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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What's a native speaker?

What's a native speaker?

Many jobs I read on request native speakers, i.e. people from English speaking countries. However, I have lived in the UK for the last 25 years and have good command of the English language, originally from Holland. I have studied in the UK, been to college, polytechnic, and I worked there. Since 1987 I taught at a further education college, though not English, but computer literacy. What I am trying to point out, you can have people from a native speaking country and from a region thereof with a very strong dialect.

In England, take a Cockney, someone from Yorkshire or Newcastle. No criticism against people from those areas. But people in other countries will find it hard to understand them, or ask someone from Glasgow or Northern Ireland to teach here if they speak with their local accents. The students will be totally lost. When I lived in England (before moving to Scotland), I knew many people from those areas, and with time you learn slowly to understand a little what is being said. When I lived in Scotland, I had plenty of friends who originally came from Glasgow.

Personally I love the English language, it has got a rich source of literature. I think that people from non English speaking countries who have spent such a long time in an English speaking country are very capable of making themselves understood. Of course, one must not speak in the local accent of the area where one has lived. I lived in Birmingham, England, and started to pick up the local accent. No, it is not a rant and rave, or even a moan, just a general statement, and trying to find out what is really a native speaker.

Beware the ajarn forum cynics

Beware the ajarn forum cynics

I have been teaching overseas for many years now. In fact, I have 31 years of overseas experience. I have mixed feelings about Thailand and the schools. The United States has had its similar problems in education about the time that the society went from agriculture to industrialization. Few were highly educated and those were mostly in the Northeastern parts of the country. But technology forced the system to change. Thailand is now faced with the same pressures as society is moving into the industrial era. Don't get things wrong. The number one problem is culture. Many of our cultures from the west are a mix of ideas and influences that immigration, conguest, colonizations, etc... brought into our countries. We were exposed and through assimilation adapted many ideas and ways into our cultures that are who we are today.

Thailand is just now realizing it has a problem with identity among the rest of the world. That is o.k. for them as it is natural at this time. Our countries are demanding, fast and pro-active. This will happen in time to Thailand. There are many good students and schools. I have been very fortunate but did not realize it until I looked back on a position that I did not understand at the time. If we wait China will force many changes in the thinking of Thailand. As other Asian countries prosper and move ahead Thailand will reluctantly move ahead. It will pick up speed and get with the world program. I am sorry to say it. In many ways the west could learn from the Thai ways.

A great river starts with a single drop of water. Perhaps only a few drops pass each of us but one day they will join together as elders of society and form puddles and small tributaries that will eventually find each other. Time will cure all. I am finally happy with the students now. I understand them. I look beyond the classroom into their fears, hopes and dreams. They are just like me when I was them. We are all one.

My biggest problem now has become the foreign teachers on the ajarn forum. I am an educated man and I am also a student learning daily lessons of life. I expected that people here would be professional as they claim to be. Sadly, when I came back to the forum I was let down. I did make some comparisons once. They were not at individuals but as a general observation. Yet, people think everything is personal. Well, an observation is just that. We see what we see. Our truth is what we understand and perceive it to be.

As educated people we should present a supported argument to something we have a difference with. Here however; it is easy to red mark those with whom you disagree without regard to professional reputation to the forum. Yes, I have been red marked and I only realize that the people that did it are insecure and sensitive in their own person. They label me a non-reputable person not because I posted lies about Thailand or teaching. They labeled me because I made a remark about their heritage, culture, or race not because of them but of an observation of those that attention gave notice to me and the rest of the world. I have never met anyone here in ajarn. So how could I direct it to you. I can substantiate my observations in the general not the personal. They offer no rebuttal but only a red mark and a label of racist. I am not a 100% racist although I, like everyone else, do have some prejudices.

Everyday, people demean the United States and its people. I understand that. I am a US citizen. I also agree with many things they say. I am also man enough to understand that while I have to carry the passport, I am not the people that many hate. I am me. I do not get upset because I know me and I can stand as an individual on my own merit and support criticism. Yes, support it. I am free and have the right to free speech but not to judge without support and then it is only viable to me individually.

