Teachers Tales

December 2002

A year-end selection box of TEFL snippets

Corporate Work

I call it corporate teaching while other schools refer to it as in-company classes but basically what happens is that a company will contact a language school and ask that school to supply them with a qualified and hopefully energetic teacher to conduct business English classes to anything between one and twenty employees. Classes are generally taught after the staff's working day ( eg 5pm to 6.30pm) possibly one or two nights a week.

The company usually pay the school between 1200 baht and 1500 baht per hour. How much of that gets passed on to the teacher varies greatly from school to school. I've heard of one institute that pays about 700 baht per hour to its teachers but you'll find that 350-400 is more the going rate. Anything under 350 baht is unacceptable.

Most schools give the teacher a travel allowance. Again this varies from school to school but it should be enough to get you a metered taxi from the school to the company door. In reality many teachers pocket the allowance and stand at the bus-stop waiting for the next cheap bus. Some schools also offer course completion bonuses but be absolutely sure what the amount is before you embark on a corporate teaching course.

I've done a fair bit of corporate teaching and I must confess that I have mixed feelings about it. Some company groups are a joy to teach but many are not. You have to bear in mind that employees are often 'forced' to study by their employer and employees will be given corporate lessons as a free company benefit but they will be fined (often heavily) if they do not attend a sufficient number of the classes. And because they have finished their work for the day, they are often tired and would quite simply rather be going home than listening to someone rabbit on about modal verbs and graded adjectives.

So the teacher is faced with a rather disinterested and unmotivated audience. The need to step up the entertainment value is greatly increased simply to keep the students from nodding off. In larger groups your lessons will be constantly interrupted by the ringing and bleeping of pagers and mobile telephones - something which annoys the hell out of me !

Not all company work is bad it must be said. The teacher might have a modern, spacious boardroom to teach in and upon arrival ,a maid will appear with a cup of coffee and a plate of bickies. The students might actually be keen to learn and some groups can be extremely sociable and generous. A predominantly male company group will sometimes offer to take the teacher for a quiet drink after work. Six hours later, the teacher is in a dark, seedy cocktail lounge minus his briefcase and trousers, wondering where all the lipstick came from.

Some language schools rely very heavily on the corporate market and employ teachers as virtually full-time, in-company instructors. I can't imagine a more stressful job. Bouncing around Bangkok from one company to the next, exposed to all that pollution and traffic. One teacher I know became so burnt out physically and mentally that he quit the job to enter a temple for a three month session of meditation, and vowed never to work for another private language school in his life.

Corporate teaching.....definitely a case of the rough with the smooth.

Mr Michael from Siam

One can't help but notice the tremendous amount of stick that Siam Computer comes in for on many a web-site page. Is there an ex-employee from Siam anywhere in this city who has a good word to say about them? Their turnover of teachers is  enormous because rarely a week goes by without seeing the familiar Siam Computer ‘teachers wanted' ad adorning the pages of the Bangkok Post classified. I have met Mr. Michael, the academic director of Siam Computer, and found him to be a very charming and knowledgeable gentleman. He knows the problems that the school faces, but has little or no power to change things. I must admit that I feel very sorry for him. I am convinced that if he had more clout, the school probably wouldn't have the reputation it currently deserves.

Take the ECC Challenge

I don't know whether or not ECC have changed the format of their teacher applicant test. About 2 years ago I went on a spying mission to their branch at Ramkhamhaeng posing as an enthusiastic job-hunter. I was given their teacher test and told to fill it in. I've always taken great pride in my knowledge of grammar, and I completed the paper in good time. I dutifully handed the sheet back, but couldn't resist pointing out the three grammar errors in the questions.

Dressed to Impress

During my time as academic director, it was my job to interview numerous applicants for both full and part-time teaching positions. It amazed me the number of people who turn up for an interview dressed more suitably for a day at the beach. One guy even entered the interview room with a freelance lady of the night that he'd picked up from a local coffee shop. Then had the nerve to ask my opinion on her. We all know that the reputation of the teaching profession in Bangkok is not what it should be, but at the risk of being called old-fashioned - any interview calls for a certain degree of professionalism.

Rich Teacher? - Never Met One!

Many potential teachers have contacted me over the past half-year, mostly from the USA, to ask me the burning question - " How much do I need to earn to live comfortably in Bangkok "? Well, it's a nigh on impossible question to answer because simply put - one man's needs are totally different to another's, but I consider anything over 30,000 baht a month to be reasonable enough to ensure a fairly comfortable standard of living. You can live in a decent apartment, eat in good restaurants and take a taxi at the weekends. You might even save a bit too!

However, I couldn't agree more with what Stickman says on his web site. No one comes to Thailand to teach and get rich.

Some barstool experts always draw comparisons between the foreign teacher's salary and the average Thai salary. That's useless. If you want to live like a typical Thai, sharing a house with a family of seven including aged grandparents, eating noodles everyday and catching the green bus to work, you go ahead and do it.

By all means, seek out the best salary available to you, but never lose sight of reality. Most of the teachers who advertise on Dave's ELS café web site in the ‘jobs wanted' section live in cloud cuckoo land with totally unrealistic expectations about teaching in Thailand. I'm talking about teachers who are currently living outside of Thailand and looking to gain some experience in this South East Asian corner. I had one American guy ask me if my school could pay the airfares for his wife and two kids. He was devastated to hear that we couldn't even pay for his.


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