Teaching in Thailand is something we can never completely prepare ourselves for.
No matter how much research you put in, there are always a few curve balls just around the corner. Depending on your luck and circumstances, these can be somewhat pleasurable or so bad that they threaten to derail your new career before you have really started.
For many of us Westerners, the first time we are likely to encounter this sweet and sour experience is at the job interview. I’m basing this article on my own experiences plus a few that have been shared with me during my short career at an Isaan government school.
If you read Ajarn.com you will probably already know the 4 main ways to get the interview ball rolling:
Telephone and/or email
Despite the fact we are well into the 21st century, many Thai schools simply haven’t caught up yet. But coming from the UK, I was still confident that emailing your resume and following up with a phone call was the way to go.
So I made a quick list of about six schools in my city and fired up the laptop to get more details from their website.. The first obstacle was that they were all in Thai with zero English translation options. Okay, I was pretty green and now realise that this was obviously going to be the case, especially in rural Thailand. So I decided to hit them all with my fantastic cover letter, CV, and resume.
I then waited about three days, noted there were zero replies and picked up the courage to call them. The problem was that my Thai was sparse and the person on the other end of the phone had no English whatsoever. This was repeated five more times until I then asked my dear wife to have a go. This time it was easier but each reply was the same - they either couldn’t locate my email or they hadn’t bothered to read it!
Conclusion – Don’t bother!
So after a week or so, there was no other choice but to get my arse into gear and literally visit these schools. They were all pretty much within walking distance and fairly close to each other. I made a list, put on some decent clothes, and convinced my wife that she should come along.
Now this was around February in Kalasin and, although not as hot as April/May, it was still a very warm day. I was more used to wearing T shirt and shorts, so slacks and a shirt and smart shoes soon made my body temperature rise.
Despite my wife’s suggestions that we should hire an air-conditioned taxi for the day, I knew better and insisted that walking was the preferred option. I still believe that rocking up with a smile and your Thai partner or having a good grasp of Thai is the best way, but next time around, if there is one, I would take a taxi or my own car. I would also approach one or two schools and no more each day.
Conclusion – Great approach but don’t over do it and don’t walk!
Now if you already have contacts at a Thai school, it is probably the best chance you would get of securing an interview/job offer. Just ensure that your buddy is giving you an honest opinion of how the school operates. Perhaps they are being genuine or possibly they are using you as an escape route – it happens!
Conclusion – How well do you know your buddy?
Although I personally have never used an agency, this is the fourth option.
I have worked with plenty of colleagues who do. In fact, a few of the schools that I approached on that hot day, told me that they only use agencies. Some of these teachers were very good indeed, but many more seemed to be applying for the wrong job.
One lady from USA was offered a job without an interview and halfway through her first day I found her back in the teaching room in tears. She was told by the agency that she would be teaching kindergarten in a private school. In reality she was going to be standing in a sweaty room in front of 50 or so unruly 15-16 year-olds. She was eventually replaced with a 6 foot ten Nigerian who spent most of his time either on his mobile phone or asleep in the library.
Conclusion - Just ensure that you are applying for the right job!
Part two will cover what happens when we attend the interview, along with some classic scenarios.
Question – what was your first Thai school interview like and how did you do?