This is the place to air your views on TEFL issues in Thailand. Most topics are welcome but please use common sense at all times. Please note that not all submissions will be used, particularly if the post is just a one or two sentence comment about a previous entry.
To All UK Teachers; Don't Lose Your Vote
To all teachers who wish to vote in the UK General Election but don't quite know how to do it! It is not too late to act. If you are not registered you can register as an overseas voter if you are a British citizen and you have been on a UK electoral register at any time within the past 15 years.
Alternatively, some local authorities may take registrations over the phone. You can find the contact details of your Electoral Registration Officer here.
I believe that proxy is the best road to take. Your proxy can vote in person or by post. Ask for your proxy to vote in person - it is easier for them (by post was default when I registered so I had to request they change it, which they did immediately). Visit this site.
The quickest way to deal with the paperwork is to do everything online. Anything that requires a signature can be printed, signed, scanned and returned electronically. If you don't have these facilities at home there is probably a print shop near you that does.
If you don't have a proxy (family member, friend, neighbour etc) you can always contact the local branch of the party you support and ask to be given one.
Remember, every vote counts!!
As an aside, we have formed a branch of Labour International in Thailand. If after the election you wish to get involved then get in touch with us: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org - we'd love to have you along to one of our meetings!!
Take care and have your say in what post-Brexit Britain will look like
On the topic of the teacher who was ridiculed for being overweight - "Yeah, life ain't fair and the people of Thailand have some different values and ways of doing things than people in the USA have" Maturity epitomized there, ladies and gentleman.
I've been fortunate as far as my looks go in Thailand. I'm tall and fair-skinned. This is who I am. Back home people might say that I'm too fair- skinned. This bothered me when living back home sometimes. I wasn't doing anything wrong, but was made to feel like I was. Now I'm in Thailand it's the opposite. I'm complimented on looking fair. Now when I go home I simply don't care what people say about me being pasty.
I worked with an overweight guy before. The kids would often mention his weight. It was like they had turrets with words associated with overweight. It got him down and I felt bad for him. He wasn't the most confident or assertive fellow in the world, so I told him that he ever needs to chat, come and chat.
Talking about problems really helps. I told him that it wasn't personal and it was just kids being kids. If he wanted me to, I'd have a word with his class when they came to my class (I am a science teacher). I told the kids not to mention about his weight. It hurts his feelings and it's not nice nor polite. I told them that we're not to look down on anyone because of how they look. This is also my job as a teacher to have a safe and pleasant learning environment. This isn't an elitist farang idea, it's also a value shared by Thais. To think it wasn't would be to look down on the locals like "they don't know any better".
The kids were good. They respected me and understood my point. They liked the other teacher but simply didn't realize they were hurting his feelings. After all, they're kids and are still learning about life. He ended up leaving Thailand anyway, but I'd like to think he left Thailand a wiser and happier person from his experiences. I'd like to think more people offered him a kind or supportive word over simply telling him he's not cut out for Thailand.
When we have problems, it's always good to talk about them. Share experiences and know it's not only us. The wrong thing to do is to tell someone "shut up or go home". Adults talk and rationalize. We might not always agree, but we should always talk and share ideas, opinions and thoughts.
Good job with the website, Phil. I enjoy reading comments and seeing what other teachers in Thailand are up to. Their experiences (good or bad) all add to make it a great place to live and work.
Getting ahead in the teaching game can be very difficult. You stay another year at your school, get paid a little more, maybe some more holiday, but that's about it. The longer you stay the more useless teachers you see come and go. You have that mixed feeling of knowing you're worth more in your school, but also how you are now the go-to-guy whenever there's a problem with people like '23-year-old James from Leeds' who loves getting leathered and indulging with the local ladies. He didn't go to uni, but he's wicked good at installing Sky satellite dishes. He thinks he got the job simply because he's special and handsome and finds it hard to cope with any criticism or requests to do work. The break from the honeymoon period has been hard on James. So bad he's thinking of getting a new job! He threatens this in his head everyday.
