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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Edutainment is all about balance

Having been in the edutainment game for most of the last 17 years, the key, I find, is find a good balance. You have to find appropriate activities that stimulate enjoyment amongst the students AND reach a focused end grammar, listening, and/or conversational goal for the class. One of the things I love to do is bring as much realia into my classes as possible. There is no point just entertaining for entertainment sake. If you are talking about food in class, get the students to show you how to make their own recipe - better still, get them up in front of the class to do it! Once they have done that, set up a class menu on the board and then - restaurant time! Get students to play waiter and customers and set up real restaurant situations. Its all about how YOU make it.


Older teachers should look to the shopping mall schools

Older teachers should look to the shopping mall schools

Regarding the teacher who asked on Ajarn how difficult it would be to find work at 60 with no degree, my university asks for a Masters but accepts Bachelors. I know this as I only have a Bachelors myself. However, at 60, he is probably too old to be accepted, but they will keep people on after 60 if you are already in the system and on the payroll. The problem universities have is that their job promotion is poor, and they advertise the salary they are allowed to by the government. However, most positions have many extra ways of making cash, such as marking exams, grading essays, and attending events.

I know people who are 60 years old and over working in shopping malls in Nonthaburi. As long as you look presentable and can deliver classes they don't care too much about age. If someone younger interviews at the same time then you will probably lose out, but in Nonthaburi there are lots of malls and not so many NES teachers.


Ringing bells

Ringing bells

I always check, seeking a dream job. What starts bells ringing for me, isn't the agency advertisements as they are expected to recruit all the time to replace teachers and offer new positions. But when I see schools advertising often, I begin to think the dream jobs they are offering is too good to be true. I think why are they still looking or re-looking? Sure I know teachers move on or perhaps let go, but, I have to ask myself why so often? Could it be that the dream job is ruined by some horrendous bosses or just more admin staff? It certainly makes me not to want to try and apply, when I see the same schools still recruiting, and there is no way of knowing if I am missing out, or just being over careful, what do you think?


Thoughts on gate duty

I think it's reasonable to ask foreign teachers to participate in something like this once a week as long as it's included in contact time or their contracted times. It's when you're maxed out at 24 classes (your Thai colleagues are on almost half that) and rostered to do 5+ hours of rostered duties (including half an hour of lunch or playground supervision each day, snack time supervision twice a day and cleaning up) and then another 5+ hours of 'unofficial' supervision, so you've got effectively only one planning period a day on average and you've got to pretty much resource the classes from scratch as there's virtually no text books and no multimedia resources, that you realise even if your school are paying you very well compared to the average school, that you're be treated as a slave!


Liking and respecting a teacher are very different things

Liking and respecting a teacher are very different things

Maybe it's just me, but I don't find it that hard to have the students like you. If you're a genuinely nice person, the kids will obviously pick up on it.

Now, the tricky part is getting the kids to respect you. You can be the nicest person in the world, but if you can't manage and control your class well, the kids will take you for an idiot. They may well still like you, but they won't respect you properly and that lack of respect will feel like they don't like you. It's the same dynamic as being a boss and dealing with your subordinates. Being nice will get you so far, but you do need to know what you're doing.

As a teacher or a boss, don't fall into that trap of thinking that you need to lay down the law unfairly and assert yourself in order to get respect - you won't. Students and adults will pretend to respect you, but deep down you'll know they don't; and that will just fester inside and bring out the ugly sides of your personality (similar to small-man syndrome, but respect can be earned if you apply yourself honestly)

If you don't have what it takes to be a good teacher or boss, that's okay. Find something else to do. Just don't stick with it and become an arrogant asshole whose ego is actually just detrimental to your school or business' performance. Know your limits.

Oh, if you're a P6 or M1 teacher, you have my sympathy. They're just at that age where they really can be little shits!


Don't be reliant on speaking Thai

Don't be reliant on speaking Thai

When I was a kid, studying at a school in England, we had a French teacher from Senegal. Her English was pretty poor. As a class we cut her to pieces and made it a nightmare.

In my experience those who say we shouldn't speak Thai in the classroom aren't teaching 40-50 kids once per week who understand very little English. Likewise, those who argue that speaking and understanding Thai is essential probably aren't teaching advanced students on a well run English programme.