The ajarn forum is controlled in my opinion by a few people that want to direct the forums their way. Well, so be it. But when someone is trying to open the curtain to observations it is better to offer communication, debate and proof before you try to destroy this person you never met. I am here in Thailand because the quality of life is so much better than where I have lived before. I do not feel my home is home to me now. My home is where my feet are. I can live on 1/4 my US salary here and I am married and happy. I appreciate ajarn for the job listings and those I will search only to better my position.

One other thing, I let cynicism pull me down and my teaching suffered. I will not be reading many forum posts now because I realize most of my cynical thought came from listening to people like those found here. Next time you have to put someone down or play the superior being ask yourself this question, "What hurts you so bad that by hurting someone else will make you feel better?" Be a teacher be a part of the great river that is coming. Support each other and quit complaining. This is my goal as I walk across this desert of knowledge looking for an oasis to rest and drink. (Maybe, plant a few vegetables)


Tightening the screws

Tightening the screws

I completely agree with Mr. John's letter dated February 4, 2008 concerning the MOE's new regulations. Just another way for the government to tighten the screws a little more trying to make it as difficult as possible for farang teachers to want to come here and teach. Let all the farangs leave and see how fast they change their position and requirements. We all know that isn't going to happen. They need the money we spend too much.

I have been told I am too critical of the Thai government when the are "trying" to improve the system. I totally agree the system is broken and the John Mark Carrs of the world slip in and I fully support all the efforts to keep those types of seedy characters out. Don't forget that John Mark Carr had a BA and was qualified according to the MOE standards. There are caring, wonderful, and dedicated teachers that never had the opportunity to attend a university because of the expense and various other problems. Does that mean that if a person didn't attend a university isn't qualified to teach? Of course not. I have known "teachers" with education up the gazoo that are totally lost in a classroom without a clue about what to do or even say. I wonder how many of the ones that are making the changes at the MOE actually attended a university or have any type of formal education? I feel sure we would all be surprised to find the truth. I do however, agree with the TESOL training requirement. It made me a better teacher with fresh ideas and it is my belief that it would probably help everyone be a better teacher. With the world today, if the students do not know English, in ten years all they will be able to do is a medial job with no future. In the end, who is going to suffer? The students of course.


One thing wrong with Thailand

One thing wrong with Thailand

It's funny, I haven't looked at Ajarn for a very longtime and it seems to me everybody is still talking about the same old sh*t. This problem that problem, this rule that rule. Well, why did you come to Thailand? Just ask yourself this question. I've looked at the amount of resumes that have been downloaded and to be quite frank, it's pathetic. Out of a global population of 6 billion, there are less than 500 resumes. I think it's 4 people from New Zealand, 11 from Australia, another 8 or something from South Africa and about 84 and 91 from America and the U.K respectively. The U.K being the most because it's colder. Teachers have had enough because of the constant politics between teachers. The only thing wrong with Thailand is the foreigners. They aren't sure why they are here because there really can't be a real reason why somebody would want to teach for a fraction of what they could earn in the west.

Most anal retentants leave the comfort of their own homes and move 10,000 miles away for reasons that have nothing to do with wanting to be a good teacher. Utter crap if you ask me. Supreme Educators get the real jobs with prestige and a high salaries the rest come to Thailand. Teachers are just like "normal" people, trying to make their way through life which as we all know can be difficult especially with all the rules and jobs-worths blocking us. Get over the culture difference, get over the system, get over yourself and enjoy life more.

As far as rules go, well, let's say they are their to be broken with plenty of assistance from the rule makers. Education is business. Nobility is noble and Thailand is Thailand. unless you have spent a considerable amount of time here and you have been through each and every scenario that is known to a teacher, you probably still won't get it because in most cases, it's you. If you want to be a good teacher and do the right thing then help your fellow teacher no matter who they are or what circumstance.


Writing resumes 101 for dummies

Writing resumes 101 for dummies

I've been working in Thailand for 2 years now, attempting to run a high-quality English Program at a government school. Regardless of the curriculums I write, teacher trainings I administer, textbooks I research for months before selecting, communication with the parents, or the amount of time I put into the process and procedures for running our program - our success (or lack thereof) relies on one thing - the teachers we recruit.

