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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The global recession and its effect on teachers

The global recession and its effect on teachers

The situation of the worlds economy, which is quite dire will be affecting all of us for quite some time. The good news for us here in Asia is that there is a fundamental restructuring the world's economy with a shift of wealth and growth from the West to Asia. The bad news is that this shift will be very painful for everyone. There are reasons for this downturn and why it will continue. Under Bill Clinton the Glass-Stegall Act was repealed which made it possible for investment and savings banks to integrate and thus allowed investment bankers to place high risk bets with peoples savings (their homes). This was the cause of the sub prime crisis.

This Glass Stegall Act was passed during the Great Depression for a good reason and under Clinton it was removed. George W Bush certainly did his part to exacerbate economic problems by signing into law 8 trillion in medicare entitlements and fighting a nonsensical war in Iraq. Barak Obama is continuing and expanding on Bush's "monetizing of the problems" (creation of new money) by printing up trillions of dollars in a doomed effort to stimulate the economy. Europe has followed a similar path as America and is also responsible but the US is the big player. When the dollar fails, as countries around the world realize that it is becoming worthless, the US will be unable to sell its debt and the US will experience hyperinflation radically affecting economies worldwide. Already China is selling off its American debt and just last week confirmed what many have suspected that they were significantly augmenting their gold reserves.

Compounding exponentially the world's economic problems is the prospect of a nuclear armed Pakistan. Under the control of the Taliban oil prices would escalate radically and force the west in to another long protracted expensive war which can never really be won. Also you may want to consider the impact of the western baby boomer generation retiring and what this will mean as social services are stretched beyond their limit. You may think that I am some kind of nut for endorsing such a bleak economic forecast but may I cite the following sources:

PAUL VOLKER-former head of the Federal Reserve and current top economic advisor to Obama is warning of forthcoming economic hardship. "I don't remember any time even during the great depression when things went down so fast so uniformly"

THE IMF-The world economy will shrink for the first time in 60 years in 2009.

THE ECONOMIST- The renowned journal has stated that what we are experiencing now is more akin to a depression than recession. A depression being characterized by a bursting asset bubble, a contraction of credit and falling prices.

GERALAD CELANTE-A well noted trend forecaster offers a more apocalyptic vision which
is quite disturbing. In his career he has correctly predicted Black Monday(the stock market crash of 87), the fall of the Soviet Union, The Asian Financial Crisis of 97, and the Subprime crisis last year. Celente has predicted total economic collapse of the American economy by the end of this year.

PETER SCHIFF AND MARC FABER-both well noted economic trend forecasters with proven track records who although do not go quite as far as Celente in their predictions both are calling for a severe long-term economic downturn.

WARREN BUFFET-"the economy has approached close to the worst case scenario
possible"

BARAK OBAMA-When selling his economic recovery package has warned of economic catastrophe if nothing was done. The list of highly qualified people who question if the recovery program can possibly work is unfortunately long and distinguished. Obama himself has offered no guarantees.

These are just a few of the noted watchers of the current crisis who are saying that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better and do not subscribe that a recovery will occur by the end of the year but rather that we are at a turning point in history (exclude Obama on that).

How ill this affect us teachers here in Thailand? My bet is many, not all, will find themselves if they are still teaching in Thailand working for a Thai teachers wage at a public school. I doubt too many private institutions will remain. The school will give you room and board and and the equivalent of a few thousand baht a month. I currently work at a language school and am the only full time employee. I a working with the owner to devise a curriculum where one teacher can teach 3 classes simultaneously using the help of Thai assistants. The good jobs will be more competitive as more people will be willing to relocate to far away Thailand in search of a better life. Having been a teacher in America that is why I came here years ago, I suspect many more will be willing to do the same in the future.

Lee Lepper


With regards to severance pay

In regard to the sign a new contract every year as a way for Thai business to avoid severence pay is not a case that holds up with a labour board. Most teachers are not willing to look into the foreign workers department at the Thai labour department to find out what they are entitled to by law. If a person works a minimum of 120 days they are entitled to 30 days severence pay. If you sign a resignation letter you will not get a severence and most Thai schools try to trick you into signing a resignation letter.

If Thai business uses the excuse of you are only on a yearly contract than by law they would have to pay severence pay every year as they are terminating contracts yet rehiring teachers that they want to be back for another year. It doesn't hold up in the labour department and most foreign teachers don't know how to pursue severence pay when it is deserved to them.

