Hello my friends! I have been getting a lot of questions lately about how I’ve gone about teaching English in Thailand, so I have taken on the task to answer them all here. This post is going to be filled with a lot of logistics, but these logistics are going to answer the most asked questions I receive and hopefully by the end I will have convinced you to make the move. 🙂
In order to teach English in Thailand, you need either a bachelor’s degree (for the most part) and a TESOL certification or your teaching license. I have my teaching license from the States so I didn’t need a TESOL, but I got one anyways.
But Bridget, why did you get a TESOL certification even though you already have your teaching degree?
Good question. I had previously taught English for two years in Spain, and during that time I had not a clue what I was doing. So, I decided to take the TESOL course to learn more about how to cater to the ESL learner. Honestly, the course had a lot of information I already knew, but I am glad I took it.
I also saw the TESOL course as a great way to have a base of friends once I got to Thailand. If you are going to take the TESOL course, I recommend taking it in person. If you take it online you do save money, but if you have the money take it in person.
I ended up taking my course in Chiang Mai through Greenheart Travel. Not only did I get to live in one of the most beautiful cities in Thailand for one month, but I got to meet and get to know 30 like-minded individuals. I’m still very close with people that I took the course with, and it’s the main reason why I suggest taking the course even if you have a teaching degree.
Programs/Agencies vs Going on Your Own
I’ve been thinking a lot about this one, because there are definite pros and cons to both going through a program and also going on your own. I came through a program called Greenheart Travel to get here, and through that program we are also fully supported by Xplore Asia. I honestly 110% recommend both of these companies, but I can help you outweigh the pros and cons below.
Going through a program
Pros: 24/7 support. Greenheart Travel and Xplore Asia are readily available 24/7 and I have not once felt that I’ve been left in the dark. I basically just had to buy my plane ticket and the rest was put together for me. I know from personal experience how much goes behind a move abroad, and they made it seem effortless for us.
Cons: You will be forking over a lot of money, and these programs do not include airfare.
On your own
Pros: Costs WAY less money. Good for “seasoned” travelers that have been doing this a while and for friends/couples/families that are coming together. Also much better for people that already hold a teaching degree, because you will be able to apply directly to work in an international school and make a lot more money.
Cons: You are alone. With everything- visas, making sure you have the right documents, getting insurance, setting up a bank account, getting a sim card, finding a school, finding an apartment, finding friends…you get the gist.
So, my choice if I could do it again? Personally, as a “seasoned” traveler and teacher abroad, I would have still chosen to come through a program. Yes, it is expensive, but it has given me so much peace of mind and made my transition here so easy. Also, if I didn’t go through a program I never would have met the friends that I have now.
Ultimately, you know yourself better than anyone else, and if you think you are capable of making the big move on your own, more power to you! If not, a program is definitely the way to go. If you want more advice on this, leave me a comment in the section below. 🙂
From the beaches of Phuket to the rice fields of Isaan, you can be placed anywhere in Thailand and find a job. Thailand has a high demand for English teachers, so you will have no problem in finding a placement and also having a say in where you are placed. I personally chose to be in Bangkok. The beauty of the different placements is that not one teacher has the same story/experience. Below I am including six of my friends that I met through the TESOL program and their blogs so you can see what I mean by all sorts of different experiences!
Riley – “A Year of Mai Pen Rai” – Location: Chaiyaphum
Chiara- “The Road to Everwhere” – Location: Chiang Kham
Katie- “Katie’s Trek“- Location: Utarradit
Angela- “Living Sabai Sabai” – Location: Trang, Trang Province
Melissa and Ashleigh- “Thai Thai For Now” – Location: Ranong
Accommodation can range from living in a one-room apartment in Songkhla with only a bucket shower to living in a sky rise apartment building in Bangkok with your own swimming pool. Really, it all depends on where you’re placed and also the agency you end up going through. Most schools and agencies already will have accommodation sorted for you once you get to your town.
In my case, I had to find my own accommodation. This seemed terrifying at first, but it ending up being the easiest apartment search abroad I’ve ever had. I found my apartment through Rent Hub.
Also an important thing to note is that in Thailand it is not normal to have a kitchen, and your “apartment” will most likely be one room that resembles a hotel room.
To give you an idea, here are some pictures of different types of accommodation you can find here in Thailand.
Location: Minburi, Suburbs of Bangkok (My “apartment”!)
Location: City Center, Bangkok
Salary and Cost of Living
Depending on where you are and where you are placed, your salary will vary. On average, the salary ranges from 30,000-40,000 baht ($855-$1,140 USD) monthly. To us Western folk, this amount of money may seem impossible to live off of (especially considering I was making more for the amount of hours at my minimum wage job), but this is Thailand, not the States.
