A day in the life of...Natalie Chard

After multiple recommendations, this teacher moved to Thailand, where she now teaches in one of the most prestigious private schools in the country
16th June 2017, 12:00am
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A day in the life of...Natalie Chard


I’ve dreamt of living abroad ever since I can remember. As soon as I graduated from university, I applied for a teaching course and started researching the best countries to teach in. I was repeatedly met with the same answer: Thailand. In April 2014, I packed my bags and moved from Bradford to the huge metropolis of Bangkok.

After a year working as an adult language teacher, I was eager to experience a different side of teaching. So I accepted an English teaching position at Wattana Wittaya Academy, a Christian boarding school for girls aged 11-18. Founded by a missionary in the 1800s, it is now one of the most prestigious private schools in Thailand, with children being sent to attend from across the country.

My school is located in Asok, one of the busiest areas of Bangkok. I take the Skytrain (the city’s elevated mass transit system) to work at 7am every morning, which inevitably means forcing myself onto a packed carriage and enduring 15 minutes of being pressed against a stranger.

I arrive at school at 7.30am, in time for morning assembly. This is held on a field on school grounds. Each class has their uniform inspected by their homeroom teacher, and then listens to any daily announcements.

The first class begins at 8am. As the students study many different subjects besides English, I only teach around four to five periods a day, rather than the full eight. English teaching is split into a number of different subjects. I teach fundamental skills to grade 9, academic writing to grade 10, and International English Language Testing System (IELTS)/Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) preparation to grade 12. The students also have Thai English teachers who focus more on grammar than on speaking.

After the first three periods students have a 20-minute break, and then after two more periods they have lunch at 12.30. The 7th Grade girls - the youngest in the school - are required to leave their fifth period a little early to set the tables and get ready to serve food to the 12th Grade girls. It is very important within Thai culture to pay respects to your elders, and in turn for the elders to watch over those younger than them.

Following this, many older girls agree to be “sisters” of younger girls. This means they mentor them and watch over them in the same way that an older sister usually does.

Three more classes are taught, and then the girls have free time until the evening meal at 6pm. However, unless they have permission from their parents, they must stay on school grounds.

The majority of girls sleep at the school and go back to their families at weekends, if their home is close enough to reach by bus or train. Because they’re together all week, the friendships these girls make tend to be incredibly strong. Many girls, especially the younger ones, tell me that it is only thanks to the support of their friends that they are able to overcome homesickness.

While a high percentage of the students here go to university, many of them do not leave with strong English skills.

I believe this is mainly owing to large class sizes; it is common in Thailand for classes to reach up to 50 students. And to make matters worse, classes are rarely sorted by ability, which means that it can be difficult to give every student the attention that they need.

Natalie Chard is an English teacher at Wattana Wittaya Academy in Bangkok

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