For every good teacher, I'd say there are three bad ones. The bad ones are usually allowed to coast along until the school finally get their revenge and don't renew their contract. Some like James from Leeds live from paycheck to paycheck so know they actually need their job. They'll come to work on time and not complain for the last few weeks. All the things anyone should be doing in their job anyway. This way the school might think James has turned a corner. At the very least for James, he has his "I've been treated unfairly" card for when the school wanna let him go. He can tell his friends and missus who quit her job when she met him how he arrived on time, taught his lessons and was loved by everyone at the school. Except for one person who had it in for him for 'no reason'. Life's so unfair for James.
Rinse and repeat in many schools. The good teachers watch the bad teachers come and go and wonder why nothing is changing. Often quoting Einstein's definition of insanity.
Thought I would list some of my experiences with TEFL in Korea (Gimhae, Busan) vs Thailand (Pattaya, Bangkok). I taught for a year in Korea before doing two years in Thailand.
Korea - A hagwon (language academy). More of a business than a school. Long, hard working days from 10 am till after 9 pm at night sometimes. Long days, odd hours and tiring but the students are more respectful and interested in learning English than Thai students.
I pitied a lot of my students as many were forced by their parents to do extra studying on top of their already arduous schedule. Schools are more organised than Thailand and follow set curriculums although offer opportunity for games and funtime too, especially with kids. A lot of shady, hagwon horror stories but I got lucky and fared ok.
Thailand- two different government schools with Pratom and Mattayom. More fun teaching than Korea but I felt like more of a rent-a-clown than a teacher. Classes based a lot more around fun and games than proper learning. Students generally ok but largely uninterested in English.
Thai students often lack critical thinking due to terrible rote-style learning from their Thai teachers and are more afraid to speak up for fear of losing face. Some very noisy, chaotic and naughty classes, particularly with younger kids (often leaving the room with a sore throat!).
Schools are unbelievably disorganised and frustrating to deal with last minute changes, compulsory staff meetings in Thai language etc. Much more freedom in the classroom but far worse conditions (40 students to a class, dodgy facilities, some classrooms had no air-con etc). Some very dodgy Thai government schools indeed but I fared OK.
Not recommended for more serious teachers as it will drive you crazy.
Korea - Difficult and expensive initially getting required documents (apostille, etc) and also fairly trapped to the school on an E2 visa. But at least no 90-day check ins, re-entry if you travel abroad and generally better once "in-country".
Thailand - Absolute nightmare. Ever changing rules and requirements for legalisation of documents to get a non-B visa, some of which were so laugh-worthy they were a farce. On top of that, 90-day check ins, re-entry permits to go abroad and having to leave the country and start the whole ordeal again should you change school.
Korea - Sucked balls. Blistering summers, arctic winters, typhoons and not much in between except a couple of weeks in cherry blossom season.
Thailand - Awesome, perfect winters, always warm and usually sunny. Just what the doctor ordered after a tough Korean winter.
Things to do
Korea - Cool mountains and beaches relatively OK but suck for the cold half of the year. Cleaner nature and some interesting things to see. Snowboarding in winter too. Cities cool but nightlife not as fun as Thailand.
Thailand - Awesome, jungle treks, stunning beaches and cool islands. Loved the crazy cheap nights out, pool parties, riding my moto down the palm fringed beaches and forests at dusk. Only downside is the polluted beaches/rivers in parts, especially nearer to Bangkok. A lot of rubbish, poverty and stray dogs everywhere which is pretty depressing.
Korea - Far better, good roads and high speed trains anywhere in the country. Clean, modern cities with lots to do. But drivers sucked
Thailand - A lot worse but more interesting. Standard developing country affair of noisy, dirty and chaotic cities, bad public transport and terrible drivers. More "character" but can definitely become suffocating and after a while you long for a beach/nature getaway.
Korea - I found Koreans to be more contrasted, some very Westernised with good English and interest in the western world, others very unfriendly and curt. More reserved than Thailand and often times ruder too. I considered Koreans to be the "Germans of Asia" if that makes sense?
