Should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go?

Getting to grips with life as a teacher in Thailand


Hmmm........where to start?

I suppose with the warning that this blog will probably come across as a lot of moaning but hopefully I can put across the fact I am doing my best to take a balanced view and my real goal is to get some perspective from those of you who have been in such a situation. The issue is I am in a position that I have no idea what to think about: I see positives and negatives but this is preventing me from making any progress as to what I want to do. I am new to TEFL and Thailand but I definitely like both of them. I do not judge either on my current situation... but is my situation a good or bad one? Help!

I flew in to Bangkok and spent four amazing days and nights there. I was about to head out towards Ubon to start looking for work when I was tipped off with a potential opportunity in the Si Sa Ket province of Isaan. 30K a month with free food (during school) and accommodation. I was skeptical. The idea was to check it out and if I didn't like what I saw I would just go elsewhere. Problem is, despite a trickle of improvements, one month in I am no closer to knowing if I am onto a good or bad thing here. Presumably this would be ideal for a more experienced (with Thai schools/language) farang with a Thai partner.

Apparently the boss wanted me here for the Monday morning to start straight away, but when I got to the accommodation, it was pretty grim. TIT... An Isaan style wooden house (that absorbs heat) on stilts with a tatty straw mattress and a fold-up bed and pillow with a few bottles of water. The windows didn't shut properly (it rained in on my suitcase during my second day at school) and the newly installed wiring wasn't finished. I was asked to be patient because this village was desperate for a native English speaking teacher and I would get whatever I needed.

Since then they have bought me a fridge and a wardrobe and closed off the bad windows and installed air-con in my bedroom. After a few weeks books have begun to arrive and a new room for the mini-English class has been completed featuring air-con and my own lockable desk.

The owner, despite rushing me out here before the accommodation was decent (to my mind anyway) does seem like a reasonable guy. Although he owns this privately run school he actually works elsewhere in the province at a bigger government school (is the principle there afaik). His wife is nice, she works at the local hospital and sometimes brings me fruit or cold drinks. He also gave me a secondhand bicycle so I can get around the village on my own. His younger brother is the principle at my school and he himself is humble and a very decent guy. Last week he went with me to Laos to change my 60 day tourist visa into a non-B.

The people of the village seem friendly but are not used to seeing a farang here. I was told I would be the first ever farang in this area and that my job was to help set up a private mini-English program at the school. It's quite small at the moment but has been going very well. There are just 7 kids but whilst in Laos, the principle (the owner's brother) told me I can stay for a second year if I want and that the kids are speaking very good English and are going home motivated to learn the language and are teaching it to their parents (some of whom I have met or who work at the school). This mini-English program amounts to about 8 hours contact and I have a Thai 'assistant' who I work well with and she also runs me about the village to get things I need or to take me to eat at her place with some other teachers sometimes. She is the school's English teacher, her English is about pre-intermediate (my Thai is beginner) but we communicate ok.

However, I was also handed a schedule of about 21 hours total teaching including all the Anuban classes and all the Prathom (30-40 kids). There are the typical Thai education/cultural issues in these classes. Here is where all the main problems are for me at this school: for the prathom classes there's no Thai teacher with me despite my limited Thai, so the kids (boys mostly) often take advantage and do their homework for other lessons, muck about, run in and out of the classroom etc.

In my second week I marched a couple of boys out of the room and told the nearby (on free time) Thai teachers I didn't want them in my class. 5 minutes later I went back outside to get them thinking that was enough time for them to stew but these boys had been sent to run round the sports field! I've not officially been given any books or guidance for teaching these other classes, just thrown into the lion's den. I try to take it in my stride as it doesn't surprise me given what I had read about Thai schooling before I arrived.

The prathom kids often play dumb when I know for a fact they know I am asking/telling them to sit down. If I say "nang long" they'll even drop to the floor where they were standing. My co-teacher from the mini-English class is afraid to communicate many of these issues to the boss and I have tried to tell them there are discipline issues but it seems to be falling on deaf ears so I guess I will have to find another way of communicating it.

