26 February 2011

I've Moved but Forget to Tell You!

This blog has actually moved to somewhere else. Just click here and you will be taken to my new house. Sorry that it has taking over me over a year to get around to telling you.

10 January 2010

Why I'm Glad to No Longer Be a Crap Teacher in Thailand

Three months ago I decided that I no longer wanted to be a teacher in Thailand. I had spent seven years trying to make it in this career, but for most it I just felt like a fraud. The truth is that to be a good teacher you need to have a passion for it; this was something that I just did not have. I knew that it would probably be easy for me to continue my job as a mediocre teacher and keep on collecting the pay checks; many other people do it. I just could not live this way though; life is too short.

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9 November 2009

I quit teaching

A few weeks ago I quit ESL teaching to become a freelancer writer. This has been my dream for years, but I will always be glad of my time working as an ESL teacher. Who knows, maybe one day I will return to it.

I still intend to occasinally write articles about ESL issues as they come up in Thailand. You can check out some of my other writing on;

4 October 2009

Questions about working in Thailand

There are certain questions that those wishing to teach in Thailand frequently wish to know prior to committing themselves to making the move. Here are some of the most common questions asked.

Will I find work easily in Thailand?
Your qualifications and teaching experience will decide the ease to which you find work in Thailand. In many cases qualifications seem to matter more than experience. In the past it was possible for any native English speaker to just arrive in Thailand without any real qualifications and experience and still find a job but this is getting harder. You still hear about it happening, but most of this type of work is illegal and unreliable.

Do you need a degree to teach in Thailand?
Most school teaching jobs in Thailand do require that you have at least a degree. It is also a requirement for a teacher’s license, and it will be a bit of an uphill battle to get a work permit without a degree. People do get jobs without degrees, but again this tends to be of the illegal variety.

Is it possible to work illegally in Thailand?
I would not advise anyone to work in Thailand this way. Legally you could be arrested, spend time in an immigration prison, before being deported and banned from Thailand for eleven years. This has happened to westerners; although the most often reason has been working with a dodgy degree or getting into trouble. I don’t know of anyone who has actually been deported for teaching illegally, but that is not to say it doesn’t happen.

Can you make a good living teaching in Thailand?
This depends what you mean by a good living. Most of us manage to get by on our wage, and some of us are able to supplement our income in other ways. The average teacher, outside of Bangkok, only earns about 30,000 THB a month which is about $900 or 600 Euro. You can certainly live on this and there are better paying jobs once you get yourself settled in Thailand.

Am I too old to teach in Thailand?
Most Thai teachers retire at 62 years old, but as demand is so high for good native speakers you will likely still find work way beyond this age.

26 September 2009

How to plan for your first ESL class

Your first time teaching can be a stressful event; mine was almost enough to drive me from the teaching profession forever. I was stupid enough to believe people in Bangkok bars who told me that no preparation was needed and that you just had to keep the students entertained for fifty minutes. This was terrible advice, and I no longer accept any advice from people in bars; in fact I don’t even go to bars anymore. The truth is that if you do not plan your first lesson then it will be a nightmare. Anyone coming to teach in Thailand will most often be expected to give a demonstration lesson when they apply for their first job; for a lot of people this will be their first time teaching ever. Here are five tips to make it go easier on both you and the students.

1. Arrive to the class with a clear idea of what you want to teach. It is better to have too much material than not enough. If you are going to be monitored by interviewers then it is a good idea to have some teaching resources like handouts or flash cards. It is important to check with the school first to find out what will be available in the classroom when you come to give your sample lesson; it will be disappointing for everyone if you arrive with a well-made power-point presentation, but there is no computer and projector in the classroom.

2. Avoid giving a class which focuses on material which is too simplistic. If you want to bore students then a sure way is to devote an hour to introduction phrases like; “What is your name?” and “Where do you come from?”. The students have likely been taught these phrases ad nauseam, and even the most lowly English class in Thailand will have likely mastered this topic. You are unlikely to impress anyone with this type of class; believe me I tried. Don’t spend the hour playing games like hangman; these are lesson fillers and not lessons and should be avoided when you are trying to impress.

3. Focus your first class on a subject that will engage your students encourage them to participate. This will all depend on the age and language ability of the student, but one class which I enjoy is using English songs. If you plan to use this as the main subject of your class then you need to first ensure that the class will have the facility to play these songs; i.e. speakers. It is important to decide on your target vocabulary prior to class and arrive with a worksheet based on the song or songs. This worksheet will contain different exercises based on the lyrics of the song; such as fill in missing words from the lyrics or using single words from the songs to make new sentences.