Forget my standards of wanting someone with a BA in teaching, a TEFL certificate, a native-speaker of English, and some experience teaching in Thailand - I'm to the point where I will recruit anyone - qualified or not - who will take the time to submit a decent cover letter and resume. If you cannot even type your name with the correct capitalization (i.e. John Smith not john smith) or reference the job correctly ("Third Grade Teacher" not "Third Grades") or properly address my job posting (i.e. your resume is full of references for teaching at a university when I'm recruiting for a primary school teacher) - then you have no business applying for the job to begin with. And I won't even mention the horrendous spelling mistakes (for crying out loud - we have auto spell checker - just click the icon). Too many foreign teachers in Thailand have been wasting my time.

The biggest mistake people make on their resumes is they forget to indicate the locations of their employment and education. Please do not assume that everyone in the world knows that Moloy Elementary is some school in the Philippines. Do not assume that if you write Jackson University that I will know that means you were in Poland.

I have received approximately 40 resumes in the past 2 days, and only 3 of them had the caliber of a professional. No lie....
For anyone seriously trying to land a decent teacher position, here are my Top 3 tips:

1) Read the job posting. Don't blindly send your resume to a hundred schools. If you're worth it and think highly enough about yourself and believe in your qualifications, you will be selecting only those jobs that truly meet your expectations and have high standards.

If I say I need a cover letter and your photo to accompany your resume, this means exactly that. If any of these items are missing, your resume is immediately deleted. End of story....

2) Write a brief cover letter specific to that job posting. This demonstrates you are taking the time to be a professional. (And believe me, with the poor pickings we have for teachers lately - this extra step goes along way in getting my attention).

3) Be sure you indicate the city and country locations for all your employment and education line items. Your resume shouldn't be a guessing game. I shouldn't have to comb through it to try and decipher where you've been. You state your a Canadian, yet you speak Spanish, and have been working at Yokomoto University and volunteered at the Tsunami Childcare Center. This tells me nothing without knowing where these places are.
Now, the sad thing about this situation is I shouldn't have to state the basics of "Resume Writing 101 for Dummies".

Please, someone tell me where are the great teachers in Thailand are?!?!


Who deserves the job?

Who deserves the job?

Do you know of any groups of people who devote any of their time for bridging the gap between degree and no degree. I am looking for people who are open-minded too. I hate seeing the two sides argue when they could be working together to accomplish something. I spent four years studying chemical engineering at UCSB. I then had to drop out due to financial problems. No degree for me because I didn't take Art History and Literature 3. Does this make me any less of a chemical engineer? I've never even had an interview. Some companies have called me though saying that they would love to hire me just for my personality over the phone. Unlike most engineers, I am not socially retarded. Usually, after winning every argument against why I am still a better candidate than all others, people will finally use the excuse of not being able to finish something that I started. This was true (TEN YEARS AGO)! Aren't we all different after a decade has gone by? I have everything that any other engineer has except for a framed piece of paper with signatures on it hung on the wall behind me. I two lovers get stranded on an island before they get married, does this mean that they will never love each other as much as they could have? It is JUST a piece of paper.

I have nothing against people with degrees. In fact, having to hire before, it is an amazing attribute, and it distinguishes them incredibly between those without . . . usually. Not always though. American Universities are a bureaucracy. We stress that we want our children to be well rounded, but we drive them into insanity with tons of homework in mathematics and English only. There are other kinds of smart. Now our schools have no music, art, or sports. Kids are only going to excel in what they are interested in (unless you are an amazing teacher). Amazing teachers do not motivate, although most will say that this is the most important thing that a teacher can do. Amazing teachers inspire. But you cannot inspire when having no creative freedom. People don't become teachers, or doctors, for the money. It's the passion.

In Brazil, they let their high-schoolers choose their own classes. True, some never take Portuguese, and some never take math. We can all teach ourselves these thing later though if we finally want to learn. Patch Adams stated a free hospital. I would like to start a free university. He had 4000 doctors in one week apply to help him. This is because doctors are tired of there situations. I know many Mexican now who go to med school to then practice medicine in their homes under the table. Regardless of how good they are, this is what happens when people do not have insurance. And I am glad the government would never be able to fully regulate this. I wouldn't be surprised one day though if a law was passed saying that everyone who is alive has to pay for health insurance. No matter what age or if the even have a job.