The school hours don't compare to what I've seen other teachers talk about on discussion forums. We are supposed to be at school at 7:20 yet stay long after the kids have gone home until 5pm. Tuesday is my day from hell because I have gate duty and am supposed to be there for 6:30 and then I have no free blocks all day. Outside that mini-English room there is no air-con, just a few fans scattered about. In class I have to position myself so the sweat isn't dripping onto the students' books. Sometimes the girls ask permission to leave the classroom and come back with water for me or they fan me with books.

Home is not a home, it is a place to sleep uncomfortably because it is grim and I am also blessed with being a magnet for yuun so I have to clamber under a mozzy net. Obviously there is no western toilet, despite some of the Thais in the village having them themselves. A 'hong nam' full of mosquitoes with a hose of cold water unless it's morning when there is no water at all.
My house is right opposite the school, so I am not on school property but the house is owned by the boss - and between the stilts that support the house, the space is used for parking school vehicles and teachers cars.

The other teachers at the school are quite young - mostly in their early to mid 20s - with a few 30-something anuban teachers. The ones who are genuinely friendly or who try to speak with me at all are in a minority. A Chinese teacher started here two days after me. Her English is advanced level but although she is hugely popular with the other teachers she is not friendly towards me and tends to be quick to be aggressive where everything is apparently my fault. So I avoid contact with her.

The prathom teachers allow me to eat with them and one of the guys is pretty cool; the anuban teachers mostly gossip about me and overall things are more polite than genuinely friendly wich means I need an outlet... a social life or a place to go. Something to do in the evening.

Some neighbours have invited me over for food a few times now. They are related to the school management or at least everyone knows everyone else. They do their best to be nice and one in particular is extremely friendly. He invited me to go fishing and hopes to learn English but frankly it's hard work because he thinks I will understand his Laos the more he babbles at me. I am told 'teacher ----' is good with food because I'll be sport for anything and have eaten dakkaden, spicy, the lot.

Learning Thai here is problematic though because outside school depending who I'm with, they will be speaking Laos, Khmer or Suay as well as Thai so I'd probably be better off watching Thai TV at home (they previously offered to get me a TV which I turned down but now I wonder if I should have taken them up on it).

Outside of school I am still 'teacher ----' and everything I do is known and seen and I feel eyes on me at all times. Now I have the internet my only escape is to escape into the prison of my wooden box and escape to cyberspace. The 'Thai lifestyle' people talk about for me just isn't happening.

I figured the ideal solution would be to head off to Bangers once a month so I can escape 'teacher ----'. Apparently it is sometimes as cheap as 1,000THB to fly from Ubon to Bangkok. I have a friend there. She's a nice girl with no tattoos and we like to sit quietly and watch the world go by drinking nam som. Now I have the non-B visa, I texted her to say I would see her soon. Today I checked the airlines and found travelling on Fridays after school it will in reality cost me 4-5k for a return fare from Friday-Sunday. I'm totally gutted because on my salary when you add up the cost of the bus fare to Ubon and factor in the costs in Bangkok, it doesn't seem do-able and I'm looking at being stuck here until October...

Meanwhile, I haven't signed a contract yet. This is a learning experience for all of us: this is my first Thai school and I'm their first farang. I'm a pretty cool-headed kind of guy and the bosses and school here seems ok, it's not a hellbitch scenario by any means so the lack of contract so far has been good for me as I've tried to decide what I think about this whole gig.

It's nice to be away from the money-grabbing Bangkok-style Thais but despite my wanting to work more meaningfully with people who could use the help I wonder if heading to Bangkok would be more appropriate or not. I don't want to be a quitter and who knows what I might find if I made a change.

If only some issues at school were not as they are, then life outside school would be more bearable. if only home and social life issues were not as they are, then school would be more bearable. I'm a hamster on a wheel going round and round. As things stand, there's little relief from the general discomfort that I am sure I should not be feeling.

Although I would be signing a year's contract (probably once my work permit gets done) I know this gig is at least a two-year project and it will probably take three years to properly get this place up to speed with it's English, not just in terms of language ability of the students but also in the signs, knowing and understanding farang teachers and garnering the ability to attract replacements and get these people on the English-speaking map. As I said, I think this gig might be more ideal for an experienced farang with a Thai partner.

As the prospect of a monthly escape to Bangkok disappears, I decided to offload this crap here on Ajarn.com and start looking for some perspective. I know some of you will have had all kinds of first teaching gig and first accommodation nightmares - but these things are not the end of the world.

