In this article, Annisa shares her experiences of teaching English for two years in Thailand. The journey was not an easy one, yet it was rewarding. There were many ups and downs but ultimately it helped her to better understand and improve herself. Let’s check out her story!
English is widely approved as an international and official language of the world. The ability to master English is a must to survive in this modern world. For someone who has advanced English skills, it could be a superb stepping stone to stride for a global career, with relatively attractive salary, broader relations and amazing life changing experiences.
Thailand is one of the countries which has a high commitment to increase the qualities of English teaching for its citizens. In some schools, the English instructors and teachers are foreigners. They invite numerous teachers from various countries, including Indonesia.
South Thailand is one of the areas in Thailand which has a lot of Indonesian teachers for teaching English in their respective schools. One of them is Sangkhom Islam Wittaya School. This was the school where I taught English and some subjects that use English as the medium along with my Indonesian friends. The subjects that we also taught in English were Melayu, Math, Sport, Islamic English and Abacus Mental Arithmetic.
What are the challenges for the Thais to learn English? Thais need to put special efforts in learning English due to the high language barrier in terms of alphabets and pronunciation. Thais have different alphabets and tonal speaking style. Different tone means different meaning. Well, teaching here did not only give me an opportunity to teach at a school, but I also experienced a school of life.
How did I get there?
It was a pretty long story, but I was so blessed and humbled, and still I am to get this opportunity for teaching at this school. Well, I deeply thank my faculty, Faculty of Literature, Culture and Communication and my university, Universitas Ahmad Dahlan (UAD), and also its Office of International Affairs. My university has a program called Alumni Mengajar in Thailand. This program opens for the Alumnae of English Letters and English Education Study Program of UAD.
The alumnae must complete the requirements such as filling the given form from the International Affairs Office, required documents like guardian’s license, English ability, copy of national identity, legalized academic transcript and diploma, CV, teaching demo video and related supporting documents. The applicants must be ready to follow the administration process and online interview from Thai schools. They also need to be able to read Al Qur’an and have good Islamic ethics.
I tried to submit my applications at that time. However, I failed at the first opening recruitment at Sangkhom Islam Wittaya School. It saddened me for a while but God amazingly showed His way. I got the information that Sangkhom Islam Wittaya School opened the second wave of recruitment. At first, I was in doubt to reapply again myself but my bravery dominated more. I tried to submit all my documents again and join the second wave recruitment. Really, the universe helped me to be there. I got the news from the staff that I was accepted. I was truly blessed and everything seemed still unbelievable. However, that happened, finally happened. I could not thank God enough. I am genuinely grateful for it till now.
So I came through the second wave of Sangkhom Islam’s opening recruitment. After I got the news, I prepared everything to make my first three months visa for entering Thailand at the Thai Embassy, South Jakarta. I needed to wait longer for the school documents from the Ministry of Education and Culture Department in Thailand.
For the details requirement regarding visa application, you might visit the official website of Thai Embassy here. The process for getting visa usually takes three working days. After the visa (for three months) was in my hands, I prepared any other related things and finally the flight brought me to Sangkhom Islam Wittaya School, at Sadao, Songkhla, Thailand.
The process to get the work permit was completed in Thailand assisted by the school‘s staff. As a reminder, we need to report ourselves every three months in immigration office as a legal way to keep living in Thailand.
Activities in the school
The school activities are from Monday to Friday. All teachers and students usually do the flag ceremony every morning before starting the lesson. This is one of the things that I adore from the Thais. The whole school conducts a flag ceremony and sings their national anthem without any day of exemption. The sense of nationalism is really high and always on fire as reflected on that routine.
As if you might want to know further, the Thais have to stand up and listen to the national anthem wherever they hear it. In the cinema, before the film starts, the audience must stand and listen to the song appropriately. What a strong portrayal of national pride, right?
Back to the school’s routines, after the ceremony has been finished, the students and the homeroom teachers do homeroom activities. Those consist of praying and reciting Hadeeth together. The Hadeeth is usually recited in Thai and English. The students also practice the prayers in the Thai language. After that, the students and the teachers practice Abacus together, or in Indonesia we usually call it Sempoa. When the homeroom activities have been finished, the lessons are continued according to the schedules for each day.
Special events and activities
Thailand has many big and special events. There are Sports Day, Teacher’s Day and Abacus Mental Arithmetic Competition. However, the followings were some highlights for several notable events during my teaching at Sangkhom Islam Wittaya School.
- Open Class
One of the projects for the English Program was Open Class. This project was to evaluate the understanding of the students by presenting English Performance in front of the parents. The students were divided according to their duties. The materials of the performance were based on what we had studied together. The show could be in the forms of the story completed by songs, short dialogues and musical drama. In my class, which was Elementary Grade 4, we presented the show with the story: The Wind and the Sun. Some students presented short themed dialogues, main story, closed by dancing and singing together.
Through this, basically we could conclude or evaluate the previous lessons in attractive ways. However, everything was not always easy as it seemed. During the practices for the show and learning process, of course there were a lot of obstacles. It could be in the forms of lack of discipline, focus distraction and barrier of understanding. The supervisor suggested the communicative learning style which consisted of creative learning media and students’ involvement. Using strict but fun assignments made the teacher got appropriate teaching style for the respective class. Not to mention, I was amazed to find many talents from the students who were good in speaking, communicating, writing even until other types of talents such as abacus mental arithmetic, athletic, crafts, drawing and dancing. Of course, I am still always in learning to improve myself.
