Where do I start. So much has changed in such a short time, that it feels like a very long time. Well I guess it is quite a long time having noticed that my last blog post was in March 2013. nearly 3 years. Wow!! I’m now approaching 30. My perception of time has become discombobulated, especially now as I age it seemingly runs away with ever increasing velocity.
Anyhow, forgetting that, here’s a brief update on what I have done over the last 3 years;
After my last post, I finished my Foundation degree with Exeter College with distinction, I then went onto to study the full Bachelor Degree with Plymouth University finishing with a 2:1. My subject of choice altered somewhat from culture to street photography and image manipulation (I will post all of my work from those years onto my blog separately later). I remember vividly the endless days toiling away on my dissertation. I think I didn’t leave my flat for a whole week. Anyway I got a first and I was highly commended for it by my tutor at the time, the highly distinguished Professor David Chandler, and indeed he encouraged me to continue on the following year to do a Masters in research. As he believed I had what it took to become a writer. However I had other plans…
And so having graduated In July ’14, I set into action my plan to emigrate to Thailand. Which had been my dream all along. But to achieve it, I needed my degree (check) and TEFL certificate, which was the next item on the agenda. I enrolled with the TEFL Academy in Exeter in August. Met some lovely people over the course of the brief 2 day classroom experience and then never spoke them since. Then spent the next 3 months finishing the online theory side of the course and with distinction and all the while working in a call centre for selling leads to companies who offer energy saving solutions. I loved my time there to be fair. Lovely people I worked with and they really looked after me. However I told them all along my plans and they accommodated that. In one of the chaps there was even a previous English teacher who lived in Thailand for 8 years and his advice was invaluable. He even bought me a learn Thai for beginners book as a leaving present.
And so by the turn of the new year 2015. Having spent my last Christmas with family living with my Father to help save up cash. I then headed for Thailand in February. Once I arrived I met up with my Ex-girlfriend and stayed with her family for a while. Then I decided to get more classroom experience before landing my first job. So I hopped on board with Insight TEFL in Cha-Am. Myself along with Jay (USA) and Emat (Egypt) the fellow students on my course. I had a wicked time during those 4 weeks. I met a good buddy in Jay who I still talk to and the legendary trainer Andre. I never forget his wisdom and his one liners- “the topic determines the content” all said with a deep South African accent. I remember the time when we had a 2 day weekend cultural excursion to the sleepy fishing village of Prachuap. Of course being Thailand it was anything but sleepy. On our first night we hopped onto what we thought was a generous person offering a free motorbike lift to a nightclub, but ended up being taken to a gay bar. Of course myself and Jay laughed it off and we had the funny memories of us drinking at the bar and thinking it was odd for while before realising where we were.
But enough of that, back to being professional, with these antics aside, the main reason I took the course was that it included actual observed teaching practise and I never forget the shock I was in for. The first day was 6 back-to back 1 hour lessons with just 1 hour lunch in between. I was already exhausted, and then the very next day I had another 6 scheduled with some younger Prathom (primary) level kids at a charity run school. Boy was I not prepared for their level of energy and English capabilities. I over pitched the content on my lessons and quickly lost the classroom. In one grade 2 class a boy hit a girl with a Frisbee and it was sheer pandemonium. Best to say my trainer was not to pleased. He almost took over. However I muddled through it and I remember at the end of the day how relieved but also disappointed in myself at my performance. I also put 110% effort into planning and preparing but I completely failed in my execution on that day. Nevertheless my trainers were encouraging and told me not to give up because of one bad lesson. They also reminded me that it was at the end of the school term the students were basically in holiday mode. That that particular class had a reputation for being raucous and that it is always hard to teach going in cold. Anyway, it all didn’t do enough to dissuade me from my fledging career obviously as I am here now writing this from my office in a Government school in Bangbo. So how did I get here?
