Q1. Where is Sakaeo Province located in Thailand?
A. Sakaeo Province is located in the eastern part of Thailand. Sakaeo Province is approximately 25 km from the Cambodian border.
Q2. How far is Sakaeo from Bangkok and how do volunteers get to the school?
A. Our school is located in Sakaeo near the town of Whattana Nakorn, approximately 250 km east of Bangkok. Volunteers typically arrive to the village via bus or minivan from Mo Chit 2 Transport Facility in Bangkok (see below for more information).
Q3. What type of transport is available from Bangkok and what would it cost approximately?
A. There is an air-conditioned coach service available hourly from Mo Chit 2 Transport Facility in Bangkok which costs around 180 Baht or there is the option of several minivan services which also run regularly. These cost around 200 Baht per person, with an additional cost for baggage. The minivan option is most efficient if you wish to get to the school in approximately 3 hours. The air conditioned bus service will take substantially longer due to several stops.
Q4. Would the volunteer be picked up from the transport point in Sakaeo Province?
A. Yes, we will pick you up from the bus stop in Whattana Nakorn, a town in Sakaeo Province. We ask that you communicate with us by phone when you know the time you will leave Bangkok and we will be waiting for you. The school is approximately 20 km from the bus stop.
Q5. Does the volunteer need to come alone or can they volunteer with a friend?
A. We are happy for volunteers to come alone or with another individual. We understand that it can be more comfortable coming to a new place with a friend. If you decide to volunteer with a friend, we ask that you please let us know beforehand so that we can adequately prepare living arrangements and meal arrangements to support the appropriate number of volunteers.
Q6. What is the usual amount of time you would prefer a volunteer spend at your school?
A. We require a minimum one-month commitment from all volunteers, and happily welcome longer enrollments. We have had volunteers stay with our program as long as 6 months.
Q7. What does the school provide for the volunteers in terms of accommodation?
A. We will provide accommodation which consists of a bed, wardrobe, bedside table, etc. in one of our guest rooms at the school or in a nearby house. Accommodation is dependent on the amount of volunteers we have at one time. Some schools may also offer accommodation with one of their teachers. Our goal is to have a maximum of two volunteers in our own school and two in each nearby school.
Q8. What does the school provide for the volunteers in terms of meals?
A. We provide the volunteer with breakfast, and the lunch meals, provided by the school, are eaten with the teachers and children. In the evening we often go out to a local restaurant.
Q9. What type of accommodation can the volunteer expect?
A. As pictured on the website, we can provide bedroom and bathroom facilities. We are working to upgrade these at present. It is sparse but comfortable. You could provide your own linen if you prefer.
Q10. What is the weather like in Sakaeo province?
A. The summer period, or hot and dry season, is from March to June. At this time temperatures average around 34º C, but can often reach 40º C with the humidity levels of 75%. From July to October falls monsoonal season, when most of Thailand’s annual rainfall is accumulated and flooding can ravage the country. The humidity averages just under 90%, with temperatures averaging around 29º C. Please be prepared for very warm conditions.
Q11. Does the volunteer need any teaching experience?
A. Teaching experience is certainly an advantage but not a requirement. Our main focus is on teaching the children and the teachers a vocabulary-based, conversational form of English, with the exception being the older students who may require more grammar and punctuation assistance.
Q12. Does the volunteer need to speak any Thai language?
A. Again it is absolutely and advantage but not a necessity to speak any Thai. Most of our volunteers do not speak Thai but can communicate quite easily with the children and teachers – some of whom do speak a little English.
Q13. What hours does the school operate?
A. School begins at 8:30 in the morning and finishes as 4:30 in the afternoon.
Q14. What age groups does the school cater for?
A. The school serves children from 3 years of age in our Kindergarten classes to 15 years in the higher classes.
Q15. Do the children and teachers have any English communication skills?
A. Yes, some of the teachers can speak a little English and others can speak English quite well. The students are learning and can usually make themselves understood.
Q16. How much time would the volunteer need to spend in the class room activities?
A. This can vary, but as a guide, volunteers typically spend 3-4 hours teaching in the classroom, using the remainder of time for lesson preparation or assisting teachers and children in various ways, including cultural exchange.
Q17. What is appropriate attire for a volunteer teacher?
A. Volunteers should be dressed appropriately at all times. For female volunteer teachers, this includes covered shoulders and cleavage and no see through materials or shorts. Pants are preferred, but Capri shorts and long skirts are acceptable as long as the material covers the volunteer’s knees. For male volunteers, appropriate dress includes pants or long shorts and a t-shirt. In addition, we ask that volunteers cover all body art/tattoos and should remove all piercings when in the classroom.
