How to Teach in Thailand

In our last interview, Diego Ambrosio talked about wrapping up his school year by giving final exams. He was waiting to hear more about the COVID-19 instructions from the Thai government. He recalled his first day of class and how much he had grown as a professional. Diego took us on a typical day-to-day life of a Thai teacher and shared his teaching methods and his overall classroom instruction. 

In our final interview, Diego talks about why Thailand and how to overcome initial and recurring obstacles a teacher might encounter during their first years of teaching. 

What has been the most important thing you learned while teaching abroad so far?

“I would say that the first thing I learned was certainly the ability to adapt to a culture and a way of life diametrically opposed to how I lived in Italy or England.

Hand in hand with this, I have learned to acquire greater self-confidence and greater courage in accepting the “great teaching challenge.” This is not simply teaching, but teaching through a language that is not your mother tongue.”

Diego Ambrosio and his School Director

Have you accomplished your goals while living in Phuket?

“It was not easy at all. I believe that together with a large organizational component, a bit of luck was also needed. I, fortunately, had the opportunity to meet the right people at the right time.”

Planning a new life in a decidedly distant place from your native land requires a lot of preparation.

“First of all, you must consider a minimum budget available to “start the engine,” let’s say. Without an appropriate budget, moving abroad is like trying to start a car without gasoline. Obviously the more gasoline you have available, the longer you can travel before having to refuel. “Refueling” can only be dispensed by a job. Therefore, you need to know how to organize your resources the best you can and have a roadmap calendar for each day of the week, including small or large objectives to complete.

Acquaria Museum

The second really important thing is to be aware of the baggage you are leaving with, which doesn’t just include clothes :). It also, and above all, includes your curriculum vitae and accredited professional skills. Without these, I could hardly have entered the world of teaching in Thailand. So, within the time that was granted to me, I followed all the objectives. I never broke down or became lazy. Whenever I could, I tried to get more and more information. I scoured the Internet and asked people I met every day.

This resourcefulness, together with my “good nose,” was fundamental in being able to slowly plan my future and to transform uncertainties into solid affirmations.”

What has been the biggest challenge of living abroad?

“The biggest challenge has certainly been to find a job in a country with very few job opportunities for foreigners. It should not be forgotten that in Thailand, most professions are reserved for Thai people only. The few remaining opportunities for foreigners are divided between four or five sectors, which fortunately includes English language teaching.

If I had wasted the opportunity to teach English in Thailand I would have had little or no reason to stay in Thailand. The lack of job diversity is one of the main reasons it’s such a challenge to live in Thailand compared to other countries that offer a wider variety of work.”

What advice would you give on how to deal with that challenge?

“As I explained before, this challenge can only be overcome by rigorously accomplishing a series of small objectives. Together with a well-managed budget, professional background, and a back-up organization to support you will increase your success rate. No matter what, there’s always a small chance of failure. However, your chances of succeeding will be much higher if you face the adventure with an organized conscience.”

Do you have any advice for other teachers about to travel abroad to teach for the first time?

“A specific piece of advice that I have not yet expressed is to try, at least in the beginning, to not to rush towards opportunities that are too demanding. It’s more appropriate to always start with small experiments. Don’t travel too far. Test your very first experience in a new country somewhere with a similar social system.

M3 students

I tested my endurance and adaptability initially in England, a country very close to Italy. I managed to gather positive energy and the experience necessary for a bigger adventure. That first step into a new country was the one that brought me to live in Thailand today.”

How has teaching abroad helped with your overall professional goals?

“Teaching abroad has certainly helped me a lot in perfecting my professionalism within the teaching sector. Above all, teaching is itself a job that enriches you daily, not only with exciting experiences but also culturally. The countless considerations of the ever-changing English Language and all the new information I receive every day slowly complete the puzzle of my knowledge. Every day I become more and more confident in myself, and therefore, in my ability to teach English.”

What was your most memorable moment at your school or in class this year?

“It is curious to note that my colleague Bethy, a member of Dreams Abroad and a great friend, and I share a similar indelible memory linked to the moments spent so far in school. I will never forget the day my pupils of the Mattayom Four-level organized a surprise party on my birthday.

