My Reality of Teaching English in Thailand

When I decided I was going to take a complete 180 from my career as a Speech Language Pathologist and move halfway around the world to teach English, I immediately began to scour the internet.

  • What clothes do I pack for Thailand?
  • What shoes do I bring?
  • Are there novelties from America I should bring with me?
  • Travel essentials for Thailand?
  • Where is better to live? North vs. South? City vs. country?

You get the idea.

However, one research topic that was challenging for me to search for was “teaching/teachers in Thailand.” Don’t get me wrong, I did find many posts, stories, and information about the Thailand School system, both positive and negative, but it was a hard topic actually to want to search.

Why???

Honestly, everyone’s experience is their own. It is this way with traveling too. Not everyone is going to love a particular location, not everyone is going to enjoy teaching English, and not everyone is going to like their school placement or the town they are placed into, and I just didn’t want to move to Thailand with any preconceived notion. I wanted to come in “sort of” blind, I guess you could say!

I dI did speak with a few people who’ve made this life-changing move and read one or two blog posts, but overall, I kept my research to a minimum.

When I first moved here to take the TESOL course in Chiang Mai, I wasn’t expecting to learn much. My job as a Speech Language Pathologist is focused heavily on teaching language and communication to children, usually as a first language, but occasionally students who are ELL. So, for me, the TESOL certificate was more or less a formality…TESOL certificate= more money.

Can I tell you I learned something new from the course… I guess I kind of did. I’ve never taught a full class of students, especially not a whole class of 40-50 students all with varying levels of English proficiencies, so the course helped me learn more about classroom management.

Many of the management techniques are ones I use on a regular basis, but it’s easier when you only have 1-4 students at a time, so it was helpful practicing during English camp before taking on an actual classroom.

What I have learned since I started teaching is that Thai students will talk NON-STOP in class and are ALWAYS on their phones. Even when I tell them I will take their phones and do, it doesn’t stop them. And honestly, most days it is not worth the fight between the 30-50 students in each class and me. The students also tend to do other classwork, NON-STOP during English class. This isn’t anything I take personally and have just accepted the fact that no matter how hard I try, there will be students completing homework. I mean I get it. These poor students have so many assignments and projects that need to be completed on a daily basis, that sometimes they just can’t get it all done.

Was I prepared for this factor? Absolutely not. There is not much I can do to stop the talking, the cell phone usage or the completing homework, and that has been something I’ve had to learn to adjust too. Now, my smaller classes and the classes with higher English proficiency are a little easier to manage, but the general rule of thumb, cell phones, talking and homework will happen during class, and I have begun to learn to accept it as best I can.

My secret weapon to try and minimize the chatter during class are two soft toy dice. These inexpensive, plush toys come to class with me every day and when they talk excessively, and after I repeatedly ask them to be quiet, I throw the dice to two students and make them talk to each other in Q & A format. It’s one of my greatest tools and very entertaining for me to watch the students plot who they will throw it too next. And by plot, I literally mean, plot! It’s the most enjoyable thing to watch them try and find someone who isn’t paying attention or plot to throw it to a boy and a girl, who are sometimes dating each other (or like each other, I’m assuming). There have been many times my students have hit each other in the head both purposefully and accidentally (the dices bounce).

In addition to management, it was helpful to learn how to teach “practical usage” of the English language, meaning focus more on conversational skills and functional purpose. Here in Thailand, many of the Thai English teachers focus heavily on grammar, while native English teachers usually focus on speaking English in a conversation style manner. However, let me emphasize, every school is VERY different in how they want their native English speakers to teach. Some schools have a strict style of teaching, including a curriculum, and as teachers, you must learn exactly what your school asks of you.

For me, I’ve been fortunate with a school, which gives me a lot of free reign in my classes and curriculum. I do have a general outline of what my Thai co-teachers are teaching, but I can generally teach what I want to teach and use whatever style works for me!

In regards to teaching style, the way the TESOL course taught seemed more directed towards younger children; present the vocabulary words with pictures, have Q & A sticks for practice, then play games for speaking. Since I am placed at the Mattayom level and teach 15 to 17-year-olds, I have had to slightly adjust the way I teach to support language growth and language function.