Having taught in both contexts (as well as at schools in between the two), context and appropriate judgement is key. However, it's important not to be completely reliant on using Thai to solve every issue as there are more effective strategies you can use in the classroom


Thailand so far behind

I have very recently moved to Vietnam after four years spent teaching in Thailand. The level of English here in Vietnam as their second language is way ahead of Thailand. Thailand hasn't left first base yet. I'm not saying the Vietnamese have mastered the English language, but their basic knowledge and understanding is like a breath of fresh air. The first thing you notice is that you are not addressed as a farang every few minutes of the day. The Vietnamese address you as 'sir' or 'madam' or by your name, which they pronounce correctly. And the Vietnamese are generally a lot more pleasant and approachable compared to Thais.

At my last school in Thailand, which I found bearable by Thai standards, the students were the main feature of the school. They were the best students I had ever taught in Thailand and the teachers were pleasant enough. But after the usual honeymoon period was over, the school started demanding the farang teachers work the same as the Thai teachers in every respect, which for me didn't go down to well, considering they would only pay my salary for nine months of the year.

The phrase 'fast track' was being flung around as if you were working in a postal office. I don't know about you but, fast track and education for me should never be used in the same sentence where Thailand and its education are concerned. "Slowly slowly catch the monkey". We all know these initiatives come from Bangkok, as they have only just realized how far behind they really are on the education front - especially compared to other countries that will be joining them in the Asean in three years time.

I'm not saying I will never return to Thailand but trust me -. don't spend too long there in one period. You definitely need a break from the Thais. Anyway good luck to all my fellow TEFLers and remember one thing in Thailand - he who dares, always loses.

Mr. Russell

It's all about looks over quality

It's all about looks over quality

White-skinned native English-speaking teachers are definitely preferred in Thailand and all of Asia. That's good news if you happen to be white as it effectively eliminates a good portion of your job competition. With few exceptions there are very few non-white English teachers in Thailand. My previous school even preferred barely understandable non-native English speaking white South Africans and Russians over non-white native English-speaking teachers from America and the UK.

Thais clearly prioritize presentation or looks over substance or quality when it comes to English teachers. They perceive white skin and Caucasian features as more attractive and presentable across Thai society. The longer I live here, the more I tend to agree, and as a white westerner as it works to my advantage. But it doesn't mean it's impossible to find a job as a teacher if you're a non-white, however you'll need to be very persistent, patient and flexible in what's offered.

There is no wrong or right about it. Thais get to decide what works or doesn't work for them. It's their world and they like it that way.


Which student is guilty?

Which student is guilty?

I am teaching in a migrant school, teaching students from the Karen ethnic group from Eastern Myanmar and with refugees around Mae Sot. The area I'm interested in is the difference in attitude towards the two people involved in copying person to person as opposed from the internet. The Karen people characteristically see no fault in the person whose work is being copied. They see it as a normal social act of helping others who might be in difficulties.

One incident at this school a few years ago illustrates this. An English born teacher identified a copying situation and called out both parties in front of the class, which was outdoors. The other classmates accepted that the one who had copied was at fault but balked at the idea of punishment for the one whose work had been copied. As punishment the teacher told both parties to run around the football pitch. What followed was that all the class students ran around the pitch as a gesture of solidarity with the one whose work was copied. I am curious if you have seen this phenomenon with other ethnic groups?

It makes me question our Western attitude to the one whose work has been copied. We tend to view them as part of a conspiracy to defraud the school or grading system. Increasingly I am seeing this as a self-serving attitude perpetuated by the school because it helps the school administration, Does the student have a greater duty of care to the school or to their classmate? I think you could certainly argue in favour of the latter, especially as one is a real person and the other an institution.

Loyalty to the institution is a learned behaviour taught mainly by the institution itself and arguably for its own rather than any community benefit. The person copied from is frequently a high academic performer and has little to gain academically from the practice; maybe a small amount of social kudos but not a lot. I don't have a clear cut resolution for theses questions but what is becoming increasingly clear is that it's not just a black and white, open and shut case.


When speaking Thai is discouraged

Many schools will actively discourage or outright ban teachers from using so much as one word of Thai in the classroom and for good reason. If they wanted someone to teach students about English in Thai, they'd just hire Thai teachers and not pay the premium rate for a native speaker. Because schools want full immersion; students have to listen and try to understand as much as they can, to English as spoken by a Colonial or a Britbonglander, and speak it as much as they can. Same with any language. Hence my Thai ability increased dramatically when I lived in Thoeng, a small town near Chiang Rai. I trained Muay Thai with an Ajarn, who spoke zero English and neither did the local dudes I trained with. Because for a couple of hours a day I was in a position where I had to listen and try to understand as much as possible, and speak it as much as I could.


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