My name is Yanika Phetchroj, from Thailand. I enrolled in the LTS program in summer 2009 and graduated the following summer.
What and where are you teaching now?
Now I’m teaching English at the English Department at Thammasat University, the second oldest and one of the most prestigious universities in Thailand. I have been teaching here for three years. My students are undergraduates from various departments and years. The classes that I normally teach are English Listening and Speaking, Reading for Information, Paragraph Writing, English Structure, and English for Hotel Personnel.
What was your MA project about?
My MA project was “Activities and techniques for improving oral skills in Thai high school EFL classes”. I did this because I have strong interest in teaching oral skills. Also, from my experience as a learner and as a native Thai speaking teacher of English, I found that Thai students have problems when it comes to English speaking and listening skills. Most Thai students start learning English with native Thai speaking teachers who teach English by emphasizing grammatical rules (the traditional Grammar Translation Method), and oral skills are overlooked. Thai ELT teachers predominantly speak Thai in the English classroom and most of the major examinations such as the university entrance examination only test students’ understanding of English grammar and their reading skills. Also, many Thai teachers find it difficult to teach English speaking skills since they don’t have a native accent. The consequence from this is that after many years of learning English, Thai students still can’t speak English. After taking classes in the LTS program, I was enthusiastic to do something that could improve Thai students’ oral skills and help Thai teachers teach English oral skills with confidence and comfort. So, my project combined many activities that Thai teachers can use in their classrooms to help their students learn and practice oral skills. These activities have been adapted and designed especially for Thai students.
What did you find most valuable from the LTS program? What did you learn in LTS that are you using as a teacher now?
Since I didn’t have any background knowledge in the second language acquisition before I entered the program, everything seemed new to me. Right from the beginning, it was very useful to learn the different principles and methods of language teaching. For me, I grew up with Grammar Translation Method, so it was the only way of teaching and learning English that I knew. When I learned about CLT, Communicative Language Teaching, I was very excited and couldn’t wait to apply this method to my future classes. Another favorite class of mine was Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). I had so much fun exploring new technology that could help me teach. Nowadays, I still use some of the programs I learnt from that course in my classroom. As a teacher now, I have found myself using what I learnt from the Curriculum and Materials Development class most. Every semester I have fun creating new materials and supplements for my students based on current issues and on my students’ interests.
What did you find most challenging when you were a new teacher?
When I started teaching, I found that it was very difficult to stick to my class plan. Some activities took longer than I expected and it turned out that I couldn’t finish what I had planned at first. I also think that besides a teacher, students can make the class very enjoyable or so bland too. Some activities that I thought would be interesting to students turned to be boring. So, I had to make some changes right away. I also found that what works for some students doesn’t work for others. Some activities or teaching techniques may work well one semester, but don’t work at all the next semester with different groups of students. So it is important to find out what students like or are interested in as fast as I can to design the activities that suit them the most.
What advice would you give current students in the program?
My advice from me will be that everyone should find the areas they are interested in the most as soon as they can, such as teaching, designing testing and assessment, or developing curriculum and materials. Because when they know your interest, they can make use of every class by doing assignments or reading something relating to it, and that will help them and their MA project a lot. Also, since the students in the LTS program are so diverse, they should take this opportunity to exchange their thoughts and experiences with their classmates who may come from different countries and culture in order to learn more and expand their knowledge.