Another Day At School
Here I am four years after my arrival in “The land of smiles”, also known as Thailand. Another day and again I find myself standing in front of a 2nd grade classroom with more than 40 badly behaved children. Teaching head, hair, eyes, ears, nose and mouth for what seems to me like the 100th time. Actually, it has only been about 38 times. I find myself pondering the wisdom in my decision to come to Thailand to teach English, as if somehow it could have possibly been a wise decision. I mumble a quick prayer to all-powerful one above. “God, if you can find it in your will, please help these little minds learn.” After 10 minutes, it seems as if my prayers are once again being ignored. Then I communicate with the great one for the 2nd time of the day. “God, why has thou forsaken me?”
Then like a bolt of lightening, it strikes me that my next class is the 1st graders that I have been teaching to count from 1 to 10 in English. My reward for 7 months of twice-weekly classes is something that sounds like this. One-two-tree-fo-fie-sic-sewen-ate-nie-ten. Oh, please dear God let me go deaf so I can stop being tortured with the horrible noise that is made when Thais try to speak English.
My mind briefly travels back in time to last night when I was at the 7-11 or as the Thais refer to it simply as 7. Apparently, it is too difficult to say the 11 after the 7. Anyway, I am momentarily lost in my thoughts about that bottle of coconut flavored Caribbean rum that I had seen at the 7. There was this beautiful white bottle sitting all alone on the shelf behind the cashier. I could even hear it calling to me, “buy me, buy me”. I looked at that bottle and thought about how good it would taste mixed with a coca-cola or some pineapple juice. After 15 minutes of wonderful thoughts of tropical, alcohol laced beverages, I made the decision not to make the purchase. Now I am considering the possibility that the bad decision not to purchase that wonderful liquid was yet another in a series.
Yet, a glimmer of hope, all is not lost. Today is the last day of the month, PAY DAY. I get to go see that wonderfully charming woman fondly known by the English speaking staff as the “money bitch”. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh. I mean, I have only been going to see her at 4pm on the last day of every month for the last three years. How could I possibly expect her to remember why I am standing in front of her desk at 4:00 sharp on the last day of every month.
So at exactly 3:59 I walk down to the school office. As I walk in the door, I look over to where here desk is and I can see her sitting there talking on her cell phone. So, I walk up to the desk and take a seat while I am patiently waiting for her to finish her personal phone call with who I can only assume is the father of one of her 3 snotty nosed brats.
After what seems like an eternity she ends her conversations and looks at me and in Thai asks me what I want. In Thai, I explain to her that I am here to collect my salary. She looks at me, her eyes wide with surprise as if she is shocked that the school pays me a salary for teaching these darling little Thai kids.
Very, very slowly she consults her calendar flipping through the pages as if the sequence of months might have been changed and she didn’t get the memo. After deciding that the months hadn’t been changed without her prior approval and it really is the last day of February. She looks at the clock to verify that it is indeed 4pm, which by this time it is actually 4:25. Then she rifles through old pay records as if she is trying to remember how much my monthly salary is.
I try to be understanding. I can see how it could be difficult for her to remember, as I said before I have only been doing this every month for three years and I am the only white skinned English speaker in this school.
Finally, I fool myself into believing she has all the information she needs and will shortly hand me my money. Oh what a fool I am. She takes the cash box out of her desk drawer. Fumbling with the clasp, she tries desperately to open the little gray box. After several minutes of this freak show, she looks up at me and in a very serious voice says, “box lock”. In my mind, I can hear myself screaming at her, “no shit you stupid bitch it took you three whole minutes to figure that out”. But it comes out in English as “Oh no, who has the key?” The look on her face turns to one of sheer terror. As she has a BA degree in education and has studied English for 16 years and yet she has no clue what I just said to her. By the way, it is now 4:40 p.m. My mind wonders back to that bottle of coconut rum at the 7.
