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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday I was about to sign an employment contract with a primary school in North Thailand. The verbal agreement was for a part-time post, teaching year 5 (15 set hours). This school has a designated English program.
The school approached my wife (a Thai) and pleaded that they needed me. They had asked me to teach last year but I was only prepared to take a part-time role and they insisted on a full-time post. So no arrangements eventuated but now they really needed me! I am a retired Director, Manager, University Teacher, School Teacher, and trainer and have worked all over the world. My last senior role was in Equatorial Guinea as the Director for People Development for a major oil & gas corporation.
I delivered a demonstration lesson on Monday morning in front of three senior Thai school personnel (including the school principal) after which I was told that I was hired and must stay with the school until the school term ends in April next year even if I don't like it! That should have been a warning sign statement. Nevertheless, I agreed.
After delivering a lesson early morning yesterday, I accompanied my wife to the school meeting room to sign the contract. On my explaining that the verbal agreement had not been adhered to and that asking me to teach a year 2 and year 3 class and adding an extra hour to the weekly agreed hours was not appropriate, they added that they were now only offering the job until September. I indicated that I would not be signing the contract and the meeting ended and we left the school.
Annoyingly I had delivered a few hours teaching and spent many hours preparing lessons and had developed a good rapport with the children. No offer of compensation was forthcoming. This would never happen in a Western school.
What I also observed in my short time at this school is a system of poor HR. Schools are crying out for qualified, experienced teachers, especially as Thailand currently has no access to English speaking staff due to COVID 19. I was very happy to help them out until April next year on the basis of what was verbally offered. Why then change the terms? Who knows? but I can guess and I'm of the view that it is all about control and self-importance. Farang is not Thai and therefore must be kept in their place and Thai teachers are very important people so whatever they do is always correct! Its that Farang again not respecting our Thai culture!
The reality is that there was no HR in this school and any farang I know would not want to work for a school that is as manipulative and dishonest in their recruitment processes as this school demonstrated. I only hope such practices are not widespread, but sadly I have my doubts.
I am trying to help a Spanish friend find a job in Thailand. I see that many schools advertise for NES teachers while stating only a handful of nationalities are eligible. Some schools do advertise for Non-NES as well, and yet others for teachers from the Philippines. However, though often the Filipinos are fully qualified, they are offered less than half the money NES teachers can get for similar job roles.
I find it hard to believe that AJARN condones this type of overt inequality of pay. I should refuse to advertise "jobs for Filipinos" if they cannot offer the same rate of pay as for NES, since most of them have near-native abilities anyway! Someone should agitate with the government of Thailand to stop this sort of reverse colonial racism.
My friend is Spanish, trapped in Bangkok. She has been trying to find a job in Thailand since March, and yet she only got a couple of interviews in all that time. Despite being fluent in English with only a trace of an accent, she has little chance of landing a decent job. I find it very strange that this double standard exists. If individuals have demonstrable language skills, they are not allowed to show them to the schools.
As I understand it, there is no formal law against hiring non-native speakers, but many schools make the pretentious claim that there is actually a "law" stating that they "must" hire only NES for job roles. This is patently false, and Ajarn is condoning this twisted, racist vision, for what end I cannot conceive.
You should actively criticize schools and the government for promoting discriminatory and racist practices that take no account of the actual abilities of potential candidates. But it doesn't disturb white people like us, does it? Why should we care about the rights of people different from ourselves if our own privileges reign supreme?
BTW: I have also noticed, particularly for job postings at universities in Thailand, many of them contain strict and VERY narrow age requirements for local Thai people, like "must be between 30 and 35 years old. What is this? Why do the Thai people tolerate such bizarrely narrow and ageist limitations!? Who would ever want to live in such a squashed society of patriarchy, racism and ageism?
Has anyone had any success or know of anyone who has managed to change a tourist visa to a non-B visa yet? Rural immigration offices have refused and advised it can only be done in Bangkok. Just gathering information for a couple of schools who are in desperate need of appointing teachers they brought over for 'demonstrations' or already in-country that have been waiting months for a resolution, not being allowed back out/ in.
I am getting frustrated at how the requirements to enter Thailand just aren't clear enough! I have called the Thai embassy on the phone, only to get told off for asking too many questions and that I should accept the "rules in Thailand" I am curious to find out if any of these schools looking for teachers (with teaching degrees) are willing to cover the health insurance policy showing a minimum medical coverage of 100,000 USD in Thailand and covering the Covid-19 Disease. Mine isn't.
The only health insurer I found that covers the requirements to enter Thailand is Pacific Cross at a price of $1800 NZD per annum! They do not offer monthly coverage nor travel insurance, which sucks! The government school I have been offered a position at deducts social security off the teachers' pay. I do understand that it's important to have health insurance until you are granted the full work permit, but why would I have to pay for a full 12 months health insurance policy when I am already paying for social security?!
I pay 700 NZD bucks a year for mine here in New Zealand with Southern Cross and it is unlimited! I am really hoping that the government makes some adjustments to the requirements for skilled migrants, at least for those wanting to move to Thailand to genuinely teach/work and not just there for a few weeks holiday or plastic surgery
One thing that I think is grossly overlooked is comparing teachers and using being 'liked' as a measure of anything.
What about comparing a teacher who has a good work ethic, a diploma possibly from a decent university, years in the game, a PGCE, a professional license. In short, someone that has something behind him and something to offer? Then you have the edutainers and the frauds. One, by and large enjoys the job. The other is just a means to an end, much like every hack job before. They spend as little time on campus as absolutely possible. They hate the work. Well, they hate any work. It shows. Often, these teachers are liked because they are slack, waste time, give ridiculous assignments and easy grades. What's not to like?
At the better schools, the students know the difference. At one very good school, I had students complain to me about teachers just taking the piss and cheating them of opportunity. At my current school there is a teacher who seemed to be well liked at the beginning of the year. Throughout the year he was never prepared, called class early, never had quality materials and made a bunch of promises to help students with this and that unfulfilled. His concept of grading was lazy. When the students came around he was gone early. Soon they didn't bother. I rarely ask students about what they do in another EFL class but the few times I did, it was met with eye rolls. The class was often just one big chat session. He ran out of games midway through the year.
His personal touch wasn't about caring but about sharing a superficial laugh. If they were a few years older they'd see how shallow the act is. Children will often be grateful for wasting time and a lack of homework.
Winning hearts and minds is about genuinely caring for students. That might mean helping with some writing, a scholarship essay, practicing IELTS. In the better schools when you help students achieve, really achieve something, you get something better than merely being liked, you get respect.
Teachers that are merely liked never go anywhere unless they've got a friend with an inside track. Luck, pure insufferable luck. Being liked I guess if that is a strategy, lets them live another day. You want job security? Achieve respect. Change lives and I mean that with the deepest sincerity.
Ice cream is liked. Pizza is liked.
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