The joy and pain of teaching in Thailand

The joy and pain of teaching in Thailand

A teacher looks back over her ten years in Thailand

It's October again and this month, I'm celebrating my 10th year in Thailand as an ESL Teacher. Working in a foreign land hasn't been that easy. It took me years and a lot of patience and hard work for to get settled not to mention the ocean of tears and heart breaking homesickness being away from home.

There were cold and lonely nights. There were uncountable nightmares and unbearable pains of getting sick but still had to get up the next day for another long day. I must be strong at all times to prove my worth as a teacher. I had to be a clown for sometimes, an actress, an acrobat, a dancer or any one that could give my students some sort of fun and encourage them to learn English in a fun and more relaxing way. I'm an artist so I can produce and design my own teaching aids and materials creatively.

In my journey, I've met a lot of people along the way. Bad and good people. From the South to the North, East to the West, I've experienced being discriminated over European Teachers and Native English Speakers. I'm not white. I'm Asian. I'm a Filipino. But discrimination never stopped me from doing good and proving myself to every school I've work with.

Modesty aside, I'm a licensed and professional teacher with Master's Degree and loads of training certificates to boast about. But in the Land of Smiles, the white people gets paid higher than me although some of them are just backpackers and no degree. Well, as years passed by, I got used to it, but still hoping and praying to get recognized and paid equally, not based on my race but by my performance.

From the good people I have met along my journey, I could mention a few. Pi Tuh and Pi Dek from Yala who took care of me in my first year of teaching in Thailand, Ajarn Am- Orn and Khun Charin who were so good to me during my stay in the deep South.(In Thailand, Pi is addressed to older people like brothers and sisters equivalent to Kuya and Ate to Philippines. Ajarn or Kru is addressed for teachers.)

Ms. Nok and Mr. Simon Jack of Arundel Language Institute were a couple, the owners of the agency, who made me feel like I'm one of them. No discrimination. They also treated the Filipino teachers as equal to Europeans and NES. Ms. Nok was not just my employer. She was a good friend and a confidant. No dull moment with her.

In Bangkok, I will never forget Khun Pii and Ajarn Lawrie of Ramkangheang Institute of Languages who were so supportive to all foreign teachers. Ajarn Jinthana and Ajarn Nudtanong of Nonthaburi Project deserved the praises of being accommodating, understanding and supportive to me. But among the good, there are better and there would always be the best.

In my current school, I found a new family. I have Apple, Suenead, Pam and Ou. They're my good friends. My younger sisters in Thailand. I remember the first time I came here, a very fine lady approached me and offered me a teaching job. I didn't have any plan of applying then because I was expecting to work with the agency that Nico, a good friend, was managing. But something came up so I called her up. But to my bad, they had already hired an Iranian Teacher.

Days passed by and I was already losing hope but I had nothing to do but knelt down and pray for miracles. Then I got a phone call that changed all my plans. It was Ajarn Orasri Sittichotti. She was an English Teacher in my school for nearly 37 years and was a French Teacher for 30 years. She was then the Head of the English Department.

I was hired in the school two years ago. And for two years, Ajarn Orasri was always by my side, to give moral support and to be an inspiration. Few months ago, she requested me to bring home the gold prize from the SKIT Competition. For a charming and lovely boss like her, who could day "No"? So I did. My MEP students brought home "gold" and a place from among 22 very good MEP schools in Bangkok. The very first gold that my department got from English Competitions.

My School Director and the rest of the Assistant Directors were so happy but of course, my boss. But this month, Ajarn Orasri is retiring. She loves traveling around the world. She's been to Japan, Korea, and China, India and other ASEAN Countries. She was in Europe for multiple times and her favorite country is France. After her retirement, she will visit India again for medication and sight-seeing. She will then enjoy her life to the fullest, stress-free, happy and worth-living.

It's heart-breaking and tear-jerking to see her leaving. She's a pillar to lean on, a true leader to follow. Soft-spoken, kind-hearted, positive thinker. She's a lady of few words, a woman of dignity and honor. She's never a boss. She's a sister and a true friend. Through her, I found a new family. She gave me a "home" when I had nowhere to go.

Because of her, I got a job and she's the reason why I stay. No matter how hard the works were, all was lightened and carried because of her. Her smiles, her words were worth-remembering and she's a very important person I can never forget for the rest of my life. She's a woman full of life.

I don't worry anyhow. Although Ajarn Orasri is leaving, I will be left in the hands of three equally good and kind superiors, Pa Tata, Pi Noi and Pi Uwan who never get bored of assisting and supervising me.I wish I could offer more to improve the skills of my students.God help me.

