A Day in the Life of a Chiang Mai English Teacher

12:58 Amy Lou 0 Comments

Here is my typical school routine.

Some days are wildly different, when it's Sports Day or Exam Week for example. But this is just a typical, normal day. Other schools might have different timings, but a lot of things will generally be the same.


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A Typical School Day for a Chiang Mai English Teacher


Wake up
Freshly made coffee in bed at 6:25 a.m. Drag self out of bed at 6:30 a.m. Shower, get dressed, eat something and leave the house at 7:05, or 7:15 if running late.

Drive to school
Drive motorbike 20 minutes to school through very busy traffic. At this time of day, thousands of Chiang Mai parents are taking their children to school. Avoid school buses and silver vans, they drive like maniacs.

Sign in
Scan fingerprint before 7:45. Weirdly, this finger print scanning technology is in almost all Thai schools. It creates a timesheet of when employees arrive and can't be faked (easily). As well as finger scanning, I also have to sign in traditionally, with a pen.

Time before classes start
Classes start at 8.15 at my school. Before then I usually go into the teacher's office, have a cup of tea, open the PowerPoints I'm going to need for my next few classes and make sure I have everything I need in my Big Bag of Teaching Joy. That's a great big sturdy bag that I carry around books, worksheets, paper, pens, cables, balls and the Board of Awesome in.

Outside, the school song is played on repeat until the school assembly starts at around 7.50am. All students line up and sing the national anthem, and everyone stands, including us in the office. Then one or two of the senior teachers speaks to the students, telling them to eat healthy breakfasts or practicing vocabulary with them. Then students do an exercise routine called Fit and Firm and finally go into their classrooms.

Morning classes
I teach 2 - 3 English and reading classes every morning. Each is 50 minutes long. My lessons are hugely varied, but a good example of a lesson is:

1) Say formal school-style 'hello' that I think every student says in Thailand. It goes like this:

Class Leader: Stand up, please.
Students: Good morning, teacher!
Teacher: Good morning, students. How are you?
Students: I'm fine thank you and you?
Teacher: I'm fine. Sit down please.
Students: Thank you, teacher.

They really hate if you deviate from the script, for example: "How's it going?" will mostly be met with silence and blank stares, even though they know exactly what it means (because I taught it to them!). I persevere, though, because I dislike routine for the sake of routine - in real life, you have to be ready to deal with unexpected change.

2) Do fun warm up activity to get the lesson going and review previously taught language.

3) Introduce and elicit new target language. Explore how it can be used. I use this time to (hopefully) inspire my students to want to learn this language. This is extremely important to me, because I believe that inspired, interested students learn and retain more. For example we'll watch an amazing Go Pro video when talking about sports and they can't wait to discuss it afterwards.

4) Do activities to practice speaking and writing the language.

5) If they've been good, I play a game to practice speaking and writing the language. If they've broken the class rules too many times and have 3 strikes on the board, I don't play a game with them.


In my free periods, I plan and create resources for future lessons, get stuff printed, go to meetings, sort out paperwork and do marking.

Lunchtime
The school song is played to announce the beginning of lunchtime at 10:55 a.m. for primary students and 11:55 for high school students. The typical school canteen serves generally low quality Thai food for 20 baht a meal. All around the canteen are designated areas where cooks make and sell food. At my school there are around 15 options. Most food is pre-made and piled into silver trays, so it's always cold by lunchtime - noodle soup is the exception to this. As well as these designated areas, there are stalls selling ice cream and Tokyo pancakes. There aren't a lot of healthy options available - only one place cooks vegetables and one place prepares som tam. The rest is soup, fried or deep-fried food. At my school there's a shop, too, where you can buy packaged snacks and drinks. There's only sometimes fruit available. I'd like to eat lunch out of school more often, but school food is soooo cheap that I usually just eat that. The school song plays to announce the end of lunchtime.

Afternoon classes
I have 2 or 3 more classes in the afternoon.

Home time
The school song plays at 4:00 p.m. On Fridays, Thailand's national anthem is played too and we all stand. We can sign out any time after 4:15. The drive home is less busy, because a lot of parents are still at work at 4:15. If you leave school late, though, it can be even crazier than the morning commute because everyone's desperately rushing home.

...and repeat every Monday to Friday.

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