The Regional English Training Centres (RETC) in Thailand aim to develop English levels and teaching methods and to improve the confidence of primary and secondary school teachers nationwide. One of the key roles in the RETC is that of Master Trainer (TMT), a position filled by Thai teachers who will in future be able to deliver training to their fellow English teachers. We spoke to TMTs Kae and Paeng about their experiences on the project.
Before becoming TMTs both Kae and Paeng worked as English teachers in government schools and were very involved with extra-curricular activities. As well as teaching up to 25 classes a week Paeng told us that she “took care of the projects about academic improvement of students, open house, English Camp, ordinary national educational test preparation, smart class students, and student council.” On top of teaching Kae and her students “worked together for our 1-year project, the bilingual (English – Thai) live talk show and English skit at the school’s morning assembly. I also won the Golden Medals of the National OBEC AWARDS in 2015 and 2016 for Classroom Management in English Teaching.”
They both attended the RETC pilot project, Boot Camp, in 2016 and were selected to be Master Trainers based on their aptitude and enthusiasm for training. Paeng jumped at the chance to become a trainer: “I was so interested in this opportunity and I had a passion and also a commitment to start my development in this challenging field.”
It is a challenging role, as Kae explains; “The objective of being a TMT is to set a good example for Thai teachers. TMTs represent the mastery of training and teaching English in Thai context. We act as a mediated facilitator/academic coordinator of the project.” Collaboration is also a vital part of the role “Being a TMT involves mutual learning and sharing. TMTs learn training/ teaching techniques through the British Council curriculum and share the techniques with Thai teachers. Also, we jointly share our wisdom and insight and training ideas with British Council trainers and Thai teachers.”
A normal day as a TMT can be very varied including tasks such as observing training sessions, planning training, giving peer-feedback, cooperating with faculty staff in the host school, and dealing with any issues the participants may have. TMTs also work very closely with British Council trainers and continue learning as they work. According to Paeng “different trainers have different mentoring styles and techniques. However, the difference does not cause trouble but creates various interactions and development. I have learned from observing their sessions, discussing them before and after my own session, and being mentored.”
TMTs are in an ideal position to witness the changes in the teachers. Kae noticed that they “change their teaching styles and teaching attitudes. It is noticeable in the microteaching lessons and feedback sessions that they have shared their positive thinking towards the RETC training... Many teachers share their reflections and experience through pictures and video clips of their class, showing the students’ engaged learning behaviours in a positive environment.”
Paeng tells us that “at the beginning, they tend to be afraid of being trained for 3 weeks, don’t realize how important this training is and feel insecure about microteaching. However, after their first microteaching, they gradually change their ideas and feelings. They said that they gain a lot of useful experience and it is quite different from the teacher training they have ever attended before”.
RETC is not only a development opportunity for the teachers but also for the TMTs. It has benefited Kae in many ways. “Flexibility is the most valuable thing I’ve learned since I started. Working with four different cultures in a cohort (the RETC host school, RETC office, BC trainers, and Thai participants) needs flexibility, compromise and open-mindedness. There may be challenges but flexibility will narrow the challenges down.” She has also “learnt a great deal of training techniques, and many more things related to teaching practice in my field that I can adapt in my future teaching contexts.”
While the project may be time-bound Paeng sees her role as a TMT as an integral part of her career going forward: “I am and I will be a TMT for my whole teacher life as long as I still develop myself and keep learning and sharing with the Professional Learning Community… Working as a teacher is dealing with learners to support them to achieve their goals. Now, my learners are changing from students to teachers but I still have the same objective. This is a big career gamble, even in the short term, but it is definitely worth it. This motivates me and then I can motivate, encourage, or inspire other teachers.”
Miss Nopparat Yukkasemwong (Paeng) is an English Teacher at Watraikhing Wittaya School, Sampran, Nakhon Pathom Province, Thailand.
Saengkae Khonghuayrob (Kae) is an English teacher at the Anubanmuang Uthaithani School, Uthai Thani Province.
Both Kae and Paeng are currently Thai Master Trainers at the RETC Training Centre at Chandrakasem Rajabhat University, Bangkok.