So should I stay or should I go?

Fleabag




Comments

Well, from your story, seems that you need time to accommodate yourself to Isaan area and the way of living there. I don't know how your situation at the moment, but if your visa is still non-B and you are still interest to work in Thailand or want to work in the place that near Bangkok but still have a peaceful life. You can try with my university, we are looking for a Conversation English Teacher here for university students and staff. I've posted job vacancy here twice and now we decide to extend the opening until the end of June 2012.

By Fuangladda Thepsatitsilp, Nakhon Pathom (14th June 2012)

I actually did read the whole rambling yarn and all I can say is - do not listen to any advice and enjoy the ride!

By khunkrumark.com, Thailand (4th May 2012)

School life sounds a lot like a typical country school, many people have it worse than you. I wouldn't want to live in Bangkok on 30k a month, itgoes a long way in Sisaket.

Nok air is cheap and good quality. 2000-2500 for the Friday evening and 1.5k for Saturday morning. Air Asia do good deals if you book a month in advance.

Look around to see if there are any places for rent. A decent apartment will be 4K a month and a the same.

Get a motorcycle, Isan is a small place. You could be in Ubon or Surin in an hour, and on weekends hit Panom Rung, Buriram, Kalasin, Sam Pan Bok and Roi et ect. On long the last long weekend I rode to Udon Thani, spending the night in Mahasarkhan on the way there and Kalasin on the way back. Next long weekend I'm doing Mukdahan, Nakhon Panom and Sakhon Nakhon. You have a golden opprtunity to explore and travel in a region that costs next to nothing.

By paul, ubon (12th January 2012)

It sounds like you are very unhappy and after reading about your living and working conditions I can't blame you. You say you have other options that you can explore. Go for it.

By Terry Sunner, Udon Thani (9th December 2011)

Hi,

I think the answer is pretty easy. Get used to it, tell them that you'll have to have a work permit. If not take off and I'm sure that you'll find a new job.

I settled down in this area about 10 years ago and I do like this area having my wife's support. She hasn't got Tattoos............

Good luck Chuck!

By Mike, Sisaket (5th December 2011)

Believe this or not you could have had it alot worse as John said you can get a train or bus from Si Sa Ket but if your way in the sticks a local bus should get you there all depends where you are north of Si Sa Ket or south as to where you should go maybe Surin check it out on your internet. Fleabag I think I know you get in touch Pete

By peter, Kamphaeng Phet (17th November 2011)

Well, it does sound like the school is helping you out a lot, which is good....It doesn't sound like you are having much fun, though.
As far as going to BKK, you should not overlook overnight trains. They are only like 450 baht (one way) from Sisaket, a little more from Ubon (guess you are closer to Sisaket anyway). That would mean just under 1000 baht roundtrip, which is cheap. You get on the train at either 7:30-ish (around 6 AM arrival) or 8:30-ish (7AM arrival). Bed, dining car, whatever. If you left on Friday after school, that would give you all day Saturday and all day sunday in BKK....depending on when you work on monday, you might be able to take the sleeper back on Sunday night. That would be ideal...might be tiring, but you would be in Sisaket by like 5 or 6 in the morning. Anyway, don't overlook that option when it comes to going to BKK for a weekend. Book tickets in advance, though, so you don't get stranded. During term breaks and other random holidays, beds fill up fast.

By John, Sisaket (11th October 2011)

I did something similar in a town in Sakhon Nakhon but I was lucky that I had 2 other western teachers. Sadly they were idiots/sex tourists.
I agree with the zero privacy comment. I went away for a long weekend when I lived in Sakhon and I had other teachers emailing me when they found out I hadn't slept in my room. The rumour mill in those places is awful.

By angsta, The land of kimchi (16th September 2011)

One correction about what Mike mentioned" The gossip mill in a Thai school is 2nd to none." I would not say Thai school but Thailand as It maybe most Thais number #1 pastime especially in small villages.

By Thomas, Khon Kaen, Thailand (11th September 2011)

You can get TESOL qualified online. If you have a degree it will then help you get approval for a teaching job here.

