Sascha

Getting serious

Switching from a rural vocational college to a Bangkok university


Goodbye Udon

So. Finally. After three terms it was time to say goodbye to Udon Thani, the vocational college and the Isaan region and to say hello to Bangkok and a private university. As mentioned in my last blog and many of my blogs on my own website: I will miss all of my students and appreciate every moment spent with them. Having that said I promise that's all of the corniness for today. Time to focus on new things. Time for Bangkok Cityyyyyyyyy (Da Endorphine style).

No shirt no service.

The first thing that changed significantly in my new job: The dress code. Finally I can (have to) get rid of those colorful shirts I had to wear at ‘R-Chee Wa' all the time. Here at our (private) uni it's like we're used to it from the business world. Shirt, Tie, Suit. Nice! Makes the whole thing way more professional.

The students however do look a little different. While the focus on ‘correct' outfits is high with first year students, most Ajarns don't say anything if a senior students dress a little more inappropriate (welcome to the ‘my skirt is shorter' contest). I sometimes feel a little puzzled when I see students dressing up like this since I think the focus at Uni should be studies and not the sexy outfit (man, I'm getting old) but as long as it's within the rules everybody has the right to feel happy. No problem with that.

The overall atmosphere here is, of course, completely different compared to the poor governmental college where I started my Thailand teaching experience. A/C in every room, projectors, staff who copies my stuff for me and prepares classrooms.... Probably nothing new for you guys in international high schools - for me, it's awesome.

Poot pasat angrit: dai!

Alright. I work at an international college now. You expect people to speak English. Of course. However, having worked with English teachers who didn't speak English, I was a little sceptic at first. Everybody here speaks English though and that makes the daily life a whole lot easier.

When I was in Udon everybody said that students in Bangkok can speak better English than most Isan students. And well, yeah, you might come across more people who speak English. However that's because of Bangkok's size. There are simply more people and more tourists who influence them. When looking at my students: Sure, many can speak English (It's a Uni here, everybody attending Uni should speak some English!) but still a lot of them struggle. A lot. Taking into account that usually only students attend the international college who are aiming on doing something, tada, international, it is quite surprising to see so many students with English problems.

Let's go inteeeeeeeeeeer

Thailand is always crazy about doing something ‘international'. They call every conference, meeting or get together ‘international whatever' (right now only matched by ‘ASEAN whatevers'). Our international college however actually deserves its name and it's pretty cool to work with so many different students from different cultures. Right now I'm teaching students from the States, Europe, Africa and Asia. It's a lot of fun and forces me to always come up with new teaching ideas and to use different approaches.

All that glitters is not gold

Alright. I talked a lot about the differences and about how cool it is to work with people who actually speak English and to have real teaching facilities and modern technology to help my teaching. Like always, however, not all that glitters is gold. Even though it is an international college here, the organization and ways off how things work are still Thai.

Even though everything appears professional and international the ‘Thai style' of tackling (or not tackling) problems and getting things done remains. Everything happens slowly and only after asking again and again and again. But, as we all know, that's simply the way it works here so there's no need to complain about that. Sabai sabai.

The hardest part

Is letting go, not taking part. I admit, credit for those words doesn't belong to me but it shows somehow a huge difference between the teaching approaches. At the college in Udon I was more than ‘just' a teacher. Everything was more personal. This might have been rooted in the fact that other teachers also did this in some way or that it was my first teaching job but I took everything more personal. The problems of each student became mine and I tried to solve them by all means necessary.

(And yes, I know that one of the first things you learn when doing your teacher license is not to take things to personal and not to take them home with you.)

Here at uni it is, of course, different. More students, older students, more professional. There's no time to and need to always be there for them. Furthermore classes are way more professional. While I tried in Udon to get the biggest part of the class to understand what I'm teaching at uni the focus is more on make them understand how to understand and how solve problems on their own.

After all I have to say that the step to a teaching life at Uni was, right now, the right decision. My teaching approaches change and, at least I hope, are getting a lot better. However, as mentioned in the beginning, I'm still happy about my past experience and think it helped me a lot to understand some basic student problems.

This was now kind of a short intro to my new work. I tried to keep it a little more formal than my usual blog posts on my own website. However that won't stay this way. Next time I'll be back with more personal insights and thoughts. Promise.




Comments

Hi Sascha,from Bangkok.

I,m new to the 'teaching in S.E.Asia' concept.
If you were'nt a teacher when you came to Thailand - what was your profession - if i may ask?

I'm' a qualified teacher with 32 yrs. of what the Thai's would call polytech teaching under my belt. T.A.F.E. -Technical and Further Education in Auz. Also, a stint in Public High Schools teaching Technical education.

My quals. and experience are basically Adult Technical Ed. with all the add-ons like Trade Quals, Post - Trade Quals; Dip. T. Tech.; Bach.of Adult Ed.; Cert. 4 in Training and Ed.etc.

I've just come back to Auz. after spending time in some southern provinces, but also the N.E. provinces in a 54 day 'magical mystery tour' of Thailand.[ I have been there 3 times before though !]

I like the idea of a life style change living in Asia, as the humidity does not really effect me, but do not know the ins and outs of TEACHING in Thailand.

