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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Thailand doesn't suit everybody

If one Is not living the dream, it is time to change paths in life.

It does not make sense to argue about whether Thailand is “good” or “bad” as we experience the world in a subjective manner. I think one’s enjoyment is primary a matter of alignment of a person’s values and personality with the external environment. I have lived and worked in many different countries, and find Thailand fits me as well as any place, but that does not imply it will fit others to the same extent.

Not everyone is a good fit to live and work in Thailand (or other culturally distant country), so much depends on one’s goals in life, flexibility, adaptability and level of ethnocentric beliefs. For those of us from Western countries, Thailand is “different” and whether different is good or bad depends on one’s opinion and can not be objectively “proven.”

And there are those who are unhappy anywhere and with everything and look to “blame” whatever is handy, and Thailand is a convenient scapegoat for some long-time residents to blame for their unhappiness.

Jack


Why older teachers find it difficult to get work here

Why older teachers find it difficult to get work here

A lot of this has to do with energy and enthusiasm and not age - though I do take the point about age and in my twenties in Thailand I found it easy to get work.

What I saw over the years in Thailand though were a number of older teachers who had, over the years, gained a lot of experience but somehow lost their love of teaching along the way and had failed to realise it or, if they had, they were often in denial about it. But this much was clear from the way they conducted their lessons - well structured, linguistically meaningful sessions, as their experience would suggest, but conducted on auto-pilot - as well as their general conversation relating to their profession which lacked passion or was even downright negative.

Students and collegues pick up on this and often, no-doubt unfairly so as regards well qualified, experienced older teachers, this leads to the hiring manager not wanting to make the same “mistake” twice. This is like any hiring situation - it’s risk management and the perception of risk is often rooted in past experiences, whether the fundamentals upon which this belief system is underpinned by are real or imagined.

Let’s also remember that it’s all very well comparing a 20-year old layabout to a 50-year old with a degree in education but I also encountered a lot of 50-year olds without a degree in education - or a valid TEFL qualification for that matter.

Indeed, I remember one such 50-year old criticising me to my colleagues behind my back because I had chosen to go and get my CELTA. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the older teachers saw less value in professional development and had a track record that struggled to point to any - after all, they are native speakers - what possible benefit could they have gotten from a TEFL course?

Also, a lot of older teachers wouldn’t teach if they could get away with it. This, I find is less pronounced in younger teachers, who are still enjoying finding their way in life and collecting experiences - not a bad thing as long as they are doing so in a way that facilitates their learners’ development.

I also encountered seasoned teachers but their enthusiasm had gone or they were wanting to slow down. Trouble is, your audience doesn’t get old with you - it rejuvenates on an annual basis and is always going to be 10 years old or whatever age group you teach. So whilst that combination of qualified, incredibly experienced and enthusiastic does exist - it is less common than you might think.

David Fahey


Don't dismiss Nonthaburi

My wife and I owned our condo in Bangkok for about 15 years. During that time we lived in Korea for two years and China for three years. When we returned from China last year, it was time for me to retire.

We sold the condo in Bangkok and rented a condo in Nonthaburi while we looked for a house in Isaan to buy. The MRT Purple Line made living in Nonthaburii very convenient. We were a two-minute walk from an MRT station. My part time job and shopping centers were one or two MRT stops away. Getting to and from my embassy, the airports, and our prior home was easy. The immigration office in Nonthaburi was an attractive alternative to Chaengwattana.

People were nice. I have early stage Parkinson's and once fell into some thorny bushes and could not free myself. A motorcycle policeman freed me and seemed concerned only about my health. The MRT staff were very helpful on days I used a cane.

We seriously considered moving to Nonthaburi instead of Isaan. We're now settling down in our new home near the Buriram-Surin border but Nonthaburi was a wonderful stepping stone from Bangkok to Isaan.

James


The perils of the shorter contract

The perils of the shorter contract

11-month contracts usually only work well for those who are fairly confident they don't want to renew their contract, or for those who hope to renew AND are being paid at a higher rate during paid months so as to be able to save for the month without pay.

Do NOT rely on any paid work during the unpaid month. If your employer runs an English camp and pay you well for it, great, but don't assume that's gonna happen.

10-month contracts typically don't pay during October but require the teacher to come back for the second term. Walk away from those employers and be glad you did.

Eric


Personally, I love technology in the classroom

Personally, I love technology in the classroom

I'm 100% behind tech in the classroom, it can save me time and the kids seem to enjoy the differentiation if nothing else. It needs to be done right, not mindless Kahoot topics on an ongoing basis.

