Talkin' Proper ~
Diary of a First-Time ESL Teacher

A year in Dan's life from TEFL course in UK to teaching English in Thailand

Dan HinkleyJust over a year ago, you could have written all I knew about Teaching English as a Foreign Language on the back of a postage stamp. Since then, I have completed an internationally recognised teaching qualification, flown four thousand miles around the world and set up life in provincial Thailand, a country I have found to be insationably interesting all the while having a teaching job I enjoy with relish everyday.

I have recorded (almost!) all that has happened to me in the past year in this diary starting before the beginning of my initial 4 week CELTA course in September 2004. During this experience, I have gone through the whole range of emotional extremes, high peaks and the occasional low trough, I have never found it boring and I haven't regretted it for a minute.

ESL/EFL teaching is a great career choice and one which doesn't have unattainable or specific requirements. You must be aged between 18 and 80ish, you must have a decent command of the English language, you must be able to apply yourself to what is an extremely intense (yet strangely enjoyable) four week course, you must be able to stump up the money to take the course and most importantly, you mustn't be afraid to make a total fool of yourself in very public surroundings!

In this diary you'll find an account of my topsy-turvy event-filled first year in ESL teaching together with tips pages providing advice that, in retrospect, I think I would have found helpful. For anyone considering a career change, a new challenge, a new experience, improved (and self-sufficient) travel options, or even if you're just curious, take a moment to read through the diary. It will give you a glimpse into the jam-packed four week CELTA course and provide an insight into what you can expect from a first year in ESL teaching.

Dan Hinkley


1: Two lessons in, all going smoothly

2: Who wants to be a TEFL teacher?

3: The flexible CELTA

4: Can teach, will travel

5: The end of the CELTA: What now?

6: Beyond Bangkok

7: The ground with a thump!

8: The trouble with plural(s)

9: Farewell to Bangkok

10: Monkey business

11: Pre-festive festival cheer! Loy Krathong

12: Monkey see, monkey do. The monkey feast!

13: Help! I need somebody...

14: No Ho Ho in festive free LopBuri

15: Tsunami terror: Disaster hits the West coast

16: Sun, Sea and Scampi 'n' chips

17: Stress relief - Thai style

18: Free phones for votes!

19: Coming up smellin' of roses

20: To Wai or not to Wai. That is the question

21: Meet the parents

22: The bright lights of Bangkok

23: YEEHAA! Round 'em up!

24: Happy New Year - The Songkran festival

25: Da Vinci code cracked! The elephant did it

26: Three weddings and a 21st

27: Monkeys, geckos, and pink ladies

28: Shocking culture? Books and covers

29: A nod and a grin

30: If it's not one thing, it's your Mother

31: Food for thought...

32: Water, water everywhere!

33: On the B of BANG!

Tips and advice

Don't forget your toothbrush
Top 10 things I think you should remember to pack when you fly out for your first (or even if it isn't your first) teaching position in a foreign country.

Avoiding the first ESL lesson blues
Some of the things I think you can do to help the first lesson seem less painful and make the experience enjoyable, hopefully for you and the students!

Finding the perfect ESL job
A few tips and a number of questions which, if answered by you, will help to avoid the nightmare jobs and ensure you land that dream position and the experience of a lifetime.

Strictly speaking I was teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language) in Thailand, but for convenience I have mainly used the more commonly-used blanket term ESL (English as a Second Language).

© Daniel Hinkley 2005