Same Shit, Different Place
I read your online article about teaching English in Thailand with mutual agreement and disgust. However, I am teaching in South Korea – which I believe is waayyyy worse than Thailand.
In South Korea, I have taught all levels for the last 3.5 years (public school, middle and high school / K-12 language academy / university). Currently, I am working at a University, in which the Dean of our Language Department has informed the professors not to give out a grade lower than a C. It just so happens to be Korean culture! So they say. The same inferences were set upon the foreign teachers at the other 2 schools, academy and public schools, which I worked for in the past upon first arriving here. All tests are given to the administrators to "dumb down" as they see fit. And, I have students who have not attended 1 day in my class; I have no idea who they are and / or what they look like. Yet, these students have received A's and B's in my class; upon my checking my grading roster online.
In fact, I came across your posting about Teaching In Thailand while looking for a new job in another country to teach English. I have a Bachelor's Degree in English Language Arts, a US Government Certification / Licensure to teach English grades 7 – 12, a Masters Degree in Education with a focus in Leadership and Administration, and am currently working on my second Masters Degree in College Teaching which I will complete in August of 2008. I will then begin my PhD in Professional Education and Theology. I have been working in education for more than 12 years, including 3 years overseas teaching experience. I have been a director and educational supervisor and co-ordinator in the American public school system. However, I was not able to say that "I have seen it all", at least, not until coming to Asia Pacific!
I suppose because I'm an African American male; my students think I'm an entertainer, also. They always want me to rap or sing or participate in some game activity; and, so does the staff and other school officials. They have no interest in learning the English language; except for a very select few who fall between the cracks of the very low educational system they have installed within their countries. I leave Japan and China out of it; because from what I hear from my friends working there (at universities and public schools); it is very strict and the students are very respectful. They have also been given the power to send students home who exhibit disruptive behaviour. Yet, the pay is soooo low in these countries that English professionals usually do not accept positioning there. Japan's cost of living is so high, that English professionals can not afford to make money other than to live there without saving. I have come to the final conclusion that America is definitely the best place for "professional educators" and not "playful graduates" trying to teach on the side to payoff college and / or student loans. These systems in Asia are set up for those types of people: young, college graduates who wish to pay off loans and want to work in the classroom playing games with no real sense of career direction (and not those college graduates who majored in any field of education!). In fact, most foreign teachers here majored in "archeology", "communications", and / or "other unrelated fields of education". In fact, these individuals are capable of learning how to teach and becoming educators; in my opinion. Yet, many have no real desire. Some do.
For example, my supervisor majored in "photography"! LOL! She simply downloads activities from the website and passes them out the other teachers and tells them to perform those activities in their classrooms! She doesn't create programs, which detail any standards of EFL, best practice skills, teaching methodologies, and etc. However, she is a very intelligent woman; who does know education. She just simply "gives them what they want"! At first, I thought otherwise; but, upon a recent meeting I realized that she knows their system and doesn't need a rock thrown upon her head to come to the understanding that "they don't want to learn English or involve themselves with education". They only want to learn how to play English games and do eEnglish activities in order to be entertained for 30 to 50 minutes a day.
My advice to you would be the same. "Give them what they want"…and they will love you for it. Give them what they need and you'll soon become an outcast. I experience this presently. When other co-workers (including native administrators and teachers) inside of a lacking environment realize that you truly are a professional in your field …they'll begin the attack because your workmanship will make them look bad to the students and others. Just be the "ignoramous that they want you to be" and "play the fool entertaining the children" and "allow them to not learn a damn thing" and get a good reference to move on in your career to a better position inside of a school that does, in fact, value education. Everyone starts at the bottom!
It just so happens that no-one realizes how BIIIIIIIG the bottom really is until they travel the globe. In fact, the mayor of the city where I worked in my last position asked me at the teacher's dinner, "Mr. I looked at your resume. What are you doing in South Korea? They will not allow you into a position here. You can only teach."
I asked him with a strange look upon my face, "What do you mean?"
And, he simply smiled and said, "Oh. I just don't think you're going to find anything that fits your qualifications here. Korean people are very sly and do not place foreigners in the type of work that fits your resume. It's not a professional place to be for you."
Still, I have ignored him and took on another contract for another year at a university; and, now I'm experiencing the same crap. Same shyt different place! LOL.
Many have quickly come to realise that teaching English in much of Asia is, sadly, a lark. It is a real shame that there are so many kids who are keen, but at the end of the day, the system is much more to blame than the helpless foreign teachers.