I have one friend that went through this process as his thai wife knew what he was entitled to. He was a good teacher and he was let go after 6 months by the foreign principle (a drunk with no degree) who preferred to hire no degree teachers like himself. My friend was awarded 90,000 baht and the school had to pay

Walter


B2K

B2K

As an Asian American who has been back to visit Thailand several times, I’ve noticed many changes over the years. Like any big city there is always construction and building work going on. What I definitely like is the Bangkok Mass Transit System (or BTS). I think that part made it so much easier to travel around particularly in the Siam area. However, there are also some negative things: the growing traffic and the recent political unrest to name a few. With the recent recession and bad economic news from around the world, let’s think about a positive change for Bangkok. I think it would be nice to do a B2K. What’s that? I’m suggesting that Bangkok changes its name to Krungthep. This will have many benefits. Thais already call their capital Krungthep. Bangkok is an old name. It’s like calling Thailand, Siam. People understand it, but it sounds more updated saying Krupthep rather than Bangkok. Krungthep sounds much better than Bangkok. In Thai, Krungthep means the city of angels, where as Bangkok translates roughly to fruit grove.

Bangkok also has negative connotations associated with it. In English, unfortunately it can be easily connected to sex, especially if the second syllable is stressed. The name change should help the city move away from the emphasis on what many male tourists come for, and make the city sound more family-oriented. The cost will be many million baths to make the change, but I believe it will be worth it. Also, it has been done before. China changed its capital name from Peking to Beijing. India changed its capital name from Bombay to Mumbai. I’m curious to hear the thoughts of my fellow teachers on this subject. I think it’s a good thing if we make this change. But, feel free to disagree!

Mike Thompson


Severance pay issue

I also investigated the possibility of getting severance pay as a previous employer did not renew my contract after three years of service. Unfortunately, as the contract expires every year, I was not entitled to severance pay as my employment wasn't terminated. I, like most teachers, do not have a rolling contract. I went to the department of labour in Lamphun who told me that because the school didn't actually terminate my employment during contract I did not qualify. This is why schools don't give two year or rolling contracts. In addition, the schools can also increase the hours that you work each year without increasing your salary. Why does the expression "white slave trade" come to mind?

So, if you sign a new contract for a second year with an increase in hours and then you do the absolute minimum of work possible to compensate, they school won't sack you because they would rather keep you as a loafer than pay you for not being there. The moral of the story is: if you are in a job/school that you don't like and find it impossible to leave/get another job at the end of the contract, then sign for another year and do as little as you like. Either way, you'll get paid for doing nothing.

Mr John


Why teacher can't write

Fill a room with adults and ask them how many read or write poetry. My guess is that on a good day about half would raise their hands (most likely out of an affectation or because they flat-out misheard the question). The other half, the ones who didn’t raise their hands, would be English teachers.

I know teachers are busy in ways that other professionals and trades people are not. If you care about teaching, and most teachers do, the first thing you think about when you wake up is teaching for the coming day. Simply put, we are too busy to do anything else but teach. Yet, there’s something bogus about teaching language or literature 20 periods a week and never connecting with your subject matter out of the classroom.

There are, of course, reasons for this. If we teach ESL, we force the language down to its simplest building blocks. When we do this, however, density of thought is also stripped away, and we encourage students not to think but to do. And after years of teaching this transactional English inside the classroom, we become what we teach outside of the classroom.

As a result when teachers do write they consciously marshal facts and data to argue an issue. There is a foe or object in front of them they want to destroy or move to their side. There may be some craft in these efforts, but rarely is there any art or ambiguity. The writing is transactional and purposeful, but it is little more than moving pieces around on a game board. No shred of the writer and his cast of mind can be found. The best measure of this (often) claptrap prose is how odd we find poetry and poets. Poets either produce dreck or live on the edge of some deviancy. Teachers are more likely to experiment with body piercing than to experiment with poetry.

Teachers learn early on to be circumspect in their everyday lives. Politicians, police, truck divers and housewives can do or say things outside of the classroom that would get us fired if we did the same and it got back to the administration or a parent. And as it is usually a coworker that passes this information on under the pretext of protecting the school, we become timid in the classroom, too. We are trained to avoid risk. Trust no one is our mantra. Over time we no longer even trust ourselves, and without confidence in ourselves, we have nothing to say as writers. The curriculum we teach runs on tracks year to year, and we lose all zest for our subject matter. If someone asks what subject we teach, we say, “Children, I teach children.”

