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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Teachers walk a razor's edge

Most teachers are working in Thailand illegally. The reason for this is simple - most agents or schools don't provide costly work permits. A school justifies it by saying an agent should provide the work permit and the agent justifies it by saying the school should provide the work permit . Meanwhile it is the foreign teacher at risk. Does the school or agent care? Actually schools and agents are hoping a teacher lasts only one year because they can have a fresh face the following year. Besides having a teacher with years of experience is not important but having a handsome or beautiful teacher is because of selfies.

One more thing, Thai teachers usually give "the foreigner" all the shifts they themselves don't want during the day. That's why the newcomer usually works the early morning and late afternoon classes. My advice is to smile more and say yes to everyone. Be humble and do other people's jobs. Be thankful you get to work with people who smile at you but dislike all foreigners. If you understand the Thai language, laugh as much as you can when you are the butt of most jokes. And remember if you don't like it you can always go back home. There will be another young newbie to take your place.

john doe


What makes a good teacher?

What makes a good teacher?

I find much of the discussion about what makes a good teacher or what is needed to do the job well mostly ignores the student’s perspective.

I suspect most teachers have spent a little time in the classroom attempting to learn a foreign language, but often we fail to reflect or utilize our experiences.

While there are many types of “English teacher” and exam prep and preparation for passing specific tests might require specialized skills and knowledge, there are no magical ways to actually “learn” a foreign language. Obviously some techniques work for some learning styles while others work better, but no foreign language teacher is going to have any special insight into the language which is both useful and unknown to most native speakers.

I have seen research suggesting it takes about 10,000 hours of study and practice to become fluent in a language (including our native one). Another study suggest it generally takes about 7 years of intense study to become fluent in a second language.

Looking at my own experience in learning foreign languages, I see most of the advice given to new teacher on this site conflicts with my own experiences. Although my studies have occurred as an adult which might be different from the perspective of younger students.

I can’t say there is any one style of teacher I prefer, of course there is nothing wrong with having some fun in the classroom, but generally I like a teacher who can provide structure, explanations, useful examples and some gentle corrections of my errors.

But there are two types of teacher I have had which deter my learning.

The first is the babbler. Once you get to the upper immediate of advanced levels schools tend ban the use of English in the class and students are expected to only speak in the language beginning learned. Fair enough, but there are times when 10 minutes of explanation, examples and confusion could be avoided by a 10 second translation. But also some teachers babble on just like they were speaking to another native speaker. Hey, if I knew every word in the language I was learning I wouldn’t need to be taking a class. Slow down and choose your vocabulary carefully.

The second is the type of language teacher who abuses their position as head of the classroom to expound on their own personal philosophical, religious, cultural or political views. I consider myself a highly educated person with a wide range of knowledge, generally far more than my language teachers. I really don’t want to spend my time listening to half-baked ideas, stereotypes and misinformation, I am there to learn the language. If I want to understand philosophy, I will take a class taught by someone who is an expert in the subject.

I prefer a language teacher who creates structure and provides guidance in learning the language, mixes explanation in both the native and target language and sticks to the topic they know.

But maybe I am a usual type of student. So I don’t necessarily follow the idea of speaking only English in the English learning classroom or as a language teacher try to impose one’s own specific values and world view upon the students. A love of languages and a desire for life-long learning, ok, but don’t abuse one’s position as a teacher to advocate one’s own specific values.

Jack


Let's hear it for assistants!

Let's hear it for assistants!

All the teaching 'assistants' I have are awesome and we work with each other very differently. If they want to get involved, I embrace it... if they want to sit at the back and mark books or check Facebook, I'm OK with that too. The longer you stay in one job, the easier it gets to be accepted and the antagonisms diminish. The 'secret' for me has been to completely distance myself from co-workers socially and to ONLY interact with them professionally. No chats, no lunches, no social meetings outside my classroom. It's 'work' for them and it's 'work' for me, however you choose to interpret the word.

Mark


Work permits and visas

As we all know things change here by the day and if you ask 10 questions, you'll get 9 different answers regarding work-permits. Now I believe the school has to be the one to actually go to the labour office and cancel it and in many cases they don't inform the teacher that it's been cancelled, which creates all sorts of problems with visas. My question is if we were looking to change schools, can we just leave the country and get another non-B visa for the new school and will it be registered at the border crossing that a person has a work permit? We know the actual visa will be cancelled.

Dave


How to write a new region guide?

How does one go about providing a new entry on the Region Guide? I want to write something on Chiang Rai, but no link is given here.

Ajarn.com - Hi Jiff, you are very welcome to write a new guide to Chiang Rai (we don't have anything for that town or province at the moment)
I've set up the region guide to Chiang Mai so that you can just click on the edit button and answer the questions. You'll need to copy and paste the following URL.
https://www.ajarn.com/help-and-guides/region-guides/chiang-rai

Jiff

Is it standard to have a certain level of social engineering in the Thai university system?

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


The worst kind of teachers

The worst kind of teachers

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.

Jim


Is this an old wive's tale?

"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.

Steve


Two types of language teacher

Two types of language teacher

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.

Mark N.


Horses for courses

Horses for courses

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.

Martin Foot


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