It all started with an organized false “skit.” One of my pupils pretended to be sick on the floor while another student immediately ran to my office to ask me for help. Once I arrived, I immediately started to give aid to the pupil. I lifted his legs and asked for a glass of sugar water to help him recover. I was in a state of total panic and felt extremely worried.

It was at that moment that a group of students gathered behind me with the cake and candles ready, singing a very excited and emotional “Happy Birthday.” I had tears in my eyes from a double dose of joy. Realizing that the ill student was just a joke and that they had all gathered there and planned this out exclusively for me is a memory that I’ll treasure forever.”

What parts of your teaching will change next year and what will you keep the same?

“The teaching method is generally not subject to change. In this case, I’m referring to the style, the voice, the stage presence, and my way of presenting my lessons.

What normally is subject to change every year are the courses I teach. They may be courses I have never taught before. This variety leads me to constantly organize new projects and new work material. It’s usually a very exciting and motivating task, since teachers are the main actor and director of what will be presented and what will contribute to the student’s educational growth.

I felt particularly interested when I received the chance to create a “Creative Writing & Speaking” course for students of level M5 and M6. In this course, I inserted one of my favorite fairy tale authors, the Greek fabulist Aesop, with enrichment from figurative language (figures of speech). I also assigned a final project that required a theatrical representation of a fairy tale.”

Waterfall in Thailand

What did you do over the Thai teacher vacation in April?

“Unfortunately, as for the vast majority of people around the world, I spent the month of April under lockdown. The Thai government decided to quarantine the nation in order to contain the global pandemic triggered by the then-novel coronavirus. Spending the holidays cooped up at home is not exactly what anyone would hope for. This was especially so in my case, as I was really looking forward to returning to Italy to spend a little time with my family members I only have the opportunity to see once a year.

Nonetheless, we will survive this. The human being is invincible and always finds a solution to everything. I am sure that we will find the strength and the right temperament to overcome even this sad period of our lives.”

What is the most important tip you can give someone wanting to teach abroad?

“If you really intend to teach abroad, remember that motivation and planning are the essential elements to undertake this choice. Motivation represents the first real starting point. Ask yourself if teaching is really a main goal in your life, or if it is a fallback to achieve other purposes, such as being able to stay in a country and explore it. The most delicate phase is planning, since it includes the collection of all useful and fundamental information before departure. A few examples of things you need to know about include your itinerary, and all the information you can get about your new home country in terms of work, laws, health, lifestyle, customs, traditions, climate, cost of living, and more.

Finally, you must think about the economic budget required for the first few months. You must plan this in advance in order to cover any surprise situations that may occur. The greater the starting budget, the better your quality of life will be, along with fewer worries to overcome.

Finally… I cannot help but to wish you a lot (and I mean a lot!) of luck! :)” 

thai School Formal

Wrap-Up of What It Is Like to Teach in Thailand

Diego will be teaching online intermittently until July. His regular school year starts July 1, 2020, when he resumes classes. He is waiting to hear more instructions from the Thai government and what actions will occur next due to Covid-19. He is optimistic that the future will allow him to teach in Thailand again. Diego has really enjoyed his experience in Thailand and is hopeful that the coming school year will provide another great year of professional growth and memories.

Krabi sunset teach in thailand

 

Day-To-Day Life Teaching at a Thai School

by Leesa Truesdell

Diego AmbrosioDiego Ambrosio and I had the chance to catch up for his second interview Finding the Perfect International Job. He had participated in a few Thai regional tournaments since we last spoke. He went to Bangkok, Thailand to judge a spelling bee competition and a group of his students participated in a music competition in Pang Na. His group won a gold and silver medal in the competition! He wrapped up his school year and is getting ready for exams. Diego has learned so much about what it is like teaching at a Thai school over the last year. He remembers when he first arrived and how much he has grown as a person and as a professional since that day. 

Read more about what Diego said about his day-to-day life teaching at a Thai school: 

What is a typical day at your school like? 

