It does matter if you’re black or white
The blatant discrimination in TEFL job ads
Although it is rarely mentioned in job ads, most if not all Asian recruiters on the lookout for teachers are after whities. And let’s make no mistake about it: the prize specimens are Caucasian white, not some locals having overindulged in skin-whitening products.
My great escape
How are things working out in China?
Lack of inspiration this month made me decide to participate in ‘The Great Escape’ survey found elsewhere on this site. Here are my answers.
When parents of students are simply too demanding
The demands and expectations that some parents burden their children with are alas often too great. At the moment I’m teaching a kid who hasn’t even turned six, yet his life revolves solely around learning.
The Ideal Teacher
What makes the perfect teacher in the EFL classroom?
Let me point out that this list is based more on personal experience than large-scale research. Also, while most qualities on the list are probably appreciated worldwide, some are considered particularly important in the Land of Smiles.
It's definitely time to leave
So the question remains why? Why leave Thailand, the Land of Smiles, the best country in the world if Thais are to be believed? The short answer is that I didn't have enough reasons to stay.
How to motivate students
Keys to improving language learning
Motivation can either be internal or external. Students who are internally motivated usually learn English because they want to, because they enjoy learning or because they want to achieve a certain goal, not because they have to. Examples of personal goals could be pursuing a promotion at work or planning to enrol in a foreign university’s graduate programme.
Full-time teacher, part-time thief
Light-fingered shenanigans in the teachers' room
Don’t start thinking that these highly skilled education professionals resort to stealing luxury cars or become successful pickpockets in busy Bangkok. It’s much simpler and a lot less lucrative than that: some ‘teachers’ seem to think there’s nothing wrong with nicking books and teaching materials from the schools they work at. In a few cases teachers have even run off with computers, but let’s focus on the issue of disappearing books because that’s my main reason for writing this article.
The academic debate
Does a degree make a good teacher?
Now what if a teacher has a degree, but no teaching certificate? Would that be okay? Probably. What about having just a teaching certificate and no degree? Maybe. What about no qualifications at all but a lot of experience? Possibly. And finally, what about schools hiring people with no qualifications whatsoever and no experience, would that go well? There’s the odd chance that it might, but I doubt it.
Teachers and textbooks
A love-hate relationship
There are a lot of excellent books on the market; most of them are produced by major publishers such as Oxford, Cambridge, Longman and Macmillan. The problem a teacher can encounter during an English lesson in Asia is that these books are not always culturally suitable for the learners.
The Filipino issue
Are they native speakers?
In my opinion, Filipinos sometimes get agitated because of the general attitude towards them. I agree that it can get frustrating when your umpteenth job application is turned down. You pick up the phone to try to find out why your services are not wanted and you are told that the school doesn’t hire Filipino teachers.
My teacher is a computer
The role of the computer in the EFL world
If someone is really eager to learn a language (any foreign language, it doesn’t necessarily have to be English), a computer is the ideal tool for self-study. Actually, a computer is nothing more than a modern combination of a notebook, a pen, a dictionary, a phone and a fax machine. Without the communicative infrastructure called the Internet or the software to make everything happen, a computer is basically worthless.
The magical land
Where no student fails an exam
Yes, dear readers, students in Thailand simply cannot fail exams. This probably comes as a very big surprise for the people unfamiliar with the Thai situation, but believe me, it is true. Well, it is still true at the time of writing, but maybe not for long anymore.
Never mind fluency
Here comes the grammar teacher
I think it is quite absurd to reward students who are good at cramming grammar rules – and may not be fluent at all – and punish students who can speak English fairly well but aren’t very accurate. English is a language. The main purpose of a language is communication.
Clock, peanut and frog
The problematic pronunciation of many Thais
I try to have as much empathy for my students as I possibly can and I am becoming rather good at understanding the unintelligible. However, there are limits to everything and I am not a mind-reader. If a person says for example /sa-pye/, I know he or she means “Spy” (the wine-cooler or James Bond, doesn’t matter). But if someone says “kye”, I don’t automatically think of cry.
Reflections on the Thai TESOL conference
Okay, I have to admit that there are a number of good, dedicated Thai teachers of English who do make a difference, but there aren’t merely enough. As long as the government keeps teachers paying a pittance there never will be enough.
Monty Python returns
Teaching can be rewarding, stressful, frustrating, or even downright funny
What follows are a few (slightly adapted) classroom conversations. Although they might be familiar to you, I hope you’ll find them entertaining.
A teacher’s lot
A week in the life of an English teacher
As Friday is my day off, I consider Saturday to be the start of my working week. Yes, that’s right, I work six days a week, not unusual if you work for a language school. Unlike Thai schools, the weekend is the busiest time for language schools.
Heaven and Hell
Tips for teaching kids
Don’t think teaching kids is easy, it’s not. Tie everything down that’s yours. Keep it in your pocket, your bag, briefcase, socks, travel pouch, wherever. Learn to enjoy singing.
Certificate (1), Diploma (1)
American (female, 22 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
American (male, 48 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
BSc (1), MBA (1), BA (1), MA (1), Phd (1)
British (male, 50 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Filipino (male, 20 years old, native Tagalog speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Certificate (3), Diploma (1), BA (1)
British (male, 56 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
MA (7), BA (1), Diploma (1)
American (male, 60 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Certificate (2), BEd (1)
Filipino (female, 31 years old, native Tagalog speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Certificate (1), Diploma (1), BSc (1)
Dutch (male, 50 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Certificate (1), BA (1), Diploma (1)
British (male, 69 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Ugandan (female, 25 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
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.
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The Region Guides
Fancy working in Thailand but not in Bangkok? Our region guides are written by teachers who actually live and work in the provinces.
E-mailing for jobs
E-mailing potential employers in Thailand can be a very frustrating experience. Teacher Chris is on hand to give you some top tips.
Fancy teaching freelance?
How easy is it to cut out the middlemen and rake in the cash teach students at their own homes?
Hi, I’m Tony Dabbs
I was a licensed life and health agent in the USA for many years and now I'm ajarn.com's health insurance expert.
The cost of living
How much money does a teacher need to earn in order to survive in Thailand? We analyze the facts.
Find out how employable you are in Thailand as an English teacher. Is it a case of 'welcome aboard' or "Mom, I need you to send some money again"