Since Sputnik, the urgency for scientific methodology has squeezed out the abstract and installed the concrete. We believe that selecting multiple choice correct answers among distractors that are only a whisker away in meaning is evidence of intelligence. We teach the myopic and eschew the universal.

Art on the other hand searches for the universal in a grain of sand. It is the dark matter that holds education from flying apart, but because it is not a group-paced activity it has no place in the curriculum. A writer once said, “the essence of all art is the frame,” and our educational system has lost its frame.

I know that teachers can write. Why they don’t is more an indictment of the educational system than professional ineptitude.

Years ago, I taught the argumentative essay to freshman college students. This was a pass/fail course which required writing a five-paragraph essay at the end of the course within an hour-and-a-half time frame. I decided to try and take the test myself, something I doubt few other teachers ever did. Of course I was using a computer, and there really wasn’t any pressure on me. When I looked up, I was fifteen minutes past the finish time. I wrote a great essay, but I would have failed the subject I was teaching.


Be careful with that resignation letter

Be careful with that resignation letter

I realize that there is an appropriate time for a resignation letter. However, in a situation where you have not been offered a new yearly contract and you did not violate your contract in terms of paper work or duties and nobody is telling you anything then the Thai Administration's seemingly harmless sign this resignation letter document is not in your best interest because they will not have to pay you anything regarding severance pay.

Rights and duties of employers and employees under the new Labour Protection Act B.E.2541 http://www.thailabour.org/law/thai/code.html

Severance Pay

An employer shall pay severance pay to an employee whose employment is terminated, as follows:
An employee who has worked for at least 120 consecutive days, but for less than one year shall be paid basic pay for 30 days at the most recent rate of basic pay received by him.
An employee who has worked continuously for at least one year but less than three years shall be paid basic pay for 90 days at the most recent rate of basic pay received by him.
An employee who has worked consecutively for three years but less than six years shall be paid basic pay for 180 days at the most recent rate of his basic pay.
An employee who has worked consecutively for at least six years but less than 10 years shall be paid basic pay for not less than 240 days at the most recent rate of his basic pay.
An employee who has worked for more than 10 years consecutively shall be paid basic pay for not less than 300 days at the most recent rate of his basic pay.

An employer is not required to pay severance pay to an employee whose employment has been terminated for any of the following reasons:

Resignation
Dishonest performance of his duties or the intentional commission of a criminal act against the employer;
Intentionally causing loss to the employer;
Performance of gross negligence which result in severe loss to the employer;
Violation of the employer's work rules or regulations or order which are both lawful and equitable when the employer has already issued the employee with a prior written warning, except in a serious instance when the employer is not required to give a warning.
The written warning shall be effective for a period of one year as from the date of the commission of the violation by the employee;
Neglect of his duties for a period of three consecutive work days without reasonable cause, whether or not a holiday intervenes;
Imprisonment by reason of a final judgment.

An employment contract shall be terminated when the specified period in the employment contract expires, the works related are as follows:
8.1 Employment on a special project, which is not in the normal way of business or trade of the employer, where there is a fixed schedule for commencement and completion of work.
8.2 Work of a temporary nature with a fixed schedule for its commencement or completion.
8.3 Seasonal work in respect of which employees are only engaged during that season; provided that the work most be completed within a period of two years and the employer and employee have entered into a written agreement at or prior to the commencement of employment.


Foreign A-holes

Hello to all. I am from the U.S. and have been living and teaching in Asia for the past five years, four of those in Thailand. I absolutely love teaching Asian students, and my goal is to try and set an example with them, helping them to learn to think for themselves and enjoy the learning process as they grow.

While living in the U.S., I had a series of high stress jobs spanning over several years. My last job in the U.S. was a state job. I worked for the local corrections department at a medium security facility in our state and believe me; I definitely looked forward to my vacation time. All my vacations were spent in Asia. I traveled to the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan mostly. For me anyway, Asia just seemed to get under my skin and I looked forward to each vacation period in which to return. It wasn’t until my last trip to Beijing in 2002 that I learned about ESL teaching when a young Chinese woman approached me while I was sitting on a park bench near my hotel reading the China Daily newspaper, and asked me if I spoke English.

“Yes, I do,” I replied.
“May I sit with you and practice my English?” she asked.
“Of course!”

It turned out she was worried about losing her ability to speak English since she had just returned from Ankara, Turkey where her husband was working for a large corporation. She told me that in the circles she frequented while living in Turkey, everyone spoke English and now that she had returned to Beijing, she was finding it troublesome to find anyone with which to practice her English so she had joined a night course, but said she found it too basic. Her English was exceptional, and our conversation was delightful, going on for almost two hours. Before she had to leave, she asked me, “Do you like Beijing?”

