Teach Abroad - Thailand, Teach Abroad Programs

After Teaching Abroad, A Greater Respect for Teachers and their Hours of Work Outside the Classroom

by Paul Hoffman, Greenheart Travel Teach Abroad Participant in Thailand

During my time in grade school, junior high, and high school, I remember every once in a while hearing the teachers speak about their ‘behind the scenes work’ or their hours of work outside of the classroom.  Of course, I was a naïve student and either didn’t pay that much attention to what they were saying or didn’t really believe what they were saying.  I assumed a teacher’s life was pretty sweet.  You know, three months off in the summer.  They only had to work from 8:30am to 3:00pm Monday through Friday.  No weekend work and lots of Holidays off, as well as Spring Break, Winter Break, Christmas Break, and every other break.  Well now, with a bit of personal perspective, I can tell you when they spoke about extra work outside of the classroom – THEY WERE RIGHT!!

I no longer think my teachers were kidding when they talked about hours they put in outside of class, because I am now doing the same thing while teaching English in Thailand!  I’m not saying that it’s unbearable or way too much work, but I will say that my work day goes way beyond the hours of 8:30am to 3:00pm.  There are lessons plans to build and papers to grade and tests to score and student marks to keep track of and many other items that pop up along the way.  I find myself thinking about lesson plans or classroom activities all the time!  It’s not really work or drudgery, it’s just something I think about as I’m riding in a bus or taking a train across this fantastic country.  (I finally went to Khao Yai National Park last weekend – it was amazing!)

If I use my time wisely during the week, I can usually finish everything I need to do at school or at home and this way my weekends are kept free.  Of course, I still think about teaching on the weekends, but that’s usually when I try to build a creative class lesson that will hopefully keep the students awake and interested!  I try to take care of all the paper grading and test marking between classes during the day.  It seems that if I have an hour or two at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day, I can get almost everything done.  What I have learned is that the work a teacher does is both inside and outside of the classroom.  I think that most English Teachers here in Thailand have about 45 to 50 students per classroom and we teach about 18 (or so) classes per week.  So, when you do the math – that equates to about 800 to 850 students.  That’s a bunch!  So, when it comes to grading papers or tests, you end up looking at quite a few pieces of paper and, as you can imagine, this takes time.

So now, I believe everything my teachers said about their extra work when I was a student back in high school.  I’ve come to really appreciate everything they did for all of their students.  I’ve come to appreciate any teacher out there that does this job year after year.  Almost every Thai teacher I’ve met here in Suphanburi loves their job and they love teaching and they know the extra work is just normal.  I’ve come to love it when my students ‘get it’ and ‘it clicks’ and you can see the light bulb of understanding go off in their head!!  That’s the great part for me and all the extra work I do makes it worth it in the end.

Now time for more “You Know You’re A Thailander When” moments:

*You know you’re a Thailander when you see full water bottles placed on the sidewalk in front of a house or a business and you know they are placed there to keep ants away.  (I have no idea how this works!)

*You know you’re a Thailander when you unconsciously walk down the left hand side of the sidewalk and people going in the opposite direction pass you on your right.  (This is assuming there is a sidewalk for you to walk on which is a rare occurrence!)

*You know you’re a Thailander when you order food and you do not use the generic word “meatball”.  You automatically get more specific by saying fishball or chickenball or porkball or beefball or whatever…..

*You know you’re a Thailander when you realize that when you are shopping if you stop and ask: ‘How Much Is That?’ – You just bought it!


About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.


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