I have no idea how long I will stay in Thailand. Maybe a few more years then I will take another journey somewhere in this planet, to inspire, to give hope and maybe to leave a legacy in the hearts of the next generation, not forgetting the fact that in every teacher's life, there is always the joy and pains of teaching.

Jocelyn Guzman


I support you Jocelyn. I believe you when you say that white people get paid more in Thailand. Anyone who disagrees with that statement or tries to justify it with a reason does not understand or has not experienced true discrimination. When people cannot identify with your struggle it is hard to understand it. @Jim @Aaron

By Saul, USA (11th September 2015)

The only reason Filipinos are teaching here in Thailand is because Thai school owners want the cheapest teachers. They have fought tooth and nail to only hire Filipinos instead of native speakers and if they could find someone cheaper than Filipinos, they would expel all Filipinos in a second. In fact, that's what they're doing now. They've just discovered hordes of cheap white faces to be hired from non-English speaking countries in eastern Europe that go for the same price or less than Filipinos.

By Andy, Bangkok (20th April 2015)

"But in the Land of Smiles, the white people gets paid higher than me although some of them are just backpackers and no degree."

Across the site, there have been a lot of discussions about Filipino teachers being underpaid. Should be true, because there are quite a number already who says, some are way so much qualified with loads of certificates and appaling degrees to show but paid less than with white skin.

But with all due respect, Ma'am, it isn't nice to point out a particular group (mentioning backpackers) to put 'yourself in the limelight' like one of the comments here said. We cannot generalize them to mean they are less knowledgeable/qualified because it doesn't mean he carries a backpack he may not have the right qualifications already. But we understand what you are trying to say. And I'm sorry but have to agree with Jim with his comment. We write a 'whining letter' addressed to every possible critter who could be reached by complaining about pay differences, but this article now could already be a plain example as to why Filipinos will be paid less due to some obvious glitches. Hope you don't mind.

But anyway, hope you're coping up being away from family. Wish you well!


By Marzha, Philippines (2nd January 2015)

It's Okay to share your experience but it's not good to mentioned or used a certain person or group just to justify oneself and putting yourself in the limelight . Just to be conscious of others feeling too. I am your compatriot, just take it as a healthy criticism. Peace and God bless

By jason, Bangkok (14th October 2014)

I don't want to get too negative on this, as the sentiment of this letter was one of thankfulness. However, on the issue of salary differentials between Filipino and white teachers it bears noting that it has nothing to do with whitey. It's thai discrimination, both from he customers as well as employers that create these inequities. On the issue of certifications, I am also highly credentialed but feel it's not that necessary for happy clown English time, and God knows the salary and conditions aren't high enough to get enough qualified Anglophile westerners here.

Writers such as Thomas point out that so many farang are young party guys but lets say the truth: Thais want young white energetic teachers. This is a young mans game and yes, surprise young men like to hunt down girls. Shocking I know.

TL;DR market conditions and discriminatory practices come from the preferences of a the customer base. blaming those that are employed is misguided.

By Aaron, Bangkok (12th October 2014)

I am NES teacher here in Thailand and I have taught at a few different schools and in all my interactions with Filippino teachers I find them to be very professional and friendly. I wish I could say the same for my fellow NES teachers but I cannot. I find most of the younger NES teachers are mainly here to party and have a good time for a year or two. And most of the older NES teachers are here teaching due to having a Thai girl friend or wife,. So very few NES teachers come specifically to Thailamd to teach or have any previous teaching experience, while it is the exact opposite with most Filippino teachers. And as far as some NES teachers having some major issues concerning Filippino teachers I think it says more about yourself then about them!

By Thomas, Bangkok (10th October 2014)

Your article pretty much sums up why Filipino teachers are paid less. No offence but your English lacks correct usage and collocations that would be apparent in all native speakers language, even if they were backpackers. I've been teaching here ten years too( I am a fully certified teacher). I always found my Filipino colleagues to be quite unfriendly towards me even If I tried to be nice. I always put this down to the fact that I am paid more. They probably always assumed I wasn't a certified teacher too even though I am. I'm sorry to be negative but I take offence to the assumption that all TEFL teachers are not qualified. Some of us are and many TEFL teachers learn on the job which is a lot more useful than a pile of certificates. Filipinos here in Thailand should not hold a grudge against TEFL teachers here.Its not our fault we are paid more. Perhaps if Filipinos refused to work for peanuts their situations may improve...

By Jim, Bangkok (9th October 2014)

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