Readers' Submissions

My Teaching Experience



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok


Where do I start?

I’ve been pondering this submission for a long time.

I’m not going to bore you with my past, just let me start by saying I’m qualified. I hold a BA and a TEFL, all above board and verifiable. I’m English and have been teaching in Bangkok for just over a year. Could I teach children in the UK? The answer is yes. (Whether I would or not is another question.) I’m 30 and decided to broaden my horizons, so to speak.

The feeling I now have after teaching here is a mixture of anger and disappointment.

Where do I begin?

The school, which I first taught at, is at a glance a very good, private bi-lingual school with a good reputation, good facilities and small class sizes. Enough to entice any parent into sending their little treasure. That’s where the praise ends.

After only a couple of days of being at the school I noticed things were just not right. No curriculum, structure, programmes of any kind or direction whatsoever. The children’s capabilities ranged from bad to non-existent. What made it worse was the older children’s attitude. They really hated everything about English, in fact, all things foreign. This was a daunting task but it was one I was willing to uptake with the help of the faculty, so I thought.

They asked me to take Thai lessons so I could transfer my English knowledge more easily to the children and so also the Thai teachers could understand me better. I kid you not; they seriously expected me (and the newly acquired Philippine teachers) to help the school and the Thai faculty by learning basic Thai. At no time was the question of me teaching them English ever raised by any of them and when I suggested free lessons after school taught by myself and the Philippine teachers, we were met with the excuse of constantly being too busy. I was at the time interested in learning some Thai but felt that my primary objective was to get the children speaking English and for me to revert to using Thai was failing as a teacher and thereby failing the students.

As a native white teacher in the school, I was held in some esteem, rightly or wrongly as them. White is right. As I mentioned before, I had some Philippine colleagues, one male and three females to be precise. The Philippine teachers are without a doubt the hardest working people I have had the pleasure to know and work with. The male of the group is older than me at 38, the difference between he and I is immense. In the Philippines he taught for ten years in various government schools as a home room teacher, compared to my short time in Thailand. This man is leaps and bounds a better teacher than me. I wish the Thais could see this. All they see is skin colour.

The teachers were treated worse than slaves for a pittance. They are given two days holiday a month and work from six in the morning to a minimum of six in the evening. I never heard any of them complain and I felt embarrassed as to the way they were treated compared to me. Full of honour and dignity, they try to provide a good education to people who truly don’t want it. I will never forget them as long as I live. They showed me what true courage is.

The next time I hear a “native speaker” complain about their salary, I will slap them.

Getting back to the education side of things, the standard was shocking. What I noticed was a complete break down of what you would call a teacher-student relationship, because the school was small, all the students were treated as special little darlings rather than expected to work. At the end of each lesson the children are given food, that is to say, cookies, candies, fried bread up to 5 times a day plus their lunch with not a piece of fruit to be found.

The subjects range from Thai dancing, history and mathematics, science, Buddhism and English. No geography, world history or any kind of social studies. Absolutely NOTHING that resembled any education of the outside world. The children didn’t even know their neighbouring countries correctly in Thai, never mind English. They could sing the national anthem though and march around the grounds of the school everyday at 8 o'clock.

The Thai teachers, I’m sad to say, were just not up to standard. Most of them graduated from 2nd or 3rd tier universities, none of these would ever been considered adequate enough to further study in the west. I genuinely saw most of the resumes of the teachers and their transcripts read like the alphabet, with every letter from A – Z as a grade. I saw one GPA at 2.34. I didn’t think it was possible. The funniest thing I saw was the “English in Education” mark. All of them scored a C+ or higher. Say hello to them and they freeze. To be fair though, when they are using the computer, they know how to ignore it when warnings come on the screen and randomly hit any button until the problem goes away.

At the school there is any excuse for a party, to show the parents what a great school their darlings attend. Thousands of baht are wasted at these events. I say wasted because all our textbooks are photocopied. I understand a little school in Isaan that has very little money copying resources but the owner of the school bought a new Mercedes Kompressor in July. At last year’s Christmas party, not one time was the reason for Christmas even mentioned or even acknowledged. One bright spark student asked me if it was Santa’s birthday. A for effort in my book.

Lastly the owner. She is a doctor (of what I’m not sure). Granted she can speak English quite well but her written English is very bad. Now I don’t mean her handwriting, I mean her grasp of writing and grammar. For those other English teachers reading this, simple past is beyond this woman, possessive pronouns, superlative adjectives, all basic stuff. Does this matter? When she tells you she passed a DOCTORATE in the Philippines, all in English and treats everybody with disdain and contempt. I would not trust this woman to write a shopping list in English, let alone a thesis. It really is hard to convey in words how awful this woman really is, just the thought of calling her doctor makes me sick to my stomach. It makes a mockery of all the people in the world that have studied hard for the title.

I lasted one full year at the school and left after the summer holidays. All the Thais were in disbelief that I could leave such a good school and job. I’m still laughing now.

I applied for another job in the area and was immediately hired for the next semester with a 4,000 baht a month pay rise.

All’s well that ends well.

I wish that were the case. My new school really is not that different and I’m starting to see a trend in the Thai private school industry.

I’ve come to the decision to leave the school and Thailand at the end of 2nd semester (Songkran holidays). Teaching here is not for me. Most people are well aware of the other problems Thailand has but that is totally another submission on its own. I could have filled cyberspace with all the tales of my former school but I really have tried to keep it short.

I will finish with this little snippet, "All countries get the government they deserve."

I don’t know who said it but seeing the education system, I’m sure they had Thailand in mind.

Stickman's thoughts:

It's a shame there has been a drop over the past year in submissions about the experiences of foreigners teaching in Thailand. They always make for fun reading although the message is usually the same….it's a business where the service provided often is not up to scratch.