|What's expected of volunteer teachers? |
What’s expected of volunteer teachers in Thailand?
Teachers are not expected to have teacher experience nor an academic background in English studies. Regardless of their background, native English teachers are invariably the best speaker in the school. That includes the Thai English teacher, the school Director or anyone at the local school board.
They are required to be self sufficient in how and what to teach. They will typically teach four hours a day, five days a week. In smaller primary schools (ages 6 to 13), they will teach every student in the school at least once a week. Volunteers often teach in pairs.
To be a teacher in Thailand commands a level of respect equal to that of other professionals: doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. Volunteers may often be under 20. Nevertheless, teachers must dress and act accordingly at all times. They are role models. Business attire at school. No shorts, sandals. Men must be clean shaven and hair must be short. Girls must wear tops with high closings; trousers or long skirts. Tatoos, body piercings (particularly facial piercings) are discouraged. As is excessive use of jewelry or makeup. Public drinking, smoking or inappropriate behavior is severely frowned upon.
We tell volunteers that your students will treat you as a celebrity. Most think we are exaggerating. But it's true, because you are from the west, because you've come a long way to help them they will give you a joyful welcome and a very tearful farewell. In between they'll be hanging off you like Christmas tree ornaments during your school day. The young ones in particular will want to hold your hand and walk you everywhere at school.
More than 95 per cent of Thailand's population is Buddhist. Buddhism reveres enlightenment either spiritual or intellectual. So, in Thailand to be an "ajarn" or teacher is to be a highly respected member of the community. And this respect will apply to you as a foreign teacher, as well. So if you come across as friendly, confident and competent, your students will give you total and enthusiastic co-operation with whatever activity youi have in mind.
The personal attachment that will develop between you and your students in a very short time will seem amazing. It's the reason most volunteers say the hardest thing they've endured at school is saying goodbye to their students.