Sam Thompson

Back to reality

The new school term starts - and not without problems

Well, the break is over, and schools in Bangkok are starting back soon. Back to reality. And by reality, I mean scheduling issues, visa troubles, and other generally Thai school dilemmas. It will take a while to get re-acclimatised to structure (or lack thereof) after having reign of my own schedule for the last month-ish.
Well, I say month. Actually, my school had me do two different summer schools: the first was an English camp three weeks long right after school ended. It was relatively fun, short (two hours per day plus activities in the afternoon some days), and I got to visit Safari World with the students (see an earlier blog entry).

The second lasted two weeks, and was meant to help Mathayom 1 students get used to life in a high school. It was also fairly fun, only four hours per day, and neat to get to know the new students. However, typical of a Thai school, on the last day of the program, the day of the test, we found out that everything we taught them (English) and the tests we wrote for them to take for their M1 class placement was for nothing; the Thai teachers decided to give them their own test instead of ours.

I have no idea what was on that test, but I can guarantee I didn't teach any of it. All they had to do was tell us this up front and we could have taught whatever they needed to learn, but as is common in Thai schools, that didn't happen.

If my students learned how to pronounce the letters R, L, and V correctly, I still feel accomplished. I drilled it in them enough that they ought to remember. Still, it will probably look to the administrators like I am a terrible teacher; all of the students likely failed.

Another frustrating issue that comes with working in a Thai school: I was assured by multiple people at the school at multiple times that I would have the paperwork needed to change my entry-on-arrival tourist visa into a non-immigrant B visa before my tourist visa expired. Of course, this ended up not happening, so now I have to go all the way to Laos again to get another visa, and will miss the first week of school to do it. Naturally. Again, a lack of communication.

If I was just told up front that this would be the case, I would have taken care of the visa situation before coming back. But now, I have to spend 8,000 baht to get another visa and miss school to do so. Typical.

One positive note here: I did get observed by a panel of ten administrators and teachers during one of my summer school classes teaching English (keeping in mind that I typically teach science), and they seemed impressed. So that's good. My science department head later told me, in broken English, that she wants to learn English with me. So, even among all of the ridiculousness, there are little things that make it worth all the hassle.

We found out our schedules a day prior to the semester starting this term! I'm highly impressed; last term, we didn't have a schedule until two days into the semester.

Much of this may sound negative (and to some extent, it is), but in all honestly, it's par for the course. I love Thailand, and generally speaking, I love teaching in my Thai school. Even so, there are little things that crop up all of the time, and you just have to take them in your stride. Why worry, right? It's not like it will accomplish anything...

The way I see it, there are American and other English-speaking countries that are entirely too structured on one side of the equation, and Thai and other Southeast Asian countries that may be too little structured. Maybe one day, we can find a way to meet in the middle. But until then, mai pen rai!


Have you ever taught in a school in The US or Europe? An inner-city school in The US or Europe? Or a private/international school in Thailand? I think you are making generalizations and romanticizing your home country and it makes you kind of sound not so smart. But hey...mai pen rai!

By Tyler, Bangkok (4th June 2013)

Welcome to Thailand, buddy !

By jackthornton, BKK (24th May 2013)

Also taught in Cali. The union contracts were rarely followed (class size). I was limited in the amount of copies I could make. Spent a lot out of pocket on supplies for my class. Had undocumented workers children show up and then leave after a month or so. Can't say I miss it.

By JLR, BKK (24th May 2013)

I assume you need the Non-B for your work permit. If so then you can get a normal tourist visa changed to a Non-B at immigration here in Bangkok.

I had mine changed a few years ago and other teachers from my school have had theirs changed as well.

By Kenneth, Lad Prao, Bangkok (23rd May 2013)

You keep saying 'Thai schools' and 'Thailand.' During my nine years as a credentialed California teacher, my class loads and schedule changed during the first 6 weeks of every semester, notwithstanding the union contract. Textbooks often didn't arrive until 1 or 2 months into the term, and administrative problems in California were far more aggravating than anything I've experienced in my 8 years in Thailand. Having said that, you should ask your school to pay for that 8,000 baht visa run as they reneged on their agreement for visa 'assistance,' which is a major fail on their part. And have a great year.

By Guy, bkk (22nd May 2013)

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