When I decided to leave South Africa during 2012 and come to Thailand to work as an English teacher, I never thought that it would be such a life-changing experience.
Being 53 years old at the time, it was not an easy decision. I was joined by my husband, whose presence made life in Thailand easier and I had someone close to me to share the experience with.
One of the best things I could have done for myself was to enter into the BA Tesol degree programme at Thongsook College. When I started working after school, we did not need any degree to find a good job. However, over the years, things changed and degrees became important, and it is more so in Thailand. If you want to be a serious teacher, a suitable degree is essential to secure a good teaching position in Thailand.
In 2013 I began a journey by enrolling in the BA Tesol degree programme at Thongsook College, which I hoped would make me a better, confident teacher. We were part of the second intake of this brand new programme and everyone was still trying to find their feet. After some initial teething problems everything settled down, due to excellent leadership from the director of the college, her colleagues and the staff of the international programme.
The one aspect of the programme I enjoyed most was the fact that we met people from all over the world and made life-long friends. Of course there were differences, as it always is with people from different cultures getting together in this kind of environment, but in this lies the challenge – to be able to adapt and at the same time gain knowledge and a qualification. Although we came from different backgrounds, socially and culturally, we mostly embraced each other’s uniqueness and got along famously. This was most apparent during classroom discussions. That was when the cosmopolitan mix of the classes shone through and we learnt from each other, not only regarding the topics of the lessons, but also how we viewed life coming from a culturally different background.
It felt as if I embarked on a rollercoaster ride, consisting of new experiences, new knowledge and greater understanding. As with all new experiences we are all subject to the vagaries of human nature and my experience at Thongsook was no different. There were students who were loud, annoying, irritating and opinionated and who those, in some cases, made life difficult for other students during class time. On the other hand we also had those intelligent, funny students who could quickly change the atmosphere into an enjoyable, pleasurable one. On the whole, each and every student that I shared classes with over the years made my time at Thongsook both interesting and worthwhile. As I have an interest in human behaviour, I learnt a lot on this subject by just watching things unfold in this unique environment.
As is normal, there were subjects that interested me more than others, but from each lesson and subject I garnered something of value, which not only added to my growth as a teacher, but also as a human being.
During my time at Thongsook, I experienced a variety of lecturers and their different teaching styles, and found many characteristics similar to those teachers I respected as a high school student. They were the ones with the ability to draw you into a subject with ease, who clearly enjoy their occupation, who had a special rapport with those they were teaching and who not only respected their students and their differences, but were also respected and loved by their students. Some of the lecturers also shared, during their lectures, the personal side of themselves, such as the one who played Spanish dancing videos every time you entered the classroom from lunch. He not only obviously loved these dances, but always found one that could be an introduction to the topic of the day, i.e. could add meaning to the lesson. I decided there and then that these interesting mentors (both from my years in high school and time at Thongsook) would be my role-models as a teacher.
My teaching experience in Thailand varied from Kindergarten 1 right through to 18-year olds. Not having had children of my own, by choice, I always thought that I would not be good at teaching the young ones. However, by the time I finished at Thongsook I, unexpectedly, had firmly established myself as a Kindergarten 3 (5-6 year olds) teacher. My Thongsook studies gave me the confidence and tools to walk into a classroom full of young children, who would, before, have scared me to death, and to teach in a relaxed and fun manner. It taught me more about myself than any other experience I have ever had.
My time at Thongsook has equipped me with a clear vision of what I want to be doing with the rest of the time I will be blessed to be able to work.
One thing I learnt during the four years of studies is that the old saying that ‘you are never too old to learn’, is true. I started on a new journey that first day of walking into Thongsook as a new student, a journey that would take me down an interesting path that would only be stopped when, one day, I would be moving onto yet another path, into the realm of the unknown.
I would always be grateful to Thongsook for this opportunity and would recommend this experience to anyone who is interested in a new adventure and a life-altering experience.
I will build on the studies at Thongsook and strive to acquire a master’s degree in Education. I feel further qualifications could open up possibilities that I now can only imagine and hope for.