It’s been a fantastic year. I have lived in Southeast Asia since September 10th, 2012. I was not sure I was going to work as a teacher when I arrived. I viewed my travels here as a long vacation. However, once I realized I liked it here, I began to look for jobs so that I could stay longer.
I looked for any job I could find. First, I thought of earning my PADI divemaster certification, but the high initial costs and the monsoon season in the Gulf of Thailand meant that I would not have enough money to last until I began working. I also thought of working at a bar or restaurant, but there were not many of those jobs available to foreigners. So I ended up accepting a job teaching English conversation.
I worked in Trat town, in southeastern Thailand, where I taught English to students in Mattayom 1 through 6. I worked at multiple English camps, taught private lessons, and worked occasional evenings at a Thai bar. I went to national parks and temples with Thai people, got drunk on numerous beaches, had the best 1-dollar meals of my life, and met people from all over the world. I had a great time.
It’s strange: a place that was so foreign to me when I arrived now feels so much like home. I am not sure when Thailand began to feel like my home. It must have happened within the past six months or so. In April of this year, I bought a motorbike and biked across the Bolaven Plateau in Laos. That was quite possibly the most fun experience I have had in Southeast Asia so far. I arrived back in Thailand filled with dread. I did not want to be working again. I was having so much fun.
After the next school term ended, I traveled to Vietnam for a couple of weeks. When I arrived back in Trat, I felt like I was home again. I loved traveling through Vietnam. In many ways, that excursion was more fun than my adventures in Laos. However, this time I did not want to keep traveling; I was excited to return to Thailand, my new home.
I’m not sure what I will do next. I loved the students at my school. As screwed up as the Thai school system was, and as lazy as many of the students were, none of my students were ever disrespectful or vindictive. I doubt that I could say the same thing working as a teacher in the United States. Still, the headaches that come with working at a Thai school make me unenthusiastic about working at a government school again. I think it’s time for me to try something new.
I never expected to be a teacher. I doubt that I will end up teaching for a career. But I like doing it now. So why quit?
I will end with some advice for new teachers:
1. Keep your calm at all times. Nothing will make Thais lose respect for you like an inability to control your temper.
2. Focus on the students who do want to learn. Even if most of your students show up late and don’t pay attention in class, help the students who are interested in learning. Just because the system’s failing them does not mean you should too.
3. Stop complaining. Don’t be one of those people who only eats farang food, gets drunk, and talks about how much better the West is than Thailand. Did you not come here to experience a different culture?