The cost of living here is almost comical. Like no joke when I say if you come over here with money saved up, you can live like royalty. This is my first time abroad I’ve actually been able to save a little money (key word-little), but I’ve also been traveling and eating out every meal. I’ve broken down expenses and my daily-budget in another post, which you can find here.
School Year and The Working Week
The average school year in Thailand begins in May and ends in March. The major break times are for the month of October, and then March and April for “summer” break. Most schools also give off a day or two for New Years. For me, my school gave us off two weeks in December (December 20th-January 2nd), which was great. Keep in mind that these school breaks are unpaid so many people stick around and teach English camps during this time to make more money.
As for the working week, most schools operate on a 7am-4pm schedule. I work Monday-Friday 7am-4:30pm. Meaning I spend 47.5 hours of my life per week at school. This schedule ain’t no joke my friends. If you come to teach here, you are dedicating most of your time to these kiddos, not traveling. Granted I do know some lucky few that are able to leave earlier and come later, but on average 7am-4pm is the time you will be spending at your school.
The Education System
The Thai School System is broken down into the following:
Kindergarten – Pre-school/Kindergarten Students, 3-6 years old
Prathom – Primary Students, 1st-6th grade, 6-12 years old
Mathayom – Secondary Students, 7th-12th grade, 12-18 years old
I am in a bilingual school and teach 3rd-10th grade, which has proven to be quite the range. I have only previously had experience with secondary students, but have enjoyed the challenge. It’s also great because when you get to Thailand you will have your own classroom. I personally enjoy this, but it has also been one of the most challenging school situations I have dealt with.
What’s the main reason behind this daily-struggle, you ask?
Thailand is based off of a “no-fail” policy. Meaning yes, you do have to pass every one of your students even if they don’t show up to your class. Since there is a no-fail policy, I find it incredibly difficult to do my job at times. Since the kids are not held accountable for anything, it is hard to get them motivated and honestly hard sometimes to get myself motivated to teach them.
BUT all this being said, at one point in the year you will find a place for this. I learned the hard way not to take things personally, and at the end of the day your time here is only temporary, so do the best you can to influence the kids that actually want to be there. By adopting this attitude, my time here has become so much more enjoyable, and I truly love (most of) these kids!
Lesson Plans and Curriculum
I work in a bilingual school that follows the Cambridge exam (the same exact curriculum I had in Spain). Since I follow a set curriculum, I basically just teach from the book everyday. I try to add as much creativity as I can (letting them draw and play “Head’s Up 7-Up” are honest-to-god life savers), but unfortunately I do not have much room for this.
If you work in a public/government school, you will have more freedom with your lesson plans. And by having more freedom I mean you will literally probably be creating your own curriculum and activities. Luckily for you there are THOUSANDS of resources out there. Google and Pinterest will soon become two of your new best friends. Click here for more advice on keeping your head afloat during this process.
Private Lessons and Tutoring
When I was teaching in Spain, private lessons were a must because it was nearly impossible to both travel and life off the salary we were given. Thankfully, unlike Spain, it is not necessary to do private lessons while in Thailand. I only do them because my school requires me to.
There are definite possibilities to do private lessons though, and I know friends that make up to 4200 extra baht a week doing them. The way to get these is by asking around and asking people at your school if they know of any students that need extra tutoring. You can also tutor online, which a few of my friends do. You can find out more about this here!
When I first told my friends and family that I was moving to Thailand, I was immediately met with responses like “you are going to get kidnapped” or “don’t you know about their sex industry?!” I shook my head at their responses then, and I absolutely shake my head reflecting on their reactions now.
I can honestly say that Thailand is the safest country I have ever lived or traveled in. I could leave my laptop out at a café in the middle of Bangkok for 2 hours and I know it would still be there when I got back. I’m not saying you don’t have to be careful, because yes, you do have to be careful. And yes, people’s things do get stolen. But that is the same with anywhere in the world and it should never stop you from coming here.
Another important note is that this safety-factor is highly valued when it comes to teaching here. After growing up and becoming a licensed teacher in the States, I’ve always been trained on how to deal with an intruder or how to react if a student causes a threat to the school. It honestly always felt normal to me, and it was alarming when half-way through teaching here I realized that my experience growing up was probably not normal.
After growing up with this constant safety-awareness, everyday I go to work I truly appreciate the harmony that is within the school. If a kid acts up in class, I don’t have to feel on-edge that something worse could come of it. I don’t have to worry about any of my things being stolen, or any of our student’s things being stolen. Never before have I appreciated feeling so safe in a working environment, and I know it is something I will miss. It is an honest reflection of the people and the culture of Thailand, and their incredibly kind and harmonious society.
So to conclude my friends, if Thailand has been on your radar take the leap and DO IT! My experience here has been such a whirlwind, and through it I have learned so much more about this wonderful world we’re living in. I can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am for this opportunity, and my experience in Thailand will always be one that I cherish.
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