Great teaching mentors are priceless

Straight out of teacher training and about to start my first job, the realities of practical teaching began to set in.

With no structured curriculum it was up to me as the teacher to create an ongoing term programme that both engaged the students but also met the goal of teaching conversational English.

I had lots of theories but as the start of term approached, doubts started to form and my really clever plans began to look shaky. Then I met Darron.

Good teachers make good mentors

Darron was an experienced teacher and arrived from teaching in South Korea and before that the Middle East. He arrived in Ayutthaya the day after me.

He was starting his Thai teaching career on the same day as me but in a different high school. As a neighbour and the only other farang in our part of Ayutthaya Darron was a huge help and the ideal mentor.

With his intelligence, common sense and experience in teaching in a foreign country, Darron was not only great sounding board but a source of invaluable teaching ideas.

He became a good friend with a keen sense of humour who understood the frustrations and joy of school days in front of hundreds of teenage students.

And he spoke English -the only other English speaker in our part of Ayutthaya so we had plenty in common – especially the English language.

The day before the school term started I was in a mild state of panic. Tomorrow I was to start my teaching career with five one hour classes. I had prepared lesson plans but I was having doubts. If I had got my plans right they would they be well received. What will I do if I flop.

In a mounting panic I phoned Darron and asked if he had any spare time.

He was immediately available and listened to my plans for my first day and week and quietly and thoughtfully offered really good advice. Darron’s encouragement and support was key to my teaching survival in the first few weeks.

Mentor, neighbour and friend

As I was to find out over time, he was always very obliging, never fazed and became great company in my time living in Ayutthaya.

The view from my apartment

We used to eat dinner together regularly and it was great to have someone experiencing and understanding the same daily challenges to laugh or commiserate with.

Dinner presented its own challenge as our favourite restaurant offered a menu in Thai only. As the staff didn’t speak English, what we thought we had ordered was often completely different from what we were served. But it was usually delicious if at times quite spicy.

We both missed the occasional European meal but we thought our restaurant served only Thai dishes.

That was until an English-speaking Thai person joined us for dinner one night, picked up the menu and asked us what the steak meal was like.

Darron and looked at each other in amazement and asked if there were any other European style dishes.

“Sure – there’s also pork chops “. We both smiled happily and from that day on our eating choices improved.

How you teach them is how they’re going to learn

If you’re considering a job as a TEFAL or TESOL teach, Darron models the attributes required to be successful. He is a diligent and competent teacher who works hard to get the best from his students.

One of the most important things I learned from him was to be the best teacher you can, you must have a genuine interest in people. Also a desire to improve their development through education.

To make this happen, a good teacher should be resilient, engaged and prepared to do the hard yards.

In Ayutthaya Darron was respected by his fellow teachers and the school management and well-liked by the students. After a period in the Middle East, Darron is teaching in Thailand again (Bangkok).

If you can find a mentor like Darron, teaching life becomes easier! It has been several years since our Ayutthaya days we still keep in touch.