“I love it!” a very truthful statement at the time.

“Then you should come here to live and teach,” she commented. I laughed and told her I was the farthest thing from a schoolteacher, but she persisted, telling me of numerous openings at local universities, primary and secondary schools and private schools.

Then suddenly she looked at her watch, turned to me and asked, “Do you have time for me to show you something?”
“Sure,” I said, and then she got up and motioned for me to follow her.

Her nickname was Jo, and as we were walking Jo told me that almost every university in Beijing had an English department and were always hiring foreign professionals to teach different subjects in English.
“But, I’m not a teacher!” I emphatically told her. “I am a parole officer, a person who looks after criminals! I teach, but surely not what your people are interested in learning!”

Jo shook her head and waved me off, leading me to whatever she had in store for me, which turned out to be a nearby university. We entered the university and I was quite impressed with the cleanliness of the place and the beautiful architecture. Once inside she led me to a huge billboard full of announcements and other articles, quite naturally most in Mandarin, but with a small section in the right upper corner devoted to want ads for foreign teachers in English.

The requirements were fairly simple and straightforward. You had to be from a country such as the U.S., Canada, England, Australia, etc., and you had to have at least a bachelor’s degree in any field. TELF, CELTA, TESOL certificates were not necessary, but surely were a plus, and you did not have to have any prior teaching experience. The university provided you (free) with an apartment, free water and gas, air conditioning, a portable heater for the winter months, a T.V., CD/DVD player, cable T.V., a microwave, refrigerator, water boiler, washing machine, rice cooker, bed and bed clothing, wardrobe, iron and ironing board, living room furniture, desk, bureau, telephone (except for long-distance calls), and a LAN connection to the university computer network. But, you had to pay your own electricity bill…Awwwww!

Afterwards, Jo led me up several stairs and down two different corridors to meet somebody she knew. Luckily for us, he was in his office. We knocked and an American emerged, much to my surprise. Mr.
Dan, as he was introduced, was a very pleasant gentleman from the state of Virginia. We exchanged pleasantries and after a brief conversation, he got down to business and told me he left his “dead-end” job as a realtor in Portsmouth, to come teach in China. He told me he had “absolutely no experience” as a teacher of any kind, but had taken a TEFL course near his home, and sold everything to come and live and work in China.

Mr. Dan had lived and worked in China for ten years. At the time I met him, he was the head of the English department at the university, had a Chinese wife, a 2-year old son, and another child on the way. Before we left, Mr. Dan offered me this surprising, yet tiny little tidbit of advise should I decide to come to Asia to teach:

“Stay as far away from other foreigners as you can. They are like a plague. They’ll gossip about you, steal (ideas, teaching materials, money, plane tickets, train tickets, clothing, lesson plans, etc.) from you if they can, stab you in the back, blackmail you, lie on their mother’s grave, and generally make your life miserable, whereas Asian’s will usually treat you right.”

I left our little meeting with Mr. Dan feeling very odd that he would say something so blatant and terrible about other westerners.
Six years later, all I have to say is this: “MR. DAN WAS ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!!!”

After five full years of employment in Asia, I have ONE good friend who is a foreigner. He is from England, which doesn’t really mean anything, since I’ve met twenty-fold Brits who were flaming arseholes, but I can honestly say I choose my friends very carefully, and the majority I meet, I could diagnose with some form of DSM-V diagnosis or severe personality disorder.

Enough said

Mr Jeem


Living with mental illness in Thailand

Living with mental illness in Thailand

Coming from the United States, a country where antidepressants and antipsychotics are some of the fastest growing prescriptions, living with mental illness in Thailand can be quite a change. I myself take medication to treat the chronic depression I have lived with for as long as I can remember, and I wondered how the subject would be treated in Thailand. The first thing I discovered was that Thais don't seem to have a concept of depression. Try explaining constant overwhelming despair to someone who barely speaks any English, and you'll soon find how difficult it is. I would imagine that living with bipolar disorder would be even more difficult in Thailand. Many psychotropic medications are used in Thailand for people "with difficulty sleeping". Whether or not this is a euphemism used to save face is up for debate.

