Tiny fingertips gently stroke my arm. Looking down, Ming beams up at me and says, ‘Miss Viv, why is your skin so soft?’ Melika joins and presses the raised veins on my hands, and cheeky Kayla tussles with my ‘bat wings’ (yes, that flappy skin where my triceps once lived).
Are you wondering why I mentioned this?
Moments like these are heart-warming, memorable, and funny. These young children that I teach were curious as to why my skin was so different to their much younger Mum’s. When I decided to pursue English teaching as part of my retirement, I never imagined these innocent yet embarrassing moments were part of the deal. Certainly, nobody mentioned that on my CELTA course.
Speaking of CELTA, most English teaching positions require a certificate showing that you have completed training to teach English, i.e. TEFL, TESOL, CELTA. Oh my, when I started researching these, the number of options was a bit overwhelming.
One of the international schools where I live in Thailand, would only consider CELTA, although others accepted TEFL. CELTA was a much larger financial investment, however when I delved into the details, I felt I got more bang for my buck. So, after four intensive weeks of study in Bangkok, I had my certificate.
My goal was to gain face-to-face experience in a school or college first, and then move into teaching online.
My husband Michael and I retired and moved to Thailand nearly six years ago and, as we like to travel, teaching English online was ideal. Work and earn a little while still traveling.
Qualification achieved, it was time to put my learning into practice. The saying, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ rings true. Through an expat friend I quickly found myself a short-term contract as an EAL (English Additional Language) teacher at a top-notch international school here in Hua Hin.
From then on, there has been a steady stream of available work, often through referrals from our expat network. One of the most enjoyable gigs has been tutoring two Thai girls with their homework and English. This requires minimal lesson preparation as it’s completely tied in with their school learning.
During Covid lockdowns, students attended school online. I tutored two students with their English, math, and science. Thank goodness for Google and YouTube for helping me with ‘division by chunking’, science experiments, and even English grammar rules. The quality and diversity of online teaching and learning resources is amazing, and much appreciated.
Now, after two-and-a-half years of teaching, I find myself reflecting on my journey.
I started on this venture as a hobby and to earn some extra cash. Sure, the extra money is great, but it’s nothing compared to moments when a child realizes they have achieved. Jacob, a 7-year-old, barely knew the alphabet, but with regular one-on-one tutoring, games, and activities he started reading, and boy, did his face light up, and so did mine.
Another of my charges, Mael, has fair verbal communication, but his written skills are very low, as is his motivation to write. A few days ago, at the end of a tutoring session, he ran to his mum who had just arrived to pick him up, to show the letter he’d written welcoming his newly adopted brother to the family. Next, he dragged her to our classroom to show the spelling he had written on the whiteboard. It was far from perfect, but he was as proud as could be.
Recently I worked with a 10-year-old boy, Tiger, to improve his handwriting which was very slow and often unreadable. But we chipped away, and after four months, he was writing at the average pace for his age and a good deal neater too.
If you are thinking about teaching English, I recommend careful consideration of how you want to spend your retirement, as teaching takes time and commitment.
If you want to travel, online is more flexible than face-to-face.
Would you like to teach adults or children?
Do you want contracted hours or a flexible arrangement?
Would you want lesson plans provided, or have the wherewithal to write your own?
How many hours a week can you commit and how much do you want to earn?
Your answers to these questions will guide you on choosing the teaching certificate and where to find students.
If you choose to go into teaching, be sure to relish the delightful moments that will come your way. Be it those innocent moments with curious youngsters or the joy and appreciation that comes from students and parents as they make those steps forward in learning.