Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Every year hundreds of people fly to the “Land of Smiles” to teach English. The list of benefits this choice offers is so large that instead of focusing on them, I have compiled a list of reasons it may not be the best option for everyone. You may want to reconsider if…

You Want to Make A Lot of Money

If you’re reading this, then you probably already know the teaching salary in Thailand isn’t the best. In comparison to the cost of living, you can live very well—but when it comes to making those international bank transfers every month, it can be a bit painful. That said, jobs at international schools tend to offer more money and there is no shortage of private tutoring opportunities throughout the country. Many teachers, myself included, survive from their tutoring money and transfer their salaries home each month. You can save, but it definitely takes commitment.

You Want to Party 24/7

The Full Moon Party, Khaosan Road – YES, Thailand is a fun place to party. Alcohol is cheap and there is never a shortage of events to attend. However, if this is your primary reason for visiting Thailand, I think backpacking or a holiday would be a better option. Don’t get me wrong, over the course of my 18 months there I had an endless amount of raging weekends all over the country, but the focus during the week should be the job.

You Aren’t Willing to Embrace a New Culture

This is similar to the previous. Many people assume life in Thailand is like the travel brochures and the backpacking blogs. Of course, it can be, but the reality is that the majority of schools are positioned away from the ‘tourist hot spots’ of the country and in my opinion allow for a more authentic cultural experience. I think it’s important to note that in many locations you could be the only English speaker for miles and find it impossible to buy those branded goods you love so much back home. Personally, I see this one as a positive, a chance to challenge myself and grow—but many are not prepared for the cultural shift and start to feel isolated.

You Don’t Like Kids/Want to Teach

The heading of this may make you think ‘OBVIOUSLY DUR’ but unfortunately there are a few too many teachers in Thailand who not only hate teaching but dislike children. I understand a lot of people choose to teach in Thailand to see the country or for a gap year etc., but I think a little interest in teaching and not a dislike of the age group you’re going to teach should be a minimal requirement. You’re going to be in the classroom the majority of the week—taking a job you don’t care about just so you can party and see the sites will only make the kids miserable and the workweek seem like a chore. Care about what you do.

You Don’t Like Spicy Food

Ok, this one is a bit of a joke. Of course, you don’t need to like spicy food to teach in Thailand, but be warned – it’s everywhere. The words ‘mai pet’ (Thai for not spicy) can save your life!

This list is basically a compilation of the various complaints I would hear from fellow teachers around the country. Maybe if people knew what they were getting themselves in for before going, there would be a lot less critical and negative stuff written about teaching in Thailand online. Do your research, and try to find a place that is not only suited to your interests and strengths, but also consider your weaknesses.

TEFL TIPS #6 – Increase your cash: Start Tutoring

So you’ve taken the leap and decided to teach abroad: you found a great job, set up your apartment, and found the means to keep yourself fed, washed, and comfortable. Like many TEFL teachers you’ll discover rent, food, and utilities always run a bit higher than you expected and you’re itching for some spending cash. If you truly enjoy teaching, private tutoring can be a fantastic way to supplement your income while gaining experience with a wider range of ages and ability levels. Tutoring jobs are generally easy to secure—a flyer on a telephone pole is often enough to get a few students, while in some areas you may be approached randomly on the street just for being a foreigner. However, it is essential to realize teaching and tutoring are very different things, so before you start filling up your schedule, keep in mind:

 Know the Purpose

Those seeking out tutors each have unique reasons and goals. Make sure you thoroughly understand what each student is looking for. A middle-aged family man planning to relocate abroad doesn’t need to know the difference between past progressive and past perfect tenses, nor will a high school student studying for college entrance exams be all that concerned with how to order food in a restaurant.

Take Advantage of the Flexibility 

Your first tutoring job will no doubt be challenging—a one-on-one session with no coursebook, no lesson plans, and no classroom is a daunting scenario. Your first session with a new student can certainly be used to get a better handle on their current ability level, but be prepared to provide your students with some sort of practice material or key phrases/vocabulary to practice. Don’t be afraid to assign homework or give short quizzes—they’re paying you to both support and challenge them. Use the freedom from structure to challenge yourself as well by testing your creativity—develop new activities or generate original material you can use in the future.

Know What You’re Worth

One of the most awkward things TEFL teachers need to learn to do is set their tutoring fee—having some idea of what to charge is important to know before you get caught off guard by the question. In countries like Korea where English education is a huge industry and cost of living is high, tutoring fees generally start around 40,000 Won / hour (roughly $33), while in countries like Cambodia where cost of living is lower and English is already widely spoken, one can expect to make only about $10 / hour. In other countries it can vary greatly from city to city and grade to grade—and payment doesn’t necessarily need to be in cash. In more rural areas I’ve been paid in honey, oranges, kale, and whiskey. One generous woman even paid me with a live chicken intended for dinner—I’d like to believe she’s still living a full life clucking around in the hills of Thailand.

Tutoring may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely an easy way to make ends meet in a pinch or gain some spending money for those long weekends.

