What were some of the highlights of being an ETA?
I have some wonderful memories; living in a wooden teacher house with no windows in a tiny village 10 hours away from Bangkok; white water rafting down the river Khek with a gang of fellow ETAs over a long weekend; gradually getting to grips with a new language and having my first conversation entirely in Thai; sitting under a hot tin roof surrounded by Thai teachers as the light in the grey sky above faded into the vast rice paddy and guitar music and Thai songs filled the air; seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter of my students as we pretended to be animals, ice skaters or government officials in a hot classroom at a small school in a village where foreigners don’t go.
What were some of the challenges of being an ETA?
There were a few challenges: Sweating constantly; being bitten by mosquitoes; being conspicuous at all times; trying to get students not just to copy things but to understand them; going to staff meetings which were entirely incomprehensible to me; running out of English books to read; finding nice vegetarian street food; feeling like simple tasks are no longer simple because of the language barrier (though this eases over time).
However, the highlights far outweighed the challenges!
What was your most memorable classroom moment?
“Teacher Angel, are you single?” I approved of my new nickname, less so the question following it. Surrounded by 18 year old technical college students I knew that I’d have to do something different to keep the class’ attention whilst teaching them about British culture. I was visiting another ETA and was used to cute pre-teens, so this class presented a new challenge. However, without any lesson plan, I taught them some of the basic steps of the Highland fling, because if any of the students ever do go to the UK, what could be more useful? I noticed that one of the boys was sitting alone and not participating. I tried to coax him to join the class. Laughter filled the room, and he blushed. His classmates kindly, if somewhat too late, pointed out the crutches that were propped up against the wall behind him.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking of becoming an ETA?
Are you interested in teaching? Are you a good communicator? Are you open minded? Can you take care of yourself?
Are you willing to learn about a new culture and to adapt to a different environment rather than expecting it to change to suit your needs or desires? Home comforts and luxuries are not part of the deal – some people will have access to wi-fi and western toilets, many others will not.
Look at it as a chance for professional development; you are there to work in Thai schools. Though many ETAs go travelling at the weekends and after the programme, the TET Programme provides work and a job. Don’t look at it as an excuse for a holiday.
Recognise that Thailand is a developing country. Though some areas are extremely well connected there are swathes of Thailand that are difficult to access and public transport in Thailand is not as developed as it is in the West. Some placements are remote, so don’t come expecting otherwise.
Do your research. Read up about the programme on the British Council website, read blogs from previous ETAs, talk to your university careers advisors about it.
Good luck, and enjoy! Make the most out of it, as it’s a wonderful opportunity.
What does your job as TET intern involve?
Tom and I have different roles as we both have very different interests, experiences and skills, so between the two of us we have all bases covered. My role involves supporting the communications and PR team. Last week I assisted on set in Ayutthaya when Spring News TV came to report on the TET 2014 Programme. I have been liaising with contacts in Thailand, East Asia and the UK to publicise the programme. I am helping organise the blog competition which is judged at the end of the programme and have set up and run weekly photography competitions for the ETAs.
In addition to the press and communications side of things, Tom and I are available for peer support. We are available to advise, console and encourage ETAs throughout their time in Thailand.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently applying for the British Council English Teaching Graduate Scheme 2014 and plan on completing my CELTA course in Thailand after I finish my internship in Bangkok. I hope that with this teaching qualification I will be able to work in various countries around the world where I can continue learning and growing. I also plan to do a Master’s degree in either International Relations or International Studies and Diplomacy in the not too distant future.