Many companies legally cannot hire me now because laws are passed that say people need degrees to work for them. If they get audited, and the powers at be find that their best employee has no degree, everybody else has their paychecks stopped.

The fact that a college is accredited means very little to me too. Like I said before though, I don't think that degrees and certifications are bad. I just think that people and companies can teach themselves skills and reach levels of experience that can even surpass those constrained by educational algorithms.

I've taught English, Spanish, French, mathematics, physics, chemistry, soccer, photography, art, and scuba diving under the table in over ten countries for the past ten years. I have no certificate in any of these fields except English. I received my ESL certificate only to find out that no company can hire me. Some of them have offered to pay me under the table, but I won't do this anymore. They gasp when they realize that it would be illegal to hire me. This is America's fault. We think that this is such a great country that everybody would try to come here if they could (I know Mexicans who want to go back to Mexico now). There is an increasing amount of people who want to leave this place now. All of you out there do not have to understand why. You just have to accept it. I am not 9 out of ten people. I know that I have always been different. I do love how clean America is, how I can be rescued if I am in a car accident, and how I can be given antibiotics for an infection. But all of this does not outweigh the freedom I feel in third world countries. Here in Ecuador (where I am now), I can drink a beer walking down the street. And I can ride on a motorcycle without a helmet. You might think that these things are small, but they mean the world to me. I spent 350 dollars on forms trying to renounce my American citizenship. They said no. I owe no money and am on good standings in all areas of life. They use the excuse of where will I go? This is bogus. A free country is somewhere that you can go to legally and prosper. They other side of a free country is somewhere that you can leave. Is there a price for freedom? If so, then it shouldn't be called FREEdom.

I just read a description for a ESL (I'll say it again - ESL) teacher need. The only requirement is a degree in ANY field. At the bottom it says that no ESL certification is needed. Ten years experience teaching abroad, dozens of references, and some guy who has never been out of his own state who just finished four years of studying software programming is going to get the job.

Paul L

Learn the lingo

Learn the lingo

I hope to be teaching in Thailand this coming school year, and want to encourage Black teachers to LEARN THE LANGUAGE. Just a few words makes such a difference. I have visited Thailand twice, via Taiwan, taught in Korea for a year and have been to Japan 4 times. My experiences have been that most people from these countries don't expect foreigners to speak the native language. A basic sawat-dee (khrap/kha) and a smile has gotten me pretty far. I feel more welcome in these countries than at home in the USA! Probably because I recognize how this culture conveys racism, covertly or overtly.

Speaking of home culture, has anyone else found it funny that a lot of people in the world want to be light-skinned, but white people don't even want to be white? Asia sells skin whiteners, America has tanning booths, and beach bums working on their tans all day... My grandfather has told me plenty of army stories about how black soldiers essentially had double requirements, meaning the army only really had the cream of the crop soldiers from us, when just about any white person could be a soldier. Reading this forum, and having my experiences, I've learned that the English teaching job market in Asia is the same--we just gotta one up everyone else!

Learn some of the language. Know something about His Majesty. Smile and dress nicely, and, while it sucks that we have to take that extra step, everyone will get the point and word of mouth will do its work.


More MOE demands

It has come to my attention (from my school) that the MOE has made a decision where educators will only be able to teach in the area that their degree specifies. I would like to know the truth about this new rule.

If this is true it would mean that any degree is not enough criteria to teach English in Thailand. Educators will have to teach in the area of expertise as their degree states. Moreover, I have been informed that I must (and all the other teachers in my program) attend a training seminar that involves teaching in Thailand and whatever other blah blah blah that the MOE thinks teachers should know.

These demands do not affect me personally as I already teach in my area of expertise. What bothers me is that legitimate ESL teacher training courses offered from universities as "After degree certificates" are in fact worthless pieces of paper (CELTA included) since they are not recognized in Thailand (2000 dollars and over two-three months of study for nothing).

In my opinion, Degrees do not show full expertise--it is the transcripts that show the major and minor concentrations of the degrees quite specifically to make things clear. If this new rule is actually true I would find it very problematic. It would, however, solve the life degree problem as their are no courses called "life" offered in Thai schools.

