11 July 2009

Best advice for those wanting to teach English in Thailand

I always seem to be meeting people who would love to come and teach here in Thailand. My first response is to dish out warnings about the difficulties that people may face. Many of those interested have already developed Thai fever though and can't be dissuaded - I was the same.  I made many mistakes on my path to becoming a legitimate teacher, but I also learnt quite a bit. Here are some of my top tips for making the process as pain-free as possible. 

1. Have realistic expectations. Working in Thailand is completely different from coming here on holiday; what was once exotic will soon appear everyday and making a living in a sunny place can be just as difficult as elsewhere. 

2. Don't come here in holiday mode. If you come to Thailand with the intention of staying then it is vital that you take the whole thing seriously.  It is important to quickly develop a normal routine so that you can meet your work commitments. The partying needs to stop, but this does not mean that you can't still have fun and have all the benefits of living in a tropical paradise. 

3. Make sure you appear respectable when around colleagues or students. In Thailand this means not walking around the super-market in your swimming trunks and not falling around drunk in front of your students. It also means not doing anything which would reflect badly on employers. 

4. Teaching is a profession and requires a professional attitude.  It would be wrong to treat it merely a way to extend your holiday. This attitude will reflect in your work. Teaching is a noble profession and you can have an enormous influence on the lives of students; this influence can be good or bad. 

5. Become involved in the ESL community. Listen to the podcasts and read some of  the many blogs and online articles devoted to teaching English as a Second language; become knowledgeable about the different teaching methods and stay up to date.  Check out the Thai teaching related web forums regularly. This knowledge will be impressive at job interviews and more importantly help you develop as a teacher. 

6. Get qualified. It is possible to get work without many qualifications but this is not recommended. For legal work the minimum requirement is usually a degree. Attendance at some type of TEFL course is also usually desired. 

7. Gain some experience in front of students. A TEFL course is good for this. If you have never stood in front of a group of learners before then it can be a traumatic experience. It is best that you have as much support in the early days as possible. 

8. Don't be tempted to submit dodgy certification. Fake degrees are easy to find in Thailand but the consequences for being caught with these are extreme. It is often easy to spot these fake certificates. 

9. Try and have some savings for when the shit hits the fan. Thailand does not have any comfortable social security payments for you to fall back on if things go wrong. Make sure you are not caught with your trousers down. Have at least enough money to make it back to your home country. It is also handy to have a credit card from your home country for emergencies. 

10 Don't just take the first job that comes along. Research and think carefully. Does the job have health insurance? Does it pay you for twelve months of the year? Will it guarantee you a work permit and help you with this? What will your employers expect from you?

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