Thailand - Far friendlier than Koreans but also more likely to try scamming you, particularly in tourist spots. Generally worse at English but more willing to talk to farangs.
Korea - Worst place I experienced in Asia for dating (Korea, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand). Loads of beautiful girls with zero interest in farangs unless they work for Samsung/similar. Humble English teachers particularly looked down upon.
To make it worse, local guys can be the worst. Although there are quite a few girls who are interested in westerners, I only scored a few dates the whole time I was there.
Thailand - A single farang man's goldmine. Lost count of how many dates I scored there. However, pay attention as a lot of them might just be gold-diggers in disguise, particularly in tourist areas. Also, harder to find girls you can have "intelligent conversation" with besides shopping, facebook and Thai TV/music (but also some really cool, worldly minded Thai girls too).
Korea - Sweet teacher packages (free apartment, flights, end of contract bonus and much better salary) but generally less to do outside of work (unless you live in Seoul or Busan). Generally attracts more "serious" teachers (as opposed to backpackers extending their trip).
Weather sucks and locals are less friendly but the country is much more developed, modern and first world. EPIK generally safer than hagwons but you might get placed in the boonies and be the only farang in the village. Good for first timers or those looking to save money as you are totally spoonfed with programs and can put away easily half your salary if you are frugal.
Thailand - Much more laissez-faire and possibly more intimidating to the first time teacher as you aren't babied nearly as much as Korea and with it being a developing country.
More "interesting" mix of expats, some cool, some not so cool. Cheap costs but the salary sucks and it'll be hard to save anything unless you can fully live like a local in a crap, Thai-style apartment, eat Thai food every day and not party or travel, although lets be real, no farang goes to Thailand to live like a monk.
Lifestyle far trumps that of Korea (beaches, travel opportunities, nightlife, climate) and much more of an "exotic adventure".
Either way, both destinations couldn't be more different to each other and both have merits and downsides worth checking out!
Hello Phil, I've followed your website for over twelve years now, and even though I don't teach in Thailand anymore I still like to have a look every week or so. I teach in other countries, but my wife still lives in Thailand so I still spend a lot of time there.
One of the sections in your site that is interesting is the "great escape" section. For a lot of people, teaching in Thailand is something they'll do for a few years. After that they may well head back to their home country.
Now getting to the point, a lot of these teachers will get married to a Thai citizen during their time in the country. If they are from the UK, they will find it difficult to take their spouse back home with them. To get a settlement visa for their spouse the sponsor must find a job earning 18.6K per year or more. They can earn less than this if they have savings, but only if the savings are more than 16K. The visa is also very expensive and is often rejected, meaning that people pay out thousands of pounds for absolutely nothing.
I recently joined a Facebook group called "I LOVE MY 'FOREIGN' SPOUSE: defend the rights of cross-border couples" This group has over 10,000 members. Last week the admin of the group created a petition to parliament to ask to change these laws. Maybe it can't happen right now, but if people keep on bringing the issue to the government's attention something might change in our favour one day. I think that you must be aware of these rules as you are British too!
Here is the petition:
If you could feature this on your site, then that would be amazing. It's quite a big issue that must affect hundreds, if not thousands, of your readers.
The process for getting a teacher's visa in Thailand (non-B) is anything but simple (as of my experiences with Jomtien immigration when I was last there).
First, I needed original proof (housebook or letter from owner) of where I was staying. If the accommodation you are living in is owned by a farang (condo) then you need this letter from the Thai building owner. If you are staying in a hotel/hostel, you need a letter from the owner of that (whether or not they are actually in town/country doesn't matter to the officials, you still needed it). This then had to be authenticated by the city hall.
Secondly, I needed to get my (original) degree certificate sent over from the UK. A photocopy would no longer suffice. It had to be the original certificate.
Waiting for the required documents to arrived was a long and stressful process (what if they got lost in the Thai post?!)