Morgan Rock

Leaving on a jet plane

Leaving on a jet plane

My bags are packed and I'm on my way, and I won't be back for many a day. I will never work in Thailand again. I say to all just like me get up from your bended knee and stop kowtowing to the Thai. It's time to get a decent wage for what we endure-- oh baby I'm glad to go.

I'm leaving on a jet plane-going to another land, where the air is clean and the people not mean - where the schools are eager to have you stay, and give you a package and reasonable pay. The province is cold but I don't care, the room is free and has heating and air. The salary is small, but I don't care - because I'm sick of the government here. Treating us bad, and enjoying it so.

The teachers are so lazy, I could scream.
I earned my degree and don't show off , and worked for years for what I have got - did not cheat and yes - I could have failed.
The students here have no heart-they sit in class but do not care,- and study for a test - you must be joking -
I am the best - I will not fail
I tried my hardest-- but not good enough, the arse lickers here - can beat you every time.
So stuff it - I'm on my way.

Working in this third world, is much harder than it seems. It's not the land of my dreams --There is always a problem waiting for you. The corruption is just a way of life. They complain and groan, but shut their eyes -yes another thing that I despise - they couldn't manage the toilets at Hua Lampong.
The agents don't care - suck up the schools and lowering the pay. They want the best, but pay peanuts and after you finish your two terms - the agents KINDLY give you a bonus from your salary.

I'm leaving in 3 week, writing this letter tongue in cheeck, for all the dedicated teachers who are stronger than me.
- And to all those who have no guts-well-just plod on.
The visa rules always change and give everybody such a pain - the government gets revenue - but show their contempt, and service - well that's another thing.
Continual changes are no good , our life in turmoil and misunderstood.We are strong but do not speak -- they think we are weak, but the facts are clear.

When they have problems where do they go? We are kind and give them the aid. But our charity is quickly forgotten, because the government here is truly rotten. Thailand wants their future to be good - so pay the money that you should - oh baby I'm gone. I'm leaving with no regrets, the experience I will never forget - but baby it's over.

Moans and groans

Moans and groans

I have "some" moaning and groaning to do, so I guess I'm here at the right place to do so!
Teaching in Thailand at high school level is a farce and complete bullocks. In 2 years time I taught at 6 different high schools, ranging from the rich, private school to the poor government schools. Teaching at high school could better be referred to as teaching at "hell school". I came to Thailand on 7 separate occasions, 7 consecutive years. I saw students everywhere in their cute white/black, white/blue uniforms. I saw great respect for their King and for monks and Buddism in general and I thought it would be a teachers heaven to teach such respectful and obedient people. I have some very good Thai friends and so I was so naive to think everybody was like soon as I started to teach in Bangkok, I saw that my dream became an absolute horror movie.

Children at school (high school that is) have no respect whatsoever. Don't get me wrong, not every student was bad. I had some nearly perfect classes like Mathayom 6/1, 5/1, 4/1 and these student were obedient and respectful and did what I asked them to do (doing their assignments, reading texts and so on) and it was a real pleasure to teach them, but unfortunately 90% of the classes following slash 1 (Mathayom 6/3, 5/3 whatever.....) were most of the time absolute hell. Especially the Mathayom 3, 4 slash 4,5 where pure hell.

My biggest frustrations at school:
- classes ranging from 30 up to 50 students in one class (impossible to handle and to teach)
- Thai substitute teachers sometimes present, sitting in the corner of the class, who were
supposed to help keeping order, doing nothing, just hang behind their desks without interfering
- fighting, phoning (with their mobile phones), playing music on their mobile phones, playing soccer
in the class room etc., you name it, I have seen and experienced all of it
- people enter the classroom far too late and start to create chaos among the others
- complete and utter disrespect in some classes because they think you are a farang, a white
monkey (this was said to me in my face on several occasions)

At all schools I had no right to straighten them out. There are no rules whatsoever. Yes, I went to the head of department and the director on many different occasions and they came with me to the classroom and then after some "harsh talks" with the students, they were quiet for 5 minutes and then everything started again. I had classes full of wannabe pop stars, checking their faces and their Korean/Japanese soap-styled-hairdo's in their little pocket mirrors every single moment, just sitting there chewing gum and laughing about me. I had some very hard confrontations with them, telling them that they could laugh about me and disrespect me but at the end of the day I would still make my money and that is far more than they will ever make at the 7-eleven when they leave school.

