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.

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Personally, I love technology in the classroom

Personally, I love technology in the classroom

I'm 100% behind tech in the classroom, it can save me time and the kids seem to enjoy the differentiation if nothing else. It needs to be done right, not mindless Kahoot topics on an ongoing basis.

Give me a big fat pipe, a fully approving HoD and I'm off to the races. I could run both RW, LS as well as a critical thinking, SAT prep and literature courses off EdTech sites. Books are static. Old textbooks are the death of learning. Bill Gates agrees, less the hyperbole.

I see few reasons to use whiteboards unless you're doing something very interactive and in the moment. Even for LS, toss the guidelines up, do some splanin', divide the pairs / groups and off you go.

PowerPoint which you can refine over the lesson periods and save forever. Don't like PowerPoint? Throw up a PDF. Rewriting your presentation numerous times just wastes huge amounts of class time. Don't like PowerPoints, learn Prezi or Canva or whatever.

I will readily admit drawn out PowerPoints can be a drag, but so is a teacher endlessly scribbling bits of ephemera on the board with his ass to the class. As soon as your back is turned, you're uninteresting, the lesson stops and mischief starts.

As for a student drawing or printing a rose. I teach English not art, they can put a big black X on the page, get the grammar, vocab right. Reeks of logical fallacy.

Jim


China or Thailand for a TEFLer?

So many people who have been in ESL or other international work have such interesting stories to tell, there are a lot of negatives in living and working internationally (especially if one is not on a full ex-pat package), but it is usually not boring!

While the grass often seems greener elsewhere, one should be careful in thinking strictly in terms of “country.” Within each country there are jobs with a wide range of salaries, working conditions and types of bosses, as well as a few general similarities. For example, I worked for three years in China with basically a full ex-pat salary, yet the living and working conditions were sub-optimal.

I also worked there three times in two separate location on short-term assignments where the pay was substantially lower, but the living and working conditions were better. Also all supervisors I worked with (all foreigners) were quite different in style as were my Chinese and foreign co-workers. The three places I worked at in the country were each a very different experience.

My personal experience was I usually made more money in China, but I also experienced some significant health issues while there and generally enjoy my life in Thailand (or Vietnam) more. Which is better? I can’t say. But of course, other people have had and will have different experiences. China is a huge country and it is quite different working and living in a first-tier city as opposed to a third tier one or out in the countryside.

China might be a good option for some but I doubt many ESL teachers will find a utopia working there, there are always trade-offs in all we do.

Jack


The argument for reading academic materials

The argument for reading academic materials

Anti-intellectualism is nothing new, especially among lower level ESL teachers in Thailand, yet there are many legitimate criticisms of “academia” in every field.

I would suggest using empirical evidence or experience and common sense is not an either/or type of situation, but use of both is often optimal. Experience can be a great teacher, but it is obviously limited to the little world we have personally experienced. It is also limited due to a variety of observation and analysis biases each one of us has. Reading books, journals or attending courses allow us to learn about far more of the world than the specific situations from our own specific perspective. While there is a whole bunch of BS and poorly designed research published in academia, good academic work tends to let us explore nuances and complexities that can be useful.

For example, let us say you find technique 1 works in your classroom while technique 2 does not. It is likely you will think technique 1 is good and technique 2 is bad and will use this information in your career. Technique 1 worked well in your classroom, but it might be because it fit the context you were teaching in and might not fit a different context. If you learn the theories behind the techniques you might be able to determine in which situations technique 1 is likely to be successful while technique 2 is not. But you might also see technique 2 is not necessarily “bad” but could work well in a different context.

Learning a foreign language is difficult, and something few NES English teachers have actually done. All academic research is limited and you will not find simple answers to complex questions in a single article. If you are serious about having a teaching career, I would suggest you get as much education and experience in your field as possible.

While we can find exceptions, the empirical/academic studies indicate in almost every profession salary and income are strongly and positively related to higher levels of education and experience, indicating the market tends to reward us for both. Go ahead and argue against the market if you like, but I don’t like your chances. I don’t think taking a course or reading some academic journals articles will make you a “good” teacher, but I seriously doubt it will make you a worse teacher.

Jack


Cultural Miscommunication?

Cultural Miscommunication?

One objective observation about people posting on this website: Many of them seem to come from a mystical land in which exotic luxuries such as 'pensions', 'the dole', and accessible higher education magically exist.

There is a big country full of native English speakers called America, which British people basically created and subsequently abandoned when the stealing got too bothersome.

America has no financial safety net, very poor job opportunities, and an extreme homeless crisis which has swallowed up and destroyed countless hard-working men (the overwhelming majority of homeless Americans are male and 3/4 of them have a job). Many of us would gladly earn a masters degree if that education were reasonably priced. The spineless government, of course does nothing about the concurrent crises of housing, employment, and education, not to mention violence and lack of family values. Thus, those of us who have some guts look for a better life elsewhere.

