transport to get home.  It’s on a Song-tao and I catch 2 to get home. They are like small pick-up trucks with two benches in the back for people to sit on. They are easy and cheap but they take over an hour to get home (compared to the 12 minutes on the motorbike taxi).
A song-Tao - typical transport in Thailand.

A song-Tao – typical transport in Thailand.

  • Once home, I shower (because I’ve been REALLY sweaty all day), answer a few emails and continue with some lesson planning.
  • There is a coffee shop in my apartment block so I sometimes go there for a fruit smoothie, I sometimes have friends around for tea or go around to a friend for tea.  Sometimes I go to dinner with friends or out for a few drinks, sometimes I stay in and watch DVD’s and edit photos.
  • Aircon goes on ready to cool my bedroom down, mosquito repellant get burnt or plugged in because even though the windows are closed, they always feast on me…
  • Go to sleep with a smile on my face thinking of all the cute kiddies who sang along to my silly songs and tried their absolute best to learn a language completely different from theirs…
Teacher Colleen enjoying her class.

Teacher Colleen enjoying her class.

More smiles


If you’re thinking about teaching in Thailand and have any questions, please don’t hesitate to drop me an email and ask.  I am more than happy to help…

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One Response to A day in the life of an English teacher in Thailand

  1. Pingback: Why I left Thailand – to come back to England | Write Around the World

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