Wise ass little shit-heads everywhere. They leave their books at home on purpose and just sit there wasting their time while chewing gum and completely disrespecting you. I had a Thai teacher, she was one of the English teachers that taught them 3 hours a week, and this woman always came to my worst classes, just to have a "peek". These classes were absolutely disastrous, no books, no understanding whatsoever of the English language, you name it.....

She used to come to my class and ask me: "what are you going to teach them today?". I said to her:" they didn't bring their books again, like every day and they don't understand a word of English, so I can not read with them and practise pronunciation, so there's nothing much I can do". So she used to react a little pissed at me every time and so one day she started to get on my nerves and I told her:"Why is it, that these children have no understanding whatsoever of the English language while you, a Thai teacher who speaks Thai perfectly and also English perfectly teaches them 3 hours a week?".
"If I would be able to speak Thai perfectly like you do and had the ability to explain them every single word, I bet your ass they would speak English quite well within a year". Yeh, bingo, she silenced....but didn't like what I said. Yes, and I didn't like it, this same questioning routine several times a week while they don't handle any set of rules to straighten these children out who are unwilling to learn.

Yes, nice line-up every morning at 8. Nice pep talk every morning at 8, but nobody gives a shit.
I see 60 year old teachers who are working for the same school for more than 20/30 years and they don't have the energy anymore to do anything to improve the situation. At one school some Thai teachers told me in my first week that my next 2 hours that day would be absolute hell and that no teacher could handle them, but that day I handled them perfectly, but every hour is a struggle, a war of words and mimic, a complete and utter headache crash course.

The list of what is wrong in the educational system in Thailand is endless and this is due to the system, the parents and the teachers.
The system: at most schools were I was there were no exams! People just pass to the next year. No pressure, no study, no nothing.
The parents: they don't give a shit and lack any substantial knowledge whatsoever to motivate and educate or force their children to study. School is just a building where you drop your pain-in-the-ass children and have some hours of peace and quiet. Later in the evening? Let's watch some soaps: evening long, brainless entertainment with beautiful-bad-acting-screaming-white-skin models (in whatever word order you want...).

After school they eat and then most of the children disappear again in the soi and go to the game-shops and play computer games till midnight or after, nobody gives a shit.

The teachers: most Thai teachers don't care anymore, they just make a living and get their money anyway. Almost every farang teacher that I know does the same (and I know at least 30 in Bangkok). They tell me:"what the f*ck do you get angry about? The are just monkeys......take your money at the end of the month and just don't care about them! That's Thailand! It's a joke!

At the expensive private high schools they don't do much also, otherwise Hi-so daddy will take his child from school and put them somewhere else and teaching is big business in Bangkok, for the schools that is! Rich parents pay a lot to see their children off at some Hi-so school where the real native English speaking "monkey" teaches and where you have "English summer camps". They all want "the real deal" to teach their children English.

My list is endless. And also this "native English teacher" bullshit. The Thai still thinks that everyone coming from a native English speaking country is top and anyone else, non-native speaker is not good enough. What a big laugh! It's such a farce! I had a conversation with a guy from Manchester the other day and the day after with an Irish guy and don't forget the Cockney accent or Aussie..... God help us! Even I could hardly understand them!

There are native English speaking teachers around for more than 20 years and what is the level of English till now among the common Thai? Zero and non-existing! Only some rich Thai people who have the money to go to some of the better schools, or the ones who can afford to go abroad, are able to speak English to a certain extend.And yes....all these little hustlers in the tourist areas like Khaosan and Silom/Sukhumvit, bar girls and such, they know to a certain extend to "use" the English language, standing or horizontal. It's one big joke and unfortunately a sad one.

I see teachers getting hired and getting paid 40/50.000 Baht a month, who have absolutely no good knowledge to be at these positions. But just because they are "handsome" and/or know the right people, schools and universities offer them a job (even ask them to marry their daughters...).

Why do I get angry? I came because I like Thai people, I came to help them, no problem if I have to stay longer to teach them as long as they are eager and willing to learn, I will stay, even though it's my own time, nothing paid, I don't care.
I am a real teacher..

Jeff V

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