Teacher Tim's TEFL International Blog October 1st, 2011

Teaching English B.C. & A.C.

You’ll pardon me, I’m sure, if I wax nostalgic for the dear old campus at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis.

Many happy hours were spent there, under the gnarled and sturdy oaks, dreaming & studying for future glory. Inclement weather found me under the portico of quaint Pillsbury Hall, a red sandstone mausoleum that housed dusty, flyspecked cases full of crystals and minerals, with archaic descriptions writ in fountain pen on paper curling with age.

Yes, those were halcyon days for me.

Unfortunately I was not a student there at the time. I was just a teenage punk who lived nearby and liked to roam the campus when I should have been at home doing chores.

When I actually entered the U of M as a student I was immediately bored with my classes, so dropped out (the Dean of my college might have said ‘drop-kicked out’, but it’s much the same) to join the circus as a clown.

A few years later I found myself in Thailand, teaching English classes to keep the cobra from my door. I took my TESOL certificate class from TEFL International and they were immensely helpful in finding work for me.

The red weaver ant in the ointment was that, without a degree, nobody would spring for my work permit, so I had to hop a bus to Cambodia or Laos every few weeks to renew my visa. At first this was fun. The sights and sounds and smells and tastes of Thailand are eternally intoxicating. But like everything else under the sun I eventually grew weary of watching the same Jackie Chan video as the bus barreled down a green-walled road to the next somtum stand.

So I ended my B.C. (Before College) days by returning to the States to re-enroll at the U of M. I also went back because the Thais refused to serve me root beer floats without adding ice cubes to the mixture. I can put up with war, plague, and famine – but not ice cubes in my root beer float.

Classes were still snoozerific, but I endured, and found that my time in Thailand had given me a sort of exotic cachet with students and teachers alike. I picked up a gf who thought my speaking Thai sounded like something sung from a Wagner opera. This intrigued her.

I still recall with fondness the Composition class I took where I wrote of my initial befuddlement on arriving in Bangkok, to be greeted by signs reading “Buster Minal is next block.” Who was Buster Minal? And why were there signs for him all over the place? It finally dawned on me that these were signs pointing to the Bus Terminal. That little story got me an ‘A’ in class, and my teacher encouraged me to send it to Reader’s Digest. Which I did. And never heard back from them. (Otherwise I would have become a Famous Author, recommended by Oprah, living it up in a penthouse in Manhattan – such are the decrees of fate!)

The U of M had a very liberal policy back then; you could test out of a lot of classes, and you could get undergraduate credit for life experiences. I took full advantage of that, plus my girlfriend worked in the Registrar’s office; she managed to punch up a few more credits for me while her boss wasn’t looking.

So it was only a matter of just under 2 years before I held that precious sheepskin in my grubby little hands.

I shot out of the States back to Thailand like a Democrat out of a barn dance.

Now that I was A.C. (After College) I no longer had to worry about those visa runs. The schools that hired me were glad to wade through the red tape required to qualify me for a work permit.

All I had to do was go down to the Immigration Police every three months for them to stamp my passport. Piece of cake.

And of course my teaching salary . . .

Well, my teaching salary . . .

Truth be told, my teaching salary didn’t go up one darn baht!