How did my first day of TEFL training in Thailand go?

It has begun. I am in school. And even though I ranted about not being in a school classroom for eight years, it’s still crazy for me to say…

I’ll be breaking down my experience in the TEFL training course into multiple blog posts over the next few weeks to give you a good insight into what it is like.

When the woman Susan who helps run the UniTEFL program in Chiang Mai first sat down with me to tell me about the program, she also stated that the course would be “pretty intense.”

Turns out that was an understatement. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem at all getting work done and soaking up knowledge on my own time. Chasing down my own creative endeavors has turned out to be the biggest catalyst of growth for knowledge and skills for me. But a high school dropout training to be a teacher in a classroom setting for 8 hours a day jotting down notes and having homework again?

Totally not used to it.

Yet, the amount of information that I’ve had to absorb in the last week and the exhausting workload has proven one thing to me: this program was so damn worth it. So how am I fairing in this new endeavor of mine? To put it straight up — it’s a freakin’ trial by fire.

So how did my first day in TEFL training go?

DAY 1 1

After signing up three days prior to the start of the course I was excited to dive right in. Yet, I still had no clue what to expect, except for knowing that it would be a month long hands-on course.

And then the big day came.

That first day of school.

The first day when you hope your clothes are cool enough looking, that you hope you will fit in, and maybe a hope there are some babes in your class.

Okay, no this wasn’t high school and I didn’t have those same first day heebie-jeebies or popularity contests, but I was a little anxious to find out what was to come.

Everything was pretty unknown and as I walked into the door, the whole “I’m back in school” feeling finally hit me.

There were already a few people in the plain white room sitting in front of their respective name tags which were taped to the table delegating where we sat. The room though was absolutely quiet; not a single person spoke — most just fiddled with their phones or tried not to make eye contact.

Completely awkward to say the least.

After fiddling on my own for a bit, the silence became unbearable. So I decided it was time to shatter the awkward silence and I introduced myself to the guy beside me. You could tell everyone’s nerves were at about the same level waiting for the course to finally start.

Susan entered the room with Pete, the TEFL instructor who would be overseeing all of our training and who had been a teacher in Thailand for nearly 11 years. It’s funny that wherever you go in the world, there is always one constant ice-breaker in a group setting or job: the name game.

To get everyone comfortable with each other Pete had everyone stand up and go around the room saying our names…attached to a word that began with the first letter of your name which described you. Of course, when it came to my name, I called myself “Radical Ryan”.

After that awkwardness was thoroughly shattered, our TEFL course actually began. First we went through an overview of what we would be actually doing throughout the month and the rigorous schedule we would have. Classes would be 8-9 hours a day 5 days a week for 4 weeks. To pass the course you would need to pass 6 of the 8 teacher assessments done with an actually class of students throughout the month. And on top of that, a written test as well.

The real kicker? In the first week we would begin teaching an actual class on our own that Thursday and Friday. Talk about throwing us right into the deep end.


After a brief chat about himself and the organization, Pete began by showing us how to do what they call a “warmer” or warm-up with the students to get them ready and engaged; just making the whole class stand and practice a basic greeting like, “Hi my name is Ryan, what is your name?” and creating a brief activity around that.

Pete then asked a few of us to volunteer to come to the front one by one and talk for 30 seconds in front of the class about anything we’d like. Majority of the class sat quiet, not wanting to be thrown out in front of a bunch of strangers and start speaking. Me on the other hand, I love public speaking these days. And my experience teaching or doing presentations at Apple definitely helped me get over my fear of that.

So I stood up and marched up to the front of the class with a loud, “Alllllrighty then!” and decided to get everyone involved by asking everyone  what their favorite childhood cartoon character was. Mine? Scooby Doo all they way baby!

Most of the first day was getting comfortable with each other and telling us about the course in general, except for the last activity we did that caught everyone off guard.