Each public school in Thailand generally follows the same morning routines before class starts. In my school, students must be present in the main square starting from 7:30 until about 8:10 in order to observe and respect the various routine ceremonies. These include a display of rigorous respect for the Thai National Anthem in a “Stand to Attention” position and music performed by the school band, a Buddhist prayer, and finally a list of ten “commandments” to always remember. The morning ceremony ends with the school jingle played by the music band. Each lesson lasts about 50 minutes (a period) and the school day consists of eight periods. Teachers must stay in the office until 16:30. The school entitles teachers to about one hour of lunch break. There is also a school canteen if necessary.

 

How many people do you work with? How many classes do you teach?

 We currently have nine teachers of different nationalities In the Foreign Teachers English department. There is one teacher from Poland, one from France, one from Morocco, one from Australia, three from the Philippines and one from Canada. The Canadian teacher is the coordinator of the English department. This year I received an assigned eighteen hours per week teaching eight classes for a total of five different courses. However, our contract provides for the possibility of having to cover up to 20 hours of teaching per week. In any case, we must cover the hours of the other teachers if they miss class due to illness or personal reasons.

Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?

I consider myself a lucky person from this point of view because I was able to immediately establish excellent friendships with my work colleagues.  I consider myself a naturally sociable and peaceful person, as well as extremely empathetic. Sometimes we organized meetings outside of school and ate together on special days of the year. For example, last December 26th, we all had lunch together on Christmas Day.

thai teachers

What is your favorite part of the day? Why?

The most pleasant moment of the day is around the first afternoon hours, after lunch. I usually go for a digestive walk around the school campus. The campus has various nature trails. The school has become a lovely place because it sits inside a beautiful natural reserve of mangrove trees.

How is the material being taught to students? Do you use a specific method?

My school follows the conventional teaching method found throughout almost all Thailand English language teaching programs. The lesson plan includes four main phases that we call “warm-up,” “present,” “practice,” and “produce.” 

teacher abroad

The “warm-up” phase is generally short-lived (five to ten minutes) and includes the “call of attendances,” “introduction to the lesson,” a possible “ice-breaker” or “review of the previous lesson.” The second phase, “present,”  is the one in which the lesson is presented. Teachers explain the most important contents in this phase, through the use of projectors, audio-visual material, and obviously, the blackboard. The third phase, “practice,” consists of guided exercises to understand the contents explained, through individual or interactive exercises. Teachers must constantly monitor these activities and assist students the best they can. The final phase, “produce,”  is the final production of the learning contents learned by students. It can take place through the presentation of projects or individual works aimed at the development and improvement of oral skills and content presentation.

How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you don’t plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?

I always prepare my lessons with care. Preparing ahead helps me feel well-organized. I have everything ready well in advance so that I don’t have to run into unpleasant or unexpected events. As I explained above, I prepare my lessons through a specific template provided by the school which includes the four main processing phases. In addition, I also like to always look for new ideas and materials. Thanks to the Internet, I can always have an endless source of teaching material available. 

Do you work at a bilingual school? Does the school teach English as a subject or throughout all classes?


The English language is taught in all the classes. This means my school is ultimately a kind of bilingual school. However, there are several types of classes that have access to different levels of teaching quality. The two main programs of study for the English language are called the “regular program” and the “English program.” The regular program includes the teaching of the English language, but not through foreign native English-speaking teachers. On the other hand, the English program provides for the presence of native speakers, therefore the enrollment cost is significantly higher.

What goals or standards are classroom teachers using to measure the performance of their students?


Like any educational institution in the world, Thailand’s school system has parameters for the student assessment during the course of the entire school year. Teachers evaluate students at the end of each semester. My school has two semesters per year. Each student can earn a total value of 100 points. They can earn these with scores from two main units (25 points + 25 points) plus a mid-term exam for a max of 20 points and a final exam with a maximum score of 30 points. Based on the total score obtained, the student will be able to access a grade ranking that ranges from a minimum of 1.5 to a maximum of 4.