Volunteers will often be invited to attend formal ceremonies and parties, so it is always a good idea to bring along a formal outfit (for female volunteers, this would include a dress or professional blouse/skirt, for male volunteers, this would include a pair of nice slacks and dress shirt).
Q18. Does the volunteer have the weekends free?
A. Yes, weekends are your own time with the possibility of outings to different areas with other teachers.
Q19. Does the school have internet access/wifi available to the volunteer?
A. Yes the school has access to the internet with computers available to the volunteers. If you have a laptop please feel free to bring it along.
Q20. How many volunteers are at your school at one time?
A. Currently we would like to have two volunteers at our school and two at each of the surrounding schools.
Q21. Does your school provide volunteers for surrounding schools?
A. Yes, we are trying to implement our program into the surrounding schools as well, with the accommodation of all volunteers in one centralized location, if possible. Transport to the nearby schools would be provided.
Q22. Is there an option to be paid for the work a volunteer would do at the school?
A. No, we do not have the financial support to accommodate any additional paid teachers. Our program is designed solely for volunteer applicants.
Q23. What is the best time of year for a volunteer to visit your school?
A. In Thailand, from kindergarten to high school, the first semester opens in mid May and continues until the end of September. The second semester lasts from November until the end of February (or early March). Plan your visit during these times.
Q24. Is there any volunteer preparation time allocated before the volunteer begins his/her assignment?
A. We do not have a special program to teach the volunteers but integration into the classroom will be made very easily. After meeting and greeting the teachers and children on a very informal basis, you will feel very welcome and at home.
Q25. Does the volunteer teach as an assistant to the class teacher or are they required to take classes on their own?
A. You will teach alongside one of the teachers initially and take guidance from them. After this initial period, you may lead a class on your own (depending on your school placement). There will always be a Thai teacher in close proximity to assist volunteer teachers with translation from English to Thai in order to more easily communicate with the students. The children have English activity and work books to assist you with developing and exploring English vocabulary and activities.
Q.26 How much do volunteers have to pay for joining the project?
A. · Volunteers enrolled in the ICCVTT are liable to pay a) the $15 application fee , and b) the placement fee, with a one-month stay incurring a $50 placement fee, a two-month stay incurring a $25 placement fee, and a 3+ month stay incurring no fee.
This fee goes towards sustaining our current projects and enabling us to continue our work in the local community. As we will continue to provide accommodation and most meals, we feel certain that our upcoming volunteers will be happy to contribute this small amount to assist the development and sustainability of our project.
Q27. What expenses are the volunteers responsible for?
Volunteers are responsible for their own meals if they leave the school on the weekends for travel. If, however they are staying at the school over the weekend, the school will provide meals. The volunteer is also responsible for travelling expenses incurred when travelling to tourist attractions of other provinces in Thailand on the weekends, in addition to any personal expenses such as washing clothes, medicines, and other items of a personal nature.
Q.28 What preparation should the volunteer make before their arrival with regard to class work?
A. It would be very useful to research some classroom activities for ESL students of various ages. Any text books or worksheets you feel would be helpful to the school would be gratefully received. These items would be ideal for students and teachers alike. It is very handy to have extra activities for the children to participate in, so bring what you think might help you in the classroom.
Q.29 What will the volunteer receive at the conclusion of their experience?
A. The volunteer will receive a signed Certificate of Recognition for their contribution and dedication to the school.
Q. 30 Does the school provide a letter of introduction of any other documentation for visa applications?
A. No, we do not provide any letters or documents. We advise our volunteers to apply for a tourist visa only. This is usually provided upon entry to Thailand via air and is valid for 30 days. If a longer visa is required, there is an option of crossing the Thai-Cambodia border, which lies nearby, and returning. This will provide an additional 14-15 days. For the exact procedure, please contact your local Thai Embassy or Consulate. You may prefer to apply for the visa before you leave your home country and you can then apply for double entry visa if required.
Q1. I am really keen to be working with the children and teaching English. Would it be possible to incorporate my physiotherapy skills and services to these children in any way also? I would be very grateful to achieve this goal.
A1. Our organization’s primary mission is to focus on developing and promoting English literacy and fluency within the context of the classroom. As such, there is currently little support or need for extraneous projects such as physiotherapy. While programs like this would in no doubt be in benefit to the community, they do not exclusively fit with our organizations goals and mission statement.
Q2. What are the main differences between volunteering in the rural schools as opposed to the city? Is there an option of living in the guesthouse or with family in both the rural and city? Also, I am keen to participate in the activities where the centre is. Is the centre (in WatthanaNakhon) in the rural part or city? (I am getting slightly confused with all the different locations!)
