The majority of the bloggers on ajarn are of the more serious variety and tend to focus on the quality of teachers and schools and the availability of the better ones.
Occasionally, this passion gets directed towards younger teachers and this is often where the word ‘edutainers' makes an appearance. I am here in defence of such teachers.
At age 19 I travelled to South-East Asia on a gap year, after my travels were up I thought I'd add another year and go back to Thailand as I loved it the most. Teaching was thrown about as a stress free way to cover the cost of living and fairly easy to get into, so I headed back out with the sum total of my overdraft to keep me going until the money started flowing in.
Choosing Chiang Mai, I soon learnt that it would not be that easy and got used to living cheap very quickly. Certainly doing a TEFL course at the Chiang Mai University was a good idea, if, nothing else, it looks good in the interview. I landed the standard 250 baht an hour job at a language school on the Huay Kaew road and picked up some private students as I went.
From the course, and the reaction of students, employers and parents it was clear that the job required was half teaching/half baby-sitting. Quickly falling back on my opinion that kids learn best when they are enjoying themselves I dove straight into the fun culture (also that's the reason why I, and I suspect most of us, came to Thailand).
I'm not going to brag about results or what I thought the students were getting from me as a teacher, mainly because I didn't expect them to get much, I was just amazed that about 10-15 hours in total ‘working' was paying for, as far as a 20 year old would be concerned, a good standard of living. My total earnings at their best were, thanks to 500 baht an hour private lessons, about 25,000 baht a month but then, at their worst, around 10,000.
Fine, up to this point everyone is getting what they want; I get my escape from reality and the students do learn some English. I wasn't kidding myself into thinking I was making a difference but happy in the knowledge that, on days when the mood was right and the environment cohesive, I could give the students something genuine.
Getting students on board
Of course the fact that I had such a low workload and few difficulties in my personal life meant I was perfectly happy to be a resource to my students who did want to learn and clearly found it easier to open up to somebody like me, who they could relate to.
Being myself in class made it easier for the students to accept me as myself outside of the lesson period, which resulted in one-to-one fragments which incorporated only what the student wanted to know and ended and begun when they chose.
Naturally a proper teacher, working proper hours with lessons to plan, tests to mark and everything else I was warned about and never seemed to have to do, wouldn't be able to be an active and accessible teacher for every moment they were in the classroom. I, and my contemporaries all of whom were similar age, mentality and had a similar workload, were confused as to whether staying in the TEFL industry long enough to become proper teachers would make us become jaded and, like many bloggers to this site and other career TEFL teachers, disillusioned about our reasons for being teachers.
Certainly, all the problems, raised by those who know best about the problems with the Thai education system, were evident at all the formal levels of teaching that I had knowledge of, but I did my best to focus on the positives.
After it was clear that 8 months was too long to spend living a relative holiday, I decided that, rather than returning home and consigning my discovery of teaching to memory, I would continue on to the bottom rung of the ladder of proper English teaching.
Thanks to ajarn.com, I found a job in a brand new MLP at a government school in Chiang Rai, I decided to treat it as seriously as possible (to get used to proper work as much as to learn more about the world of English teaching) but realised that government schools, or at least this school, have the same mentality as language schools towards education.
Becoming an edutainer
Ultimately, I realised that the methods I'd applied at the language school would be the most useful here and so I became that celebrated ‘oxymoron' an edutainer. I don't need to list the variety of ways I felt the teachers and administration at the school failed the students, that's all been thoroughly reported by the majority of the bloggers on this site.
What I will say is that, thanks largely to the fact I only had 10 hours of classes each week, the style of teaching I enjoyed most and worked best in the situation was also the style of teaching that the school, like so many others (apparently), desired.
One thing that most TEFL teachers have in common is their opinion that their job involves far more than just teaching English, imparting the knowledge of our superior culture seems to be high on the list for many of the teachers who furnish this website with their opinions.
I do believe that Thai students, indeed anybody studying English as foreign or second language, can gain from learning about Western culture in the same way I and everybody reading this blog has learnt from Thai society and been influenced by the other cultures they've experienced.
As a teacher I want to teach English so those who want to learn can realise their potential; acquire the knowledge of the language to the point where they understand the use it has in the modern world and how they can apply it to discover all this new stuff for themselves. The job of teachers is to inspire and inspiring students to further their education through knowledge of English should be the job of all English teachers.
Most of the English teachers in Thailand seem to be slightly older so it's understandable that they would view energy, positive reinforcement and affability in the EFL classroom with disdain and denial.
Thailand is, like Phil said in the 'Hot Seat' section, a young-man's game. But I don't subscribe to the view that all non-career teachers are short-changing students and under-cutting the serious ones, I took my job seriously and gave a lot of effort. I shouldn't be accused of laziness because I tried to make my lessons fun and used my free time to travel and enjoy myself.
I met one teacher who was so convinced by his teaching method and significance he ran out his entire contract picking esoteric fights with anybody who would listen and then complaining he never had time to teach and wasn't able to teach what he wanted.
You can't change the system by constantly fighting it, playing the game and literally playing games in class is far more productive than constantly arguing with Thai administrators. Thailand is a fun country, that's the reason we came here and that's the reason the TEFL system is the way it is.
Besides don't Thai students get guaranteed grades anyway?