I want to clarify an important detail of the Thai school system, namely that students cannot be rejected or repeat the same school year. The school promotes each and every student, no matter what. Whenever a student earns a score lower than 50/100, the teacher becomes responsible for taking care of the student by organizing an extra lesson, project, or exam for the student. The student must complete them as proof of resolution of the low score. Even if the student fails to successfully complete this phase, he will still be promoted. This aspect makes us reflect a lot, since it shows a big flaw in the process of education and growth of the Thai child. There is a very high possibility of an unprepared student reaching the upper levels of an academic course.

Looking back at our first Teach Abroad interview, what have you learned most about yourself in the classroom this year?

There is always something new to learn with each passing year. I can still remember who I was as soon as I arrived at this school and how, day after day, I managed to improve the quality of my teaching together with improved creativity and constant participation within various school events.

Recently, for example, I learned that the morale with which you start your lessons has a decisive impact on the progression of the lesson and on the learning that follows from the students. So it is really essential to always start in the right gear and have the best intentions.

Wrap Up Working at a Thai School

Due to the recent coronavirus pandemic, the minister of Thailand mandated that schools in Thailand be shut down until May. Diego wrapped up his final week of classes by giving final exams. He had originally planned to go back to Italy in April for his break. Since Italy is a major epicenter of the coronavirus, Diego will not be able to go home and plans to remain in Thailand for now.

Stay tuned for more on Diego’s Thailand teach abroad adventure.

 

What It’s Like Teaching English in Cambodia

by Edmond Gagnon

Michael CarterIn the first part of Michael Carter’s interview, he told us how and why he chose Cambodia as his new home. He targeted Southeast Asia but did not have a particular country when he first decided to come. Then, he visited a friend he’d made from Germany who was living in Cambodia. Seeing Cambodia’s gorgeous atmosphere and rich culture, he immediately applied for a job there and the rest is history. 

Here is the second part of his interview teaching English in Cambodia.

What is a typical day at your school like? 

“A typical teaching day for me begins at 7:40 a.m. and finishes at 4:10 p.m. Many schools run early evening classes as well, but not where I currently work. There is a long gap between morning and afternoon classes, between 10:30 a.m. and 1:20 p.m.). This is mainly to coincide with typical hours of Khmer schools. Most students study for a half-day at Khmer school. Students from wealthy families who can afford English schools spend the other half of their day there.”

How many people do you work with? How many classes do you teach?

The place I work employs a lot of people for various duties. There are probably about fifty to sixty teachers on staff. The day is divided into six classes — three before and three after midday. I teach anywhere from four to six classes a day, which adds up to twenty-four teaching hours per week. Most schools here use a twenty to thirty hour teaching week as a base. Notably, the afternoon classes do not have the same students as the morning.”

Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?

Teaching English in Cambodia“I tend to work independently most of the time. This is partly because I am the only one teaching the courses I do teach (i.e. sociology and psychology). But for other subjects, there are typically three teachers teaching the same thing and they often share ideas and materials. We also have a computer database where teachers can store and access lesson plans or worksheets that have been shared.”

What is your favorite part of the day? Why?

 “Quitting time — 4:10 p.m. Reasons are obvious I would think.”

How is the material being taught to students? Is there a specific method being used?

“I think most schools are looking for similar teaching styles, but I certainly would say it’s student-centered. We are meant to keep the TTT (Teacher Talking Time) to an absolute minimum. Group work and pair work are preferable to independent studying. Encourage learner interaction and incorporate critical thinking into the activities whenever possible. I create a lot of supplementary material and often look for short video segments on YouTube which may add another dimension to the lesson.”

How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you don’t plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?

One of many city temples“You can’t always stick to a lesson plan to the last detail, but you should have something planned anyway. Sometimes the timing can be tricky, but you don’t want to have flat or inactive moments.”

I always plan some type of warmer (five to ten minutes) to bring the learners on board. This doesn’t necessarily have to be associated with the material in the lesson. It could simply be a short competition of some kind. The purpose is to grab the attention of your ‘audience’. Think of watching a film at the cinema — or reading a story. The first few minutes of a film are crucial to catch the interest of the viewer, just as a writer needs a ‘hook’ to make the reader want to continue. Teaching isn’t any different. Get their attention, wind them up, and then let them go.