A2. The main difference between the rural school and city school environments is simply the size of the school, with city schools having both a larger school campus and a larger student body population. Both urban and rural schools are similar in regards to English proficiency and student’s enthusiasm towards English lessons. Jason’s new learning center is located approximately 20 minutes from Wattana Nakhon. While Wattana Nakhon is a city environment, the learning center’s home city (Banlaosamakee village) is a rural environment, meaning that the learning center caters to smaller schools and communities. Additionally, our program currently offers two means of accommodation: guest house accommodation and home-stay accommodation. Accommodation style is dependent upon specific school location, and thus, cannot be determined until after an applicant’s said school placement is completed and finalized.
Q3. What is the application process for acquiring a visa? (is a work visa required? How would I obtain tourist visa?)
A3. Our organization does not assist in the procurement is visa’s. The visa application policy is dependent upon the applicants country of origin. All of our volunteers serve with our program on a standard 30-day or 60-day . For exact visa information and policies, please contact the Thai embassy in your home country.
Q4. I understand that around the time I am coming it is monsoon season. What considerations do I need to make for this? (Does it differ when living in City Vs rural?)
A4. Having served as a volunteer during monsoon season, I can state that no special precautions need to be taken in regards to preparation. I would simply suggest packing a basic travel umbrella and a raincoat. No extra precaution is needed.
Q5. Am I expected to provide stationery resources or can I buy the stationery once I am there?
A5. Each school site will have access to basic blank paper for volunteer teachers, but more elaborate supplies, such as a formal stationary set, must be provided or purchased by the volunteer.
Q6. Is it possible to return the application form via email and attach my photograph? If so then do you require a passport sized photograph or could I send a normal JPEG image and you can crop it down?
A6. You can submit your application and photograph via email. We do not require passport size photographs, so you are more than welcome to submit a JPEG photograph of yourself.
Q7. I have not completed a TEFL course, is this ok? I can however provide a certificate of my English qualifications at A-level.
A7. TEFL certification is beneficial, but not a requirement of volunteers. While we do search for the most qualified and competent volunteers, we do not require special certification, but rather, gauge applicants English proficiency through the paper application and a Skype interview.
Q8.I am flying in from BKK. So do you know the estimated cost from BKK to Morchit station? Also, do you recommend a particular taxi service and are these easy to locate? Any do’s and don’ts to look out for? I just don’t want to be lead astray! Thank you, you have made the rest of it very clear of how to get to the bus station.
A8. There is about a 40 km distance between BKK and Mo Chit, so I would say that a fair estimate for a metered taxi would be between 250-400 Thai baht (8-12 USD; 6-9 EUR). On the first floor of the Airport is a Public Taxi area where there are dozens of taxis waiting for customers. There will be a dispatcher (since they work at the airport, they generally have good English), and you will tell them where you are going and they will either give you a firm price right then, based on your destination, or will have the driver use the meter. They will then give instructions/your destination to your driver and you will be on your way! The Public Taxi terminal at the airport (from my experience, at least) was extremely efficient to use because it is built for travelers, so drivers and dispatchers/booth agents operating from this area will generally have a much stronger grasp of English than if you picked a random taxi cab in the city.
If you are travelling about the city and do use a random taxi, I would either agree on the price beforehand or use a metered taxi (the neon pink taxis or green/yellow taxis). As a solo traveler, motorcycle taxis can be a quick and inexpensive way of getting around, but as they do not have meters, ALWAYS agree on a price beforehand.
Q9.To help me with my purchases and packing! What kind of clothes would you advise to wear at the school on a day to day basis? I appreciate we must have our shoulders and knees covered. Would linen trousers and a casual top suffice? Any do’s and don’ts with colours? Also I’m having difficulty picking the right pair of shoes. Are we allowed to wear open-toe sandals or flip flops in the school? Again, any right or wrong colours?
Q9. In regards to teaching clothes, I found that the teachers generally dressed extremely professionally, so I would recommend blouses or button-down shirts paired with slacks or khaki pants. Linen trousers and a casual top sounds perfect! You will want to wear clothes that are comfortable and that you wont mind getting a bit messy (because if you are anything like me, you will inevitably wind up covered in chalk-dust), but still look presentable and polished. Knee length skirts and dress capris are also acceptable alternatives to trousers, so you are more than welcome to wear those, if that is a more comfortable/familiar attire for you. As for color, there are no particular color combinations that are seen as any more professional than another, but I would recommend bringing one white or black outfit. For certain religious ceremonies the Thai people dress in specific colors (generally white or all black), so I would recommend throwing at least one black and white top into your bag. Open toed sandals and flip flops are definitely acceptable footwear in the school. Most of the time you will have your shoes off anyway, and you will often use your shoes only between classes. I would suggest bringing at least one pair of dressier shoes or flats for special events (parties, weddings, school gatherings) that you may be invited to attend, but for the most part, shoes were not an extremely significant part of the teaching attire. The most important factor is comfort, durability, and the ability to easily remove one’s shoes, as you will be taking them off frequently before entering most rooms/buildings.