My time on my tourist waiver ran out and I had to take a border run to Cambodia (getting a grilling of who I was, what I was doing in Thailand and why I was there from the stern Thai official at the re-entry border).
I was then told to obtain photographs of myself including one of me "teaching" students, one of me with a Thai colleague and one again stood by the sign for the school name at the front gates (although when I questioned them asking me for pictures of myself teaching without a visa that allows me to teach would have been illegal, they became agitated and said "I tell you already, why you no understand!?"
Of course nobody in Jomtien immigration office spoke English or even explained anything to my Thai partner when I took her with me. It seemed they didn't even know the rules themselves. The request for photographs was way beyond Thai logic and the whole thing would have been hilarious if it wasn't so stressful.
I then waited for more than a couple of weeks for my monumentally incompetent school admin to produce the contract and proof of my employment document.
In the time waiting for this, my 30 days again ran out and I took a weekend trip to Kuala Lumpur, getting another 30 days (and another grilling off Thai immigration at Don Muang).
Thirdly, I had to take this to be legalised and authenticated by the British Embassy of Bangkok.
Regarding this blog on ajarn.com about a Thai school being almost like one long party with lessons thrown in, this is certainly not the case in my school, or many others across the country that take education seriously and try to implement some standards and quality teaching methodologies into the Thai system.
Teachers here take pride in designing curricula, schemes of work, lesson plans and engaging teaching materials that engage and progress a broad spectrum of learning styles and levels represented in the classroom. On top of this we have a continuous cycle of incremental assessment and report writing to measure each student's progress and identify individual areas of development.
While there is always time for fun and games, teaching anywhere, including Thailand, should certainly not be a "non-stop party" and by suggesting otherwise it trivialises the whole role of education. I, like most other professional teachers, take my job seriously and realise that the lessons we give today will impact our students' and in turn society's opportunities tomorrow.
Yes, there are serious flaws in the Thai education system but that does not mean we should give up on the concept of developing our students intellectually, mentally, morally and emotionally. We do our best to nurture young minds and strive to find innovative ways to overcome the obstacles and frustrations the Thai education system gives us.
I find this article rather demeaning to those of us who do improve our students' language and knowledge. The author seems to take pride in reporting that a Prathom 6 student has not made any progress since Kindergarten and even boasts that they might have "RE gressed". This is abhorrent to any real teacher and would not be tolerated in any decent school in Thailand. Perhaps the author should think about the disservice he and his school is giving their students and reflect upon the future ramifications of this!
It's hard to believe how uneducated people are on here about money, when they say "You'll make three times what a Thai does," or "You have to live like a Thai!" Total rubbish. The salary one makes as a teacher, first of all, is three times more than the minimum wage in Thailand. Yes, this is true. But when you factor in all the circumstantial costs, opportunity costs and expat costs, a Westerner making 30,000 baht a month will, in the long run, have a lower standard of living of Thai who makes currently 10,000 baht a month.
People are bloody clueless. Consider the following factors:
Expats pay for work permit costs and criminal record check costs, etc.
Expats pay for visa run costs
Expats pay more for Passport Services
Thais get access to free healthcare
Thais get access to bank loans and credit and local brokerages for investments
Western teachers are often paying off loans from expensive universities that cost up to 20 times what a Thai university costs
Westerners pay more for national parks, taxis, and pretty much any other good or service
Westerners were born in colder environments. Science proves that your sweat glands and optimal temperature are developed and adapted when you are around 2-5 years old. Therefore, air conditioner costs are higher for Westerners
Western Food that Westerners grew up with (although not a necessity to live, it is something they are adapted to eat) is two to three times more expensive than Thai food.
Thais have their family networks to draw on at all times and can share resources
Thais do not have to spend money to fly home for funerals, weddings, reunions, etc.