By Dean, Bangkok (10th September 2011)

I taught in Ubon for a year, Surat for a year, and did some private stuff on the side in Ubon for a bit. My wife is from Sisaket - she was a teacher with me at one of the schools, so we fell in love... Sisaket villages would be impossible for me to handle. You know - there's a train you can get friday night in sisaket and arrive in bangers by morning? Then do the day train back on Sunday. If it's all you got, the short time away will help.

Small schools are good... but the problem is there is zero privacy. Believe me, everyone around you for 50km knows who you are and who you're looking at with lust in your eyes. Honestly, it is that bad. The gossip mill in a Thai school is 2nd to none. If you can live with that kind of scrutiny, you're a better man than me.

How far are you from Sisaket town? They have Tesco, Makro, Big C, and then it's a 60km motorbike ride up to Ubon. Not that bad, it's a nice ride - I love it. Get a motorbike as fast as you can if you plan on staying. You can even rent one off someone - start asking other teachers if they have one they're not using. Cost should be 1500-2000 per month maybe. I payed 900 THB 7 yrs ago... and it gradually went up to 1,700.

The facial hair isn't helping you in Thailand btw. Stay clean shaven if you want to play the game. The game being - how you LOOK is everything.

I'm surprised you lasted as long as you did, I do hope you last longer - they need an English teacher! Whether you do or not is entirely up to you. You don't owe anybody anything. You should go where you'll be happy. Sticking it out will give you some life lessons you won't forget. You're having an experience that 99% of other foreigners that come to teach in TH - don't have at all. Stick it out for a term, and then decide. I'd not sign a year contract. See if you can get away with either no contract or 1 term commitment.

Good luck to you!

By Mike Fook, southern Thailand (10th September 2011)

Dear Graham,
How I came to be a teacher in Thailand, first of all I married a thai teacher and was mixing with the right people, but I was doing an english camp in Yasothon with some american peace corp workers, I was approached by a teacher from another Province Ubon, she asked me if I could come and be a teacher at her school, I told her I was not a teacher, but she insisted that she liked my methods of motivating the kids. I started the job on the 1st november 2003 have done many other teaching jobs since, but now I just do english camps. If you come to Kantralack Sisaket there is a guy called Mr.Tombai he has a private school of his own he used to be the education officer for area 4 but now he runs his own bussiness, he helped me a lot, I am 68 years old now but I still get offered jobs, its not the teaching its easy its selling yourself to the kids and if they like you you are half way there, I hope this has answered your questions, good luck,

Charlie Wilson

By Charlie Wilson, Sisaket (7th September 2011)

Reading of this guy's experience actually made me feel quite envious. I would love to be in his position. I've had a couple of years teaching in Asia but I've no CELTA and I'm in my early sixties. Does anyone know of such a possibility? Can I ask how you managed to get this job in the first place?
Thanks

By Graham Seabrooke, England (7th September 2011)

It's nothin new since I was exposed to that kind of environment, but eventually you will realize that you're living a meaningful life and you'll soon be surprised that your experience there will heavily contribute to your satisfaction and happiness later even when you're gone.You're sort of a pioneer,the first time is always special and memorable.You're the first farang teacher they will remember and they will look up to, so keep being yourself.You're meeting their needs and they're grateful.You will also be grateful.If u want to party,bangkok is just a bus away,or u can just invite your friends over during your break.They might want to see another side of thailand.Generally,I think it's cool,stay,give it a go,who knows?How will you know if u haven't tried it for a year?It's too early to judge.

By cara, bangkok (24th August 2011)

Ahh..brings back the memories of what is good and what is not so good about teaching in Isaan..if I was going to give one piece of advice to a novice teaching in Isaan then it would be that teaching at a smaller school is far preferable to teaching at a large school with let's say more than 3,000 students...larger schools mean larger classes and the headaches are huge when teaching in this sort of environment...won't name names of the schools that fit into that category. Smaller schools mean smaller thai staff numbers and good friendships can be formed in this sort of environment.

By Terry, Australia (23rd August 2011)

That was a great article from Chris in Rayong, Sometimes mixing with some of the farangs can be a real pain in the butt, so get to know some of the locals, they will be only to pleased to help. I am working at Ratsada 60k from Trang so i have 1 hour each way every day. Just found a house, needs work but i will get on with it. I met some girls from Sisaket they were really cute so life can't be that bad.

