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.
This is in response to June's letter ('It can be tough to find teaching work', Postbox 23rd September 2019)
You need to lead with your success stories: what results you've gained for others. Blow your potential customers away with the successes you've achieved.
From what you've said, the old stereotypes are kicking in and people immediately think that you can't do what you claim to do, so you need to have them convinced before they get that far.
Try and get video testimonials from your students/students' parents. That way, you can have these on your website, or wherever, to pre-sell yourself and convince them that you're the teacher they need long before any prejudices the viewer may have kick-in.
Do a video sales letter-type of thing where you start with a presentation and your voice-over, that way they can hear you talking before they see you. Show your testimonials, your results, your achievements, and that way you may have them convinced before you segue into a head-and-shoulders video shot...
"Hey, bet this wasn't what you were expecting, right? [Laugh]
Ha, ha, I know, I get this ALL the time. Right up to the point when I deliver and, well... I've already shown you some of the results that students have achieved from working with me.
Here are a few more...
This is where video testimonials, preferably with you in them, as well (like a thumbnail with you in the corner chatting with your student) - that way they can't be discounted. Note: add them here before they get a chance to exit the video, you can go into your background for those still watching.
This is just a small sample from those who I've helped, though...
A little background... I was born in SE Asia, but I grew up in... and I've taught in
etc." And take it from there. Remove their objections BEFORE they get to the point where their prejudices engage. It won't work with everyone, but it might improve your success rate.
I've lived most of my adult life in Korea (I was born here but grew up in the U.S.) and it's still interesting to hear about the vast array of experiences in the Land of Smiles. Many here say they "moved on" to better pay and conditions in Korea, and that might be true but the ESL industry in Korea is also saturated at the moment, with employers being as picky as ever about teachers. And yes, ageism is DEFINITELY prevalent in Korea unless you have an advanced degree like a master's or higher. I do feel sorry for those in the LOS who have basically have no choice but to stay in Thailand because of ageism or other factors. That's true in Korea to a certain extent but Thailand seems to have far more farang than Korea.
Anonymous, Seoul, Korea
I'm a South Asian who grew up in Japan and worked/lived in the San Francisco Bay area for a long time. I have been trying to get an online ESL teaching job. I have a BA, a TEFL certificate, and 10 years of experience teaching ESL but I have been rejected outright after they see my CV (no idea why). I think my name gives it away that I'm Southeast Asian. I feel like I'm a good teacher and most importantly, I'm willing to grow and learn. This doesn't seem to matter. I pass the credentials but after doing the demo (they see my face) and then it feels like they're already rejected me.
I feel like I have to work harder than my white counterparts to get a job in this field. I practice a lot, have props, TPR, watch videos on how to teach young learners but once they see me, it's like I'm doomed.
Maybe I'm overthinking. But I know that discrimination is real in Asia. I grew up in Japan so I know. For us folks, we have to work harder and have above average skills, CV, education to get a job in this field. Even that is not enough because you can't do much about the color of your skin. I have even tried to look "whiter" by covering up my face in foundation and have contemplated about dying my hair brown or blonde (my hair is black).
What's going for me is that I'm pretty attractive (not boasting) so I think that helps. If you are good looking, blonde, young, the Asian recruiters will be knocking at your door.
In any case, I haven't given up yet. I'm still trying to get a job online teaching English.
I lived in Thailand for a year so I have an understanding about the real costs of living. I still find those figures saying that you can only live the 'Thai way', with 40K/month. I have since retired in Finland and I make about 50K/month and I can say my life is pretty decent. Now, if I moved back to Thailand with the same income, I cannot see how I'd be forced to live the 'Thai way' If this is enough for life in Finland, where pretty much everything is vastly more expensive, how can I not do it with same standards in Thailand?
I did a test back when I was living in Isaan. I was easily able to live on about 8,500 baht / month (rent, about 5,000 was paid from that) so I lived on the remaining 3,500 baht. Ok, it wasn't a "nice" life and I wasn't able to go out drinking, but managed easily with food and even some beer. Of course Isaan is different to Bangkok but still...
For anyone who loves their sport, do you know there is a thriving cricket scene in Bangkok?