Well after finishing my Second TEFL course, having done well in the theory and well enough over the 2 days of observed teaching practise to pass. I moved back in with my girlfriends family and started looking for jobs. By then it was approaching the Thai holiday season of Songkran. So basically everything just shuts down for a month while people celebrate and go wild (please feel free to check my previous posts about that, should you wish to find out more about it, and see plenty of pictures). But before I partied I managed to get an interview with a School and subsequently on my very first attempt I was offered the role and I have been at that school ever since. essential I was due to start after Songkran and sure enough my first day was May 4th.
By the end of April I had hopped the border to Laos and back in order to receive my Non-B visa, met some crazy South Africans along the way, (I don’t know what it is about South African’s there is a huge diaspora of them in Thailand), moved into an apartment in Bangbo and set about preparing myself for the big plunge into a new career. Boy was i in for a surprise. My ex-girlfriend then left to work in Turkey and we subsequently split up. I later met my current girlfriend and are now planning to marry next year. But that’s a story for another time.
So having started teaching in May, I am now 8 months on and still loving it. Sure it hasn’t been easy. In fact I would say it’s the hardest job I’ve ever done and I have had 8 employers to date. However the kids are fantastic and that is what makes it worthwhile. Especially when you see how happy some of them are when you tell them their scores after their exams. But about the job. I don’t want to tell you everything verbatim, I will try to keep it brief as it is a long post already. But the reason its hard is that unlike Schools back home. Here there is no firm curriculum, course outline, syllabus or even set textbooks for most classes. Everything is done off of our own backs, I mean we even write our own exams and grade them. Everything is created out of self developed resources and we are under pressure to deliver quality, grade the students fairly and keep the parents happy. I say the latter because our program is an Elite English program within our school. So the parents pay quite a bit for the students to study on it. Unfortunately that also means that some students take things for granted and are lazy, and/ or disruptive and some are far below the level which would seem appropriate to be studying in a bilingual environment.
But having said all of that these kids are not bad like some back in England, I mean sure some of them like to push it and see what they can get away with and the Mathayom 6 (upper secondary) students are so lazy they are practically asleep, they all have good hearts and genuine respect for the teacher. If you were to meet one outside of school they would all say hi and appreciate you. Furthermore, despite all of this hardship over planning and creating resources, luckily we only teach 16 lessons per week on our program so we have ample time in the office to do this work.
So I have managed to still be here teaching after 8 months, with plenty of highs and lows. we get evaluated twice a year, and this is very nerve racking. I felt mine went atrociously but fortunately I passed the 70% passing rate. Right now the students are all having mid term exams and it allows us foreign teachers to take a well needed break. Well we are still in the office, but no need to teach for a week. Then it’s back to reality and (sua sua) as they say in Thai, which means fighting with a heavy workload.
One funny aspect of this job is we actually get paid with cash in an envelope, literally cash in hand, but then my employer is technically the government of Thailand so I suppose it cannot be underhand or anything like that. I’ve been told that the tax is only valid after the one year of employment and even then when we go to pay the tax its like 1% for under 300,000 baht. Odd that a country which supposedly has cash flow problems should not take tax so seriously.
Anyway besides all of this, outside of work, I’ve taken up running, although its so tropical and humid that I struggle after 3 km. I’m basically drowning in my own sweat.
I have also seen some amazing temples and am always tasting new things that I didn’t believe existed before. It’s always a surprise from day to day. Bangbo itself is a quiet town quite far out from central Bangkok, and it’s mainly habited by factory workers and people who have moved from the poorer provinces, plus plenty of Myanmar, Lao and Cambodian immigrants. But it all makes for a good concoction of culture and good cheap food and great experiences.
So That’s quite a bit for now. I will try to write a post at least once a week from now on. Keep you all updated with life as a teacher. Post all of my photographic work up until now and ultimately keep you all informed with my Thailand experience.
Remember to live everyday as if it was your last. And you can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do. Just do it.