Enter Judy, a TEFL teacher as well who is half Thai and half American and was there to give us a lesson on the culture of Thai. She begin by passing our an infograph about Thai culture do’s and don’ts and fielded questions.

And then she came at us with a sudden flurry of Thai words at rapid fire. We all glanced about the room with shocked faces not understanding a word she said to us.

She began motioning for us to stand and repeat (or attempt to repeat) after her as she spoke sentences in Thai. For nearly fifteen minutes all of us struggled to repeat the phrases she spoke unless they were the basic greeting that most of us were already familiar with.

After the activity was finished, Judy went around the room and asked each person how they felt. Most of us gave the same answer: “frustrated” or “felt stupid” or “confused”.

Judy smiled and said, “that is exactly how it feels to be a student in Thailand or elsewhere trying to learn a new language. Its scary, confusing, frustrating. That is why it is up to you to make sure you come up with ways to get it across to them to understand”

The first day ended on that note with our mission seared into our brains after that activity. It also set the tone for how this month would play out, and though it was clear it wouldn’t be easy, it was definitely the clear it would prepare me the best for when it came time for me to teach on my own.

Once I was back in my apartment, I face planted onto my bed and passed out until the next day. The rest of the week would be even more information to digest leading up to the big day where I taught my first actual class. In that same week.

Check back later this week to see how days 2-5 went by following my Facebook or Twitter pages!

Are you interested in teaching English abroad? How about in Thailand? Click below to find out more about the school I am participating in and help support this blog! CLICK HERE!

*DISCLAIMER* I paid for this TEFL course in full. After my first week, I loved the experience, and requested to be an affiliate. I’ve included a link solely because I had a great experience, and if you choose to sign up, I do get a small percentage.


  1. Jen February 12, 2014 at 3:46 am

    Already it sounds like you are going to make a great teacher! Good luck,

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author February 16, 2014 at 12:36 am

      Aw shucks, thank you Jen!

  2. rebecca February 12, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    wow! seems like a full on first day! thanks for the info. I’m thinking of doing some teaching in South America so it should be interesting to keep reading your posts on TEFL. Good luck with it all

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author February 16, 2014 at 12:37 am

      Yes, super full first day but definitely some great information! Glad you will keep coming back =)

  3. Taylor February 16, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Hi! I’ve read that you can’t teach in Thailand without a university degree. Are you planning on teaching elsewhere after getting your TEFL certificate, or is it actually possible to teach there without a degree? Love your blog!

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author February 23, 2014 at 2:49 am

      Hi Taylor! Thank you for reaching out. Having a University degree does help, mainly with teaching international schools or at universities where the pay rate is astronomically higher, but it isn’t required. Most Southeast Asian countries only require a TEFL certificate, and European countries require a TESOL. Some countries don’t even care about either as long as you speak fluent English like a friend who is traching in Vietnam, though not doing a course has him hectic and stressed about not knowing how to actually teach. Glad you like the degree and let me know if you need a recommendation for online or Thai TEFL courses!

  4. Amy April 1, 2014 at 12:40 am

    Hello, I see that you were happy with your tefl course with unitefl. I wondered if you had any knowledge of SEE Tefl or have met anyone who has done it. Currently I’m trying to decide between the two. Thanks!

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author April 2, 2014 at 4:13 am

      Hey Amy! Yes I was extremely happy with the course itself. I’ve met a few people who did SEA Tefl and after listening to my description of UniTEFL it seems that SEA Tefl isn’t as in depth as it. I’d say, if you want the full monty — real class teaching practice (8 times in the month), confidence, and in-depth knowledge of English teaching UniTEFL was really good!

  5. Mary @ Green Global Travel July 17, 2014 at 2:16 am

    Sounds like it was a fun first day, and exciting since it was so spontaneous! I know you ended up being a great teacher!

    1. JustChuckinIt - Site Author July 18, 2014 at 10:59 am

      Oh, quite the fun first day Mary. And yes, such a random decision but I’m really happy that i did it!


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