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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
I am currently not working as a teacher in Bangkok, but what often strikes me is that many people claim that one needs the equivalent of a European salary to live a decent life in Krung Thep.
Besides being of the opinion that one can do with much less than 70,000 per month, teaching a common foreign language while making almost three times what the locals make strikes me as odd. Working for a Thai school and making 70,000 baht a month, good luck with that. The international school route is a much better bet.
I had a blast in Bangkok, made 40-45,000 as a non-native speaker, but packed my bags after almost two years. I miss Thailand everyday, but I think I made the right choice.
I have a Masters Degree from an American "University" and some part-time teaching experience on the college level but I was just doing that for extra money. Now I am retired in Thailand. I am 69 and still seem to have all my marbles. Are there ANY options, even part time to teach and earn a few hundred baht for incidentals? I have a good pension from the United States, but i am trying to help out my ailing mother-in-law, while also paying off credit card bills from the USA. No lectures about "financial responsibility" needed, I am hard enough on myself. Just exploring whatever options I may have. (Probably none, but it does not hurt to ask). Please omit the usual comments about what a "geezer" like me should be doing and how I should do it. Thank you very much.
Fred Azbell, Chonburi, Thailand
We've recently advertised vacancies we have at my school.
I would suggest that job-seekers apply their alleged skills in English to that initial contact email and try to show themselves in the best light possible. I have been stunned by the generally poor quality of application emails sent. Surely people must realise that the very first point of contact with a potential new employer is the email? Forwarded content, the word 'Hi' with a grainy picture and a out-of-date document, awful grammar and self-inflated egos (without proof) don't really cut it.
Perhaps prospective employees should concentrate more on that first email, which might result in fewer rejections.
I disagree with the claim that teachers should not care what the agencies are making. The whole reason these agencies exist in Thailand with the current structures they do (a monthly percentage of a teacher's contract), unlike places like Japan and Korea and other related industries, such as international education wherein agencies will only charge a placement fee, is because of the corruption in the education system in Thailand.
There should indeed be transparency and accountability as to where and who this education budget goes to. This is tax money. If Thailand wants to hire and retain good teachers and come even close to the education quality of other countries, they need to do away with this corrupt practice.
Agencies should only be earning a placement fee. This placement fee should be publicized for the Thai public to see. These budgets should be audited by the Thai government to ensure these budgets are going where they were intended. "Kickbacks" and "nonations" to school administration will only continue to hurt social mobility of the Thai middle and working classes who cannot afford private education.
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