Q10. How do I contact Jason prior to boarding the bus? Is there a contact number which I can use from my UK mobile phone?
A10. If you get a Thai sim card for your phone, you can call Jason using your cell (he can be reached at the number provided below, 089-245-3776). Another option (if you are like myself and choose to go without a phone) is to use one of the many payphones located within Morchit.
Q11.What will be my method of transport to and from the guest house/school? Is it within walking distance?
Q12. Approximately how many people will I be sharing the guest house with and will I be sharing a room?
Q13. What facilities are available at the guest house? i.e. food, laundry, bathroom etc.
AQ11-Q12) If the guesthouse is not within walking or biking distance, the teachers will transport you to and from the school by vehicle. We arrange transportation for our volunteers from their housing to school sites, so you will not have to deal with this issue. Please contact the teacher at your school site that can provide you with more information about the specific housing situation (guest house size/number of rooms; facilities and amenities; distance from school, etc.).
Q14. Approximately how much is the cost to get a taxi from the airport to Morchit Bus Terminal, and from the Bus terminal to SaKeao. Would you advise BHT or US dollars?
A14) Don Muang is much closer to Morchit than BKK (and thus the taxi fare will be lower).The bus fare from Morchit to SaKeao is fairly inexpensive(about the equivalent of 6-8 USD, depending on if you take a large commercial bus ($6.00) or a smaller (but quicker) minivan ($8.00). All transportation services will require you to pay in Thai baht, so I would recommend changing your currency when you arrive at the airport.
Q15. I have such limited space in my luggage – do you think it would be ok for me to download storybooks on my phone and then read it out to the class? Or is it best to avoid this as the children will not have direct access to the story?
Wonderful! I bet that the children will love the Alphabet and Phonics games. They love getting active (and competitive!) in the classroom, and I am so excited that you have a Phonics game as a resource. The sounds of the phonetic alphabet are generally not taught in the classroom (and are even unknown by the English teachers), so it will be of extreme benefit to both the students and the teachers to learn phonics, in order to build and develop reading skills in the students.
The phone/storybook situation should be great! I know that books can be bulky and heavy, so having books on your phone or computer sounds like a great alternative to lugging heavy material with you. In order to make the story more interactive for the children, you can act or draw it out yourself (which they will absolutely love!).
Q15 I was wondering about something and would like your opinion on it. I mentioned to you in my interview that I was quite keen to donate stationary equipment i.e. pens, pencils, rulers etc to the school which I am placed at. However, when I was looking through the photos in your blog I was pleasantly surprised as it appeared that the schools were quite well equiped as I could see lots of resources, books, stationary equipment etc. in the background. Considering that my luggage will be my backpack (and I suffer from a back problem) and so I need to pack a minimum load, what do you suggest that I bring for the children, if anything?
A15 While some of the schools do have academic resources for the students, you will find that in many of your classes (especially if placed at a rural school) there are two or three students who do not have the money to afford school supplies, and thus, must constantly borrow pencils, paper, or erasers from the school or classmates.
The students do not seem to use pens too frequently, so if you are interested in bringing supplies, the most useful would most likely be standard number 2 pencils, small erasers, and pencil sharpeners. (Students lacking notebooks can complete their work on computer paper found at the school, so these are not necessary to bring (and would create a large weight in your suitcase)). I would also recommend bringing one or two English storybooks, if you have room in your suitcase. Many of the schools have a small library with books in Thai, but only one or two books in English. We are currently trying to build the English reading resources at each school, so if you are able to bring any phonics books or story books, that would be greatly appreciated. The last item that I suggest to bring would be a small sticker booklet, to use as a reward for the students who perform well. I have found that the promise of a sticker often keeps even the rowdy students focused and performing well, and even the older students seem to love them.
In terms of preparing lessons, I have found that the most useful items for me, as a teacher, are markers. Many of the schools have limited access to color printing, so I like to either draw or print the outline of the vocabulary terms, and then to color it in using markers or colored pencils. I constantly use them to color-code game pieces, outline lessons, create flashcards, etc, so I would highly recommend bringing a small box of 8-10 markers, if you have the chance. It is the one supply here that I seem to use daily!
