Lets talk to a teacher who came to teach in Thailand but soon realized that he was perhaps a little 'under-qualified' or rather wanted to improve his chances of landing a better job. The answer was to enroll on a degree course in Bangkok. Take it away David Gevaux.
Hi David. You spent a number of years - nine to be exact - working in London as a film editor. It sounds like a great job. What got you down about it?
Well, I guess you spend too long doing the same thing and it just becomes boring after a while. I started out as an edit assistant and then worked on adult movies for a couple of years. I ended up working in a machine room just putting logos on the front of films and tidying things up, adding credits and cutting out scenes for the BBFC (British board of film classification).
My last year was doing quality control for feature films, which is totally mind numbing. You sit and watch a film and stop it when ever you see a spot of dirt or video error and write it down, it takes about 5 hours per film, and then you have to try and fix it. It does sound like a great job but it really takes it out of you. I used to go home and avoid watching TV because it made me sick. Saying that, a lot of nice people work in TV, except for producers......... they are twats.
You actually met your Thai wife in England and homesickness was already a major problem for her. Was there no chance of her buckling down and trying to make a go of life in the UK? How long had she been there?
I met ‘Toy’ after she had been in the UK for 2 years. She really tried her hardest to find a good job. She is a qualified accountant but it just didn’t work out for her there. The best she could do was work in a supermarket (Safeways). I used to go to her deli counter and pick her up after work. She always had a smile on her face but had lots of problems with co-workers from other ethnic groups.
Presumably you then planned to move here for love more than anything else. When you did your research on Thailand employment opportunities, it must have been a bit soul-destroying to find out that teaching was by and large all there was?
Well, I actually looked at it as a new challenge really. I did however think that I wasn’t really cut out for the job. I still don’t think I am the best teacher in the world but I know I’m not the worst.
No openings in Thailand for a film editor then?
Nah, not really. The stuff I used to do would be done by a Thai operator. It’s only the people who are flame and inferno artists which do hi-end special effects that would get a job in Bangkok.
Did your lack of degree play on your mind? Did you think that it would severely limit your teaching job opportunities?
Absolutely, it played on my mind a lot. I want to be a better teacher and it could be argued that having a degree doesn’t do that but it will get me on track here and maybe a better job. I may end up where I started on the same pay and in the same place but at least I’m not going to be the one jumping over the fence if the shit hits the fan.
I would also like to point out that a BA in English despite where I’m getting it can only give me a better understanding of English and make me a better teacher.
Let's fast forward to your arrival in Thailand. You started off by taking a TEFL course. Without mentioning any names, how did that experience go?
The TEFL course was exactly what I needed to get started here. I did a 60 plus 60 hour course. The first 60 hours were very well presented, and well I didn’t learn much but I made some friends out of it and it helped me come out of my shell a bit, it also helped me get familiar with Bangkok. I do think the first 60 hours was worth the money and the teaching materials I was given still help me out today.
The following 60 hours class time was a bit of a piss-take really. I had to work in a language centre and think 10 hours would have been enough. I wasn’t paid for doing this and as the hours weren’t available to teach it took me the best part of a month to finish.
On the whole it was a very beneficial experience but I do feel we should have got paid for the work we did. We did get our travel paid for though, I suppose that’s something.
Do you think it prepared you well for teaching Thai students?
Yes. I went to observe some lessons in a government school to see what I was letting myself in for. I think sitting in a class of 50 of them was a bit scary at first but it got me used to the environment.
You worked in a government school for year and unfortunately it got raided by immigration. They were looking for what exactly?
Sorry Phil, my mistake. Immigration did come to the school but it was for a party. We saw the immigration van and hid in the department store opposite the school (this was a week after two teachers were arrested).
It was this sort of thing I didn’t like so thought the best thing to do was go and get a degree and not have to put up with that kind of stress. I would like to point out I never worked with a fake degree, I didn’t have anything except the authentic TEFL. Anyway, we were invited to this party too and the immigration staff took pictures with us, very nice people. Kind of funny really.
Did you or any of your colleagues land in any serious trouble?
Nah. Like I said we were all just very paranoid about it all. It made me think more about my future here though which has proved to be a positive thing.
They must have been worrying times?
Well. I don’t know. Some people are just here in the short term and want a bit of fun. For me it’s different as I’m married and the wife has a good career here. I think if you are thinking about staying here for a long time and are teaching then you need a degree. It’s not just about having the right piece of paper, it’s about showing you’re a committed person who values the importance of education. If you can’t get educated yourself then how can you be a good teacher?
You enrolled on a BA course at Ramkhamhaeng University. How many years for the program and how much time do you have to give up?
The course will take me 4 years to complete. I have to study most week days or sometimes it’s just three days per week. You usually do one or two courses per month then have an exam and then move on to the next one. I suppose I’m fortunate because I saved up some money from the UK as I can’t work full time at the moment. I have some language centre work which pays the rent but will try and go back to the UK for 2 months per year and do some work.
You'll forgive me for saying so but Ramkhamhaeng Uni doesn't enjoy the greatest of reputations among the Thais. What made you choose it?
The cost was the main reason. Bangkok University was a bit out of my price range. It is worth noting though that the professors at Ram are also shared with ABAC and Chula. It isn’t the best university in the world but I think it’s great. I think the grading system doesn’t make much sense but I really can’t complain with the amount of A’s I’m getting.
I lived in the Ramkhamhaeng / Hua Mark area for five years and really enjoyed it. It's certainly a very vibrant neighborhood. Have you got yourself a little rented house on one of the moobarns (housing estates)?
Actually I live in a house in Suttisan, just off Rachada. I get the bus to Ram which usually takes about 50 minutes. I sometimes have a drink after class as there are a few nice little bars around there.
What are your plans once you finish your BA?
I’m hoping to stay in Thailand and carry on teaching. I love my life here. I like the fact I can do a bit of work go home for a sleep then go and eat some food and sleep again.
You're in this teaching game for the long haul then?
Unless something changes here then I guess I will be. It’s something I enjoy and want to be better at. I found out this week that I have a kid on the way so really need to be more grown up and being a qualified teacher is a respectable job I think. I learn something new here everyday being a teacher and a student. It’s great.