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.
So I'm from North America, and there is a pre- conceived notion that there is a level of "social engineering" in every humanities department whether to the left or right. Well, based on my experience of teaching at a university here in Thailand, the same principles apply. I don't think it takes on so much of a left/right paradigm as much as it takes on more of a desire for being well-known and prestigious as a university.
Unfortunately for me, the cost of those desires were shown in the departments blatant racism towards western teachers and exploitation. Now I know these same types of behaviors exist in much of Asia as it is a very different social structure than North America or western Europe, however, I don't think I've seen such blatant disregard for foreigners ever.
Unfortunately it's the students who suffer once again, as they are not being pre-pared for the world outside of Thailand and the Thai staff are making the problem worse by telling them their parents' money is well spent. Anyways, that's my 2 cents.
Humanities dept. University teaching
In my opinion, the worst teacher is the one that doesn't want to be there, but says nothing - and does nothing.
They slip in late, long lunch, leave early. Never involved in activities unless under duress. Avoid any real work like the plague. Their clothes are as tired and sad as they are. Their exams and courses are a disaster. Don't invest a satang in their wardrobe or to better themselves. Repeatedly receive borderline evaluations.
The school just hopes they quit each year. They have no clue how to behave around professional adults. Their work if done at all is late. These are the negative teachers that wear me down.
"We are looking for a child speech therapist for our 4-year-old boy. He has developed an issue saying the letter "S" and has a slight lisp due to being bilingual. We live very close to the NANA BTS station and would like a private tutor to help support his language development in English, with a focus on the lisp.”
I found this ad on ajarn.com on May 3rd, and felt I needed to respond. To begin with, there is no scientific or linguistic evidence to suggest that lisping is caused by, or due to, “being bilingual.” Lisps are primarily due to an improper placement of the tongue when speaking. They can also be due to having dental work done, the placement of dentures, or hearing loss. Obviously the four-year-old in this case does not have to worry about dentures, (at least not yet), but having his hearing tested may be a sound idea. Children who don’t hear well will have problems enunciating words properly.
Linguists and speech therapists distinguish between four kinds of lisps: frontal, dental, palatal, lateral. The first two are part of normal speech development and the child will probably grow out of it on his own. The last two are not part of normal speech development, so the child may need help with speech therapy. It is best to find out which kind of lisp your child has before beginning speech therapy.
I found the “being bilingual” part concerning because it is based on misinformation and what my people refer to in Yiddish as a “Bubba Miseh”, grandmother stories or an old wives’ tale. It was also thought several years ago that thumb sucking can cause lisping in children. Again, a bubba miseh. This belief has also prevented many parents to delay second language acquisition in their children, thinking it neurologically dangerous or culturally disadvantageous. Not true.
It is helpful to have as much accurate information as possible before making an informed decision on how to proceed. I’m sure the boy’s parents have done this. Please don’t worry too much about it. Your son will be just fine. Good luck.
In general, there are just two types of English language teachers in Thailand... Professionally qualified teachers with a teaching license from their home countries (of either America or the UK) who will accept nothing less than a well-paid job at a properly accredited and respected international school... and then there's everybody else.
All the 'qualifications' (TEFL, CELTA, etc) for those of us in the 'everybody else' section are NO MATCH for the opportunists among us who look for great jobs and make themselves available when they appear.
Thai employers simply don't care about your bits of paper - except for the one that says you have a bona fide degree. Most of them wouldn't even know what they are or the differences between them. Even if they did, they wouldn't care and you wouldn't be paid more because you have them.
Doing these courses may prepare you to be better equipped to deal with a classroom of Thai kids... they will do NOTHING to impress a Thai employer or make you better paid.
I'm not really sure how much a highly professional teacher can help in your average Thai school. I don't know how a highly professional teacher would find themselves working intimately within a school here considering how much they'd cost to hire. Even as a hypothetical it doesn't seem to be in any way plausible.
I'm a fully qualified teacher from the UK. I've done my extra studies and qualifications, but I don't know how much I could bring to the table here when it comes to your average Thai schools.
I first came to Thailand when I'd just finished university. I didn't have any money so decided on a working holiday teaching English. I had a friend from home who got me a job at a private school in Bangkok. My plan was to only teach a year then go home. I did nearly two years and decided I'd like to further my career in teaching and live in Thailand. During my time teaching at this private school I'd teach on average 18-22 periods a week. I taught class sizes that ranged from 35-50. I taught in hot classrooms with old air cons. I taught students of all levels and backgrounds. It was hard work but highly enjoyable.
I went back home and did my PGCE. I started as an assistant and then began teaching formally. I taught back in Liverpool for three years and decided my CV was now strong enough to get myself a good job at an international school in Thailand. I applied early and had a few offers after quite a few interviews. I decided on the job that offered me the best money and the best benefits.