I still have a selected theme, a group of vocabulary words and try to incorporate questions and answers into each class; however, I give the students opportunities to guess the vocabulary words and or definition of each word to support memory recall and comprehension (very speech pathologist of me). I also try and get the students to figure out a full- sentence answer on their own. I tend to incorporate worksheets that follow a question-answer style vs. playing games. This allows them to have to speak to several students each time and practice conversation style English or at least I try to have them practice conversational English. In reality, the students copy each other in WHATEVER I have them do in class. It’s just my reality!

Why?!? They really, really, really don’t like getting things wrong, their English isn’t very proficient, and/or they just don’t understand what is going on in class, and all of that is okay. That is my reality as a native English speaking teacher. These things happen and I have to learn to adjust things based on each class, simplify the lesson, change the activity, change the vocabulary or terminology on the fly, and realize not every student is going to understand. Many students rely on what I have written on the board during the activities to “read” what they are supposed to say and that’s okay.

I do have the occasional 2-3 classes that finish everything I ask of them in 30-35 minutes, and I have to wing things because of a higher English proficiency, but in general, I have to keep things simple. And when in doubt…I throw the dice around the room (and I haven’t laughed harder or had more fun in my classes then the times the dice are out)!

Now don’t get me wrong, do try and incorporate games into class, but with older students and only 50 minutes (reality 45 minutes on a good day), the games don’t usually work out, and they don’t usually happen in English. Again, my reality!

It has been quite an adventure learning to teach English to high schoolers and vastly different from my job as a Speech Pathologist in St Thomas, where I was working primarily with preschool-3rd graders. I have learned how to have fun again with teaching language and less on the paperwork/legality aspect that my career holds. This has been the break I needed mentally, and my stress levels have reduced significantly. I can’t say I don’t miss my career, because, in all honesty, I genuinely do! I miss the little buggers I use to work with, I miss their smiles and their hugs, but my mental health needed this extended break, and I’m happy with where I am at and teaching English!

Living the Island Life: St. Thomas, USVI

I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone.

I’ve traveled.

I’ve lived away from family.

I’ve lived in another country.

I’ve experienced many firsts.

OR so I thought. My life in St. Thomas, USVI has been more of a life experience than I EVER  EXPECTED. I knew it would be different and truth be told, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with this beautiful, cultural-filled, island-life, country in the Caribbean.

But, boy, was I in a complete culture shock when my “work-social” life began to emerge.

If you know me outside of this blog, then you know that for the last 4 years, I haven’t really EVER worked in a normal 8-5 or 9-6 style job. Read more

The Beginning of My Island Life

It’s hard to start this post because since landing on St. Thomas last Friday, it’s been completely overwhelming. People always say “it’s island time” and until you are immersed into the culture and lifestyle that doesn’t mean anything. “Island Time” has a whole new meaning to me, and I’ve only been here for a week. I’m positive that is going to change again and again as I continue to become immersed in the daily living of St. Thomas.

For those who don’t know, St. Thomas is 1 of 4 islands which form the U.S. Virgin Islands (along with St. Croix, St. John, and Water Island), an unincorporated territory of the United States since 1917. The island is home to ~51,000 residents over the ~31 square miles of land (that’s 23 miles from end to end), which sounds small but these roads are windy, steep and rough. So in reality it can take you over 2 hours to get from one side of the island to another. AND Traffic, will be, well horrible, from what I was told. We are a major port on many Caribbean cruise lines and I was told there could be as many as 5 ships in the harbor. Read more

When a Job Lands at Your Feet

I quite honestly don’t know where to begin. It’s hard to say how I landed my next job assignment, but I know it came at the right time.

If you read one of my recent post, then you know I was laid off in May and worked my last day as a full time Speech Language Pathologist on June 1st. Many of you might think, “I thought they were in high demand?!” And you might be right…when it comes to the school systems, but for me, I was dead set on the adult population. And well, um, this population, the demand is…less in demand. With the constant changes with Medicare, insurances, and billing requirements, skilled nursing rehabilitation is changing. This has been my primary setting and primary focus for the last 4 1/2 years. It’s what I’m skilled in; it’s what I enjoy doing; it’s where I thought my heart and passion belonged.

However, as usual, God had another plan for me.

I spend a good solid portion of the first two weeks in June, APPLYING. Applying to any type  of adult or medical position I found on every type of job board that is out there. I posted my resume on Indeed.com, where I’ve been blessed with excellent outcomes. I prayed and prayed that someone would lead to a call back, to an interview, to ANYTHING.

