Teacher Diaries / Thailand

A Week In The Life of an English Teacher in Thailand – Brooke’s story

Ntobeko Ntombela

Ntobeko Ntombela

October 24, 2019

This week we chatted to Brooke who recently began her journey of teaching English in Thailand with TravelBud. Below are Brooke’s own words on what a week is like for her teaching English in Thailand. Happy reading!

brooke mazac in her thai classroom

Miss bee and her kids.

When I set out to write this post, my intention was to paint a picture of my average week as a teacher in Northern Thailand.

As I reflected on it (and went through nearly a full week mulling the idea over), I realized that average is a laughable word. My life here is anything but average.

It’s unpredictable, dynamic, and transitional. Every day, every week, every class or meal is a learning experience, alters my routines, and expands my once-modest comfort zone here. But here is my good ‘ole college try at synthesizing what a week in this crazy beautiful life looks like.

 

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But first, a few things about my town & job. I live in the town of Tak in Tak Province. We’re surrounded by mountains, have a nice river promenade and an abundance of markets. My town is far from large, and there are not very many fluent English speakers outside of the 10 other foreign teachers.

My school is a Catholic school that has a little over 2,000 students. I teach kindergarten, as well as some P6 (6th grade) classes, totaling about 500 students. Despite their intimidating numbers, every single one of them brings the biggest smile to my face. I consider myself so so so incredibly lucky!

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Monday

I’m up by 6:45 to make coffee, get dressed, and pack my schoolbag. I take my motorbike to school, just 5 minutes from my apartment. On the way, I pass a stand selling roasted corn and bananas and an interesting dense donut-type treat. Sometimes I stop and get a treat for breakfast. I pull into school just before 7:30 and sign in before heading to the kindergarten building. (I teach K2 and K3 on Mondays and Tuesdays before retiring to the main office for the rest of the week.)

I bring my things to my desk before heading to the assembly where the kiddos are lined up much straighter than one would believe kids of their age to be capable of. Assembly consists of the flag raising, prayer, meditation, and a dance. Have you ever seen 500+ little ones meditating? They’re concentrating with all their might, eyes squeezed closed. It’s quite the treat to me.

Brooke Mazac - teaching kids in Thailand. - monday

Even Monday are a blessing with these kids.

I teach 6 classes on Mondays. When I open the door to the classrooms there are 30-40 smiling faces squealing “Teacha Bee, Teacha Bee” and waving like crazy. They make me feel like an absolute celebrity at all times and it’s magical.

After my last class ends at 3:40 and we stay at school until 4:30. When the bell rings I leave school and head to E-Guide, where I tutor after school three days a week. More often than not, there’s a 7-Eleven stop on the way there for an iced coffee and a toastie (or as Americans would say before living here, a grilled cheese) or some other snack.

Mondays at E-guide I teach a small group of P2 (second grade). They provide an English curriculum, so I just show up and my materials are ready. I’ve gotten really comfortable with my after-school kids and they really are some of the smartest little things I’ve seen yet.

 

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I tutor from 5 to 6:30, then I’m free for the evening. I’ll head home to change before going to the gym with my neighbor, an American co-worker. The gym is small, not air-conditioned, and the weights equipment would be considered sub-par by the western world, but I love it. The people are nice, it’s got all the equipment I need to get the job done, and it costs me less than $1 every time I go.

After the gym, I’ll shower and cook something in my apartment, and maybe hang out with some of the other foreign teachers that live in my apartment building before turning in for the night.

Tuesday

Brooke Mazac - Teaching eglish in Thailand - Tuesday

Tuesdays are for kindergarten also, so they go almost the same as Mondays do at school except my voice is starting to waver on the 24th round of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

After school on Tuesdays, I don’t have tutoring, so I’ll usually try to get laundry done and catch the sunset at the river. It’s incredibly cheap to use the washing machines a few streets over, but I prefer to save time and use the drop-off service a few doors down.

In the afternoons, my landlady likes to play badminton with my neighbors and I. We don’t have a net or keep score, but it’s good exercise and a fun way to hang out. After this, we could go to the Pad Thai place up the road, our favorite one. There’s a man who speaks great English who works there who enjoys coming chat with us when we go.

Wednesday

Brookr mazac - teaching children in Thailand - wednesday

One of the many fascinations you see on a daily basis in Thailand.

On Wednesdays I’m back in the main office with my friends, trying desperately to regain the energy I exerted making foreign language class fun for 400 small fries. I have two classes that I lead teach in and three that I assist in. I really do enjoy the days in P6 despite not wanting to teach above P3 (3rd grade) at first. They’re great kids & fun to teach, plus I love the contrast in ability & maturity after teaching the little ones.

After school, I’ll head to tutoring again, where I have P1 1st grade) kiddos on Wednesdays. There are 6 in the class and we have a blast. I’m blown away by how advanced some of the kids English skills are!

