Q1. Where did you move to and when?
I moved back to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016.
Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?
Just over two years.
Q3. What was your main reason for moving?
I am a profoundly deaf man who wears a cochlear implant to hear. This has meant I faced many barriers in the workplace which I overcame via a variety of solutions, mostly at my own expense. I was dismissed from my first job because a parent made a complaint about having a deaf teacher in their child's classroom. Unfortunately the view held by people over there is still rather antiquated when it comes to disabilities.
The job I took after that was initially great - I had my own classroom with a fully equipped sound system which I could use both to encourage the pupils to hear each other speaking English, and to help me hear them clearly too. When this was taken away from me in the new term and I was made to move from classroom to classroom, it affected my ability to carry out my job because the lower half of the secondary school had classrooms without windows. You could hear the traffic, the noise from neighbouring classrooms, and the acoustics were terrible.
At that point, I realised that I wouldn't be able to do any meaningful teaching, and I wouldn't be able to fight for my rights because, unlike the UK, there is no equivalent to the Equality Act where I could demand that my employer make reasonable adjustment to the workplace to allow me to carry out my job. On top of that, I felt my methodology was becoming stale, and I needed professional growth to become a better teacher. I applied to do a PGDE course, and moved back to Scotland to attend interviews at the universities across Scotland which I applied to.
I went to the University of Edinburgh after being accepted thanks to my experience working in Thailand and ability to reflect on it in the interview. As of this month, I am a qualified Secondary English teacher registered with the General Teaching Council of Scotland, and am working in a new school with the responsibilities that go with it.
Q4. What are the advantages of working where you are now compared to Thailand?
I'm happier teaching English in a British school because I am able to teach literature, creative writing, and debate techniques with pupils who are fluent in English - my undergraduate degree is in English Literature, because that's my passion, and I want to be able to share that with everyone I teach. I couldn't do that as a TEFL teacher.
I am also able to access British Sign Language interpreter support in the workplace thanks to the Access to Work programme in the UK. This means regardless of the nature of classroom activities and environment, I am able to access all auditory information.
I am also protected here under the Equality Act and British Sign Language Act (Scotland) so I'm treated with respect as a fully functioning subject expert in the school, and not as a "necessary evil" like I am in Thai schools.
Furthermore, I have access to a pension plan, free healthcare, trade union representation and CPD to grow as a teacher. It's not so bad here when you're a qualified teacher, and the salary is surprisingly decent.
Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?
I miss the low cost of life, the friendships I made while I was there, the beautiful neighbourhood I lived in, and the amazing dining scene. I also miss the freedom of riding a motorbike around Bangkok and the rest of Thailand.
The weather was the best part of living there - warmth all year round, with glorious sunshine. Summers are short here in Scotland. As I write this, it's August and from my seaview flat, it's looking rather cloudy and grey!
Also, the water here is too cold for me to engage in one of my favourite pastimes, diving. I'm almost certain I would freeze to death in the murky depths of the Irish Sea if I tried diving here.
Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand or where you are now?
If you're dedicated to teaching, and don't see it as a means to an end, I wouldn't recommend it. You don't gain any meaningful professional growth there, and you're treated as a necessary evil by school - merely tolerated, not respected as an educator.
I would recommend that instead, you volunteer at a local primary or high school for a few months to gain classroom experience then apply to do a PGCE/PGDE to qualify fully as a primary teacher or secondary subject teacher. That gives you far more freedom to teach wherever you like.
Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?
Yes, Thailand will always be in my heart. Every night when I sleep, I still dream about Thailand because it's my happy place. However, I am not certain I will ever work there again, unless a job opportunity comes up to be a special needs literacy teacher because that's where my passion lies as far as teaching goes. I intend to buy property there so I have somewhere to stay every time I return for the holidays.
Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?
It's all well and good to move to a new country for work - it'll change you as a person and broaden your mind. Just don't stay there forever without a plan to sustain yourself in the future, because you're wasting your life. Foreigners don't have access to a meaningful pension fund or union representation to prevent unfair dismissal.