The practicality of experience and the advantage of training
How delicious is your pie?
Leaving aside the situation in Thailand for a moment, what makes a good teacher? I mean "good teacher" in the academic sense of the word (educator) and not the practical way we, as teachers, manage to fit in with our surroundings (employee)
The pie chart
To simplify the answer, I propose we measure the capability of teachers through a combination of three determining factors...
1 - Desire
2 - Experience
3 - Training
In other words... to be a "good teacher" you have to want it, you have to know it and you have to be able to relate it to others!
If this were a pie chart, how big would each piece of the pie be in your situation?
Desire: How much do you want to be in a classroom?
Experience: How well do you know your subject?
Training: How well can you relate what you know to your students?
Both sides of the fence
In Thailand, there is a very common cry among many committed farang teachers, that their lack of academic achievement cuts them off from opportunities which they feel they would excel at if given the chance. I tend to agree with them. There is a shortage of capable and willing teachers and in an ideal world, we'd be judged on our merits as well as bits of paper picked up in our past lives.
Conversely, there is a screaming wall of indignation from properly trained teachers. 'Real' teachers who can prove their worth by virtue of past academic exercises and achievements. And they too have a sound argument. Would you ask a hospital porter to take your tonsils out?
No matter which side of the fence you are on, the desire to teach is the only piece of the pie that we all start off with. When we judge other teachers based on their experience and/or training, the 'desire factor' rates up there as just as important. It's my opinion that you cannot be an effective educator unless you want to be an effective educator.
In a changing world.
In the past, education and training were revered. In my youth, it was a significant achievement to go to university and get a degree. These days, there are so many graduates, that the reverence for formal education has diminished. In fact, four years of study may be a handicap in today's world! Many employers can see past academic trophies when it comes to knowing what's good for their businesses.
Additionally, in the past, employees stuck with their jobs for a lot longer. That world is no more as people flit around the job market like humming birds in a spring garden!
Corporate culture club.
The institution of teaching is a career path that has a foundation cemented in education and training... except in Thailand. There is an egalitarian philosophy in The Land Of Smiles which leaves room for everyone. No matter what your personal pie chart looks like, if you're willing, you'll find work as a teacher. Flitting from job to job is allowed and usually expected, if not always welcome!
When you are looking for work in Thailand you must first know who you are and recognize honestly what you are offering to employers. Different employers have different work cultures. Knowing where and how you fit into any work environment is imperative.
The world worships youth and in that regard, Thailand is no different. Many schools, universities and businesses will happily train up inexperienced young people. They are cheap and malleable. Other employers have decided that a culture of experience will work better for them. There's no need to teach an old dog anything, right? Once again, it's a matter of how you fit into that working environment.
How delicious is your pie?
There is merit in education and training as much as there is value in experience and knowledge. The often mean-spirited superiority of one over the other has consumed message boards ever since I've been in Thailand.
For many commentators, there is no gray area: You shouldn't be in a classroom unless you have been trained to be there or you shouldn't be touting your training/education as validation of your teaching proficiency.
In reality, these extreme views are impractical. It's true that proper training will give you a headstart but no-one is left out in the cold... not in Thailand. The only asset we all start out with is a desire to teach... everything else comes later. When we're young, the value of our desire to teach is the most important piece of the pie. It alone determines our future education and our eventual experience.
Then again, perhaps (like me) you got your calling later in life. Experience is all I have!
When I lost my cherry to teaching, my pie was all desire. Nowadays it's about half desire and half experience. I've picked it up over time and now I'm good at it. I've also learned to have fun with the opinions of people who don't know me... and that's the custard on top!
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"However, why should a damn be given when the other side (Thai schools) don't give a damn, either? Why should damns be given for salaries reflective of 2005?" I agree 100%.
Foreign teachers AND schools 'should' care. But you can't criticize foreign teachers for not caring if you aren't going to criticize the schools too. That feels to me like you're saying foreigners are smarter and more moral so should know better, but schools aren't so give them a pass. You don't have to work in a school in Thailand to know that if the company you work for don't give a shit, then most likely neither will the staff. And if a company doesn't get rid of or stop employing unprofessional staff, they're the ones to blame. Doesn't matter what industry or what part of the world you're in.
By Neil, Korat (3rd March 2022)
Dear Lord, man! Please don't talk about how delicious a person's pie is when referring to teaching children. A horribly misjudged analogy.
"I've also learned to have fun with the opinions of people who don't know me..." I really hope this is true and you've matured. Because when I saw you on Twitter, you were pretty unhinged and I was worried. It's always nice to see people grow.
By Liam, Thailand (12th February 2022)
"When I lost my cherry to teaching, my pie was all desire. Nowadays it's about half desire and half experience. I've picked it up over time and now I'm good at it. I've also learned to have fun with the opinions of people who don't know me... and that's the custard on top!"
- The only thing missing from this disturbing analogy is the talk of cream pies. A very odd choice of words.
As for finding teachers, my school has completely given up on insisting only degree holders only. "But people who have degrees have shown a discipline and strong work ethic". Really? I did the bare minimum at uni. Barely scrapped through. Most of my friends were the same too. Just wanted to have fun and get a degree at the end of it. Then I look at friends who left school at 16 to work or do an apprenticeships, etc - now these friends worked their asses off. Waking up early everyday getting peanuts for a salary. They stuck with it and were rewarded with good jobs. Give me these kind of people any day.
And for teachers giving a damn, that's a rather romanticized and naïve view of life. The end of the day, you pay peanuts you get monkeys. They should care, but I know why many don't. The sooner schools and recruiters come to terms with this logic, the sooner they can start taking education seriously. Just cos something should happen doesn't mean it will. And you can stick your head in the sand and moan about crap teachers, but unless you change your ways, things will stay the same.
By Craig, Thailand (1st February 2022)
Hello. Thank you for your excellent article.
But I have to say I was repulsed by your choice of words when you said "When I lost my cherry to teaching, my pie was all desire".
It's an unecessarily vulgar way to describe starting out in the world of teaching.
By James, Canada (30th January 2022)
"Seems most teachers don't give a damn about actual teaching. "
There are those that do.
However, why should a damn be given when the other side (Thai schools) don't give a damn, either? Why should damns be given for salaries reflective of 2005?
This entire deal is reflective nothing short of a failing tautology.
Indeed, the "stupidity" factor should be noted...and directed towards those going to Thailand, to teach.
By ESL Sith, Hoth (28th January 2022)
Most of the schools aren't that fazed about teaching either. And even less concerned with decent contracts. What were you expecting ?
By Bigbadb, Not Thailand(thank the gods) (10th April 2017)
The chart doesn't factor is stupidy. I would say that is at least 50% for most teachers.
Experience? Knowledge? Virtually anyone can land a teaching gig in Thailand - no experience or knowledge necessary in many cases.
Most of the teachers I worked with and teachers I know are in Thailand for selfish reasons, escapism, and running from their problems back home. Seems most teachers don't give a damn about actual teaching.
By Derrick, Rockwell (30th March 2017)