After the warmer, give brief but clear instructions for the class activities. This is your time to teach any new material… but don’t ramble on for too long.

The rest, and longest part of the class must allow students to interact/practice etc. Depending on what you have taught, give a short (five minute) recap/review of the lesson’s key points at the end and assign extra practice (homework) from time-to-time.”

Do you work at a bilingual school? Is English being taught as a subject or throughout all classes at the school? Describe the ways English is being implemented. 

“Our school is strictly English only. We don’t simply teach English, we teach subjects in English. Of course, they learn their basics of the language there as well. However, they study social sciences, history, geography, computer, sports, etc. — all in English.

There are other schools which do just teach English language as a class, though. These places usually have early evening classes that cater to young adults after work.

Our school operates a Khmer language school as well and some students study half a day at each.”

What are the standards classroom teachers use to measure the performance of their students?

“Testing mainly. I personally think students are tested too often but this is what the Cambodian parents want and expect. We also make a part of their score based on speaking from day-to-day class activities. Once a month they are given a project or assignment connected to what they’ve been studying. A mark is given for this as well.

At the beginner levels, we stress fluency. Once they’ve attained that, the higher levels base their scores on both fluency and accuracy.”

Does your school have a set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help their students succeed?

Stone Masons at work

I’ve probably touched upon these already, but in a nutshell:
  • Critical thinking skills. Students need to be able to both think and express their ideas and opinions. It isn’t about simply remembering a lot of facts and formulas.
  • Social skills. Cambodians tend to have tightly-knit families. Unlike in most western countries, teenagers do not go out or just hang out with friends. They almost always go out as a family unit. Group work at school affords them an opportunity to interact with non-family members. Social media is perhaps changing things a bit, but not necessarily in a positive way.
  • Confidence. Unlike some schools, we do not automatically pass everybody in order to continue collecting their money. Pushing a student to a higher level when they are not ready is wrong. Students will soon realize their skills are inferior to others and this will kill their desire to participate. Getting good grades is something wonderful for younger learners to show their parents. Giving some verbal praise from time-to-time can do wonders, especially for older, less confident students.

Looking back at the first Teach Abroad interview, what have you learned most about yourself since first being in the classroom this year?

“I have been teaching for around twenty years and for about the first fifteen of those years, I didn’t teach anyone younger than the age of about seventeen or eighteen. It was almost exclusively young adults under thirty. This was both in Indonesia and Cambodia. I now teach kids as young as eleven and twelve and up to the age of seventeen or eighteen. One thing I’ve had to adjust to was having patience dealing with young, wandering attention spans. My partner is Cambodian and we have three young children together so I have become used to this fairly naturally.

Something I’ve known all along but continue to practice is changing up the way I conduct my lessons. Yes, I could replay what I’ve done in the past, though I would find that boring. Keeping things fresh is a key to retaining job interest. Nobody likes a mundane job.”

What It’s Like Teaching English in Cambodia

As you are reading this, Michael is seeking shelter from the 37°C temperatures that don’t normally come until at least a month from now. If you have any questions about teaching English in Cambodia, or the country itself, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Finding the Perfect International Job

 

diego ambrosioDiego Ambrosio is from Catanzaro, Italy and is thirty-three years old. He received a master’s degree in foreign language and literature for English and Spanish languages. Immediately following his degree, he volunteered internationally with Worldwide Opportunities Organic Farms for two months. The first farm he worked at was in Denmark and the second was in Norway. Diego described this experience as his first real challenge outside of his home country that helped strengthen his character. 

After, he worked at two international jobs before settling in Phuket, Thailand. The first job was with the Costa Crociere cruise line, where he worked seven days a week for twelve-hour shifts. He did this for two years until he realized he wanted to be a bit more settled on land. Diego enjoyed the hospitality industry, so he decided to seek the “Londoner” life and headed to London.

His second job was at a hotel as a night manager for one-and-a-half years in front of Kings Cross St. Pancras. Then, he transferred to The Royal Park Hotel for seven months. He got a bad case of food poisoning and was very ill. He realized he missed the good quality of food, family, and weather back home in Italy. After he recovered, he moved home, and took a couple of months to roam the wilderness (literally). He soaked up the clean air, ate good food, and then decided to find an international job in education and move to Phuket, Thailand. 