Currently there is something like 30 teams which, between October and May, compete in three separate leagues. The type of cricket played ranges from 50 overs-a-side Premier League level to the less demanding 25 overs-a-side A and B divisions. Added to these there are T20 competitions and various 6-a-side tournaments. So basically for cricketers from all backgrounds there is plenty of opportunity to play and enjoy the game which took up your summers back home.
Siam Cricket Club - or the Siam Parrots as we are commonly known - is one of Bangkok’s oldest existing clubs with a history going back the beginning of the millennium. We are a club founded by ex-pats and pride ourselves on our family atmosphere and our spirit of community.
Many of the original Parrots were from Australia, New Zealand, UK and South Africa but over the years the club has attracted players from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Caribbean United States and even Canada.
The club has also been instrumental in promoting youth cricket in Thailand itself and, for this reason, is well respected within the broader Thai cricket scene. Currently our club contains members from all around the world and in this sense we are a truly inclusive international community united by our love for the grand old game.
Perhaps most importantly, the Parrots are a club that places great emphasis on enjoying the cricket we play. We are a social unit that displays great camaraderie toward each other whether we win or lose. Our culture is rooted in the rituals and traditions of club cricket and we are open to players of all ages and all levels. Our ethos is cricket’s ethos – that of fairness and honesty.
The Parrots are on the look-out for players to boost membership and to help both our Premier League and Second XI teams prepare for the upcoming Bangkok cricket season. As from the beginning of September, we will hold regular weekend nets at the Bang Na Cricket Academy and we would invite anyone to attend practice sessions with a view to playing and enjoying regular cricket later in the year.
Life in Bangkok can be often frustrating and disorienting. In this respect, cricket is a wonderful distraction and provides a perfect outlet for meeting new people and making new friends. We the Siam Parrots are a club that takes our cricket seriously, but never forgets that enjoyment of the game is paramount to fostering team spirit and club solidarity.
So if you want play cricket, make friends and generally improve the quality of your social life, in your home away from home, we would love to hear from you. Just send email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be in touch.
Grammar is definitely important, however being preoccupied with grammar when learning a language can lead to what in golf is called "paralysis by analysis." A truly solid golf swing takes years to build. To do so successfully, one has to painstakingly build each fundamental into the swing, one at a time, until it becomes second nature. When watching an accomplished golfer, it is obvious he or she is not focused on all of these fundamentals, but rather on visualizing the shot and capturing the feel to pull it off. To use this analogy I see grammar as the fundamentals, and the shot execution as actual communication. With that idea in mind when teaching conversation I focus on one grammar point, review it, and do some very structured drills to reinforce it. After that I move on to a much more communicative activity aimed at augmenting fluency.
"Expats are leaving in droves" has always been a somewhat over-used and rather dramatic statement but you do wonder if it's rapidly becoming the case"
"I have two friends, both here over 20 years, had good jobs, own homes, have 800K in the bank for retirement visas + excellent pensions. Retirees Thailand should be welcoming. The TM30 was the bitter end. Both are selling their homes, taking their money and going elsewhere" - Dan
"I will be leaving after 25 years without looking back. If I don't leave soon, then when? When I am 80 years old and find the conditions for visa renewal have been changed without grandfathering and I no longer qualify and have 7 days to get out? - Hooligan Abroad
"Thailand is not the nutty, flavoursome place it was in the '90's. Those of us who were here then are like herons beside a dried out pond; we know there is nothing here anymore but we don't know where to fly to"
"I personally still love the place after 17 years but I do empathize with those for whom life here has become difficult" - Russ
"I'll be 95% out very soon, after 20 years. Wife swore she'd never leave but after spending more time away she sees the benefits. Family was always the concern, and the reason I thought we'd never go, but she plans to visit often. I never pressured her either" - Lucky
I think I have a Malaysian accent but Malaysians think I have what they perceive as a desirable accent and foreigners ask (or aks, lol) how is it that they can understand me better than other speakers of English (regardless of NES or NNES)? Americans think I have a British accent and British think I have an American. (I doth protest and I think I have neither. I have a Chinese accent and I use colloquial expressions that signal my Malaysian-ness.)