I've now been at the same international school for four years. I have some very qualified and very competent bosses. I teach class sizes of around 16-22 kids. The school seems to have a bottomless pit of money when it comes to resources. I ask for something and I get it. An air con breaks? I'm moved to another class. My students are awesome. Smart, diligent, hard-working, well-behaved.......I could go on. Everything I was taught after university is geared pretty much towards my teaching environment now. My bosses' knowledge is pretty much perfectly geared towards the environment we are in now.
If my old Thai school called me, offered me a job as academic manager with a better salary and better benefits than now, I'd absolutely say no. I'd be honest and say there's nothing I can do for you. I'm not qualified. I don't really know anyone who is. Offer the job to one of the teachers there who does their job well and has lots of experience. They're far more qualified than me in this context. It would be pointless paying me a ton of cash to have my hands tied by budget restraints etc. You need experience from someone from or in this environment.
When it happened, it occurred at the speed of light. Having lost its contract with the local education authority, my company and I parted on amicable terms and moreover, in an uncharacteristic display of Chinese efficiency, within one week I found myself on a flight from Northern China back to Thailand.
‘Home’ at last, settle back in, count the saved pennies and realize that I have another two years before my UK pension. The more astute will realize what’s coming next and do I see a raised hand? Yes? ‘In the intervening years, someone had added six years to your age.’ That’s correct, I’m just turning 63 and able to design a complete semester syllabus, with related lesson plans and present them, although confess I’m unable to sum up my thoughts in 140 characters on twitter.
Sits down at computer, NES, Caucasian, genuine MA degree (becoming a rare collector’s item in an age of photo copiers), TEFL cert’ (the 250 hour one), Thai and Chinese experience and references, updated resume and appearance photos, check. Begin by lowering aspirations as its Thailand, city or rural, twenty hours, which includes all the unmentioned additions at interview stage, 35,000 and a place to rest a weary head. Send out twenty Thai government High School applications and … Silence.
A timeline reflection for age related teaching in Thailand and as it’s becoming a worn out subject, brief and slightly tongue-in-cheek.
1988 > Go for it. If you’re able to maintain the attention span of a goldfish, hold a flashcard and say ‘carrot’ in a neutral accent, you’re in.
1978 > Receive age respect from both your students and colleagues.
1968 > Can you hear me? Accept repetition and slightly raised voices, as a common belief is that deafness precedes senility.
1958 < Explore Thailand and perfect your tan whilst waiting for the magic to happen.
John V (Thailand)
Well, I finally retired to our place upcountry outside of Phitsanulok after donkey years of being a teacher at one of Bangkok’s top international schools. I miss the teaching moments but don’t really miss the hoops that I had to jump through in order to keep my US teaching license. Even though there are plenty of chores and projects to do now, I thought about volunteering a couple of hours a day at the local government school.
But, I ain’t. Why? The rules say so. Here in Thailand a person residing with a retirement visa can’t work nor volunteer. So about two kilometers away sits a rural school lacking in funds and teachers. And I can’t go there and help. For free.
Yes, I could go under the table, but there is always the risk of running foul of the Thai immigration. If they wanted to, I could be asked to leave. I’m not taking that chance. I’m betting that I am not alone in this situation. A lot of wasted teachers…
I've taught in both the UK and the Thai education system. I too managed to 'almost' have control of my classes in Thailand by having fun activities and providing rewards and even old fashioned punishments like detention (agreed with parents).
Being alone with 35-37 eight year olds in a Thai school is a huge challenge of your sanity. No matter what you do, you'll find that the pupils show more respect towards the Thai guy fixing the aircon than the 'farang' teacher. I've seen Thai kids fight, heard them swear in English (quite a lot) and refuse to stop talking to their friends during a reading exercise (teaching reading to Thai kids can be a nightmare if you have a large group of low level pupils).
The reason for all of this is not always the teacher's fault. Nor is it really the pupils' either. It's the system as a whole.
Let's be honest. Thai kids have more 'respect' for Thai teachers for two basic reasons.
1. They speak the same language and can reason with their pupils.
2. Thai teachers tend to have big sticks they beat the kids with for as much as rocking in their chairs. We've all seen this.
Number (2), in my opinion, undermines any real hope of a western teacher controlling a large class of primary pupils if teaching alone. The pupils only react to this negative reinforcement. If they don't fear you, it's time to go nuts and do as they wish.
In my time teaching in Thai schools in the Thai system, I could manage to control most of my classes, but some were simply impossible. Sure, countdowns work for about 1 second. TPR can last a minute or two (if alone with very large groups).
Some subjects are easier than others to maintain control (Phonics/general English). Reading and writing or academic writing can be an absolute nightmare if you teach in a school with kids who only get 2-3 hours per week of English tuition. I've worked in schools that gave the kids books that were far beyond their capabilities. Books that merge several tenses, regular and irregular verbs and about 30 new vocabulary words for 7 year old Thai children. And the school gave us 50 minutes to get them to read 250 words and answer 3 pages of comprehension questions. All this, when the brightest pupils in the class are still getting to grips with using regular verbs in the present simple ("She like dog.") Yes, I suggested they change the books. I might as well have asked the cat.