I sit and stare dumbly at the clock watching the minutes tick slowly by as she rifles through her desk looking for the key to the magic moneybox. Why she does not know where it is, is beyond my ability to understand. Finally, eureka, with a look on her face like a five year old that has just opened a birthday card from grandma and found $5 inside, she holds the key up. “Oh goodie you found the key”, I say. She opens up the box and consults her pay sheet to see how much of the money she has to part with. She takes out the required amount and proceeds to count it. Then she turns it over and counts it again. Two times, that is good enough for most banks. But, oh no the money bitch counts the money yet a third time. She starts to count the money out to me and then suddenly as if someone slammed on the breaks of a car, stops and puts the money back in the box and gets out a pay slip for me to sign. She asks me how to spell my name and I reply in a soft and gentle voice. “The same way I’ve spelled it to you for the last 236 times I’ve been in here on pay day.” R-I-C-H-A-R-D B-U-R-G-E-S-S. Due to her complete and utter lack of any English skills at all. I end up signing a pay slip that says “Ricad Budess”. What the hell, if it gets me my money, than today I am Mr. Ricad Budess. So now it’s 5:05 p.m. and I am finally walking out of the office with my money in my hands, a little skip in my step and a smile on my face, thinking to myself she’s getting better, fie(5) minutes faster than last month. I’m going to the 7 and buy that bottle of rum.
This is just an example of daily life here in Thailand. If you think coming to Thailand and teaching English is something that sounds interesting to you. Please contact Mr. Ricad Budess at
teachenglishthailand@you’ve gottobekidding.com. I will return your email at my first available moment or if I am too busy, I will ask the Thai staff to send you a reply. If that is the case then don’t expect to get a reply since none of the English teaching assistants can read or write English.
A basic outline of the benefit package the school offers to its native English teachers is as follows.
1) 15,000 baht per a month. This is about 35% of the standard pay rate.
2) Housing is provided. The housing consist of a one room house with a fan and a light bulb. The toilet is shared with others living in the same building. Electricity is included as long as you don’t turn on the fan or the lights and don’t use a TV. The use of a wind up clock is permitted.
3) The school will cover all medical and dental expenses up to 50 baht a year.
4) Free lunch at school. The students refuse to eat it so we can give it to the teachers free.
5) Free internet access, when it works.
6) Free daily newspapers. All the Thai language newspapers are provided. If you want English newspapers, you have to buy them yourself.
7) A friendly and helpful Thai teaching staff. You will need to be fluent in Thai to communicate with them. None of them can speak English.
8) An on-site English speaking coordinator, to assist you with any needs. On-site meaning that he is in Thailand, not necessarily that you will ever see him or that he will ever assist you.
9) The opportunity to teach young children in a “no one fails” education system. Thus, you will have 13-year-old students that can’t even tell you what day of the week or month of the year it is. You will teach each class one day a week. So when you return to that class the following week they will have forgotten what you taught the previous week. This means you only have to write one lesson plan and you can use it all year long.
Here is a list of the requirements.
- Must have a Masters degree in English. This is an absolute because without it you might not be qualified to teach numbers 1-10, the days of the week and months of the year.
- Have a teaching certificate from country of citizenship. Although not one Thai teacher would be able to pass the exam to obtain a teaching certificate from the United States, we require you to have one.
- Must be fluent in Thai. The student won’t be able to understand you if you speak English.
- Have your own teaching materials. The schools doesn’t have any materials for teaching English.
- An understanding that the owner of the schools drives a 3 million baht truck and sends his daughter to study in Canada for 1.5 million baht a year. So we can not use the electric lights or air conditioning in the classrooms. Since we have 20 classrooms and the cost of electricity can get expensive. In addition, from time to time you may have to wait 4-5 days for your salary. As pay day may also be on the same day his truck payment is due or that he needs to send money to his daughter in Canada.
We look forward to having you join our teaching staff.
The worst part of all of this is that this is not exaggeration. Things really are like this!