By roger clarke, Trang (18th August 2011)

Man it seems like this school is doing all it can to accommodate you. I don’t think you appreciate how lucky you are. Your house looks great. Plus you've got aircon and a fridge! What's to moan about? You are living big by Thai standards. Very big. I've worked in some of the better schools and some of the not so good as an ESL teacher in TL.

So they sorted out your visa in Loas, and the guy came along to help you too? That was mighty decent of him. Maybe you were a little bit naive went you set out. No problem there. We have all made mistakes along the way. This is a fantastic opportunity for you. You will look back on this with nothing but fond memories.

I once worked for a school were the conditions were great, but the boss was a royal pain in the arse. She really was a nimrod. In the end I left. I presently work at a school with low pay but the kids, teachers and general atmosphere of the school are great. So like Rodger said before me, the grass is not always greener.

The NL situation is a drag I'm sure. Is there no one you can hang out with and grab a few cold beers with? Sometimes it helps just to shoot the breeze with someone. What about getting a wee motorbike to blaze around on? That would be great. You could even cross over to Cambodia for a day and night if you wanted….How cool would that be?

I know the province you work in and yes it is a backwater but you can make it better. I would never dream of working in BKK. I hate the place with a passion but we are all different. Give this school a chance. They certainly are going all out for you. Which over here is always good.

If you do leave try to do it right. Sit down talk to them and leave as smoothly as possible. You are the first in that area so make a good impression.

GL with whatever you decide buddy.

By Chris, Rayong (17th August 2011)

It seems to me you don't know when you are well off. If the house is not so good do something about it yourself. They pay for aircon, fridge ect. you should join the real world its d.i.y. visa housing everything. there are books in dual language which allows you to pronounce Thai for teaching, so get on with it, the grass is not allways greener on the other side.

By roger clarke, Trang (14th August 2011)

You certainly seem to be doing pretty well - and it's good to keep your cool. In these villages, the kids really do benefit assistance with their English - so keep your spirits up. However, the fact is that English is not actually relevant to their everyday lives - this is the challenge! I recommend that you spend some time finding out what is important to the students / what they might actually want to talk about and then use this as your entry point. You could do some kind of 'local guide' activity, where you focus on a different aspects of local life and give them the vocab they need. You could get them to write English songs in the local Luk Tung styel. Either way, you'll also need to do your homework (sports, temple, festivals vocab) so that you can link your outside knowledge with their inside reality. If you want to make some friends, check out Rai Toong Organic Farm - http://www.facebook.com/groups/140808370801/ Bryan and Tui are really nice people and it might give you a semi break. Don't give up :-) All the best, Peter

By Peter Richards, Hua Hin (14th August 2011)

i will eventually be going to theSisaket area, probably early next year to join my partner, and would like to know the name and location of the school. I am also on a limited budget and suggest the train for well under 1000 baht-nearer 500,from Sisaket around 12 hours.

By Gordon, Lichfield UK (10th August 2011)

Hi, Sisaket is not too bad a place to work I have worked in 2 schools there, I have been here 8 years now I am 68 years old, as for sending kids out the class its a no no, what I used to do was 2 different things mostly boys, if they were late arriving for class I would make them do 20 press ups but not with girls, boys are the worst offenders, the other thing is make them stand at the window with a piece of paper between their nose and the glass and their hands behind their backs with the sun shining normaly 5 minutes is enough they won't misbehave again only make fun of it with the rest of the class.

I know what you mean about gate duty its a nonesense I think you would be better off at Ubon they are looking for a teacher at Anuban Ubon good school good bunch of farang teachers there and lots of things to do.



By Charlie Wilson, Sisaket (7th August 2011)

I hear ya! I have been in Thailand for 2 years. This was my first ESL teaching position and I was the first foreigner for our school. Though the conditions here are much better, you can have as much or as little of the Thai life style as you want. A trip to Bangkok is 40bht by van. The pay is the same and much of the attitude is the same. They want us here, they need us here, but they don't like it.

I agree you should have better living conditions at the very least. I turned down the option of a free apartment on school property for a private house. We are up to 4 foreign teachers and always looking for more. Government school with lots of holidays ( Approx 3 months a year) At the very least DON'T sign your contract until you have what you want. You have options all over the country.

