Teaching in Thailand - Everything You Need to Know about How to Teach in Thailand
How to Teach English in Thailand
My First Job as a Teacher, 7 Years ago
Why I Love Teaching English in Thailand
When I first came to teach English in Thailand I was extremely wet behind the ears and didn't know the first thing about teaching English. My first day of classes consisted of games of hangman and simple personal questions to my students. However, despite my obvious lack of experience and teaching know-how, I still made it through those first few weeks of teaching without much of a problem because although I was quite clearly unqualified at the time, both my students and my Thai colleagues treated me with great respect.
Eventually I gained a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certificate and a few more qualifications as well as much needed experience and I settled in nicely.
What has made my time teaching English in Thailand so rewarding though is the great hospitality and acceptance shown towards me by the Thais. They welcomed me from day one and made me feel at home and that is why I have remained here for so long. The legendary Thai hospitality.
Having Fun With My Students!
So, What Do You Need to Teach English in Thailand?
To teach English in Thailand, there are several things you need to get before you come here or even when you arrive, in the period before you begin teaching.
Here is what you will need:
TEFL Certificate (Teaching English as a foreign language):
Although when I first came here I had no TEFL certificate or any other form of teaching qualification, I recommend that you take a TEFL course before flying out to Thailand. This is because most if not all language schools and schools require their teachers to hold at least a TEFL certificate before they can teach English in Thailand. There are many colleges that offer TEFL certificates and i you wish, you can even do a long distance course, the choice is yours. A TEFL course will give you knowledge and skills you need in order to teach English and more importantly, it will look good on your resume when you begin applying for jobs. Do an online search and you will find a multitude of schools and colleges where you can o a TEFL course. Most TEFL courses consist of 120 hours learning, with some hands on teaching experience involved which is invaluable.
A Basic Understanding of Spoken Thai:
One frequently occurring problem I have noticed in Thailand with new teachers is the language barrier. Once you begin teaching in Thailand, it is just you and the students in the classroom. You rarely have a Thai assistant helping to translate your lesson and this is where most teachers struggle. Imagine trying to explain your lesson to a class of 40 students who can barely speak English! Yes, it can be extremely time-consuming and leaves you frustrated. So I advise you to either seek Thai classes in your own country or, spend a month in Thailand simply learning spoken Thai so that you are ready when you begin teaching. You can:
- Consult a Thai teacher before your classes and have them teach you the Thai for each of your lessons, and write it in English phonetics for you. Then you will be able to explain it to the class before teaching it.
- Enrol in a Thai language school and take a Thai language course before and during your teaching time.
- Spend a month learning and practicing Thai language by simply listening and asking questions while out and about in Bangkok or wherever you decide to go.
Personally, I never took any classes in Thai language but I can speak Thai now because I began by asking my Thai colleagues and practicing with them; I also learned more Thai by interacting with Thai people as much as possible, and asking them questions.
An Understanding of Thai Culture:
This is very important because there are certain things which we do in the west, that would be frowned upon here. Things like:
- Pointing your feet at people, either because you crossed your legs and your feet are facing them or you intentionally point your foot at them for some reason. This is a big no-no in Thailand because as Buddhists the head is spiritually the highest part of the body and the feet are the lowest.
- Touching a Thai person's head. As I mentioned above, the head is spiritually the highest part of the body and it is an insult to touch someone's head if you don't know them well.
- Physical contact. If you don't know someone well, it isn't acceptable to touch them e.g. pat their arm, shoulder or leg in a friendly manner. Once you get to know them, then it is fine.
- Calling someone a buffalo. To the Thais, being called a buffalo is a great insult, much like being called a dirty pig in the west. You may hear them calling each other it for fun, but never join in the name-calling, even as a joke.
There is much more to learn about Thai culture but luckily, this kind of information abounds all over the internet so it won't take you long to get the gist of it.
English Camp Fun!
Where You Should Teach as a Beginner
When you first start out teaching in Thailand, it is a good idea to start in Bangkok, as it is much more convenient than living outside of Bangkok. Outside of Bangkok, there isn't much to do in terms of fun, you would also be hard pressed to find a school with air-conditioning in the classrooms. Teaching in a classroom with no air-conditioning in the 35 degree heat of Thailand is not advisable considering you teach around 5 hours a day!