I must admit i have a bias for CONSTRUCTION Expertise as i 'went through the ranks''of training then teaching in a Building 'Technical College'.

Where do i go from here?
Any handy hints from the post chorum ?

Kind Regards,
John W. 09 10 12

By John Weeks, Australia (9th October 2012)

Thanks for the insight! An article on how you landed your job would be great! I've got an Honours degree (British qualification that is basically a half way mark between your Undergrad and Masters), but I suppose I would need to get that Masters in order to really teach at a Uni?

By Byron, South Korea (24th August 2012)

Peter, thanks a lot for your comments. I'm definitely planning on writing more about my experience here.

Byron: Sure, no problem. I'm teaching basic (fundamental) English and courses related to my area of studies (Electronic Commerce, IT, Online Marketing).

My qualifications ar a Master's Degree in what I mentioned above, some significant time in Jobs related to that degree and then the teaching experience I talked about. Finding the job at Uni wasn't easy and it took a lot of time, patience, many interviews and teaching presentations to get accepted. If you're interested I'm happy to write another post about the process of finding the job.

By Sascha, Bangkok (24th August 2012)

Nah, don't think I've read yr old posts - though hopefully I'll get around to it when I have a bit more spare time - yessir! Agree with you about the "respect" thing, even though I suppose I don't care too much for it, really (maybe old-fashioned, perhaps?). 'Friendliness' is really important to me, whether it's meant or not - and I'm sure you're right when you say you miss your students from Udon. Shoot, I miss mine just after a few days' break - heh, heh!
Yeah, the organisation in the sticks is often pretty disorganised - and there ain't no cure for it - ever. You just have to accept that it's this way - then the rest is pretty easy to swallow. But, sure, it sounds very much like things work better and more efficiently in the bigger towns - and I sure don't have any problem with that. Teaching is often a difficult and thankless job,so any goodies of any sort has got to be a "plus" - and anyone that reckons that they've moved to a better teaching environment certainly has my full approval. Good on ya! Oh - and a good article you wrote, too - more, please!

By Peter, Thailand (24th August 2012)

Interesting article Sascha. You are currently doing what I would love to do. Can you tell me/us if you are teaching English at the Uni or another subject in English? I'm hoping to be able to climb the ladder and eventually teach something related to governance or development at a Thai Uni. I'm currently in Korea but making the move to LOS soon. Can you tell me what your qualifications/years of teaching experience are?

Thanks!

By Byron Noel, South Korea (24th August 2012)

Peter, agree in some points. If you read my old post here or my posts on my website (my-thai.org) you can see how much I loved my students and the warm welcoming way. I haven't been a teacher by profession before coming here and just decided to stay in this 'business' because of my experience in Udon Thani. They invited me to their homes, showed me around, took me to cultural events and parties. Awesome!

In Bangkok it is of course different. When I went to 7-11 in Udon everybody greeted me and made space for 'the teacher' - in BKK that's obviously not the case. I do miss this 'respect thing' sometimes but on the other hand the relationship with students here is a little different what doesn't mean they don't respect their teachers.

Like mentioned before the main reason for me to change was the organisation...

Anyway it's nice to see and experience the difference and, since I'm not only teaching English here, it's also nice to work with students who actually understand me. However I still love teaching English to my ex students as well :)

By Sascha, Bangkok (24th August 2012)

Good luck with your time in Bangkok! It's certainly a big city and there are many different things to do - and things that need doing (education-wise).
Yup! Bangkok's great - but I admit that I do prefer the life in the small towns and villages. As you said yourself, being a teacher is totally different in some old beat-up school in the sticks, sans A/C - and sans teachers that actually can speak English!
Here in the village, you're always greeted warmly by the students, smiles and wais and greetings in English, too - although for the first couple of weeks of teaching the kids were overly shy and flatly refused to utter anything resembling English. When they found out that I didn't tear their heads off if they spoke incorrectly, they gradually loosened up and now only speak in English to me. I do speak Thai, but not at school - and tend to ignore any students that happen to speak to me in Thai.
Even outside school, you're greeted in a most friendly fashion by students and parents alike - it's certainl a more "personal" contact with one's local environment.
I rather doubt the same is applicable in Bangkok - partly (or perhaps mainly) due to it being a so much larger place.
I've always had very good memories of Bangkok - but give me the life in the sticks!
Cheers - and good luck!

By Peter, Thailand (23rd August 2012)

Totally agree with you Ashley. I miss my students a lot. Not because the students in Bangkok aren't nice or anything but the students in the Isan region simply deserve better. Unfortunately I couldn't go on any longer up there since the organisation drove me crazy but I always try to come back for some camps or special events.

And we'll see how Bangkok works out in a few months. Thanks a lot!

By Sascha, Bangkok (23rd August 2012)

Nice food for thought there, I was a rural Isan teacher for about 6 months. That was the time it took me to crumble and give up! It's the students I feel sorry for, I just wish people could be more professional.

Best of luck at the Bangkok Uni

Chok Di

By Ashley, Auckland (23rd August 2012)

Like always: Those are my personal opinions. Happy to hear what you guys out there think or if you had different experiences.

By Sascha, Bangkok (23rd August 2012)

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