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.
Let me start off by saying that I am not a black teacher in Thailand. However, I am a black male in my early 30's who recently returned from vacation in Bangkok, Pattaya and Ko Samet about 2 1/2 weeks ago; it was my first trip out of the States. I also want it to be known that I am a college graduate with a degree in English and journalism from Western Michigan University. Currently, I live in Los Angeles and I am a talent executive for a major cable network.
Though I have not been, nor am I black teacher in Thailand, I felt compelled to e-mail you my two cents after reading the disheartening, but honest e-mails from some Black Americans teachers in Thailand. Overall, my experience in Thailand was a positive one. I felt most of the Thai people were very friendly at restaurants and other business establishments, except at one of the money exchange centers near my hotel in Bangkok who was completely rude and barley looked at me, if at all.
Throughout my travels I did very much get stared at. Heads often turned as I walked down the street. When I was in Ko Samet I definitely felt the hesitation and/or fear of dealing with me by some of the Thai people, even at restaurants. I went with a group of mostly white men and one half Taiwanese friend and felt they were paid attention to more than I was, but that happens here in the U.S. as well. I met a young Thai female who told our native Thai friend that she had never met a Black American before. I wasn't that surprised. Clearly, I was the fish out of water and truly felt it, but I was also completely fine with it.
Needless to say, I had an amazing time in Thailand and definitely would return. I stumbled upon your blog because I was looking for teaching programs in Thailand. I have decided that I too would like to broaden my horizons and teach in Thailand so I thought, until I read the various blogs from former black teachers. I must say, I have more than a little trepidation about teaching in Thailand, as I certainly do not want the added stress of prejudice and discrimination when I'm in another country, which is already stressful enough. I am fully aware that the perceptions, stereotypes and flat out racism reach far beyond North America. We as Black Americans can not escape our badge of color; we will live with it through sickness and health, 'till death do us part.
If there is someone out there who could shed a little more light on their experiences teaching in Thailand or another country I would greatly appreciate it, as I do not want someone else's experience to turn me away from pursuing such a rewarding, life changing opportunity and journey across continents.
Teaching in Thailand is a great opportunity and market to all Filipinos who desired to venture here in order to alleviate the family's condition in the Philippines. Needless to say, we all came here for the sole purpose and that is to earn more and save for the future and family. But recently, I heard lots of rumors about Filipinos here who worked with the salary below the waist like 10,000 baht/month and worst 8,000 baht without free accommodation and food. But when I tried to ask them why they took the job, the reply is simply NO CHOICE than nothing. Some of my friends who worked for 2 years in the same school and earned 20,000 baht/month were fired because here comes these neophytes who themselves offered to the school director that 8,000 baht/month is enough for them. What a crab instinct! Pathetic! But it's the reality.
I always heard comments that we are better than those with white skin and blue eyes, more qualified and more industrious. Why won't we use these propagandas to ask for a better and higher pay? As for me, it's not a matter of no choice. We always have the choice to say NO and look for somewhere else better. Thai schools nowadays have opened their eyes towards the capacity and fluency of Filipinos in terms of English language than before. This I say to remind you of our purpose of coming here. How can we help our family and future if we earn less than we earn in our country? We always have the choice. To put a price on ourselves and believe that we deserve this pay because we deserve the job and we can do it! Our luck here in Thailand depends on how we look into ourselves. I can say this from my heart because I met this kind of situation, and I fought for it and won, and I have proven to myself that we can get what we want if we only believe in ourselves. Lastly, we must stop our bad attitude such as the crab mentality. It won't make us prosper...Thanks and mabuhay sa lahat!
I have just finished trolling through some of the comments about ageism in the TEFL arena, as well as other topics in your teacher info section, which I think is a great idea because it gives everyone a chance to air their opinions regardless of race, age, religion or any other defect your readers can think of.
My reason for writing is two fold; first, the number of people who claim to be English teachers that cannot write so much as one short paragraph without making spelling and/or grammar mistakes. Any person who has had a good education and who takes a pride in their linguistic abilities should be able to write one short paragraph without a single mistake, or at least check it with the grammar and spell check tool on their computer. These are the same people that shout and scream about the poor conditions that 'farang teachers' have to endure in order to survive in Thailand, I would suggest that they spend less time complaining and more time studying the English language, at which they claim to be expert enough to be able to call themselves 'teachers', they are a disgrace to the profession.
Second, having read the comments in the Filipino section, most of which boasted that the Filipinos are as good at teaching the English language as any 'native speaker', I was again aroused at the temerity of these people. I recently had the distasteful job of checking the English exam papers (where I work) for spelling and grammar mistakes, all had been prepared by Filipino teachers (I use the term 'teachers' loosely) and was appalled at the number of spelling, grammar and vocabulary mistakes that had been made. I gave the teachers in question the benefit of the doubt and assumed they were probably genuine mistakes, but when I pointed the mistakes out they all showed their true colours and arrogantly insisted that I was wrong. The matter was resolved when I handed them a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and a copy of the Oxford book of grammar and told them to check their work again, then come back and apologise.
As an aside, I have a Masters in English Literature, as well as two other degrees and I am very proud of my profession.
