Teaching in a school in Thailand sounds fun right? You get to change your students' lives and become a real part of the school community.
You get long summer holidays to explore the country and in the evening you can relax in your peaceful rural village. Sounds perfect right? That's what I thought so I jumped at the chance to work in a local high school. However, I lasted just 3 months and changed to work in a language school and couldn't be happier.
So what is so good about a language school?
Salary - I guess this is something most people know about. When browsing job adverts you can see the salaries for language schools are higher than government schools. 40-55K a month allows you more spending money and the ability to save a bit more. Also you get paid 12 months a year unlike some government schools. Finally many offer an end of year bonus which can be up to a months extra pay
Students - It took me about a week in my high school job to realise 75% of students didn't care about learning English. Now I have motivated students who have chosen to learn English. Admittedly not all of them are super excited to be learning ( they are made to attend by their parents ) but I can't tell you how much better it is to have students who want to learn.
Work Conditions - " It's all part of the experience!" working in a high school classroom with 50 students and just a couple of old fans to keep you cool. Being a sweaty mess before 10am every day isn't fun. In a language centre you will get air conditioning and smaller classes.
Feeling comfortable at work should be a basic right and now I'm happy with the conditions. Also my maximum class size is 12. I can tell you teaching 50 students, the majority of whom don't want to study English, is a nightmare. Classroom management is taught in TEFL courses but nothing can prepare you for the reality.
Mature Students - For me I much prefer teaching adults over children. For some people teaching children is their dream but for others nothing could be worse. I get to have conversations with students about lots of different topics. I felt like an entertainer in the high school but now I feel valued and respected by my students.
Holidays - The dream of a 6 week summer holiday sounds great right? Well it would be but the problem is some high school jobs don't pay you during that time. Also it means taking time off when you're told to.
Your sister's wedding is in December - you can't go. You want to join your friends who are visiting Thailand for a break mid-term - you can't go. Now I get to choose my holidays.
I get around 24 days a year vacation plus national holidays which is about the same as my allowance in the UK. Next week my family are in Thailand I can hang out with them. If there is urgent need to travel back to the UK I can.
Colleagues - Maybe I am lucky but the people I work with now are great. A good mixture of staff both Thai and foreign. I get along with most people and as it's an English school everyone can and does speak English. In Thai high schools there can often be a big divide between Thai and foreign staff. Whilst some staff were nice, others were very petty and unfriendly - maybe I was unlucky though.
Sounds great right? So there must be some downsides - well there are such as:
Working Hours - Most language schools are busiest in the evenings and on weekends. This is when you will work. For me it's not a problem as my friends all have the same schedule and in Bangkok I can do the things I want any day of the week.
However, for some people it could mean a reduced social life and missing out on events at night and during the weekend. I finish work at 9pm most days so it is a problem if you don't want to work late in the day.
Contracted Hours - I'm lucky enough to have a guaranteed salary and work schedule but some language centres don't guarantee either. Maybe your monthly salary might alter by 5-10K per month. This means quiet months like April ( Songkran ) and October ( university exams and break ) might mean a much reduced pay packet.
Personally I wouldn't teach at a high school again. The benefits of a good language centre far outweigh those of a high school. The freedom, work conditions and financial package make it the best option for me.
If you enjoyed this blog, check out my website - Life in a New Country
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