Give me a big fat pipe, a fully approving HoD and I'm off to the races. I could run both RW, LS as well as a critical thinking, SAT prep and literature courses off EdTech sites. Books are static. Old textbooks are the death of learning. Bill Gates agrees, less the hyperbole.

I see few reasons to use whiteboards unless you're doing something very interactive and in the moment. Even for LS, toss the guidelines up, do some splanin', divide the pairs / groups and off you go.

PowerPoint which you can refine over the lesson periods and save forever. Don't like PowerPoint? Throw up a PDF. Rewriting your presentation numerous times just wastes huge amounts of class time. Don't like PowerPoints, learn Prezi or Canva or whatever.

I will readily admit drawn out PowerPoints can be a drag, but so is a teacher endlessly scribbling bits of ephemera on the board with his ass to the class. As soon as your back is turned, you're uninteresting, the lesson stops and mischief starts.

As for a student drawing or printing a rose. I teach English not art, they can put a big black X on the page, get the grammar, vocab right. Reeks of logical fallacy.

Jim


China or Thailand for a TEFLer?

So many people who have been in ESL or other international work have such interesting stories to tell, there are a lot of negatives in living and working internationally (especially if one is not on a full ex-pat package), but it is usually not boring!

While the grass often seems greener elsewhere, one should be careful in thinking strictly in terms of “country.” Within each country there are jobs with a wide range of salaries, working conditions and types of bosses, as well as a few general similarities. For example, I worked for three years in China with basically a full ex-pat salary, yet the living and working conditions were sub-optimal.

I also worked there three times in two separate location on short-term assignments where the pay was substantially lower, but the living and working conditions were better. Also all supervisors I worked with (all foreigners) were quite different in style as were my Chinese and foreign co-workers. The three places I worked at in the country were each a very different experience.

My personal experience was I usually made more money in China, but I also experienced some significant health issues while there and generally enjoy my life in Thailand (or Vietnam) more. Which is better? I can’t say. But of course, other people have had and will have different experiences. China is a huge country and it is quite different working and living in a first-tier city as opposed to a third tier one or out in the countryside.

China might be a good option for some but I doubt many ESL teachers will find a utopia working there, there are always trade-offs in all we do.

Jack


The argument for reading academic materials

The argument for reading academic materials

Anti-intellectualism is nothing new, especially among lower level ESL teachers in Thailand, yet there are many legitimate criticisms of “academia” in every field.

I would suggest using empirical evidence or experience and common sense is not an either/or type of situation, but use of both is often optimal. Experience can be a great teacher, but it is obviously limited to the little world we have personally experienced. It is also limited due to a variety of observation and analysis biases each one of us has. Reading books, journals or attending courses allow us to learn about far more of the world than the specific situations from our own specific perspective. While there is a whole bunch of BS and poorly designed research published in academia, good academic work tends to let us explore nuances and complexities that can be useful.

For example, let us say you find technique 1 works in your classroom while technique 2 does not. It is likely you will think technique 1 is good and technique 2 is bad and will use this information in your career. Technique 1 worked well in your classroom, but it might be because it fit the context you were teaching in and might not fit a different context. If you learn the theories behind the techniques you might be able to determine in which situations technique 1 is likely to be successful while technique 2 is not. But you might also see technique 2 is not necessarily “bad” but could work well in a different context.

Learning a foreign language is difficult, and something few NES English teachers have actually done. All academic research is limited and you will not find simple answers to complex questions in a single article. If you are serious about having a teaching career, I would suggest you get as much education and experience in your field as possible.

While we can find exceptions, the empirical/academic studies indicate in almost every profession salary and income are strongly and positively related to higher levels of education and experience, indicating the market tends to reward us for both. Go ahead and argue against the market if you like, but I don’t like your chances. I don’t think taking a course or reading some academic journals articles will make you a “good” teacher, but I seriously doubt it will make you a worse teacher.

Jack


Cultural Miscommunication?

Cultural Miscommunication?

One objective observation about people posting on this website: Many of them seem to come from a mystical land in which exotic luxuries such as 'pensions', 'the dole', and accessible higher education magically exist.

There is a big country full of native English speakers called America, which British people basically created and subsequently abandoned when the stealing got too bothersome.

America has no financial safety net, very poor job opportunities, and an extreme homeless crisis which has swallowed up and destroyed countless hard-working men (the overwhelming majority of homeless Americans are male and 3/4 of them have a job). Many of us would gladly earn a masters degree if that education were reasonably priced. The spineless government, of course does nothing about the concurrent crises of housing, employment, and education, not to mention violence and lack of family values. Thus, those of us who have some guts look for a better life elsewhere.