I am a Black American ex-pat (African-American? I'm not African, dude). I do not teach in Thailand, because I work in the Middle East. However, Thailand is like a third home. Yes, racism exists everywhere and in many different ways. However, there is one thing Americans need to know and this applies to every country where they are an ex-pat. If you choose to work in a foreign country, this means that you are going to have to adapt to the foreign country (values, morals, culture and non-existent civil rights). It's not your country, you cannot expect or change it to be like your country, and you cannot enforce this country to immediately embrace your American values...unless you're a multi-billion dollar conglomerate or fascist military. You can only enlighten some people and let them take it from there. Yeah, Thailand can be racist and racism is ignorance, but obviously it's not bad enough to make you go back to Uncle Sam.
Whether in the Middle East or Southeast Asia, my fellow Americans have made an art of bringing self-inflicted headache and drama overseas. Try to avoid it...or what are you doing overseas in the first place? However, this is a good discussion forum. In a world where almost everyone wants to be White (except for rebellious Japanese youth) Black people will always need a place to vent. When African-Americans go to Africa, they leave the 'African' at home - Anonymous
I have just completed the Thai Culture course and I am at present waiting for the Teacher Council of Thailand to make a decision as to when and where there will be courses run covering the four modules of the test, which is the next step toward obtaining a teaching license. I have now been told that due to the fact that there will be a staff reshuffle within the Teacher Council, this is supposed to take place in May of this year, all decision making regarding any arrangements concerning courses, tests or any other business pertaining to the new licensing laws have been postponed, until after the reshuffle.
The point I am leading up to is this, everyone on the course run by Rangsit university were told they had one year to obtain the new license, which effectively meant that everyone who wanted to continue teaching would have to move up into top gear and start preparing themselves for the 27-hour course and home study, which is virtually compulsory if you want to stand a chance of passing the test. Consequently, those of us who did the course in March 2008 only have until March 2009 to comply with the new regulations. But, the council have put everything on hold until May, which means that those of us who attended the course in March are going to be held up from doing any studying for at least 2 or more months.
It was made very clear to all of us that it would take about a year to complete the 27-hour course with as much home studying as one could manage in order to pass the test, but now I am being told by a council official that I cannot do anything to prepare myself until at least May or June or God knows when, which means that I am being penalized for something that I have absolutely no control over.
How the hell is anybody supposed to do in ten months, or less, something that actually takes twelve months?
Tired and confused
The new academic year is approaching again and many teachers are flocking to the country to find their chance of getting employed in their profession. However, I heard about a certain kind of scam on October last year about a certain recruiter of teachers from the Philippines. This might expose the Filipinos to another bad image again, but it might even be worst if more fellow, poor, Filipino teachers will be losing their hard-borrowed or loaned (not earned) money to such unscrupulous people. It took me months to think about this, and balance the situation, before I finally decided to inform Ajarn. What this person allegedly did was to contact more that 20 teachers and required each one to pay 50,000 pesos (about 41,000 baht) for a guaranteed teaching job here in Thailand. I'm not sure if this included the air fare or not, although I strongly suspect that it did not. Apartment rent along with food allowance were not also included. So these poor teachers had to bring additional money that will sustain them until they will be lucky enough to find their employers. If when, only God knows.
On arriving here, this recruiter started bringing this platoon of teachers to the different advertised teaching agencies and schools. Of course each one had to undergo interviews along with other normal procedures that should be done when a teacher applies for a teaching position, which was contrary to what the recruiter promised. It was supposed to be a GUARANTEED WAITING TEACHING JOB. The recruiter also applied and had to undergo interview himself/herself (not sure if it’s a male or a female). The group was just lucky enough to find a newly opened school needing more than twenty teachers, and so they were all hired. Well at least, just for that semester. I just hope that these already got their job contract for the next academic year. Otherwise, you know what I mean.
I tried informing one of the TV stations in the Philippines about this but I still got no reply from them, nor any acknowledgement that they received the information. To my Kababayans, please find ways to inform everyone back home about this scam, and if possible help in the arrest of this/these person/persons, to stop it from becoming an organized scam.
I've noticed a prevailing difference in attitudes toward fallang depending on where you're at (in respects to both location and social standing). But one theme that often surfaces in Thai media is their subtle attacks upon anything fallang. Positive comments are made 'tongue in cheek' at best. I am fairly fluent in Thai and often watch Big Cinema movies budded in Thai by Thai translators and am both amazed and perplexed at their deliberate attempt to cast a dark shadow upon Western culture. The translation is occasionally slighted to make us look bad. Last year some fallang pop stars came to Thailand and there was a live interview and the pop stars were cordial in saying that they liked Thai culture and food, but the Thai interpreter added that they really like Thai girls. The pop stars never said that.
Recently there was a talk show on Thai TV about why Thai woman marry fallang. The audience were university students and they had this 'so-called' expert on Thai-fallang relations on the panel making outlandish comments about the dangers of marrying a fallang. He said some fallang force their wives into prostitution to get money. The girls in the audience were horrified. The panel concluded that Thai woman marry fallang so they can take care of their family. Little emphasis was made on the fact that some couples seek to have a real, loving and meaningful relationship.
In short, Thais are jealous of fallang and so they try to cut us down with negative comments and media in general
Many jobs I read on ajarn.com 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.
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)
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.
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