4. Begin the class with an introduction and the goals you plan for the hour. Tell the students about the target vocabulary you will be focusing on and what you would like them to take away from the lesson. Finish the class with a review of all that you have covered during the class.

5. Do not overwhelm the students with too much information. Constantly monitor the class for signs that they are getting bored or getting lost in the content. Be prepared to change direction if you feel that you are losing the students. An important part of teaching is being able to adapt and change to conditions on the ground.

23 September 2009

End of term

It is now the end of term for me here in Thailand; half the school year is gone. This term just finished has been a long one for me. I am starting to get itchy feet, and the ‘ways of doing things’ in the school that once niggled me have now grown to become irritations. There are things that I like about my current employment, and still have good days, but overall I’m more than ready to take my show on the road again.

Despite my urge to move again I have decided to stick it out until the end of the next term. It is seen as bad form to leave a school half way through the year and seeing as we have already lost one teacher to pregnancy it would be a bit unfair to leave now. As I am currently the only native English speaking teacher in the school any mid-year departure might not be well received; perhaps I’m overestimating my own importance here.

My reasons for wanting to leave are financial, my son’s future, and the school itself. I am receiving a low wage considering the fact that I have a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education; native speakers with this qualifications get the top-paying jobs in Thailand. My school seems to have no real understanding of this and pays me almost the same money as the non-native English speakers. One of the Filipino teachers is actually paid more than me despite the fact that his ability is English is poor ( some Filipinos have very good English, but this guy does not belong to that group). As far as my school is concerned the fact that I agreed to the original contract means that there is no reason for me to complain; maybe they have a point. In Thailand if you are prepared to agree to a low wage that is all you will get; there is no point complaining about it later.

Another reason for my wanderlust is my son’s future. Lopburi is a nice enough city, but the choice of schools seems a bit limited. I want a school with an English programme that starts in the early years. I want a school where my son is going to be challenged to develop and not just allowed to pass every subject because I have paid for him to attend there.

My final reason for wanting my next term to be my last at the school is the way the school is run. It all seems to be about appearances without substance. Students in our bilingual programme are not allowed to fail any subjects and disruptive students are not disciplined. During my first year in the school this niggled me, but now after a year and a half it irritates me greatly.

So I suspect that my next term will be the last at my current school. It has been an experience, and I don’t regret taking the job there in the first place. My current negative feelings though, tell me that it is time to move. I will miss the students, and there are some things that the school does very good.

12 September 2009

Teaching illegally in Thailand

Many ESL teachers in Thailand are working illegally. For whatever reason they don’t have the documentation that would give them permission to work as a legal teacher. I would never judge these people, and realise that for some it is their only option. It does not mean that they are bad teachers in my opinion; although many of the less reliable teachers will be of this variety.

I previously worked as an teacher without the proper immigration documents. I was a volunteer teacher in my local school. I did this with the knowledge of the local police,village head, and a local man who worked for Thai immigration. They had no difficulty with me doing this unpaid work. The local school would not be able to afford the paperwork, and I wasn’t go to pay a lot of money to do volunteer work. Technically I could have been deported for doing this kind of work and not allowed to return to Thailand for eleven years. Apparently Thai immigration even view fixing your own car on the side of the road as work which you it would be illegal for foreigners to do.

I know that there are many more westerners who work as volunteer teachers without the proper paperwork. Some of these are retired and see at as a way to keep busy or put something back. Many of these retired guys probably wouldn’t be allowed to get a work permit on their current visa. They take the chance. Surprisingly, even the volunteer foreign police force which assists in tourist areas is full of people with no work-permits to do the task; the ultimate irony but this is Thailand.

Many illegal teachers are in paid work. They need to earn an income while staying under the radar of immigration. This is getting harder for them to do with immigration now asking more questions about how people are able to stay in Thailand with no obvious source of income. Visas are becoming increasingly more difficult to obtain. Illegal teachers do not usually get one year extensions so they need to do regular border runs or trips to Thai embassies in nearby countries; an expensive and time consuming hassle.

It seems that few of these western teachers get caught for working illegally, but they tend to only be able to get low paying jobs with little chance of advancement. Mind you, I’m in a low-paying job with little chance of advancement and I’m legal.