- Appreciation of Art and Science Day
Every Thursday, after 2.10 pm the students were given the time to express their creativity through art and science works. Crafts projects were for Grade 1, 2, 3 and Grade 4, 5, 6 do the science works. The students utilized some recycling materials or any natural materials. Those could be from bottles, honey, chalk, and any other nature materials. Then, the science works were finished at the class with the guidance from the homeroom teachers.
At the end of the year, all the works were presented in front of the class. The representatives of school’s owners, staffs and teachers walked around to check each station of each class. There were announcements for the best projects of each grade yet all classes still got the appreciation for their hard works. In our presentation, we showed Mosquito Spray, Magic Chalk, Honey Soap and the Magic Lamp. The students also worked together to make the science board and practiced to introduce their science works in front of the judges through simple public speaking.
- Children’s Day
Children are one of our best investments in the future. Thailand has excellent ways to celebrate these potential assets’ special day. In our class, we exchanged present together for the members. Not only that, but the school also prepared a special event for them.
The team from each department such as Science, English Language, Thai Language, Arabic and Islamic Lesson also Mathematics decorated each station which was filled with many gifts and snacks for the children. They needed to play the provided games and then if they were lucky enough, they could get the gifts and snacks.
The representatives of primary students from Grade 1 until Grade 6 were obliged to show the dance performances. They might choose modern dance or traditional dance. I handled grade 4 and we decided to perform a short story followed by the contemporary dance “Better when I am Dancing”. The students gave all their best during the training and the D- day! For that, the performers deserved the presents from the school. Ssssttt… not to mention the lucky children also got the door prize such as unique school stuffs, cute house hold stuffs, until bicycles!
- Attending the Indonesian Independence Day
As fellow Indonesian citizens, my friends and I attended the Indonesian Independence Day at Indonesian Consulate at Songkhla or shortly known as KJRI Songkhla. We got the blessings and great opportunity to participate in the ceremony for two years in a row. We genuinely felt the warm welcome and Indonesia’s atmosphere.
There were many Indonesians joining the ceremony who were teachers from other schools, students and society working in South Thailand. The sense of missing hometown and nationalism was truly around us. Indonesian food and culture were presented there. The programs were the flag ceremony led by the Head of KJRI Songkhla followed by singing national songs, eating popular Indonesian food and watching Indonesian culture shows. Here were the moments of us when attending the Independence Day.
- English Camp
One of the annual’s school agendas in enhancing the English qualities was conducting English Camp. During my time there, I had become the English Instructor and Trainer twice together with fellow Indonesians and Thai English teachers. The first English Camp was conducted at the school. The students who had registered were divided into several groups. After that the teachers were divided into four stations. Those were Reading, Art and Craft, Singing Songs and Storytelling. At that moment we worked under the grand theme “We Are Going on a Bear Hunt”.
The students must complete all sections from the whole stations. At the end, the students and the teachers presented performances to the parents. The performances were storytelling, showing craft-works and singing songs. The students were so fun, creative, enthusiastic and full of spirit to follow all the lessons and present their work to the parents.
The second English Camp was held in Trang with the theme “Learning by Doing 2018” yet was conducted in 2019. It was a collaboration project with Rajamangala University of Technology Srivijaya Trang Campus. Do you know where Trang is?
Trang is one of the beautiful provinces in South Thailand. Trang is not just an ordinary province, yet it has hidden paradise as seen in their wonderful and peaceful beaches. In Trang, the students were divided into several groups. The groups must report in every post and finish all games according to the instructions. Not only playing games, the students were also studying English implicitly from the given outdoor Games. The students also got the material with the conversation topic “Communicate with the Foreigners”. Besides those activities, the students also had mandatory for doing performance or show. The students presented a variety of shows, such as dancing, singing, musical drama, choral speaking, and kickboxing. Since we had already near the beach, why not concluding the memorable trip by playing water and enjoying sunset together? So the camp was truly fun by enjoying the gifts of nature.
- Training an alumna who continues his study in Malaysia
I partnered with my friend to coach English. The topics were started from some advanced introduction, real life conversation themes and general-used tenses. He is an alumnae of Sangkhom Islam Wittaya School who continues his study at Adni Islamic School, Malaysia. During his school break, he learned to enhance his Melayu and English capability. He focused on learning English with us. We were so excited to do the coaching and study together. We were glad to do it because we could share our knowledge and spend some leisure time with the beneficial activities.
“Teaching for 2 years at Sangkhom Islam Wittaya School gives me a lot of ‘eye-opening’ insightful lessons.”
Firstly, the amazing team work started from roommates, staffs, teachers, school’s board and the supervisor who were really welcoming and helpful to give assistance, supervision, feedback and guidance to improve back then. It is perfectly normal to make mistakes, just directly learn from those, evaluate and improve.
Secondly, the chance to travel visiting some beautiful places in Thailand. I had been to Bangkok, Yala, Pattaya, Pattani, Narathiwat , Hatyai, Phattalung, Krabi and Trang during my work there. Check out the maps and find the amazing recommendations!
Thirdly, self controlling and handling any emotions are so important for us to be more mature and better. This means that we should be able to tell when to be strict or relax to the students.
Forth, the knowledge of how to teach is not only delivering the materials, but also how to manage the class which full of different characters and potency for each student. Every student has their own uniqueness and talent. They might not really master one subject, but they are really great in other skills. We need to improve the creativity and fun methods because the students will be happy to be involved.
I deeply thank all parties who were so contributive in my journey during teaching at Sangkhom Islam Wittaya School. Thank you for the great chances, life-changing experiences, laughter, friendship and memories!
*All photos are provided by the author.