Thais are generally smaller in stature, so they do not have to eat as much
Thais are not constantly having to bargain with touts and vendors who treat them as tourists
Thais have more right to the laws and are less likely to have to pay bribes, get ripped off in a legal dispute or not get paid
It is much cheaper for a Thai to retire in Thailand than it is for a Westerner who needs x amount of money in the bank for a retirement visa
The amount of money a Westerner needs to retire in his/her own country is four times what a Thai would need in Thailand
Thais are legally allowed to work a second job
Thais are legally allowed to own property and a business
A Westerner is expected to pay the lion's share for his/her Thai Spouse's lifestyle and family
A Thai does not have to pay fines to immigration for not checking in every three months
Westerners have to pay more for moving and shipping costs (presents, bank cards, documents, etc) than the average Thai
Thai entertainment, such as television, books and movies are also much cheaper and more available in Thailand
Thais can invest in their own furniture and not have to pay the "service" for serviced apartments, while only long term Westerners with a Thai spouse could and would be able to do this
Expats have to pay remittance costs and exchange rates to move their money to and from their home countries
Expats have to pay for Skype/Google Hangouts to be able to call family and friends back home
If they want to integrate, Expats have to pay (one way or another) for Thai language lessons
If they want to get married, go to a dentist, write a will, etc., a Westerner will have to pay a translation fee or premium for an English speaking service (unless they can read Thai very well and I have never seen this)
Although paltry, Thais are entitled to social services and programs that Westerners are not
Thais (in slightly higher tax brackets) can write off expenses and purchases - like the genius first time car ownership tax deductible that Yingluck introduced
Thais don't have to do their taxes twice, or have the possibility of paying an accountant, tax documentation twice, and they don't have to worry about the residency/non-residency bullshit.
Thais don't have to worry about the work or fees of keeping bank accounts in two countries.
Am I missing anything? Perhaps the above was somewhat rambling or petty, but I still believe that people need to "Wake The F.... up" and stop falling for this argument. I would never consider living in Thailand again for anything less than 90,000 a month.
I remember working part-time in a language centre that geared mainly towards IELTS, TOEFL and TOEIC. The ladies at the front would tell the students any old bollox. Didn't matter how low level your English was they'd push you to do a the course.
The first thing I'd do is tell the students how difficult IELTS can be. If you're at a level under pre-intermediate, you will struggle (these students harboured ideas of studying in the UK, etc, so needed at least a 6.5 score). I told them they'd be better off learning general English for a while and then come back. So, I'd get that out of the way and I'd introduce the course. We'd get to the first activity and I would see the students' faces drop. That sudden realisation that this was proper hard work.
No word of a lie I had a student ask me; "Teacher, if I did this test in Cambodia, would it be easier?" to which I replied "Is that a joke?" I could see some of the students eyes light up as they thought I was going to reply 'yes'. Unfortunately for them, I had to break the news that this is a standardised test. It's the same all over the world and the reason it exists is to test your level of English. Faces dropped again. I explained to some of the nurses one time that doing their TOEIC test can be a question of life and death for some poor bugger in hospital. The questions aren't trying to trick you - they're trying to make sure you're listening properly and have a good grasp of English.
I think many people believe studying IETLS, etc, to be a status symbol. I've had students study it thinking it was merely an advanced level of learning English. It's not. It's a test that anyone can take to test their level of English. If you wanna spunk god knows how much money up the wall on doing a 60+ hour course and then an exam, go nuts. But understand the reason for studying English proficiency exams. It's not about learning English - it's about learning how to pass a particular test. Your English has to already be good to get a meaningful score that will help you progress to university abroad, etc.
I disagree that teachers shouldn't have favourite students. It's pretty easy for me to determine early in the school year, which students get the best of my attention and which ones will benefit most in the long run from a little favouritism.
My favourite students are the ones who are the most attentive and involved in the class. I play to this section of the crowd. If the rest are quiet, I leave 'em alone.
I'll never forget a TV interview that the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys gave (Jimmy Johnston) after he had fired a player for sleeping in a player's meeting. He was asked if he would have fired Troy Aikman (the quarterback) if HE had slept during the meeting.
His answer was: "Of course not. I play favourites."
Made sense to me.
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