So, you see, things like advanced degrees, 'going home' (to the streets?), and even basics like a bank account or debit card can easily be totally out of reach for Americans.

If you're an American in your 30's, you've probably been working hard since the 1990's. That's a lot of experience and a lot of dedication, and you probably have no chance at owning a home, establishing a family, completing a degree, or saving for retirement.

After all, if America had great jobs, great schools and safety, we'd just have stayed there! My station in life is by no stretch of the imagination unique. I've met scores of guys in my position. We don't take our abandonment lightly. We don't take rip-offs lightly. We don't have fancy luxury items like pensions. What we do have is strong work ethic, creativity, confidence and self-respect.

Anyone living in SEA, local or farang, willing and able to select candidates for long-term, profitable business relationships, the kind that build real, lasting wealth, and are fueled by loyalty, trust, and respect, need look no further than guys like me. You might be surprised at how many of us are 'out there'...

Ian, Songkhla


What to expect when 'accommodation is included'

What to expect when 'accommodation is included'

If you accept a job in rural Thailand and accommodation is included, the house will likely be "Thai style" and not maintained well.

When I first started teaching, my school had prepared a house for myself and other foreigners (Oh yeah, expect to be sharing the accommodation with other teachers unless you have a family).

This meant that they had installed air-con in each bedroom, upgraded from a squat toilet to a western flush toilet, installed a shower head (rather than just a bucket shower), they'd also painted it and added some cheap curtains and beds. The English department had put in a lot of work themselves during the holidays etc to try and make me feel welcome, and they were so proud of the standard to which they'd increased the house.

Their pride in it, and how much effort they'd put in, was one of the main reasons I decided to stay in it, even though I'd have preferred to have stayed in an apartment in the town nearby instead (That and I couldn't ride a motorcycle at the time, so transport would have been an issue).

As the shower still didn't have a heater at all, so was cold (And despite Thailand being quite hot, the water can still be a shock to the system early in the morning), and due to everyone in the town/school all using water in the mornings, the shower had no water pressure in the mornings anyway (But was fine in the evenings). Likewise, there wasn't any wifi access from the school (although in subsequent years they extended their network to include my house, the school's wifi was crap though), and no company would install broadband for me because I was too far outta town.

Also there was of course lots of long grass outside the house, which was filled with scorpions & snakes, I never had one come into the house but other teachers who lived there after (and at other houses in the school) did.

The school included power/water with the free house, although then wanted to start charging us for anything over 500 THB a month once they realized that foreigners used air-con a lot more than Thai people do.

That was quite a few years ago, since then there has been a new director. As a result, there have been general maintenance issues with the house that have gone unresolved because the director refuses to spend money on maintaining the house (literally "If he doesn't like it, he can leave" situation when the head of the English department asked on behalf of the teacher staying there).

Oh and also, if you live on the school grounds, there are certain expectations of you. These to a certain extent apply in general when living in a small countryside town, but more so if you're at the school since you're more visible. Things like, you shouldn't be noticeably drinking/drunk on a regular basis, bring back different women to your house and in general you should be a good role model. This isn't a hard thing to abide by, and most teachers wouldn't even need to be told, so aren't, but it's something which the school will expect from you.

Brian


The three types of English teacher in Thailand

The three types of English teacher in Thailand

There's normally a big difference between your 35-40k teachers and your 70k+ with benefits lot.

I did the crappy 35-40k jobs years ago. These positions are typically filled by three types of teachers;

1) Your young and carefree teacher who'll do a year or two at most. They are here for a working holiday and spend all their money on holidaying and partying. God bless this lot. They're doing it right.

2) Your stagnant teacher (often good teachers who kinda get stuck in a rut and think there isn't anything better out there) These are the good guys who just need to be more assertive.

3) And then there's your last-resort teacher (the one that had to be employed otherwise the kids wouldn't have a teacher at all, or more importantly for the school or agency is they wouldn't make their money).

They're drifters and outlaws (some literally are on the run from the cops). These guys are the legends of TEFL. They've given me so many stories to tell over the years. Stories ranging from a teacher who wore a shirt and tie with tracksuit bottoms and brogues because he didn't do his laundry, to a teacher getting stabbed by his partner after he got caught cheating with a Nana ladyboy. You would see these teachers around school (when they showed up) and you knew you weren't doing too bad.

Once you go into your 70k+ with benefit jobs (I use this as a reference to my first proper teaching job) it becomes quite boring. The young teachers take it very seriously as it's their career and they want to impress. The stagnant teachers aren't really stagnating. They've just got older and want the quiet life. And the last-resort teachers don't exist. They simply would never be employed as they have no place inside any school or near children.

