Spending time around ESL teachers in Thailand might make an outsider think that we really are a lot of whiners. It is understandable why some people wonder why we would put up with the job if things are so bad. If you read the web-forums, devoted to those of us who teach English here, you will see post after post of complaints about the state of the education system in Thailand and the amount of obstacles that are put in the way of those wanting to do the job. It is reasonable to ask why we would put up with it? It’s not like the pay is up to much. What keeps people doing a job which seems to cause them so much stress?
Well, the truth is that despite all our complaints things aren’t really that bad. Teaching has rewards that just aren’t available in other professions. School administration can try and interfere with a lot of things, but once the lesson starts we have a lot of autonomy. The classroom can be like our stage and for the next fifty minutes, to an hour, we have a captive audience. These members of our audience are not passive participants though; not one bit. We have to battle for their attention. If we get it right we can leave the class feeling high as a kite; if we get it wrong we can feel down in the dumps. The highs more than make up for the lows. Occasionally you get a great day, all your classes go well, and you almost skip home from school convinced that you are the best teacher ever.
Another reward of teaching are the students themselves. When I started in the profession my anxiety about what they should or shouldn’t be doing took away from my appreciation of the students as individuals. I am now much more relaxed around them and have found that they can be great fun. They can make me laugh and make me think. I can see how their aspirations are similar to what mine had been at their age. Their enthusiasm makes me feel like a teenager again; it is easy to believe those who claim that teaching young people keeps you young. It can sometimes feel like a real privilege to know them at this special time in their lives.
Teachers can really make a difference to student’s lives. This goes way beyond the lessons that are being taught at the time. I remember all my teachers and they all affected my life in different ways. The impact of teaching students can have an impact way after that teacher has died.
There are also lots of other perks to the profession which keep us in the job. For one thing; it is hardly hard labour. Despite the occasional annoyances I still get days when I think; ‘wow. I can’t believed that I’m being paid for this’. I don’t have a boss on my case all the time, and most of the jobs associated with the job are reasonable.
Teaching in Thailand is not always easy, but it certainly has its good points. We wouldn’t do it otherwise.