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Be like Armie: Finding Fulfillment and Purpose Teaching Abroad in Thailand

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Scott Hayden once said, “Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together.”

To say that teaching requires passion, dedication, patience, and selflessness is a cliche because everyone knows that when they choose to be a teacher, they should be equipped with these qualities that everyone stereotypes as the qualities of a good teacher.

Becoming an Expat Teacher: Embracing Change for Growth

SBW BFITS Program ASEAN Day - Proud Filipinos in Thailand!

Teachers are called many things: educators, mentors, instructors, and sometimes, mom or dad. No matter what they are called, we can all agree that they truly have a gift for influencing lives inside and outside their classroom. They can make or unmake their students, making teaching the noblest profession.

Teaching hasn’t always been my childhood dream. Growing up, I saw myself pursuing law school. However, due to some circumstances, I pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, which was not my dream job. At first, I didn’t really like to be a teacher because I saw how difficult it was to be a shaper of the future, and I knew within myself that I did not have the qualities that make a good teacher as most of us think. Nonetheless, I carried on studying and graduated with flying colors.

SBW BFITS Program Teachers doing Gate Duty

As the years went by, I learned to love this profession not only because it is my bread and butter but also because I see hope, happiness, and inspiration in the faces of the children I teach. I always look forward to seeing my students, chatting with them during my free time, sharing life lessons, and teaching them life skills that are not taught in class.

These experiences allowed me to reflect on going beyond my comfort zone to become a teacher abroad – an expat!

Cultivating Resilience: Lessons from Teaching in Thailand

Interviewing students for AFS Exchange Program

For me, embracing change is necessary for personal growth and development. Change is inevitable, and those who resist it may find themselves stuck in an unhealthy and unhappy environment. Change often brings about innovation and improvement, pushing individuals to adapt, learn, and progress. Embracing change empowers us to break free from stagnant routines and explore new horizons, fostering resilience and creativity.

On a personal level, change is necessary for self-discovery and improvement. It inspires us to step out of our comfort zones, confront challenges, and learn from diverse experiences. Whether it be a change in career, workplace, or environment, the courage to embrace change allows for personal reinvention and the cultivation of a more flexible and strong character. Each change, even if initially daunting, opens an opportunity for growth and a chance to discover untapped potential.

Embracing Thai Culture: An Expat Teacher’s Journey to Adaptation

Experiencing the merit-making tradition

It was in May 2018 that I finally decided to embrace change and cut my teeth on teaching abroad in Thailand. I had been teaching in the Philippines for years but wanted to emerge into another culture and see what future awaited me here.

It was difficult at first because I had to go back to basics – learning their curriculum, learning their language, and adjusting to their culture at the same time. I was a strict and, most of the time, serious type of teacher, but when I learned about Thai culture, I gradually transformed into a calm, more patient, and more considerate person. The more I engaged with diverse students and adapted to evolving educational settings, the more I have experienced a profound transformation that goes beyond the conventional boundaries of my subject matter expertise.

Teaching in Thailand has taught me valuable lessons such as taking things slow, letting go of things I cannot change, and most especially, being slow to anger. Whenever I feel upset and exhausted, I always think of what Thai people always say, “Jai Yen Yen” meaning “take it easy.” Their culture has greatly impacted me as an individual and changed me into a better version of myself.

Beyond Borders: Personal and Professional Growth through Teaching Abroad

Judging in the English Competition with Thai and foreign teachers

The role of an educator extends beyond the imparting of knowledge; it involves a never-ending journey of personal and professional transformation. Throughout this new chapter in my life’s journey, the BFITS Thailand and the Saraburiwittayakhom (SBW) School team have always been my rock and refuge. They served as my anchor, a great supporter, and a family. I have never felt lost as an expat because I know that I have someone to talk to in every challenge I encounter.

BFITS Thailand has also encouraged me to consider every day as a golden opportunity to do a bang-up job. Though I have been teaching for more than a decade, I still see myself as a neophyte wanting to learn more and achieve more as an educator. This company ensures that you are well-guided and equipped as you pursue your teaching career in the Land of Smiles.

From being a stressed and overworked teacher to a worry-less, carefree, persistent, and easy-going person – I can ultimately say that Thailand has greatly changed me. Students here are fun-loving, energetic, kind, adventurous, and respectful, and that’s made me love teaching in Thailand more. Thai teachers here are also helpful and friendly. They are willing and ready to lend a hand when asked for help.

Lessons Learned and Future Aspirations in Thailand

SMBP Student General Knowledge Quiz Bee

To sum it up, my experiences in teaching in Thailand have been my stepping stone towards personal and professional growth. The cultural differences, diverse learning environments, and unique challenges I have encountered have not only deepened my perspective but have also extended my understanding of the transformative nature of teaching. It has taught me the importance of flexibility and resilience in the face of change.

The amazing and unique tapestry of Thai culture, coupled with the wide-ranging needs of my learners, especially in speaking the English language, prompted me to reassess my teaching methods and search for innovative approaches to utilize in the classroom. Through this process, I discovered the beauty of adaptability and the rewards that come with a willingness to learn from both successes and setbacks. The learnings and connections I made with my students and colleagues in Thailand have left an indelible mark on my teaching philosophy.

Helping the Thai students from our Saraburiwitthayakhom (SBW) School BFITS Program for a project

As I reflect on my journey as an educator in Thailand, I am reminded that true growth happens when one steps outside one’s comfort zone, leaves one’s home, and bravely tries something unfamiliar. Moving out and merging into a different culture is never easy, but with prayers, determination, persistence, and courage, everything will eventually fall into place.

About the Author
Armie Caluza

Armie Caluza

Armie is an English teacher from the Philippines. She has been in the profession for over 13 years (7 years with the Department of Education in the Philippines and 6+ years with BFITS Thailand). Teaching is her passion and she enjoys every single lesson with her students. She loves Thailand's culture and tourist attractions, thus, making her want to stay more in the Land of Smiles.
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