In 2001 my friend Mark was teaching English to a group of 14-year-old Thais at a government school in Bangkok. It was his first few months in Thailand and he had limited experience as a teacher.
A student raised his hand and asked Mark a question about the present perfect tense.
He had no idea what the answer was. So he stalled the student by giving the class some work. Then Mark ran to his desk, picked up his flip phone and called his mom in England. He asked her to look up the answer on her home computer.
Smartphones have changed everything.
At the end of class Mark returned to the student’s question and gave the class the answer.
That day, Mark learned the hard way that to teach English in Thailand with no experience can lead to an uncomfortable setting in the classroom.
Like Mark, many of the teachers who come to Thailand have no experience teaching. They come from all walks of life. They were office clerks, blue-collar workers, lawyers, retirees, taxi drivers, college graduates. You name it.
Today I want to put your worries to rest. You don’t need teaching experience to teach English in Thailand. Yes, you read that right. Want it again? You can teach English in Thailand with no experience.
Even the best teachers have to start somewhere. But unlike Mark, I don’t want you hiding under your desk frantically searching your smartphone over slow wi-fi for answers you don’t know.
But how much time does it take to build up teaching experience? Usually about one year of teaching full-time. I know that sounds like a lot. But you have to consider that you’re not only teaching English, you’re learning how to teach English to students from a different culture.
This means you’ll need experience so you know when students are struggling. You’ll need to know when to take your lessons down a notch for beginners and when to throw a lesson out the window and start anew.
Experience will also help you keep your cool when things go wrong. You’ll be confident enough to pull from your experience and adapt to changes in the classroom.
But to teach English in Thailand with no experience can be beneficial. For one, you’ll do everything by the book. You’ll follow the PPP teaching method just as you learned in your TEFL course. You’ll spend hours planning the perfect lesson plan. You’ll want to do your best with every class. And if you don’t, you’ll want to make it that much better next time. All of this will give you experience as an ESL teacher in Thailand.
Sometimes experienced teachers get so far off track they forget how to deliver a proper ESL lesson.
But, you’re probably wondering. How do you get a job and teach English in Thailand with no experience?
Most academic directors in Thailand understand that teachers need to start somewhere. So they usually give the prospective teacher some leeway as long as the teacher is presentable. Without experience, at the job interview you’ll want to talk about the personal skills you have that separate you from everyone else.
Will you get a job teaching at the university or prestigious international academy? Probably not. But again, you have to start somewhere. And smaller private schools, government schools, and language centers will be open to hiring you to teach English with no experience.
People ask me if there are any shortcuts to gaining experience as an English teacher in Thailand.
Experience will always be the best teacher.
But here are a few things you can do if you want to teach English in Thailand with no experience
Watch other teachers.
Watching other teachers is a great way to learn what works and what doesn’t work in the classroom. But you have to find a teacher who is willing to let you sit in on their class.
Read and watch videos about teaching English to non-native English speakers.
Your TEFL course will teach you how to teach English in Thailand. But the TEFL will probably focus on one method. If you want to learn other ways you’ll need to read books, blogs, and watch videos specific to teaching Thais.
Talk to experienced teachers.
If you have any experienced teacher friends, take them out to lunch and pick their brain. Ask plenty of questions. Most of the time teachers will be happy to share some of their teaching tricks with you.
Take a course that teaches you everything you need to know about teaching English in Thailand.
Supplementing your TEFL with other courses is a great way to gain more insight into teaching English in Thailand. Courses like Teach Business English in Thailand prepare you for everything you need to know about teaching Business English in Thailand.
Use sticky notes.
Keep a set of sticky notes close by while you teach. Write down what you do right and what you do wrong in the classroom. Review your notes after each class and make adjustments for next time. How do you know what you’re doing right and wrong if you have no experience? Don’t worry. The look on your students faces will tell you.
Teach as many classes as possible.
Teach the classes you don’t want. If everyone else is saying no, you say yes. You’ll learn more from teaching the unwanted classes than you will by teaching the fun classes. Delivering the perfect ESL lesson won’t show you what you need to work on for next time. But the classes that are boring will.
So what ever happened to Mark?
Today Mark is one of the best Business English teachers I know in Thailand. When I first started 3 years ago he took me under his wing and taught me things that only a person with fifteen years of experience can.
But Mark’s story is a great reminder that you don’t need experience to teach English in Thailand. But you do need experience to become a good teacher.
So get out there and start teaching.
P.S. Teaching credentials is only 1 of the 35 + topics you’ll find out about in the Teach English in Thailand Audio Guide. Download it now and learn how to become an English teacher in Thailand in just one hour.