There was this time when I worked at a home-stay and we had a Russian, Finn, an educated couple from London, a less educated man from London, an Australian, Dutch, French, an immigrant naturalized American citizen of South Asian descent, an Indian, Thai, Italian, Ghanaian and Iranian all seated for brunch and chatting. As conversation got more complex, I had to interpret English between two people who were speaking English. At one point, the Russian asked how is it possible that she can understand a Malaysian speaking English better than she could an NES Cockney accent? The "lost in translation" episodes were not limited between the Russian and the Cockney accent.
Having had many of these situations happen throughout my life, it makes me err on the side of NES with the caveat that they must have at least a Bachelor's or are aware of carrying themselves, culturally, as middle class. When accents deviate too far from what pop / media culture presents (I cannot understand Russell Brand, actually), it sort of renders all English language capacity null and void.
The only thing I can't stand about Filipino accents is the way they fake the American accent. I had a Pinoy boyfriend who grew up in the US and he had a beautiful Filipino American blend that's as sexy as a South American accent. I also had a Manila wannabe Mestizo boyfriend who was upper middle class and he makes me want to throw up when he puts on his accent.... Which goes away when I get him mad enough to launch into a tirade when we fight. Like how to stay mad in an argument when someone has that accent, really.
What's undesirable about the Filipino accent is how nasal it sounds but it's not across the board. Filipinos must agree with us on this in order to spin an entire cottage industry providing training for people to sound like what they're not. I'm not sure whether it's Ilokano or those from Cebu where the accent isn't so undesirable.
I wouldn't know what I would do if I had an undesirable accent. Would I get training and fake it? That's not the most authentic way to live. But I'd definitely not teach English to anyone who isn't my own ethnicity and compete for legitimacy just so I can make a lucrative living elsewhere. As it is, I only teach English locally to my own people and to Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Thai who come to Malaysia and seek local teachers.
The poor pay and increasingly hostile visa rules are why I moved back and became qualified in Scotland where I now earn £32K a year with free health care on top thanks to the NHS. Thailand is great for a couple of years but 40,000 baht a month, which seems to be the top end of average these days, isn't a salary to live on as a foreigner.
I've been hiring in Thailand for a long time, and here's the teacher that I'm looking for in a nutshell...
Someone who looks presentable and will show up each day on time. I've turned down better qualified people in favor of someone who I thought would be more likely to stay in the job for a while. I've taken chances on people based on my gut feelings on their potential to grind it out and do the job without kicking up a fuss. It's not a foolproof system.
So, what hints are there that you're the right person for the job? What can you do to persuade an employer to take a chance on you?
Well, if you live nearby and you have a serious girlfriend or wife (and if you have kids that's even better) then bring her to the interview with you. You have a car? Then mention it. Most teachers don't.
Although I would prefer to hire more female teachers, I tend to avoid them. In my twenty years in Thailand it's my opinion that while females make for better teachers, they don't stick around for long and hop from job to job or get pissed off and run back home.
I prefer British people over Americans. Americans don't stay in Thailand all that long and they complain more than Brits. Brits aren't so risk averse and can tolerate changes in a foreign culture better than our friends across the pond. Americans have higher expectations so the fall for them hurts more.
More experienced teachers are harder to work with. They don't easily accept their reduced importance in the grand scheme of things and too many of them have personality problems that aren't easy for them to cover up.
Younger teachers are pretty good bets, except of course that they aren't really here to 'teach'. This sojourn to Asia is part of their great world adventure and they're often too focused on themselves to care about what I want from them.
Certain non-native English speakers are just aggro all the way. They don't listen to good advice and have this unwarranted arrogance and overblown faith in their 'abilities'. Their teaching priorities aren't the same as mine and they refuse to be re-trained to do what I want them to do.
Finally, teachers who take up the cause just to fill in their days are a bust, too. I like to have a little leverage over the teachers that I hire. Therefore, if you've already got a fat pension or a big wad of dosh in the bank, then I will probably look past you in favour of the guy who 'needs' the job.
So.... if you're an Englishman with a degree, around 30 years old, can work a tie knot, and you are already settled near where you want to work, and you don't have another income or much in the way of savings (and you like run-on sentences) you've got the job! Congratulations!
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