A16) if we go on trips to local attractions at the weekends then approximately how much spending money would you advise me to bring? Also do you know if there is wifi at the school and guesthouse?
The nearby attractions are generally fairly inexpensive (as is the area as a whole), so I usually found that 1,000 baht (about $30 USD, or 22 Euros) could get me through a whole month of weekend activities, market trips, etc. I would not recommend keeping more than 2,000 baht on you at a time, as this amount will be more than enough to cover any activity that you want to do (or any souvenirs that you want to bring home), while still ensuring that you aren’t walking around with extravagant amounts of cash.
I am unsure of the internet accessibility in the guest-house of your school site, but all of the schools that we serve are equipped with internet access on the school grounds, so you will definitely be able to keep in touch with your family from there (if there is limited or no wi-fi access at the guesthouse)
Q17. What sort of age group will I be teaching? Will they be more younger, or older, or just a whole spectrum?
A17.A majority of the schools that we work with serve students in Grades 1 through Grades 6 (ages 6-12, approximately). There are a few schools in our program which offer the opportunity to work with kindergartners, high-school students, and adults, but our volunteers are most frequently placed at schools where they work with Grades 1 through 6.
Q18 What level of English are the children general at? I.e beginners, intermediate or advanced?
A18) There will be a very strong mix of English proficiency between schools, between classes within a school, and even within a class. Within a single class you will have students who are extremely bright and pick up English quickly, and within that same class you will have students who may not even be able to remember the alphabet. Generally, the smaller, more rural schools have more beginning students, while the larger, more urban schools have more intermediate students (with only one of two schools having very advanced students).
Q19. What is the main focus of teaching English at most schools? Is it more conversation and speaking, or grammar/spellings/writing?
A19) Given the strong variation in English skills and abilities within the classroom, I have generallyfound it best to focus on exploring and building vocabulary. This way, the ‘beginner’ students are still capable of learning the material, and you can make the material more difficult for the intermediate students. For example, when teaching animals, you can have the beginner students learn how to pronounce, spell, and write the word, ‘cat’, while teaching the more advanced students the sentence, ‘I have one black cat’. We generally try to balance speaking, spelling, and writing within the classroom, with an emphasis on incorporating the learned vocabulary terms into conversation. I have found that art activities (involving both a picture of the word and the spelling) and games such as hangman are very good for getting the children to visually recognize the word and to learn how to read, spell, and speak it.
A20. What are the teaching/learning styles which most teachers/children appreciate? Is it whole class teaching or small group led work? Formal or informal or both?
A20) While our classrooms are generally lead through whole-class teaching, rather than a group format, we leave it up to our volunteer teachers to determine their classroom set-up. I have found that group-work is generally more difficult to moderate with younger students and typically leads to an out-of-control classroom, and is often extremely difficult to explain to the students given that I dont speak Thai, so I generally set up my classroom sessions to have a half-hour to forty minute lecture component (including worksheets; writing sentences; pronouncing vocabulary; etc.) with one or two games that tie into the lesson discussed
Some schools are a bit more structured than the ones that I have served with, and may provide you with topics that they would like you to teach, or will have you serve as an ‘assistant’ in the classroom, in which case, you will adapt to the predetermined classroom environment, rather than creating your own.
Q21. Do you follow any particular text book?
A21) While some schools do have curriculum books, I have found that they are often too advanced for the students, or may actually be poorly translated into English, so I frequently create my own topics, activities, and worksheets. If, as a native English speaker, I am unable to identify some of the concepts and words that the book activities are trying to convey, I do not feel that it is fair to expect my students to be able to do the same activity. For example, one of the activities in the book was to identify common vocabulary terms (flower, chair, tree, shirt, bus). However, when attempting the activity beforehand, I myself got some of the answers incorrect, because the test makers were looking for “Jeep”, rather than ‘car’, or ‘stockings’ rather than ‘socks’. If the schools do offer and English book, I generally try to look it over prior to the lesson to see if it accurately relays the
vocabulary and topic that I intend to teach. If it does (which admittedly, is fairly rare), I will use a worksheet from the book, but if it doesn’t, I create my own worksheet and activity. Some of the lesson plans and activities that I have created are posted on the website, if you would like to take a look at some potential ideas beforearriving: http://www.freevolunteerthailand.org/volunteering/teaching-resources.html. Additionally, I have found Colorado State University’s ESOL Volunteer Teachers guide to have some very helpful suggestions for classroom activities, expectations and a teacher, and lesson
If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask. We want to ensure that applicants and volunteers feel prepared and comfortable during their time with our program.