Q1. Where did you move to and when?
From the U.S. to Thailand and back to U.S.
Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?
Q3. What was your main reason for moving?
Initially, I was taking a new teaching position in Taiwan. However, an expat Taiwanese living in the U.S. who helped me with the contract the Taiwanese university forwarded to me (which was in Chinese for an English teaching position!?), recommended that I not take the Taiwan job because he did not believe the contract would be honored. Well, that was enough to scare me away from that teaching position. So I went back to the U.S in hopes of establishing myself at a University in the U.S. Well, that was seven years ago and I'm still only teaching part-time, am low-income, have no benefits and no retirement plan!
Q4. What are the advantages of working where you are now compared to Thailand?
None. I'm a teacher by profession and the education sector in the U.S. is quickly collapsing. Yeah, there is the private sector in the U.S. and it is growing -- but at the expense of the public sector of education, which I just can't abide by.
In addition, my partner and the father of my two children is Thai, grew up in Bangkok, where we met, and has not been able to make it here in the U.S. The problem with the U.S. is that if you come here with work experience and a college degree from Asia, good luck finding a job here outside of waiting tables. My Thai partner comes from a good family and had an exceptional education in Thailand, but none of that counts for anything in the U.S. He was a manager for his mother's company in Thailand (a multi-million baht company), has a university degree, but today is serving tables at restaurants because his experience and education from Asia means nothing to the U.S job market, and he makes more waiting tables part-time than he would working in the translation or international trade markets. It is so ridiculous! The U.S. is myopic.
Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?
The dedication and respect for the institutes of learning and the work that they do to keep a society above a 3rd world status. You can't beat the fact that your students in Thailand, and all over Asia, fundamentally respect their teachers, what they do, and what they stand for. The majority of students in Thailand do the work you ask, read the texts you ask them to read and do not take naps in your classroom.
It is quite the opposite in the U.S. In the U.S., a teacher has to compete with facebook, itunes, and angry birds for the attention of her students. Many U.S. students do not do the work you ask, are not prepared for class, often never even buy the books that are required for the class, and are not even apologetic about it. They actually seem quite proud of themselves!
Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand or where you are now?
Go teach in Thailand if what you want to do is teach. In Thailand, you will teach in an environment where it will be rewarded for what it is -- a profession that helps to raise the standards of living for families, whole communities and a nation. Yeah, Thailand has its problems. But so does every other nation on this planet.
A teacher's salary in Thailand may not amount to very much in $$'s or euross. However, it amounts to a very comfortable middle-class life-style in baht. 30,000 baht is a good income in Thailand, but it only comes to about 800 or 900 in U.S. dollars, which is well below the poverty range. You can travel to most places throughout Asia and experience all the same joys that we do in the U.S. on that income. You would have a hard time traveling on it in the U.S. or in Europe though.
On the other hand, in the U.S., not only does a teacher make a low middle-class income, but she will always be suspected of not doing her job, and being in education for the paycheck, or because she is incompetent. Your income will only be enough to pay for your necessities--car, house, gas, food, and clothes and insurance for car, medical and home. Your "free time" will be consumed with paper grading, meetings, etc. Even going on a weekend camping trip is a major ordeal--forget about going to Disneyland or skiing! If your not making over $75,000 with benefits in many parts of the U.S., then you are low-income and only just getting by.
Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?
Absolutely! I'm so disillusioned with the whole profession of teaching here in the U.S. Teachers in the U.S. do not make a good living, receive no respect from society, and are not consulted about curriculum decisions. The politicians only pay lip service to what the teachers in the classroom tell them needs to be done. Then, the same politicians go around complaining about how teachers are getting all these benefits and are not teaching our kids--like teachers are a bunch of bloodsuckers who are in it just for the paycheck. Seriously?!! Teachers in the U.S are horribly mistreated right now.
Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?
Do not go to the U.S. thinking that you will find a nice job teaching. As a teacher, you are better off in Asia. Maybe things will change in the U.S., but I predict that it won't happen in our life times. I'm starting to hear similar problems in Europe now, too. So, Asia seems to be the one part of the world where education is still a top funding priority. So be it, Asian nations will rise up as the next global powers.
Go where what you do is rewarded and not just in economic terms, but also in terms of being respected for the service you provide the community.
My partner and I have both come to realize that the grass is not always greener.
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Ajarn.com was started as a small hobby website in 1999 by Ian McNamara. It was a simple way for one Bangkok teacher to share his Thailand experiences and pass on advice. The website developed a loyal and enthusiastic following. In 2004, Ian handed over the reins to Phil Williams and 'Bangkok Phil' has run the ajarn website ever since.
Ajarn.com has grown enormously and is now the most popular TEFL site in Thailand - possibly even South East Asia. Although best-known for its vibrant jobs page, Ajarn has a wealth of articles, blogs, features and help and advice. But one principle has always remained at Ajarn's core - to tell things like they are and to do it with a sense of humor. Thailand can be Heaven or Hell for an English teacher. It's always been Ajarn.com's duty to present both sides of the equation. Thanks for stopping by.