By Tina Burrows, Nakhon Pathom (4th August 2011)

The boss is obviously taking advantage of you. Don't listen too much to these people that ask you to be humble. I would ask for more pay and start looking for a different place to live. So in other words ask for a raise as to what the difference would be for you to rent a house in the village. I would think that these kids are obviously not poor and probably have way better living conditions than you do. Don't be a chump and ask for more.

By Jack, California (3rd August 2011)

I envy you.
I have searched for such a job for over two years.
I came to Thailand to experience Thailand.

I have a job and have been working at the same school for two years.
If you are interested in a swap, I'm all ears.
Michael.

By Michael, Bangkok (3rd August 2011)

"Authentic experience" is right. It's never fun to be in a fishbowl unless you are a terrific exhibitionist.

For some relief, if you get time off and can get to Chiang Rai, I know a guy there with a few properties who went to Thailand over a decade ago and acquired some properties and wrote some books, one called "Farmsteading in Thailand". If you are there and pitch in a few hours per day, it will be free to stay.

His name is Ken Albertsen, originally from Grass Valley, CA - sometimes getting away for some relief (or sex), social life under an umbrellas of your own culture, or whatever is all you need for a recharge. It wasn't too bad when I was teaching in Thailand, as I was married, but once when I was teaching in a provincial town in Japan, I'd go to the train station once per month when some Mormons arrived by train and handed out their stuff in the train station for a day! There were no other native English speakers in my city, so just to be able to shoot the bull with some other americans was a treat.

Anyway, go to http://www.thailandrocks.com/ and get some contact info there.

Good luck!

Daniel B.

By dan berman, Hawaii (1st August 2011)

You sound like an easygoing and accepting person. You understand that this is a start-up position, and as such, you are expected to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Unless I've misread what you've written, you have only been on this job for a month? That's hardly enough time to be acclimated or settle into the routine of the school or lifestyle of where you're living. Your boss seems to be rushing to provide you the creature comforts you need. You do realize that Si sa ket is one of the poorest areas of Issan. Is it your living condition that's pushing you towards leaving? I think you'll have to do a better job of the working situation to survive there, but you certainly have an interesting work challenge. Don't place too much emphasis on the work contract ... written contracts are worthless in Thailand.

By Guy, Bkk (29th July 2011)

Good work amigo. It is always good to live an authentic lifestyle. I am amazed that you identified the main languages spoken in the province.
I can speak Lao and Suay, so I just keep quiet and play dumb. "North-Eastern Thai" is nothing more than nationalistic crap. You can be a beacon of education.
Adios

By Johnny Moto, Krung Thep (29th July 2011)

Well thanks for the comments, yes I plan to leave soon -- a magic contract --an agreed salary/paid holidays etc , where I`m teaching now - no conract --no conditions -- but the director drives a 3M baht Merc , I have to write all the curriculums and lesson plans in my own time for 3 grades of high school + write the mid term and final terms English exams and this weekend i`m marking 135 English exams papers -- the school said TAKE THEM HOME but at least I`m marking my own exams LOL, I have taught English in Vietnam -- Saigon and in the Philippines , but I do enjoy the life here , great food/people in the south , but less than 250 baht per hour SHEEEE , try and write curriculums on a Thai computer !!!! , but you have to laugh its our own destiny and experiences that matter.

By David Stanton, Toongrung Garnjandit,southern Thailand (29th July 2011)

Hey there....
Wow...I am pretty amazed at you, you do good and seems to endure A LOT ! What you experience sounds to me pretty normal here in Thailand. Working without contract, no workpermit (if they never will finish that and you never will get one - even that is in fact illegal - then do not be suprised, tell you that...), I have seen it all i think.

