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Working as a TEFL teacher in Thailand

"I first started teaching English as a foreign language in Thailand over 10 years ago. It was to be my first job abroad and I chose Thailand initially to escape from the depressing English winter. My plan was to gain experience in Thailand for one year before moving on to pastures new, but 10 years later, and I'm still here, and still working for King's College of English, Thailand.

So how did I go about getting this job? Well, actually it was quite easy. I answered an advertisement in the Education section of the Guardian, went for a brief interview with John Hudson in Beckenham, and 3 weeks later I was on my way to Thailand. To get a permanent teaching job with a school like Kings College, you must have a Bachelor's degree (any discipline) plus a 4-week CELTA or Trinity College TEFL certificate or a similar 120 – hour course. John Hudson is still our UK representative and I believe the adverts are still appearing in the Guardian.

Pay starts at 34,000 baht a month, which is about 680 pounds, which doesn't sound like a lot at first, but it is 2- 3 times what the Thai staff are paid, and when you consider that the average monthly rent is just 7,000 baht, and food and travel is very cheap, it works out O.K. And work is not too demanding, just 112 contact hours a month maximum. During the week, I usually have to work just 2 -4 hours a day, although Saturdays and Sundays are busier. The classes are small, maximum twelve students, and often one-to-one, 2 hours long, teaching Thai students with an age range of 5 years old to adult, with some business classes or exam tuition.

As for Bangkok, well, there are good and bad points. Firstly, the bad. The traffic jams. Everything they say about Bangkok traffic is true, and if I have all the time I've spent in traffic jams returned to me on my death bed, I will live to be 120 at least. I get round this by using the very good Skytrain and underground train services, or cycling, though riding a bike here is not for the faint-hearted. There is also the rainy season, which lasts from May to November, when there is a downpour nearly every day. On the other hand, there is the great food, the cheaper cost of living, the beautiful beaches which you can visit on your weekend, the great weather and the warm and friendly people.

So why have I stayed so long? Well, to be honest, I am the exception rather than the rule. For most teachers, who are aged mostly 20 – 30, this is one of their first jobs after leaving university, and they work here for 1 – 2 years before moving on to another country, such as Hong Kong, Japan, South America, or even Russia and the increasingly popular Korea or Vietnam. Quite a significant proportion of teachers decide on teaching as a career and return to the UK to do a PGCE. For teachers like me, who are a little older and for whom perhaps the wanderlust is dwindling, the usual next step is to get a job with the British Council or an International School, with more responsibility and longer hours but higher pay and longer holidays. But for the young teacher arriving here perhaps for the first time working abroad, the best thing about teaching in Thailand is not only the enjoyable and rewarding classes, but also the great social life, as most teachers, who are mostly British and American, stay in the same apartment block, and go out a lot together. So while a year in a strange country might seem a little daunting at first, you will very soon find yourself at the end of a year's contract, scratching your head and thinking, where to next? Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a tropical Christmas party to organise." 

David Wolf ADOS King's College of English, Thailand Chaeng Wattana branch.

 
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