Two weeks went by and nothing. Feeling defeated, frustrated, and scared don’t really give you a good idea of my emotional status. Then came the email. The life altering, life change email. This particular email was from a staffing agency for a school system (not my preference), but what caught my eye was the location in which they were hiring SLPs…

St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands.

“Um…WAIT. You mean you are reaching out to me for placement in the VIRGIN ISLANDS?” These words actually went through my head and like any grown adult female, I forwarded the email to my mom and dad. I don’t make decisions lightly nor without my parents approval (mom and dad really do know what’s best). Here were their responses

Dad: “Wow, lot to absorb.”

Mom: “I think you should continue the process, fill out paperwork ect.  Your not accepting and might be dead end but it is very interesting.”

I did what my mom advised me to do and I honestly did not think for one second I had a shot. I haven’t been a school SLP since graduation and it’s been since probably 2010 since I last worked with a child, but I took a chance. How often does a job opportunity like this land at your feet?!!  I could mentally prepare myself for the school systems. I mean, I grew up thinking and believing I’d work with children. I always did love children. At least, that’s what I kept saying to myself.

The time between the interview and acceptance of the job was a little more than a week and I’ve been in a whirlwind ever since.

I got the job that landed at my feet without believe in myself that I’d even get offered the position. (confidence booster and reality check when people see something in me that I couldn’t see myself)

I took the job that’s going to have me move, yet again, out of my known environment and requiring me to sell most of my belongings. (starting fresh, not starting over)

I took the job that is out of my comfort and safety zone in my career in hopes for further growth. (growth is good for the soul)

I took the job that God has given me and opened the door to guide me into a new unknown.  (learning experiences and God’s guided path)

I took the job that is going to teach me more about myself as a person and as a clinician.

I took the job that I’m going to put every ounce of my heart and soul into because I was hired to make a difference in those children’s lives.

I might not have started this summer as a school SLP, but I sure am now! Life doesn’t always take you down a straight path or even a path you are hoping for, but God sure knows how to guide you down the right detour to lead you to a better outcome 🙂

Salt Lake City- Young Living Style

Last year, you might have read my blog post about my journey to Dallas, Texas for the Young Living International Grand Convention (click here) with my sister, where we spent 4 days learning more in-depth information about Young Living Essential Oils, business building concepts, and listening to multiple motivational speakers for personal development. Now, some of you who are new might not know what Young Living, which is perfectly acceptable but keep reading, this might intrigue your interest.

This past week, was the 2016 Young Living Grand Convention- Live Your Passion, except instead of Dallas, TX, it was hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is also home state to Young Living Corporate Headquarters and to the Young Living Lavender Farm. I was blessed to be able to attend this convention for the second year in a row, minus my sister/teammate. She is 37/38 weeks pregnant and traveling, sitting, walking, heat, etc. would have been, not just uncomfortable, but slightly unsafe for her and baby girl. Thankfully, being at a convention full of like-minded people, I was never alone-alone. I belong to several teams with 100+ YLEO users and being surrounded by oily users, it didn’t take long to be connected with other people.

Being apart of the world leading essential oil company, with over 1.7 million distributors around the globe, I knew this year’s convention was going to blow last years out the window, and boy, did it ever. To start, our swag bags were were nicely colored backpacks, packed full of goodies including a standing case for 8 oils, a “Live Your Passion” pin (think like pin-trading), a logo’d pen and notebook, and my ‘I’m suspecting my nephews favorite part’, finger lights (yes, I’m giving mine to them because well their 5 and 2).  Then, on top of the swag bag, they provided TWO concerts for the opening and closing ceremonies of the convention, AND a trip to the Young Living Lavender Farm in Mona, Utah. Oh, did I mention the concerts were Recycled Percussion and LADY ANTEBELLUM. I mean, come on, what other company provides not just one totally amazing concert but TWO, and thats including a Grammy-awarding winning country trio! It probably doesn’t help that Hilary, the female vocal lead of Lady A is an avid Young Living Essential Oil user as well, but still, it was Lady Antebellum (at NO extra charge).

Okay, enough ranting about the concerts, back to the good stuff- the Farm. One thing you might find fascinating is the Young Living’s Lavender Farm, called Whispering Springs Farm in Mona is the largest herb farm and distillery in the world at 1,400 acres and opened to visitors year round, and during convention was offered as a day trip. I couldn’t really pass up this opportunity to truly experience the Seed to Seal process that only Young Living offers. I won’t go into boring details, but the process is bare-none to any other essential oil company. You can find out more information about the Seed to Seal process and why (one of the many reasons), I use and prefer Young Living here.

