The Role of the Teacher in Thai culture
Children spend a large part of their formative years in the hands of their teachers and even in western societies teachers are considered role models and mentors for young minds. This is particularly true in Thailand, where great emphasis is placed on behaviour that could be considered polite, inoffensive and honourable by Thailand’s high standards.
In the distant past, monks performed the role of teachers in Thailand and children were educated in the ways of the world in temples. The monks were considered the absolute authority for moral development in the youth and had the power to decide on these morals subjectively. Although children are no longer educated by religious figures in Thailand, the role of the teacher is still viewed in the same light as that of the monks during past times. Wan Wai Kru on the 16th of January is a day dedicated to teachers, when pupils pay respect to their teachers and many schools in Thailand close for the day to give their teachers a break.
His Majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, is recorded as saying, “Teachers do the right thing. They are diligent, persistent, hospitable, idealistic, strong and patient. They are also honest, sincere and kind to others. They are wise, reasonable and knowledgeable.”
This is quite a big order to fill, especially for the young teacher starting out, but it will do you good to bear these high ideals in mind while performing your duties as a teacher, even if the senior classes test and question your competence at first.
Another important aspect of teaching in Thailand is networking. The better your relationships with those above you on the rungs of the teaching ladder, such as the relevant school deans, the greater the regard you will be afforded.
For the most part you will find these requirements easy to achieve, as Thai students are generally easy-going, polite and willing to please, making teaching English in Thailand a privilege and a joy rather than just a job.