The system is a mess, to be honest. If you see a job with classes of over 35 primary aged pupils with no assistant available...run away! Particularly if you'll be using books way beyond the abilities of the pupils.
On a positive note, you can make a difference if you 'hang in there' and become creative with your lessons. But if you're forced to do 'pages 42 -45' of the reading and writing book today, when this book is clearly aimed at native English speaking pupils and not your 3 hours per week mob...don't look back!
It is illegal for a school to keep your work permits now. No matter what they tell you. You must have access to them.
I am trying to open a bank account but I need my work permit. I want to get a loan from my present bank and need my work permit. If you need to make payments at a hospital they want to see your work permit. Now if you cross the border depending on the officer (at at various check points) you need to have both your passport and work permit to provide you are not using fake stamps.
I was just told that I would be fired if I asked for my work permit again to open a bank account. The school said have them call us. The banks don't care who the school is. They don't know the people from Adam and they could be anyone. They want the work permit.
So my school refuses to let me cross the border to see my family, open a bank account or do anything that requires financial proof of income. They literally stole my work permit from me. In the government web pages it clearly says you must carry the work permit with you and especially, keep it at your place of work during working hours. Not 24/7 but some schools will not understand the wording and threaten you. I was told if I ask for it again they would cancel it and I would be terminated immediately.
Beware....you only have to give them a copy of the work permit when they ask. Do not give the original. Also, when you cancel the work permit you must get three pieces of paper from the labor office to leave the country to get another visa. A receipt (free), stamped copy of the returned permit and a work history copy to present at the border. If you don't have these and you try to cross you will be held, sent back to province to get them and on overstay.
The land of Ew La La
I think the biggest issue with TEFL (in Thailand in particular) is the use of agents. Agents, of course, skim off the top of everyone's wages for every single payment from start to end of employment. They are parasites. Every single one of them - no matter what BS they try to pull to convince you that they are 'more than just agents'.
Agents seem to dominate most of the jobs on offer in Thailand so they're kind of difficult to avoid. The agent I work for does things like make all the foreign staff come in weeks before the Thai staff each term to decorate their classrooms (!) Obviously, this is just to make the agent 'look good' to the owner of the school. Rumors abound of agents giving 'kickbacks' from staff salaries to the owner(s) too in many cases. I wouldn't doubt for a New York minute that such a thing goes on.
Salaries have been frozen here for years, the cost of living has rocketed and the workloads have increased. I now have to work online too to make a decent salary. I get about 65,000-75,000 baht a month and it's still not all that great. It's certainly not enough to think about retirement plans etc.
Add to this frustration, a proliferation of Pinoy teachers who have bowed and scraped and enslaved themselves to such a level it has impacted on everyone else.
Let's face it, TEFL as a 'career' of any kind in Thailand is over. Unless you're prepared to work 60 hours a week with few benefits (the 'health insurance' packages are a joke in most cases) forget it.
Stay out here too long and you risk being booted out of the country if you fall ill (no matter if you've got a wife and kids and ten years' of 'helping the nation' by teaching in the government schools). Yup. Time to think how 'valued' we really are to these schools/countries.
Despite this, I don't get angry anymore. The best thing to do (if you enjoy teaching, which I do) is to get qualified. I have obtained an M.Ed now and will return to my home country to get properly licensed. If anyone is in the same boat, you just need to take a deep breath , relax and plan your escape. Everyone is different, but I'll need about a million baht to return and start teaching in my country (apartment / flight / money to support myself whilst I train. etc).
Just choose the path of least resistance when it comes to earning cash to save. For me, that means either The Middle East or China later in the year once I've saved a little.
So please everyone in the same predicament, don't get mad. Don't cry. Just plan your way out and don't get angry at how the education systems in faraway lands work. Do you think they'll ever listen to Mr Farang? You might as well bring your cat with you and ask them to listen to Mr. Tiddles' opinions. It's all about the money and status I'm afraid with many Asian education systems. The desperately sad thing is that the kids' education is barely important to many (not all) schools.
Just do what you can (your best for the students) and don't get angry or upset at things that you will never be able to change. Believe me, I've got myself into really angry moods (punching walls at home once!) at the frustrations of the Thai education system and feeling 'trapped'.
There are ways out if you need one. Find them and use them. Because nothing will change.
On a final note, TEFLing is great for a youngster wanting to try life abroad for a couple of years. Probably unfair on the kids in some cases, but I don't think the (now diminishing) presence of Western teachers makes this education system any worse.
Some TEFLers find that they enjoy teaching and return home to teach in their own countries. But as a career? Well unless you're talking about some of those high paying jobs in The Middle East.
Oh, I forgot. You might make a career out of TEFL if you become an agent. Personally, I couldn't live with myself if I did that. I do have some morals left, even after living in Thailand for a couple of years!
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