After tutoring, I’ll drive my scooter over to the market and pick up dinner for 30 baht (about $1). My current favorite is braised pork over rice, served with veggies and a sweet but savory broth. Sometimes I will eat in my room while I watch Netflix, or I’ll sit downstairs at the apartment and chow down while seeing people trickle in from their quest for dinner. It can turn into a big picnic if the timing is right.

Thursday

 

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Thursdays look a lot like Wednesdays except my timetables are shifted. I assist with a few classes and have a few classes that I lead. You’re not supposed to have favorites, so I’ll just say that I love Thursdays because I have my highest proficiency class on this day. It’s so crazy to think how good some of my students’ English is, especially considering my students are not only learning Thai and English but also basic Chinese and Burmese. Little geniuses, I swear!

My tutoring class on Thursdays is 10 kindergartners and it can be WILD. It’s challenging at times after a long day, but I’ve gotten to know these rascals quite well and we’re figuring out what works.

After tutoring, I’m usually in a “treat yo’self” mood, so my pal Taylor and I go to our favorite restaurant for our favorite meal: Friends’ House for Cashew Chicken. The food makes this spot our fave, but the ambiance is a bonus. We sit outside surrounding a small pond with a fountain, and there’s nearly always live music.

Friday

Brooke Mazac - teaching English in Thailand - friday

Stress for who?

Finally Friday! Fridays are my easiest days at school. I attend three classes but I’m only lead teacher in one. The rest of my time in the office is spent working on lesson plans for the next week, writing, and practicing Thai.

After school, the other foreigners at my accommodation usually congregate on the steps of our building as everyone trickles in from their day and discuss the funny things we encountered that week. We’ll also make plans for the evening.

Our favorite bar in town is next to Tesco and looks like someone cleaned out their garage and ordered a case of beers to serve. The guys who work there bring us food they’re cooking all the time and the locals love to practice their English when they see us out. There’s also a nightclub, a karaoke lounge, a few restaurant/bars with live music that we pop into occasionally as well.

Saturday

 

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On Saturdays, we get Khao Soi. During the week, my school provides lunch for me, which means we aren’t allowed to leave and therefore miss this lunchtime delight most days of the week. However, on Saturdays, if we don’t sleep too late, we can make it to the tiny house-turned-shop that sells a bowl of this coconutty-buttery-spicy-savory goodness for just 30 baht.

Taylor and I have been hanging out with a Thai teacher from school, the fabulous Kate. Saturdays we usually meet up with Kate to go camping, explore a coffee shop, or go spend the night in nearby Mae Sot. We always have a ton of fun and get to learn more Thai.

Sunday

Brooke Mazac- teaching English in Thailand - motorbiking with other expats

Expats out in the town.

I’ll wake up and walk down to the coffee spot that I can only hit on weekends, then across the street to the omelet place. I return to my apartment and pack a bag with a towel, a book, my swimsuit, and a hat and head to the Viang Tak Riverside Hotel. I walk up the stairs and through the lobby and to the pool, where someone brings me a menu. They allow us to use the pool so long as we purchase something, which is a small price to pay for the happiness a day in the sun brings me.

Sometimes I’ll skip the pool and jet off on my scooter, exploring the town and finding new places to try. It’s a surefire way to clear my head and get rid of the blues, as I love the wind in my face and seeing the mountains in the distance.

Sunday evenings I’ll hit the walking street market by the river. I’ll grab dinner and maybe a pair of earrings or some fruit. Then it’s back home to tidy up my accommodation and check over my lesson plans before winding down with some Netflix.

Overwhelming Gratitude

Brooke Mazac - Teacher in Thailand

Catch me if you can.

I moved here with the idea that I would be teaching near a beach, preferably kindergarten and preschool. I got placed in the mountainous North and thrown a few grade 6 classes as well. Luckily, the wonderful instructors during my in-class TESOL reminded us frequently, “Thailand doesn’t give you what you want, it gives you what you need.”

I wouldn’t trade my experience so far for all the beaches or preschoolers in the Kingdom.

 

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My in-class TESOL and cultural orientation provided helpful information about Thailand’s education system, culture, politics, and religion. While starting any new job is nerve-racking and moving is certainly a jump from your comfort zone, I feel that my time in my TESOL course gave me all the background knowledge I needed, as well as support when things were unclear or intimidating.

I find myself thinking so many times a day just how lucky I am to be here. It’s a world apart from life back home, but it’s become my normal. The people, the food, the students, the geography, the lifestyle. The initial jump from your comfort zone is admittedly scary,  but the payoff makes me thankful for that jump every day.

To keep up with Brooke’s Teaching English abroad journey you can follow her on her various platforms:

Instagram: @Brookemazac 

Facebook page: Brooke Mazac

Website: brookemazac.com

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One of the best ways to fully immerse yourself into Thai culture is by teaching English in Thailand. It’s one of our most popular programs and for good reason too, you can earn generous salaries of $800-$1200 and with low cost of living, you can really save to travel around Thailand and its neighboring countries. Another exciting drawing point for Thailand is the 2 and a half months of school holidays teachers get, which they can use to travel through Southeast Asia and other countries in the region.

 

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