Simon


Understanding Filipino teachers

Understanding Filipino teachers

Having been born, raised and educated in the Philippines, I feel that the education system is at par with, if not better than, other countries.

I am currently teaching Math and I know for a fact that there are only two teachers in my school (myself included) who can actually teach the material since the other teachers are not Math majors. Now, whether or not I am a competent teacher is another story, All I know is that I began my teaching career in Los Angeles and continued in Canada, and so far, my colleagues and students have been happy with how I teach (some of my Caucasian colleagues even ask me to explain concepts to them from time to time).

Why am I saying all of this? I think the Filipino is capable of becoming a good teacher, just like anybody else. However, let's accept the fact that there are also those Filipino teachers who are crappy, just like anybody else. Having said that, let's be more objective and resist the urge to hit authors of articles simply because they point out something that hurts, albeit true.

I am not an English teacher and I do not wish to become one. Why? Because I myself know that I will not be able to teach it competently.

That is not to say that no Filipino can teach English properly. But then, I have read articles written by Filipino English teachers whose grammar is just sad and I also have heard them speak English really badly (and I am not talking about the accent because I also have a thick accent although people have told me that my accent is barely noticeable, probably because I have been in North America for 15 years and maybe, just maybe, I have improved my speaking quite a bit?).

All I am saying is that especially for those who aspire to receive higher salaries (presumably from private schools preferred by the wealthy), if you cannot speak the language really well, i.e. you stammer, you mispronounce, you misuse the grammar, you should not be surprised if schools would not take you in simply because the parents who pay the tuition would normally expect better.

Sit back for a second and picture this: You are a parent of a student and you pay a substantial amount for tuition. Would you not want your child to be taught properly. Do not let your emotions get the better of you. Try not to be overly-sensitive ( a common trait among us Filipinos, is it not?).

I agree that if teachers accept low wages, it will drive down the pay scale. I would not be surprised if Filipino teachers are guilty of this. However, please bear in mind that having a low wage is better than having no wage, get it? You see, the Filipino OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) is, often times, the sole breadwinner.

When the OFW goes abroad, there is no other source of income but bills continue to come in. The OFW, for the most part, does not have the luxury of time to wait for a better offer because any time soon, a call from the family back home would put enormous stress on the OFW to send money quickly. As such, I wish folks would be more mindful of the reason why they accept low wages.

I am just sharing my view, as a Filipino myself. Thanks everyone and mabuhay ang gurong Pilipino!

A Pinoy Teacher


Problems that foreign teachers face here

Problems that foreign teachers face here

It just seems to me that the problems teachers face always come down to common narratives.

1. Working with the Thai teaching staff (and sometimes other foreign teachers).
2. Awful salary with proper benefits.
3. Using the "Thai Way" or culture card as a constant excuse to avoid actual situations that need to be addressed.
4. A blatant refusal to explore new and BETTER teaching methods.
5. The fact that many teaching environments set up the eager and willing expat teacher for failure, not success.
6. People in positions of leadership, that do not know what that really means.

There can be more points listed but it is already obvious and it would be considered "running up the score", but in my opinion, Thailand contributes enough to create and promulgate its own stigma regarding this issue. Perhaps it gets what it deserves?

Josh


A great career but......

The element of autonomy in the teaching world was what appealed to me about teaching compared to other (employee style) careers. The freedom to shape the class how you want it, to plan with students for future events, group discussions, mock exams and much more made TEFL an interesting and fun challenge.

However, in Thailand, especially in the full time government school field, this is often taken from one - or narrowed down to the mantra that one must 'follow the book' but taken literally as in, page by page. After that, students are examined on the contents of a book, rather than on their level of English.

This makes teaching a low level skill that can be picked up by anyone with a bit of confidence and native English. It is a great pity, especially for the students on the receiving end, and can reduce the number of skilled teachers who want to stay here.

Elisha


Another happy online teacher

Another happy online teacher

It really surprises me that good teachers here still work for paltry salaries. If you're shit, fair enough, but I still see decent teachers who are not adapting to the market and are still working for agencies and crappy schools.

I'm perfectly happy in my job. I make good money and I'm treated well. I teach part-time online as extra cash. When I say extra, I make more part-time than teachers making 35,000 a month. I've asked my online companies if they have full-time positions and they said 'absolutely'. I have no desire to work online full-time as I'm happy. Had I had this opportunity when working for an agency or crappy schools before, I'd have been gone in a heartbeat.

Study the market and check out the options out there. There's no reason for good teachers here to still be making crappy 35-40,000 salaries.

Simon


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