Finding your meds is another struggle. Unless you live in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, expect to have to order your drugs from Bangkok. When I first moved to Nakhon Si Thammarat, I went to every pharmacy I could find only to be told that they didn't have the drugs I needed and that they had never even heard of them. I eventually found a pharmacist who ordered my drugs for me. If you take medication for mental illness, make sure you come to Thailand with a nice big supply, because finding a source in Thailand can be a lengthy process. Don't wait until the last minute, lest you discover that the pharmacy needs to order the drug and it will take 1-2 weeks. Running out of a prescription you need in a foreign country is an unpleasant experience, to say the very least. In short, if you're planning on moving somewhere off the beaten path, finding a pharmacist that can help you should be one of the first things you do.

Ada Hodgman


Information on the Laos visa run

The purpose of this message is to let readers know about a few changes both on the Thai side of the border as well as the Laos side.

1. When going to Laos, the fee for a visa on arrival is still the same - 1,500 Baht. Visitors must receive the application form at window number one.

2. Once the application is filled out, then go back to window 1, submit it and pay your fee of 1,500.00 Baht.

3. Wait by window 3 to receive your passport with a 30-day Laos visa inside. Note! The system is both new and better because when you receive your passport, you are now stamped into Laos and your 30 days is clicking away slowly. Before the introduction of this new system, you had to go to the check-in counter and have your passport and visa stamped.

4. Now your are ready to look for your ride into town to probably go to the Thai Embassy. Get into your private minivan or whatever for about 500.00 Baht and quickly get to the Thai embassy before 12:00 noon to submit your application, 2 photos, passport copies and fee of 1,000.00 Baht for 60-day tourist visa. Please remember at this point that time is everything. Forget the beers, women and looking for the cheapest room and go directly to the Thai embassy QUICKLY to submit everything.

5. I submitted my application that I downloaded from the Internet and filled out while still in Bangkok. I paid my 1,000.00 Baht fee and received my receipt and I was told to come back the following day (Tuesday 13:00-15:00 06/01/2009) to receive my passport and visa. A little change here because in the past you would be able to get your passport and visa the following working day 14:00-16:00 but now 13:00-15:00.

Overall it appears that the Thai embassy is trying to become a bit more farang-friendly They actually have a separate bathroom for men and women and they've even put a new Canon photo copier right near the windows where you submit your application. I think this is a long overdue but a welcome change.

Name withheld


A noble profession

A noble profession

When I was trying to look for an interesting topic to be discussed in my class the next day , I came across in the website of ajarn.com, surprisingly I saw there the section for Filipino teachers in Thailand. I got interested of their opinions and finally I have decided also to share my own thoughts and sentiments since I am also a teacher like them. I've been teaching for almost 12 years now. To tell you frankly, I am happy with my job because I am fulfilled of what I am doing. I am not after of the money that I can get for me, the most important thing is what I can impart and share to my students.

I'm often asked, "Che, what's your job?" I always reply," I am a teacher." The response I get generally comes in a wide range from an "Oh" to a "You've got to be kidding me." But one thing in common is the disgusted or horrified look on their faces.

If I had said I wanted to be a lawyer or a doctor, the response would have been more along the lines of "That is a great profession" accompanied by a handshake and good luck. I dread being asked the question because the response I get leaves me feeling ashamed of my chosen profession. Then, I think about it and realize I shouldn't be ashamed; teaching is a noble profession. As teachers, we are educating future generations, shaping young minds and lives. We are responsible for the welfare and education of the 100 or so kids who will walk into our classroom every day. We've got a chance to impact each and everyone of them. A teacher's motivation and encouragement is extremely valuable to a child; it can change the child's life. Just imagine the science teacher who could have convinced a student to go into the field of medicine where he or she may discover the cure for cancer. That's just one of many examples.

We should be commended for picking a career inspired by passion or love instead of monetary gain. You'll be hard-pressed to find a teacher who isn't in it for the money. I can't imagine most people, or any teacher for that matter, willing to wake up at 6 a.m. each day, get to school by 8 a.m., teach from 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. with barely a half-hour to eat lunch, stay another two hours after school to go to meetings or run after school programs, go to school or care for a family, spend three or more hours grading, and then an hour reviewing for the next day; doing all this,yet receiving minimal salary.

If you really think about it, a teacher's job is not much different from a doctor's or a lawyer's. All three require expertise in the area you're practicing extensively. All three have their students', patients' or clients' lives in their hands. All three are almost always working; when they're not physically on the job they're mentally on the job. Thus, it's only natural all three should be awarded the same respect.

Next time someone asks me what my job is and they make a face at my answer, I'll just turn to them and ask, "What's wrong to be a teacher? Remember teachers, we unmake or make our students. Keep on moving and God bless us all.

CMP


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