So, you see, things like advanced degrees, 'going home' (to the streets?), and even basics like a bank account or debit card can easily be totally out of reach for Americans.

If you're an American in your 30's, you've probably been working hard since the 1990's. That's a lot of experience and a lot of dedication, and you probably have no chance at owning a home, establishing a family, completing a degree, or saving for retirement.

After all, if America had great jobs, great schools and safety, we'd just have stayed there! My station in life is by no stretch of the imagination unique. I've met scores of guys in my position. We don't take our abandonment lightly. We don't take rip-offs lightly. We don't have fancy luxury items like pensions. What we do have is strong work ethic, creativity, confidence and self-respect.

Anyone living in SEA, local or farang, willing and able to select candidates for long-term, profitable business relationships, the kind that build real, lasting wealth, and are fueled by loyalty, trust, and respect, need look no further than guys like me. You might be surprised at how many of us are 'out there'...

Ian, Songkhla


What to expect when 'accommodation is included'

What to expect when 'accommodation is included'

If you accept a job in rural Thailand and accommodation is included, the house will likely be "Thai style" and not maintained well.

When I first started teaching, my school had prepared a house for myself and other foreigners (Oh yeah, expect to be sharing the accommodation with other teachers unless you have a family).

This meant that they had installed air-con in each bedroom, upgraded from a squat toilet to a western flush toilet, installed a shower head (rather than just a bucket shower), they'd also painted it and added some cheap curtains and beds. The English department had put in a lot of work themselves during the holidays etc to try and make me feel welcome, and they were so proud of the standard to which they'd increased the house.

Their pride in it, and how much effort they'd put in, was one of the main reasons I decided to stay in it, even though I'd have preferred to have stayed in an apartment in the town nearby instead (That and I couldn't ride a motorcycle at the time, so transport would have been an issue).

As the shower still didn't have a heater at all, so was cold (And despite Thailand being quite hot, the water can still be a shock to the system early in the morning), and due to everyone in the town/school all using water in the mornings, the shower had no water pressure in the mornings anyway (But was fine in the evenings). Likewise, there wasn't any wifi access from the school (although in subsequent years they extended their network to include my house, the school's wifi was crap though), and no company would install broadband for me because I was too far outta town.

Also there was of course lots of long grass outside the house, which was filled with scorpions & snakes, I never had one come into the house but other teachers who lived there after (and at other houses in the school) did.

The school included power/water with the free house, although then wanted to start charging us for anything over 500 THB a month once they realized that foreigners used air-con a lot more than Thai people do.

That was quite a few years ago, since then there has been a new director. As a result, there have been general maintenance issues with the house that have gone unresolved because the director refuses to spend money on maintaining the house (literally "If he doesn't like it, he can leave" situation when the head of the English department asked on behalf of the teacher staying there).

Oh and also, if you live on the school grounds, there are certain expectations of you. These to a certain extent apply in general when living in a small countryside town, but more so if you're at the school since you're more visible. Things like, you shouldn't be noticeably drinking/drunk on a regular basis, bring back different women to your house and in general you should be a good role model. This isn't a hard thing to abide by, and most teachers wouldn't even need to be told, so aren't, but it's something which the school will expect from you.

Brian


The three types of English teacher in Thailand

The three types of English teacher in Thailand

There's normally a big difference between your 35-40k teachers and your 70k+ with benefits lot.

I did the crappy 35-40k jobs years ago. These positions are typically filled by three types of teachers;

1) Your young and carefree teacher who'll do a year or two at most. They are here for a working holiday and spend all their money on holidaying and partying. God bless this lot. They're doing it right.

2) Your stagnant teacher (often good teachers who kinda get stuck in a rut and think there isn't anything better out there) These are the good guys who just need to be more assertive.

3) And then there's your last-resort teacher (the one that had to be employed otherwise the kids wouldn't have a teacher at all, or more importantly for the school or agency is they wouldn't make their money).

They're drifters and outlaws (some literally are on the run from the cops). These guys are the legends of TEFL. They've given me so many stories to tell over the years. Stories ranging from a teacher who wore a shirt and tie with tracksuit bottoms and brogues because he didn't do his laundry, to a teacher getting stabbed by his partner after he got caught cheating with a Nana ladyboy. You would see these teachers around school (when they showed up) and you knew you weren't doing too bad.

Once you go into your 70k+ with benefit jobs (I use this as a reference to my first proper teaching job) it becomes quite boring. The young teachers take it very seriously as it's their career and they want to impress. The stagnant teachers aren't really stagnating. They've just got older and want the quiet life. And the last-resort teachers don't exist. They simply would never be employed as they have no place inside any school or near children.

Simon


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