As you I have been a English Teacher in a village also - only 4 months though - because they found an excuse of "kicking me out" (call it a "Thai way of lying", white lies" whatever...."your pronounciations is not good", "the school does not have more money to hire you and extend your contract" etc.). That time, back in 2007, I got salary of 20K, so I think you get a very very good salary - even more than my present job !
Then after that I worked 10 months at another goverment school, in the city and now I work in a private English Tutor Centre and been working here - as the only English Teacher - for more than 1 year already!
As you I was the only WHITE person in the village/town and I even could stop the local market from business just by my presence and everybody would stop and stare at me. We lived in a wood house too, but when I look at your pictures, your house seems a lot more worse than ours and I surprise you can live like that!!
I know Sisakhet and I think it is a pretty good city and you can even take a free train (almost free though... 13 baht I think it is) to go to Ubon and you can find more international food here etc.
Besides that I think you work A LOT - too much and I am surprised you take on SO much! Please do not put on the Thai style of "never saying no" - you end the risk of they advantage you! The more you accept, the more they will expect from you and it will be a circle without ending.....
All the things about naughty boys, naughty students, I can fully relate too and have experiend a lot of that myself too and for sure, when we not - as foreigners - can speak Thai language, the students are smart enough to take advantage of that and either not come to class, be lazy/unmotivated/sleeping/disturbing in class etc. Think about this, if they are students who have absolutely no idea, no perspective of WHY learning English (except for understanding the violent games at the local internet cafe) they are certainly not motivated. And then furthermore if the only dream that they have is to become a rice-farmer, then there is no way they can understand why they should learn English and therefore no motivation present.
Even those teachers who are friendly to you now - the Thai smile - they might later turn out to be your enemies (I experienced that !!), "the joy of a new toy is big, but after a while it pass away....".
I hate to disappoint you, but you are not the first foreigner teacher in Sisakhet, I used to have a few friends there before, all teachers, but maybe you are the first foreign teacher at that school, I dont know.
Anyway, you seem to endure much and I credit you for that, that will benefit you laterr, because you havent really seen Thailand without living the village life and yes, Bangkok is not so attractive after the glanse have gone !
Take care out there......youre doing great!

By Asger Poulsen, Ubon Ratchathani (29th July 2011)

The bottom line is it sounds like you are not really happy there and we have basically 3 choices when it comes to most situations in life:
1. change it, 2. accept it or 3. leave it, you need to do one of those three or you will drive yourself crazy and be extremely unhappy. Your story sounds like it maybe time to just leave it, good luck.

By Thomas, Khon Kaen, Thailand (29th July 2011)

Dear Flea: Pack it up and go. Those kids will get government, bi-lingual, mono-cultural Thai English teachers. Who will be more qualified than you. So why suffer? Makes no sense at all when you take in the big picture. You will be happier in China or Korea and have a wonder teaching experience to tell everyone back home in the states. Go while you still can before something wonderful happens like Dengue fever or Malaria or Hepatitis, then you will have something more to bring home from Thailand. Overall I tip my hat to you for your brave effort...you have a good heart and will make a great teacher...brain is displaced, but have a good heart.

By Ajaan Rob, Bangkok (29th July 2011)

I too live in a small village -- being the only Farang here -- the stares have stopped and at least now i know some Thai so the market is easy , I have a small motor bike so getting around is easy , the largest city near me is Surat Thani,about a 40 minute bike ride, my typical Thia house is ok as the owner has helped me do it up , I have a decent bathroom , a seperate bedroom , good water supply , plenty of free fruit (mangosteens) YUM , the souhtern Thai`s are very nice and friendly and I`ve never had a problem -- the only problem I have is a very low salary I only earn 15000 baht a month as a Native English speaker in a High School , the teaching agency takes over 50% of my salary as commission , so after 7 months i`m looking for greener pastures.

By David Stanton, Toongrung Garnjandit,southern Thailand (29th July 2011)

You mean to say you have come toThailand to to work for that money and those hours!!! No farang teachers do gate duty!!!!!!

By Dean, Bangkok (29th July 2011)

Just stay where you are man. You are in a place where they really need an English Teacher. You can give something to those kids there. Not like an International School in Thailand with some naughty rich kids that will never listen to you.
You have a nice house - i like an stayed in Isaan houses before and it was really healthy to live - no AC.
Look, Bangkok is expensive and 30k might not be enough all the time and we do not go out every night. We work, we get tired, go home and sleep possible go out a couple of days a week.
No worries, you are not missing anything in Bangkok but gaining a rewarding experience in Ubon (by the way, Ubon is a cool city man. There is everything you need there, book store, cinema, Starbucks etc.-)
Stay where you are.

By KD Eryarar, Bangkok (29th July 2011)

Thank you so much for teaching us english. You're the best.

