As more and more people look for a new life beyond their native shores, the flood of information to help you through the move to Thailand is everywhere you look. From blogs and forums to Facebook pages and news articles, the wealth of information is staggering.
The following article is for those of us who want to move to Thailand to live long term.
Furthermore, this article is for educated, older people. You know... people who know that Deep Purple isn't just a color. People who understand that Lost In Space isn't just a reference to people under 25.
Really, this is for the educated army of degreed professionals who want to move to Thailand, and teach English here but haven't set foot in a classroom since ink pots were a part of your desk.
If you've ever said the word 'dude' out loud then this article isn't for you. If you think that ESPN 2 is good telly , then you're on the wrong page. If you have a degree in Social Studies then this page isn't for you either.
Bugger off to a blog about how brilliant Thai street food is or how braiding your hair at a full moon party makes you appreciate Thai culture or how you rescued a soi dog from a bowl of overcooked rice.
OK, so we've weeded out the kids, let's get started...
If you're over 40 or even over 50 there are still a lot of opportunities waiting for you in Thailand. You may have had a career in the armed forces or banking or engineering. You may be getting over a messy divorce. You may simply just be tired of where you are from.
Maybe you've been to Thailand before. Maybe even a few times... and you've fallen for the place. Or you've never been here but you've read enough to know that Japan is too expensive and Burma is still getting to grips with the concept of fire.
And so you're coming to Thailand. You've got money or a pension. You've got a brain and street smarts and you've got half a lifetime of work experience in the bank, too. Add to that, you're a native English speaker and you look great for your age...
but you've never been a teacher.
Are you going to live in Bangkok? Probably not. You'll more than likely be in another city or somewhere near the coast. Bangkok has endless opportunities but it's for young people, not us.
Maybe you've married a Thai and have a family here. If so, you won't have much choice about where you live.
The higher quality 'international' schools pay well, but they really aren't for the likes of semi-retired expats living in the provinces. Let's face it, you came to Thailand to live here, not to be an English teacher. The teaching aspect is just to help you make money to get by or get you out of the house because you hate gardening.
Even so, you want to take the job seriously and do the best you can, right?
Skills for the job
There are two jobs that are impossible to do well, if you don't enjoy them... one is waiting tables and the other is teaching. When you come to Thailand you'll want to enjoy your work and do a good job. Hopefully, you'll find an appreciative employer and be happy to devote a few years to them. (Yes, they are out there and they are looking for you.)
There are a number of options open to you when you first start teaching English in Thailand:
You can just start teaching and eventually work out the kinks over time.
(That's what I did and I wouldn't recommend it.)
You can spend some money and a few weeks taking a TEFL test.
(That's what I didn't do... and I wouldn't recommend it.)
You can do some homework on your own and figure out the practical side of things when you start working.
(Possibly, but really, it's still a crap plan.)
You can do an 'apprenticeship' and get paid for it.
(This is what I should have done.)
The apprentice... "I'm in!
So here's my advice and this is what I should have done when I first came to Thailand 15 years ago:
Move to Bangkok for three months, maybe longer. (Don't fret, it's only temporary!)
Go to one of the large malls and apply for work in any of the language centers on the top floor.
Inlingua is the best one so go there first, but ECC or TLC and any of the others are just fine.
So, why would you do this? Well, lots of reasons and all of them good.
1 - It's easy to get hired.
2 - They pay real money. (Usually about 400 baht an hour plus bonuses.)
3 - You control your hours. (Work a full weekend and your rents covered for the month!)
4 - They have free coffee and cakes.(Well, Inlingua did when I was there.)
5 - You'll be teaching a wide range of classes from kids to adults.
6 - These ‘schools' are very well resourced. (Take a hard drive and rip off everything they have!)
7 - You can observe other teachers working (if you ask nicely.)
8 - The work is very easy. (If you can read from a book you can do this.)
You can watch other teachers do their thing and pick up some good ideas.
(You can also find out what NOT to do by watching other teachers.)
You can quickly get used to the way Thai people do things during this period of assimilation.
You'll also meet the oddest group of colleagues you've ever worked with in your life.
The idea of this plan is to make all the cockups at the language schools before you migrate towards your permanent address and employment. And to cock things up in an anonymous environment and get paid for the privilege!
You'll also quickly find out which types of people you are happier working with. If maybe you're a natural born primary school teacher or maybe a high flying corporate trainer.
Seriously, the time spent at these places is better than any other kind of training you'll ever get. When you leave, you'll be brimming with confidence. You'll also have a zillion work sheets and course books on your laptop. In addition, you'll be able to confidently face the trials headed your way when you start work at a ‘proper job' later.
Of course, how you progress after that is up to you. But really, the idea of this plan is to make you capable and confident enough to enter the workforce and enjoy teaching English.
I did it the hard way - by just blundering through classes with no real regard for the mess I was making. I started teaching with no training and no experience and with no awareness of just how dangerous I was.
But whatever path you take and however you choose to find your way into the world of teaching English in Thailand, remember to enjoy it. You won't want to be a part of the horrible pool of depressed expats who work at terrible jobs because they have to. Then spend their free periods at school complaining about it.
For smart, educated, intelligent, older expats, who are willing to make a bit of an effort, there are endless opportunities for work in all fields of education almost everywhere in Thailand.