Meet Diego: 

Why did you choose to teach abroad in Thailand?

“During my previous work on cruise ships, I had the opportunity to travel a lot and visit different countries. It was a great opportunity to understand their cultures and lifestyles and was a bridge into a fully international job. 

Once I reached Thailand, and, in particular, Phuket, I felt mesmerized. The beauty of its surrounding nature and its mild weather was almost unbelievable. Above all, though, I felt delighted by the light-heartedness and humble lifestyle of the people, who are always friendly and smiling. I wasn’t wrong at all when I made my choice. Every time my students meet me, I am greeted with a smile and profound respect.”

Have you ever taught before? If not, what were you doing before you decided to move abroad?

“Although my undergraduate and graduate studies in languages and modern literature perfectly fit the impending idea of being a teacher, the process of becoming a full-time teacher in Italy was quite complex. Instead, I bravely decided to start my working career for a period of time volunteering on an organic farm in Denmark on behalf of the international WWOOF Association (World Wide Opportunity on Organic Farms). This amazing and enlightening life experience shaped my temper and made me ready to face any challenge in the future. It was also the first real-work experience that marked my first move beyond the Italian borders.”

denmark wwoof world wide opportunity on organic farms

What did you think teaching abroad would be like? Where are you teaching? 

“When I decided to take up the teaching profession, I honestly didn’t think about what it would be like teaching abroad. I had no terms of comparison before teaching in Italy. Nonetheless, I was surely aware that dealing with a culture diametrically opposed to the West would have required a different approach in terms of school organization and linguistic communication.

Right now, I am currently a foreign English teacher in Thailand — precisely in the beautiful province of Phuket.”

How did you prepare for your international job teaching abroad? What steps have you taken? 

“When making the decision to teach abroad it is good and useful to carry out online research about the country of interest. It is especially important to research all the bureaucratic aspects and prerequisites required to perform the job according to the law. 

For a non-native speaker, currently, any government school requires four prerequisites before applying:

  1. Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in any subject
  2. 120 hours TESOL/TEFL certificate (possibly with included OTP – Observation Teaching Practice)
  3. TOEIC examination (valid two years) with a score not less than 650
  4. Recent Criminal Records Check (from within the last six years) from your own country and legally translated into the English language 

Fortunately, when I began to apply, I already almost completed all the prerequisites required. 

Although my degree was in languages, ​​I needed TEFL certification. I did a lot of research to see if there were accredited schools in Phuket able to issue this certification. The great news is that this school exists, is highly professional, and is managed by an extraordinary team of qualified people. Some of the team members include Eric from Minneapolis, a passionate expert in training teachers since 2007, and Simon from London who has been training teachers since 2004.

tefl international jobs

Thanks to these people, together with my constant motivation and commitment, I was able to prepare an effective curriculum and find a school in less than a month from the date of obtaining the certificates. My visa then converted into a work visa through school support and I received the work permit.”

What are your perceptions of Thailand so far? 

“In these first two years, I have been able to notice and understand different positive and negative aspects, as one is able to do in any country in the world. Thailand is a fascinating country, welcoming and full of beautiful people. There are breathtaking landscapes and authentic traditions. However, although my desire for full integration is high (especially seeing as I’ve been with my Thai girlfriend for almost two years now and we currently live together), I currently have the perception of always being “outside the circle.”

I constantly feel like I receive harsher treatment when I have to deal with the strict regulations and laws for foreigners. Although the country has quickly achieved formidable economic goals, quality of life, and welfare, corruption is still very high. More than that, 40-year-old outdated laws remain unchanged but continue to see enforcement. Plus, the government’s support for pension funds is practically non-existent when compared to western countries.”

What are your goals while you are abroad at your international job?

“I believe my main goals are the same as most of humanity, in that there is a constant pursuit of happiness and a peaceful life as far as possible from the stresses produced by the hectic modern society. If, on the other hand, I had to refer to smaller goals, it would certainly be that of pursuing a brilliant teaching career and the ability to travel more often. I really would like to discover and learn as much as possible about this enchanting country.”

