• Bea Laszlo

European teachers in Asia

All right, this time I am not going to write about my own experiences, but ask others about theirs. And the story goes like this:


In the first 5 weeks I spent in Thailand I met 5 amazing human beings. One person each week. Funny thing about it? All 5 of them are teachers, just like me.

And even though we didn't spend a long time together I felt I had a special connection to all of them. Not just because of our shared passion & profession, although it might be one of the reasons, who knows.

When I thought about this, it just seemed to be some kind of sign and I felt like I needed to get something a little more out of it. So I decided to ask all of them to answer 5 of my questions. Maybe it is not only me who finds these stories fascinating ;)


After all, great teachers are so important in this world, aren't they?!

So there it is, the first three of the five, enjoy!


Matt from Switzerland

1. Who are you and what do you exactly teach?

I'm Matt, half Swiss, half Swedish; I grew up with three languages (Swiss German, Swedish and English) and I teach at a secondary school in Biel/Bienne, a bilingual city in the West of Switzerland. The subjects I teach are English and history (both in German and English). I'm also a teacher trainer, i.e. I work as a tutor for interns who are doing their internships with me.


2. Why did you become a teacher?

Firstly I did not know whether I really wanted to be a teacher. After a disastrous set of internships at schools after I finished my studies, I was not entirely convinced this was the right thing for me—however, I did apply for a position as teacher for history and succeeded, so all of a sudden, I was a teacher and had to get the job done. I struggled the first years and sometimes also considered changing my job, but have come to like it more and more. Now I love my job and don't want to change it. If I had to choose it again I would say I'd choose it because I feel it is a privilege to be able to deal with interesting, energetic and clever people on a daily basis.


3. What are the greatest rewards and challenges of being a teacher for you?

The greatest reward for me is having to do with interesting people. My students are actually very interested and also interesting people. There is so much I can learn from them and I have had so many fascinating, good and deep conversations with some of them. A number of them have also become friends, which is something I value a lot. The other thing is that I am very, very free in what I do in my classes, so I can basically spend most of the time on things that I find interesting and have a passion for, such as literature, poetry, film, theatre and discussions about interesting topics in general.

The greatest challenge for me is on the one hand the routine business, the stuff you have to do that is not really interesting but has to be done such as tests you have to write etc.


4. What does teaching mean to you (in 5 words! ;))?

RELATIONSHIP, INTEREST, DEVELOPMENT, PERCEPTION, CONTRIBUTION

Or, if you prefer a sentence: A much more interesting life.


5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years' time? (an all time favourite question)

I have always HATED this question ;) I don't like making long-term plans (even though I'm Swiss), and even more so since the course of my life over the last 2-3 years has taught me never to make any plans because they are going to end up in the bin. Predictions in that sense are useless to me; cheesy as it sounds, I prefer taking things as they come along.


Sarah from Switzerland

1. Who are you and what do you exactly teach?

I'm Sarah, 36 years old and I teach German, history and music at a secondary school in Lausanne, Switzerland. My students are 11-16 years old.


2. Why did you become a teacher?

I had always wanted to become a teacher. As a child I used to have a black board at home and thaught to my brothers when I had free time. They where not so happy to take class after their own school days, but they were 6 years younger than me, so I didn't let them have a choice ;) Also I used to help my friends with German when they needed it, since my mother is Swiss German and I can speak German fluently. I always thought that my teachers were doing such a great job and I liked the atmosphere of the classes. What I really enjoyed were the languages exchanges or museums excursions for example.


3. What are the greatest rewards and challenges of being a teacher for you?

The greatest challenges of being a teacher is to help my students have a great time in class, to help them learn with joy and get a positive impression of the topics. I'm really satisfied when I feel that they are interested and that they understand the sense of what they are learning. For example with the German language, I constantly try to make them communicate and not only do grammatical exercices. If they learn through music (songs) or through small situations, if I can help them create contact with German people and keep those contacts, this is the best challenge of my job. With history and music it is the same, the most important thing is to learn with sense, learn how to do something and be active: play music, sing, make a presentation: I don't like to be always in front of the class but I prefer to walk around the class or observe them before giving any theories.


4. What does teaching mean to you (in 5 words! ;))?

patience, tolerance, fun, improving, appreciation


5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years' time? (an all time favourite question)

HA HA... that's the question!

I imagine teaching in Switzerland because I like my country. I don't know if it will be in my current school though. But what I would really appreciate is to teach once or twice a week as a volunteer for refugees in Switzerland (they need to learn French for example to be able to integrate into society). This is the wish I have now because recently I was a volunteer in Cambodia in an orphanage and I found it a wonderful and constructive experience.



Pablo from Spain

1. Who are you and what do you exactly teach?

My name is Pablo, I’m a linguist from the south of Spain and I teach Spanish as a foreign language in the university of Thammasat in Bangkok. I've been teaching for 10 years now mostly in Spain and Thailand (around 7 years here). I focus on conversation although sometimes I do courses in general Hispanic Literature and Pop culture. I also do extra classes in companies. Oh, and sometimes I do fun workshops about tortilla or sangría.


2. Why did you become a teacher?

I decided to become a teacher as I was progressing in my undergrad school. I first didn't think much about it as vocational but as something that would help me have a pleasant life. It has turned out to be a great decision as I really enjoy this job now.


3. What are the greatest rewards and challenges of being a teacher for you?

The greatest thing about it is getting to connect with students as they learn about something that represents your home. Speaking about the world and language in which I've grown up, while knowing that students will enjoy it and learn about it. Seeing my students open themselves up and reach a point at which they can autonomously interact in Spanish, learning that they are doing things out of their class lives because they learnt to do that.

When I teach topics not directly related to language, sharing and discussing points of view, learning from my students' experiences, see how something new can open enthusiasm and curiosity in them. I hate apathy and cynicism, so anything that moves people makes me happy.

The greatest challenges are about creating the motivation, connecting and being able to respond to different demands. Every student is at a different point of the process and it’s hard to make it fun enough so that everyone enjoys it. Also understanding group dynamics and controlling them. No matter how much I’ve learnt about cognitive grammar, every group will look at the class differently depending on many factors.


4. What does teaching mean to you (in 5 words! ;))?

Very hard question, especially with 5 words only… Provide tools to face life?


5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years' time? (an all time favourite question)

In 5 years, I see myself in a non-polluted place. I'm thinking about moving from university to schools and I am currently learning French here. Maybe there is a place for me somewhere in Europe.