Now, my sister and I were going to drive ourselves and as she was unable to attend, I had to search for other transportation options and I was sure glad I did. I ended up joining in with 4 other YL distributors from around the country for an eventful hour-ish long road trip  from SLC to Mona. These are the reasons why these conventions are so fun, because it’s not everyday you get to spend time with random strangers on a road trip and have something in common 🙂

The farm is home to many different herbs and flowers, including clary sage, yarrow, golden rod, juniper, sage, thyme, fennel, plus more, and YL allows for visitors to wander the fields freely and even partake in some hands-on planting. This trip was yarrow and you betcha that I planting my own seedling. Along with fields and fields of herbs and flowers, this farm has it’s own distillery designed by none other than D. Gary Young, founder of YLEO, and I got to watch how the distillation process works (another step to the Seed to Seal process). Currently, juniper and blue yarrow were being distilled and guess what…the scent was heavenly!

The farm is also home to a horse rescue sanctuary, where they train, feed and ride them in not just open fields, but for a medieval style show full of humor, excitement and jousting. It was an amazing day to say the least getting to experience the Seed to Seal process first hand and watch the philanthropic mindset of YL at work.

Speaking of philanthropic mindset, did you know that Young Living Essential Oils partners with more than 7 organizations around the world in spreading love, hope, and protection to people in need or devastated by natural disasters, called the Young Living Foundation. And did you know that YL Independent Distributors are so generous that in 4-days, we has a company raised over $1 MILLION dollars towards these projects. Young Living Foundation‘s current projects include:

  • Rebuild Nepal
  • Young Living Academy Ecuador- which just graduated it’s first graduation class of 2016 at a 100% graduation success rate 🙂
  • Maestro Orphanage Croatia
  • Hope for Justice
    • Mission: To end human trafficking and slavery, in our generation
  • African Hearts
    • Rescue program for children living in the slums and streets of Kampala, Uganda and currently provides education, food and living quarters to more than 200 children
  • Sole Hope
    • offering medical relief, education, jobs and SHOES to people in Uganda free from foot-related diseases- JIGGERS.
  • Healing Faith Uganda
    • Malaria education, prevention, and treatment in rural areas in Uganda including something so simple as a mosquito net, now at 4,000 nets per month
  • Ecuador Earthquake Relief

These are the types of knowledge we are embraced with at these conventions. I honestly had no idea how rounding out my monthly order by as small as 10 cents could impact so many children and adults around the world.

Other knowledge based areas provided during the convention included business building tips, like those involving social media, and personal development and emotional support through use of oils. If I had to write down the most important pieces of information received during the 4-day long convention, or summarize my overall experience, it would look like this:

“What do you want to stand for? What do you want to accomplish in life? What do you want your legacy to be when you leave? Write it down and don’t EVER stop chasing it.” D. Gary Young, founder of Young Living (quote summarized)

“Don’t let your emotions control your life. Take charge of your emotions and use it to persevere towards your dreams.” D. Gary Young, founder of Young Living (quote summarized)

“Dream bigger. Dream bolder. Dream WAY WAY  huge for your business.”  Carol Yeh-Gardner, Royal Crown Diamond, Young Living

“Think of 10 words you want your ‘BRAND’ to be known as and each time you post something or write something to share, see if it matches up to those words. If it doesn’t, don’t post it or share it. Be creative in your ‘BRAND’. Success doesn’t happen overnight, everyone has a back story.” Lindsay Teague Moreno, Royal Crown Diamond, Young Living

My experience with Young Living Essential Oils continues to grown with each month that I use the products and essential oils. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been, more faithful than I can remember, happier than I was before I started, and truly inspired by the people in my “oily” family and community. I started using essential oils simply to change the amount of toxins I was absorbing to give me a better life, and I had no idea the oils would change me inside and out, from my heart and soul to my muscles and body systems.

I can’t wait to show all you Mapless Followers the pictures from my adventure in SLC. Until them, happy exploring!

***Interested in learning more or just curious on the life of essential oils, don’t hesitate to contact me via email at MaplessAdventures@gmail.com or to get started on your own journey (with my support and guidance) go to https://www.tinyURL.com/LivingOilyNicoleL or https://www.tinyURL.com/LivingOilyAdventures***