English Teacher Interview: Kayla of Never-ending Fernweh

Kayla is a blogger and English teacher living and working in Thailand! Read about her experience: 

1. Where are you from?

I’m from Youngstown, Ohio.

2. What made you decide to teach abroad?

Honestly, I wanted to move somewhere where it was hot and there was a beach. Originally I looked at California, but California is pretty expensive. I lined everything up to move there, found a place and rented a moving truck. Then one day my fiancé said to always follow my dreams and not to let anything hold me back. So I started looking online for places we could work and SAVE money. After searching, Thailand really seemed to offer everything we were looking for, including warm weather and beaches. The perks were having a job before actually moving, a cultural experience and TRAVEL among so many other things. 

3. Which program hired you?

We weren’t hired by a program but sought out a company that would help place us in a school of our choice. I would rather not comment on the company, as after arriving in Thailand, they were less than helpful.

4. Is teaching abroad your first experience in Thailand?

It is! And it’s been a great one at that. Upon picking Thailand, we agreed that we would give it two years before traveling somewhere else. We’re currently at a year and a half and couldn’t be happier.

5. What grades do you teach?

At the government school, I teach Level 1 and Level 6, which is equivalent to 7th grade and 12th grade. 

6. Had you worked with children in education before teaching abroad?

Not in education, I did however work for in-home daycare facility for many years.

7. What surprises you most about the education system in Thailand?

EVERYONE PASSES. In Thailand, students can never fail in the government schools (<5% fail). It’s all about “saving face” here. Saving face means that you never publicly embarrass someone or make them feel embarrassed. You wouldn’t want to single someone out for making a mistake or not studying enough.
In school, we will give a student an exam. If the exam is worth 25 points, they need 13 to pass. 50%?! If the student doesn’t pass, they take the SAME test again. And will take it over and over until they pass. Something I did find out though, is if the fail the test and retest, the student can only get the lowest passing grade the second time, which is a 13. Example: They take the test on test day and get a 7. They take the test again and get 23. That student will only receive 13 because it’s the second time taking the test. 

8. What are your favorite/least favorite parts of the job?

My favorite parts of the job are the hours and my students. Although I’m at school for 8 hours, I’m actually only in class 4 hours out of the 8. The the other time I can use to prep, study, grade, etc. Second greatest thing are the students. Being this is my second year at the same school, the students really want to get to know the teachers. They go out of there way to talk to the foreign teachers. And they have a high level of respect for all teachers. That really makes me feel like I’m making a difference and that I have self-worth.

My least favorite part of the job is marking exams. Haha. Actually the size of classes and the way class periods are set up are probably my least favorite part. I have 700 students I see a week! Students only have class once a week with me, meaning I teach 1 lesson per week. As wonderful as that might sound since there is a lot less prepping involved, it’s irksome because honestly, what can a student learn in a 50 minute class AND remember a week later in their next class. Also, almost all my classes have 50 students. When you work that into one class a week, 50 minute class (if they show up and we start on time….) the percentage of student retention is pretty slim, and that can be discouraging. 

9. What is your favorite part of living in Thailand?

My favorite thing is a tie between the cultural experience and the hospitality. I live in a smaller province, 45 minutes from Bangkok and I cannot say enough about how helpful and kind the Thai’s are. As soon as you walk outside people are saying hello and smiling at you that you can’t help but smile back. They ask if you need help, they try to help even if they don’t speak English when you need it. They don’t call Thailand the Land of Smiles for nothing. It’s so true.

Secondly, the experience. I’m someone who likes to blend in with the locals. That’s pretty hard to do in Thailand being that I’m white, but following the cultural, being respectful, joining the locals for parades and holidays- it really gives you a different perspective and outlook. I say Thailand, and people think “The Hangover,” Khao San Road, Full Moon Parties, and sure those are some things you can see and do but once you take a step outside of the tourism, WOW what an experience you gain

10. What advice would you give a prospective teacher abroad?

1. First and foremost do it! I packed a suitcase, put my things in storage (in case it didn’t work out) and took the plunge. (I did return during Thailand’s summer and sold everything in the storage unit before returning for year two 🙂 ) Live a life of “I have’s” rather than “what if’s”. Teaching abroad is a fabulous experience! Remember, if it doesn’t work out, home will still be there. But you’ll never know until you take the step. These schools and students yearn to learn from foreign teachers. They want to soak us up like the sun! You won’t be disappointed. 
2. SAVE & RESEARCH! The number one reason why things don’t work out with teachers and they end up returning home is because the teacher didn’t do enough adequate research about the country or save enough money. My fiancé and I picked a country, researched, found a company, and SAVED SAVED SAVED for 11 months before moving here. Things with the company weren’t great but it was okay, because we had both read up on laws, visas, and cost of living, etc. We each applied for a credit card as backup (after researching we also found many places don’t accept credit cards in Thailand. Dolla bills). Have a plan. 

3. If you’re interested in coming to Thailand, feel free to contact me via my blog. I won’t lie- it doesn’t get updated nearly enough; but it was created to let our family and other teachers read about my experiences. Planning to go somewhere else; let me know- I’m the guru of budgeting, budget flights, budget hostels, etc. I would be more than willing to help jump start your plans and motivate your goals!

Thank you so much, Kayla! You’ve stated some great advice for any prospective teacher abroad 🙂

Check out Kayla’s blog, Never-ending Fernweh
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If you are a volunteer, language assistant, or English teacher abroad and would like to participate in an interview, let me know via the contact tab!

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