It's that time of year again. Government schools across Thailand are entering the final stage of the second semester. Midterms are out of the way and the countdown is beginning to final exams and the Holy Grail that is April; time off, Songkran and sunshine.
Like many other teachers I now find myself in the position where I need to make a decision about what I will do next academic year. Do I stay put? Or is it time to move on to pastures new?
The hiring season
With many schools already advertising their upcoming positions for next year already, now is the time to get those applications in. If, like me, you are finding yourself at a crossroads, here are some key questions that I have been asking myself to help me make a decision.
1) Starting simple - are you happy? Usually in Thailand (or indeed any job) this isn't as straightforward as it seems. But if you can easily say ‘No, I'm not happy', then you need not read on - go and get yourself a job where you will be happier.
2) Conversely, you should be considering - are your school happy with you? They may have made your decision for you if they aren't planning on renewing your contract. And don't assume that they will do the decent thing and give you good notice of the termination of your contract - be prepared for nasty surprises!
3) Are you prepared to stay in the same city/province/country? Plenty of expat teachers do so to enable them to travel, and that's fine. However, if you want to break free from the negative stereotype of traveler teachers often leaving schools in the lurch midway through the term with no notice, now is the best time to start making plans for your next destination.
4) Are you happy with your rate of pay? Sadly the majority of schools pay the bare minimum of 30k a month - a manageable amount that we have all coped with and got by on - but there are options out there beyond the breadline. With some experience you now have some leverage to try to get a pay increase if you are staying on at the same school (good luck, ahem...) or perhaps raising your limitations and looking at those jobs that offer over and above the baseline. Being a good teacher that ticks all the relevant boxes and having a bit of experience sets you in good stead to go for a more competitive position.
5) Are you getting paid for April? April is a point of debate in the teaching in Thailand field with a variety of experiences among many teachers - some get paid a full 12 months throughout the year, others are put onto 11 months contracts that omit the month of April. Some schools promise payment for April upon renewal of a contract and on the premise that the teacher comes back to work in person in May. Some schools make the teacher come in every day outside of Songkran. It's a real mixed bag.
Does your school love you?
It's not just about the money - there are plenty of summer camps out there if you want to keep earning through the April break - but it does show how much (or little) your school value you as a teacher which may help you to reach your decision.
There are plenty of other questions that you should be asking yourself right now; Have I achieved everything I wanted to at my current school? Are my school taking advantage of me or treating me unfairly? Am I going insane from being the only farang in my cowboy town in the back of beyond?
With the current political instability in the country it is likely that there will be fewer people seeking work from overseas and those of us already here may have a wider choice than usual as schools start to see people pulling out of pre-arranged placements. So why not take advantage of this and go for that job you've been dreaming of? I know what I'm going to do...