By Anna, thaiand (28th July 2011)

You can do better. Don't sell yourself short. There are many jobs available with better salaries. It's up to you to make change happen. Best of luck and I hope it all works out for you.

By Alan, Bangkok (27th July 2011)

Hi there,

I totally empathise with you on this. Your situation sounds like an extremely testing one and I'm amazed at how well you are dealing with it. I'm a teacher in Surin city in the province just before Surin but this is my second year.

I think you are brave & worthy of respect just for taking up such a position given the circumstances. I don't find it easy living in Thailand in general and that's with living in a nice place in the town. You must be an amazing resource for that community & when considering whether to stay or go I think you should bear this in mind. I imagine it takes so much patience to be a lone westerner out there...even in Surin it causes a big drama when there's a white person in the vicinity, particularly if you're younger & without a partner. Patient endurance (Thai: ot-thon) is an essential quality for our line of work. If you can make it till Oct I think you'll come out of it stronger in many ways!

Best wishes whatever you decide!

By Paul, Surin (27th July 2011)

Teaching a rural town is the best, I've been living and teaching in Donsak for about two and a half years now. I'm lucky I don't have to do gate duty, but it would of been nice if they'd asked me to.

Stick at it, you sound like you have a sweet deal, my school didn't provide accommodation or kit my digs out with furniture.
I use to pay 2500 baht a month for an empty bungalow, I slept on a thin little mat with a fan and a mosquito net. Your wooden home sounds like a dream. Obviously my bungalow has a little more stuff in it now, well a proper bed and a wardrobe lol.

As for needing a Thai partner, I'd have to disagree with you on that one. I did just fine without one, well she lived in Bangkok so she wasn't really any help, unless I wanted to know the name of some food I felt like eating.

If you think learning Thai is difficult where you stay, you should here Thais speak to each other in the southern dialect. I can listen and speak Thai well enough these days, but sometimes listening to them speak in the south is mind boggling.

One last thing Bangkok stinks, but if you wanna go there why catch a plane. I traveled once or twice a month up to Bangkok by bus, leave on the Friday arrive back Monday morning and straight to school. A return bus ticket is cheaper than a one way ticket on a plane!

By Craig, Amphur Donsak, Surat Thani (27th July 2011)

Stay and see how you feel when the time comes in October. I lived in a small village before for more than a year. The first 3-4 months was horrible as everything moves at a very slow pace. Everyone knows where you have been for the weekend and which woman you spoke to for longer than 20 minutes. The money was not great, but sitting here now in Bangkok I actually miss that village where I was the only foreigner for literally villages around. Yeah, those squat toilets. I fell off my one on more than one occasion trying to smoke and read the newspaper at the same time.

As for the kids. I used to spend 20 Baht a day on those cheap sweets from 7-11 and dish it out to the kids who behave or learn in class. I had my share of those boys as you mentioned. This is what makes small villages so great is that you get to see the kids and the parents many times after school or on weekends. One afternoon I was having lunch and this kid who is the ring leader came around with his father selling lotto tickets. He was very polite with his father around. Next day I brought it to the attention of the class that he helps his parents after school and what a good person he was. I gave him his 1 Baht sweet so he gained lots of face. Never had those problems with the boys again.

Village life is odd and takes getting used too - but it is great if you can afford to do it for an extended period of time. No stay in Thailand is complete without having lived in 'a rural village' as a teacher.

By TeeTee, Bangkok (27th July 2011)

Well I do understand your situation as I have previously lived and worked in the Issan area. Just give it a go for a wee bit longer and if that doesn't work out, you can always leave. Though be aware that once you do that, your Imm-B visa can be cancelled forthwith. Sometimes the employer will be relaxed about it and give you some time, if not; you can always cross the river into Laos and come back in again on another 30 day visa.Good luck in your choices,I miss Thailand a lot. Korea is great $$, but Thailand is a lot warmer and that is really attractive especially come December.

By Martin, WonJu, South Korea. (27th July 2011)

Keep up the good work you are doing...after a few more months you will probably be more comfortable with the digs and know what the fun things to do are (I am sure there are many being in a border town). I lived in a village and I fell in love with it, but due to financial obligations, I had to get a job at an international school.

By Krailat, Chiang Mai (27th July 2011)

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