What has been the most difficult since you arrived in Thailand? 

“Apart from the classic initial food intolerances and the tropical weather impact, the greatest difficulties I have faced so far were during the initial stress of my first month. I had to stay in a hotel and face numerous expenses. It was absolutely necessary to plan everything correctly to not be in trouble.”

What has been the best experience?

“It is difficult to define the best experience during my two (very intense) years abroad. Fortunately, I was able to live through several beautiful experiences. However, if I had to choose one I’d say the emotions and excitement I felt before my first class on my first day of teaching, which were invigorating. I felt a renewed strength within myself. For the first time, I could finally spread my knowledge. I loved the idea of perhaps having contributed to the success of the future aspirations of the most enterprising students.”

teaching abroad

How do you feel about the culture so far? Do you feel like you have immersed yourself into the culture?

“I believe that I will never cease to immerse myself in this exciting and profoundly different culture. I have new emotions every day experiencing it. The linguistic aspect always remains the most arduous goal to achieve. The Thai language consists of 44 basic consonants that represent 21 distinct consonant sounds. Thai is a tonal language with five tones (and the tones matter!). The tone of a syllable is determined by a combination of the class of consonant, the type of syllable (open or closed), the tone marker and the length of the vowel. As for the social aspect, I must say that it is very easy to make good friends with the Thai people. It is impossible to stop discovering and understanding new life behaviors and habits of these smiling and carefree people.”

A New Life in Asia Because of an International Job

Diego enjoys his international job in education. His new life in Asia has brought him joy both professionally and personally. He explained some of the differences in the school calendar that impact his life. However, overall, he feels very pleased with his life and job abroad.

Thailand has a school calendar unique from the Western part of the globe. They begin their school year in May and finish in April. They have two breaks over the months of October and April. Diego goes back to Italy in October each year. He works for a government school, which is Buddhist. This means that he typically works through the month of December. He does not get the Christmas holiday off if the school is Buddhist. Some schools in Thailand give the holiday off, however, it depends on the school and its religious orientation. Regardless, Diegos’s school gets December 31 and January 1 off for a holiday. 

Stay tuned for his part two interview in January and his final interview before school starts again in May 2020. 

by Leesa Truesdell

It’s Never Too Late to Go on an Adventure

Justin Hughes-Coleman was raised with the roar of the Pacific as a backdrop. Born in San Diego, California, he now resides, appropriately enough, in the same state’s Oceanside. Justin graduated from California State University San Marcos with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He became eager to explore foreign as well as local shores from an early age. The chance for Justin to achieve his dreams of moving abroad came via teaching English in Madrid, Spain at Ceip Antonio Osuna, a public school in Madrid. He improved his Spanish language skills while navigating a new culture to build bridges with students and coworkers. Justin proved to himself and others that it’s never too late to go on an adventure. 

Justin met Leesa Truesdell, the founder of Dreams Abroad, in the summer of 2016. They were exciting times for them as they were both about to embark on their new Madrid teaching careers. Justin is one of the Dreams Abroad originals. He wears his membership with pride. Justin’s articles stand the test of time by being as inspirational today as they were when he first wrote them.  

The Appliance of Science

When it comes to the world of work, Justin has worn many hats. As well as teaching, he’s been employed in retail, real estate, and finance. Currently, Justin works as a data scientist.

Teaching abroad retaught our video star how much travel meant to him. Upon returning to the States, Justin resolved to find a position that offered enough flexibility to satiate his wanderlust. He began to hone his skills as a web developer in order to secure his long-term goals of relatively footloose-and-fancy-free independence on the work front. In this YouTube video, Justin talks about what he learned through interacting with the rest of the Dreams Abroad community. Being away from home and meeting new people allowed Justin to foster a new self-confidence. Become motivated by watching Justin speak about his experience. 

by Leesa Truesdell

A Guide to Private Lessons: Clases de Conversación

So you have arrived in Spain and are looking forward to starting this new adventure. While you are getting settled, one of the main hurdles you will face is how to finance your stay. As a language assistant (auxiliar in Spanish) you will be living at the center of one of the most fascinating countries on Earth, and on the doorstep of many others. This all sounds enticing… and expensive. As a language assistant, you will make around 1000€ in Madrid (about 700€ a month in the rest of Spain), for only nine months of the year.

