Family Volunteer English Teaching in Rural Thailand

We’ve been here for just over a week now and have settled into a bit of a routine. Very different to our beach routine! ‘Here’ is Sisaket Province in North East Thailand. We’re not far from both the Laos and Cambodian borders and we see road signs to Angkor Wat. We’re living in a small village with a wonderful host family and teaching at a small high school in a nearby village.


Village sunset view

Our hosts are two teachers, Tae, the English teacher at our school, and her husband Jun, who teaches Social Studies at the big high school in a nearby town. They also have a son, A-Tong, who is almost 5 and goes to school in the big town too. They have all been very welcoming and understanding of our farang ways. On the weekend they took us on a day trip to Sisaket and they plan to show us other local sights while we’re here. Lillian and A-Tong have bonded over Star Wars Angry Birds and line up the same level on each of their devices to play together.

upstairs into bedroom

Our upstairs area looking through to the bedroom

Our day starts at about 6am when the village loudspeaker starts broadcasting the local news. There are also roosters to help with the wake-up. We emerge from under our mosquito nets and have a refreshing cold shower. We have our own upstairs area in the house with a private bedroom, bathroom and living area. Lil is relieved that the toilet is not a squat one, but you do need to flush it with a bucket scoop. We head downstairs for breakfast which is usually quick and easy toast and cereal and by 7:40am we’re ready to head to school with Tae, while Jun takes A-Tong in another car.

On the drive to school we pass through small villages, we see buffalo, dogs, roosters, chicks, cows, rice fields, tractors (tak-taks), temples and people going about their daily lives.

First day of school for us!

Our high school

The school has 400 students from years 7 to 12. Every morning the students have assembly and flag raising and then classes start at 8:40am. We’re teaching about three or four classes a day. There are four lessons before lunch and three after lunch. If we’re not teaching we hang out in the administration area, and work on lesson ideas, keep the kids occupied (usually only Edward is an issue, and Lil takes herself off to hang out with groups of students), use the computer etc.

This week is our first week of classes so we’re teaching introductions and family words. We’re teaching all levels from 1-6 (years 7-12) and each year is divided into three ability levels. Within each class the English understanding varies widely. The students can be quite shy with speaking so Tae has told us to focus on practising this and pronunciation. Even if they already know the content, hearing us speak it and practising helps.


Teaching with Lillian

So far we have taught only as a family. From the beginning of our volunteering application I asked that we be considered one teacher, not two, so that one of us can be free to handle Edward if needed. Team teaching works well though. Dave has been leading the lessons and I write on the board and help out with group stuff and wrangle Edward as needed. We finish each lesson with a game which is the best part!

At lunch time we go to the canteen with Tae and she chooses us something to eat. The canteen is an open air building through a little forest. They have ready made food or made to order food and everything we’ve had there has been delicious. The kids eat plain rice.


Canteen Menu

After lunch it’s either teaching or hanging out again until 4pm when school finishes. Ed has a nap at some point, usually after going crazy beforehand and then crashing. Tae gave us a little mat and pillow for him to nap on.

When school is over we get back in the car with Tae (ahhhh brief air-conditioned respite!) and head home. Jun and A-Tong arrive home soon after us. Tae cooks or we eat food her mother has already cooked for us. Her mother lives just down the street. Again, most everything is delicious. We eat sitting on the floor with shared food in the middle.

dinner with grandma and friends

Dinner at Grandma’s with her friends

After dinner we might have a selection of fruit – mango, mangosteen, custard apple, apple. They grow some of the fruit in their garden and some on a family farm nearby. Lil has discovered a love of mangosteen and ate six yesterday. I wash the dishes with cold water and it’s soon time for A-Tong to do homework and for us to head upstairs for more cold showers and bedtime. I find the cold showers very refreshing in the heat but the kids have found it harder to get used to.

We sleep under mosquito nets with fans blowing and the window shutters open. The windows have no glass or screens so the air flows through. Some nights it’s very hot, but if it has rained it’s not so bad. We’re here at the end of the rainy season and have had some rain most days. I love the rain and the cooling effect it has. More rain!

So that’s a typical day here. On Thursdays and Fridays we’re at a different school that has both primary and middle school ages. Today is our first time teaching here and we’ve been treated like royalty! We’re teaching in the office/library area and the director has offered his air-conditioned office for Ed to sleep in which is where I’m writing this from with his head on my lap. They brought us a yummy lunch with way too much food to eat in the library and snacks and coffee and water throughout the day. Teaching primary age kids has been fun and Lil and Ed are enjoying the toys around the library.

Other things we’ll be helping with over the month include the assessment of the conversational English skills of all teachers and an English ‘camp’ at the high school. Even though we’re now in a bit of a routine each day still holds an element of magical mystery tour!

walking to grandma's for dinner

Walking to grandma’s for dinner

Time is zooming by. We’re here until the 28th when we head back to Bangkok to extend our Thai tourist visas for another 30 days and carry on traveling from there.


7 Responses to “Family Volunteer English Teaching in Rural Thailand”

  1. 1 Daddy Perry September 5, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    All sounds great it must be a challenge for Ed such an experience for you both and Lil

  2. 2 emmac30 September 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    I have been wondering how the village life & teaching has been going. You guys are showing you are very adaptable & make a whole variety of situations work. I’m sure it’s not always rosy with the kids, but well done so far!

  3. 3 B September 5, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Sounds like it’s working out well! Glad the kids are adapting to the classroom. Definitely a good idea to work as a unit, rather than as two separate teachers.

  4. 4 Daddy Eco September 6, 2013 at 6:28 am

    HI guys,
    loving keeping up with your travels. Looks like great fun. Mad, you are getting some great photos. I like the ‘Sunset play’ with the two kids silhouetted at sunset and the one of them on the train in Bankok, arms around each other.
    Thanks for the updates. Little Eco says to say hi.

  5. 5 Alexis September 7, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    This sounds brilliant, what an experience for all of you. Have been reading along all your posts… Sorry about my lack of comments though, seem to do all my blog reading late at night in bed at the mo, not the best typing conditions!

  6. 6 Neroli September 7, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    I’m so jealous, I you were me and I was you.

  1. 1 List 47/52 – Family Accommodation in Thailand | The places we go Trackback on November 24, 2013 at 2:43 am

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