In traditional Thai culture, high value is placed on learning and education as with most other Asian countries. As a result, teachers are highly respected as they are associated with being authoritative and knowledgeable. We asked several of the teachers who are Teaching English in Thailand to reflect on the ways in which English teachers specifically, are held in high regard in Thai society.
It depends on what town or city in Thailand you are placed in, but in most cases English teachers are highly regarded and treated as very important people by the locals, and especially by the students’ parents. We identified three areas where this level of high regard is highlighted: the locals’ consideration of the significance of English, their desire to flaunt their tradition and the value of mutual respect.
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Significance of English
Emily (South Africa) says that from the beginning it was clear that it was very important to the elders for their children to learn the global language, English.
Ari (USA) feels that often English teachers are “like something to show off to parents.” The opportunity to learn English is very significant for the Thais and as a result, “the English teachers are looked up to in a big way.”
Emily (South Africa) explains how sometimes the parents would even hang around the English classrooms at collection time to see what was happening. The parents regard what the English teachers do for their children as very important and as a result, “love to give the teachers gifts to show their appreciation” according to Emily’s (South Africa) experience.
Flaunt their tradition
Thais are a proudly traditional nation and because the English teacher is highly regarded, many of the locals love to flaunt their tradition for them. The relationship with the English teacher is reciprocal and many of the locals use the opportunity to expose the English teachers to as much of the Thai culture as possible.
Emily (South Africa) says that “many of the parents or Thai teachers wanted to show us the local gems or introduce us to their customs.” This reciprocal relationship is an incredible opportunity for English teachers to experience the rich local culture that Thailand has to offer from a local perspective.
Respect is Mutual
Isabel (USA) says that from her experience as an English teacher, she is definitely held in higher regard than Thai teachers. Any time she mentions that she is an English teacher to a local, they light up. Even though English teachers are held in high regard in Thai society, this is obviously not the case for all of the students all the time.
In Kimiko’s (USA) experience, teachers have to “earn the personal relationship that allows students to really feel a deep respect.” It can take some time for students to warm up to the teachers and as Kimiko (USA) explains, the students “will be polite, but not develop a personal relationship or interest in the teacher until the teacher opens up to them”. This personal relationship between student and teacher is based on developing a mutual respect where trust and rapport is built over time.
At TravelBud we pride ourselves on the fact that we only offer teaching, volunteering and work experience that our staff or trusted friends have personally done. We strive to create a platform which helps you understand exactly what to expect from each of the Travelbud teach English abroad programs.
We are still in contact with most of the people we have placed and this allows us to continually grow our community of international citizens who can share their first-hand experiences of our programs with others.
Stay tuned for part five of our Teachers Talk Series where we ask our teachers to share their most memorable moments of teaching English in Thailand.
Find out more about the Travelbud Teach English in Thailand Program.