Now that is sufficient to live on in Spain but only if you plan on staying in Spain for the whole time and only go out twice a week. BUT you will probably want to consider making some money on the side so you can do so much more. There are a variety of options, but the most lucrative is teaching private lessons, either to individual students or to a small group. Here are some pointers if you want to go down this route.

Time Versus Money

Now, at first this process might not seem that daunting; basically, do your day job (helping students learn English) and for private lessons, one-on-one tutoring. This can help supplement your income by hundreds of Euros, but it does come with a major time commitment. You are already working 16 hours a week at a minimum with a two-hour long break in the middle of the day (Spain’s infamous siesta) included and a fairly long commute.

After a full workday of screaming children, then you would have private lessons afterwards, which can be anywhere from one to three hours. That means most days are typically 12-14 hours of tantrums, commuting, prepping lessons, and going on errands. You will make money, but you will be exhausted most of the time. 

Just make sure to consider the time commitment first, because then you can budget for the rest of the year to figure out if you want to take on more private lessons or not. It is best to start looking for tutoring in August or September because a lot of families are looking for long-term and consistent tutoring for the upcoming school year. As the year goes on, it becomes harder to get consistent private lessons.

alarm clock on a desk with a computer Private Lessons

Where To Look for Private Lessons

There are a good amount of resources for finding private lessons. The following are the best.

  • Tusclasesparticulares: This is a website where teachers/tutors can look for students and vice versa. Post a profile in both English and Spanish.
  • Teachers and parents will ask for tutoring at your school, and you can request that your director put up a sign offering private lessons on your behalf.
  • The Auxiliares de conversacion en MADRID (The Original) Facebook group is a great all-around resource and fellow language assistants are constantly swapping details about private lessons.
  • VIPKid: This is a live online tutoring job which you can do anywhere with Wi-Fi. You go through an interview process and then teach in 30-minute class sets.
  • Academies hire English teachers and are a consistent income. Apply early.

Tarifas: Your Fee

Private Lessons

In my opinion, you shouldn’t take any tutoring job for less than 15€/hour, unless it is for more than one hour with the same student. Once you calculate traveling time and lesson planning, anything less is not worth it. It is also better to tutor online as this way travel costs are reduced. I recommend having two tiers: 15€/hour for in-person conversation private lessons; 20€/hour for focused lessons. Most people will opt for the latter because the first seems a bit too expensive for just conversation. This is better for you too because lesson planning is something you can do on your way to your private lessons so it doesn’t take more time out of your day than a strict conversation private lesson.

3 Tips For Lesson Planning

If you are helping students with their homework and tests, or just have conversation private lessons, you won’t have to lesson plan too much. However, if you are giving a structured private lesson, these tips might help:

  1. Tailor lessons to each student for maximum progress. For example, if a student has a sufficient level of vocabulary but their pronunciation isn’t that good, work on a pronunciation lesson, instead of teaching more grammar. Once that student has pronunciation under their belt, the student’s progress will soar.
  2. Split the class into segments. Consider an hour-long class divided into two or three 20- or 30-minute sections. One section for focusing on that particular student’s weakness, another for conversation, and a third for them to present something to you in English. This makes the class go by more quickly and the student has something to focus on between private lessons.
  3. Remember not to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of online resources for English Second Language (ESL) resources online that will help you build a structured lesson. For children ages three to 13, I also recommend including some games with your lesson plan.

Hit The Ground Running!

In the end, private lessons can really benefit you financially while you are in Spain but they do take their toll. The perfect scenario would be a student or students who want daily private lessons for more than an hour. You have something consistent. But however you piece together your tutoring schedule, just ensure it works for you and don’t be afraid to pass a student onto a fellow language assistant if it becomes too stressful. Good luck out there and happy tutoring.

Sunset on Spain's coast.

by Justin Hughes-Coleman