-Ashley

TEFL TIPS #1 – The Almighty Flashcard (1)

A with chalk and number

A flashcard is to an ESL teacher is like the Batmobile to Batmanno ESL teacher I know would be without them!

I think the core of their popularity is largely due to the teacher/student language barriers inherent in ESL education, especially when working with beginners or younger students. A flashcard of an apple portrays an apple in any language: the word may be different but the meaning is understood. An apple in England isn’t a robot in China. That being said, a girl in Thailand sometimes isn’t what a girl would be elsewhere, but that’s not for now…

Flashcards can also be used for a variety of purposes: to introduce new vocabulary, for kinesthetic activities, speaking cues, auditory activities, and much more. What one can do with flashcards is potentially limitless, so what a great prop to start my mini-series, “TEFL Tips”, with…

#1

Activity – Where is the _____? – (Listening/ speaking)

Age – Pre-K, K, primary

Level – Beginner

This is an easy one. It’s great for teaching new vocabulary and children have loads of fun playing it. It’s basically like that game you see novice magicians do at kids’ parties using 3 cups and a pea.

You start by teaching three new flashcards (preferably of related objects). You then turn all 3 over and move them around. When you have stopped, ask the students, “Where is the ____?” The student whose turn it is, then has to say the name of the flashcard he/she has turned over. If he/she has picked the wrong card, then they continue until they select the correct one.

As the game progresses you can start by asking the students if they want you to move the flashcards faster or slower. This normally encourages them to speak, and you are bombarded by screams of, “Teacher, me really really fast!”

So, in addition to learning the vocabularies on the flashcards, the students are using English in a more natural setting and communicating with you.

Just like the Daleks keep popping up throughout series’ of Doctor Who, I’m sure I’ll write many more tips for flashcard use in the future.

Thank you for checking this out!

-Liam

Teaching In Thailand: Part 1 – The Arrival

In May 2013, I left my cold and monotonous lifestyle in the Welsh valleys and embarked on a career as an ESL teacher. Here is how it all began….

26/05/2013

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Uncomfortably positioned between an attractive young Indian woman, and a very fidgety old one, on a flight from Heathrow, it hit me like a ton of bricks…… I had just quit my job, uninhabited my home and geographically distanced myself from everyone I knew.

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Sawasdee Krung Thep (Hello Bangkok)

I will never forget that immense feeling of emotion when I first found myself alone in a new country. It was a combination of pure excitement and nerves. My imagination was out of control. I also felt very hot, which will not surprise anyone who has visited Thailand before; the weather is always sweltering.

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport is huge and complex, but after a marathon distance of walking, at gate 6 I finally found the representative from my agency, LoveTEFL, waiting for me. His name was Lordy, anyone who has used LoveTEFL before will know him. He is a friendly, chilled guy and had no bother answering my millions of questions.

We headed into the concrete chaos of Bangkok City.

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It was dark when I arrived but the advertisement billboards and speeding cars of erratic motorists lit up the highway. The streets of Bangkok were filled were food stalls (this must have been the infamous street food you read about online, I thought to myself), clothes stalls and rushing pedestrians. As we entered the hotel I met the teacher that would be joining me at my school for the next year. His name was Joe, a Cornish Newcastle United enthusiast who had done quite a bit of travelling before. He was an interesting and funny guy.

The 3 of us headed on the cities MR2 subway (an experience in itself for a young boy from Wales) to a bar where the first beer of my Thai experience was consumed. The beer was served with ice. What type of strange world is this?

At the end of the night, we had a meal, soup and water for the equivalent of 1GBP. It was full of flavor and my first taste of Thai cuisine. I loved it.

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Any nerves I was feeling no longer existed.

I was an energy ball of eagerness and excitement.

The drive to the school the next morning was scorching and I felt like an idiot because I was wearing shorts (my definition of smart dress) and the other 2 were wearing shirts and black trousers. Luckily this didn’t matter as the school was vacant when we arrived (my first experience of the unorganized chaos of Thai planning). The school is based about 1 hour and 20 minutes east of Bangkok, in a small town called Ongkharak, in the Nakhon Nayok province (the waterfall province).

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The school is an architectural masterpiece. Its golden bricks shape the structure into resembling a spaceship, and there is an observatory tower at the front of the building overlooking two spectacular lakes and a giant flag

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The following day we returned to school and met the head of English, an attractive young Thai girl with a great sense of humor called Mod (Thai for ant). We also met the assistant director of the school, a middle-aged flamboyant homosexual who no sooner than meeting us was inviting us to his house to ‘play’. I was on edge because our agent had told us we had been hired because of this man’s opinion of our pictures rather than the suitability of our CVs.

A few days of finding our bearings followed. We quickly discovered that there was not much to do in our area of residence but everything was insanely cheap and the people were friendly.

We also made friends with some local Thai lads, an old lady who sells meat on the street (my Thai mother) and purchased some push bikes. The bike choice at the local market was limited, so I ended up with an Angry Birds Limited Edition child’s bike. I looked ridiculous riding it.

We were starting to feel comfortable in our surroundings and I personally was loving absorbing the new culture that was dominant in our everyday lives.

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Then school started…

-Liam