For a new teacher Bangkok is the place to be. The schools have more equipment, air-conditioning and the students tend to have a higher level of English than students outside of Bangkok.
Lastly, Bangkok is far more developed than anywhere else in Thailand and as a result is a much more fun place to live. The nightlife is good, restaurants exist in abundance and there are many areas where mostly only Tourists or other foreigners go where you can go and unwind and meet other foreigner on the weekends. It can get lonely here if you are alone, so this is an important aspect of Bangkok.
A Wonderful Class!
It's All About the Money: How Much Will All this Cost me?
The cost of living in Thailand is fairly low if you do things right so the main costly areas, initially will be flights and earning your TEFL certificate.
Here is an example of some of the costs to expect:
Beer and Nightlife- From shops is around $1.00 for a big bottle and in a bar or pub ranges from about $1.50 - $4 which is still pretty cheap. Kaosan road is great value for money in terms of night-life and alcohol price and a decent night out there might cost around $10-20.
Food - Food in Thailand is extremely cheap as well as delicious. It is about $1 for food from street stalls and most restaurants but if you fancy something a little classier then the prices are a little higher. A good meal in a nice restaurant may set you back about $5-10 which when compared to western prices is still very cheap.
Accommodation - Accommodation is also very cheap and the average apartment or condominium room will cost you about $160.00 per month. For that price you get a nice, fully furnished room. For internet you will have to pay an extra $16 a month. Cheap huh!
Transport - Transport is unbelievably cheap here in Thailand. Taxis always have fare meters and are so cheap its hard to imagine they can actually make a living but they do, somehow. Here is the price of a taxi based on distance:
0 -1 km - 35฿
2 -12 kms - 5฿ per km
12 - 20 kms - 5.5฿ per km
20 - 40 kms - 6฿ per km
40 - 60 kms - 8.5฿ per km
Buses and motorcycle taxis are also cheap so transport won't be a problem cost wise.
When coming to Thailand with the intention of staying to teach English I would recommend that you bring around $1500.00 - 3000.00 because you might not get a job straight away which will mean you'll be living solely off your savings. You also have to factor in the trips to the beach, nights out, sightseeing excursions etc. It's always a good idea to have more than you need.
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Last But by No Means Least: Visas, Salary and Qualifications
Visa - Before coming here I recommend you invest in a 1 year visa just to be on the safe side. In most countries it is fairly easy to get a 1 year visa to Thailand. Go online, download the form and send it off 2 weeks before you leave. It is well worth getting a 1 year visa as if you don't get a job immediately it will enable you to remain in Thailand until you do. You could get a 3 month, 6 month or even 9 month tourist visa but it is much easier just to go for the 1 year visa. I know people who came on a three month tourist visa and then once the visa expired had to travel all the way to Laos just to get another 3 month visa. It is very difficult to get more than a 3 month tourist visa here. The visa you need is called a NON-IMM O visa and will give you 1 year here. Every 90 days you have to report to the immigration office for your next stamp which will cost nothing. Once you get a job, they will give you a Non-B visa and then a work permit. Once you get the work permit, it's easily renewable each year as long as you remain with the same company.
Salary - The average salary here for a foreign teacher is around $1000 a month which increases over time, with experience. This is the average salary for teachers whether you have a degree or not. Thankfully, $1000 is more than enough to survive on in Thailand for a month. If you have an education degree then you may even get up to $2000-3000 a month!
Qualifications - It is possible to come here with only secondary (high school) school qualifications and teach english, however I would recommend that you at least have a TEFL certificate as the rules are becoming a little more stringent these days. Ideally, you should come to teach English in Thailand with a degree AND a TEFL but failing that a few certificates and a TEFL will suffice for most language schools as long as they like you, and your appearance.
Well that's all for now. I'll be back with other hubs on teaching in Thailand. Until then, take care and prepare yourself!
Sawaat Dee Krup! (Hello and goodbye in Thai language)
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