I was thinking about going abroad for a while but needed to have an income whilst away. I had heard about Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) before but never had the courage to pursue it. After many hours of research both on the net and through calls, I finally decided on the TEFL Org UK course. Why? Because not only did their curriculum seem comprehensive, but also because on speaking with them I felt they seemed to place more importance/care on people than turnover. Richard Dunn, one of the London trainers, was who I was trained by. His funny stories helped calm class concerns and his ability to teach in a way that’s attention-grabbing, easy-going yet professional, directed yet humorous, is exceptional. The entire class was in admiration of the way in which he taught. His years of experience both teaching English abroad and training prospects here were very apparent. All in all the course was very informative, insightful, fun and inspirational.
I got my teaching job from actually travelling to Thailand and it was apparent once there that most schools are more likely to hire if they see you in person. Initially, I spent much time emailing CVs out with no success (so it’s wise to take enough money to last you 2 to 3 months). The advice of some employed Western teachers I met there hired a scooter/scooter taxi driver, visit all the schools in the area, meet with the people who hire and leave your CV and photo attached. Appearance to Thai employers is a huge too – so ensure you look smart, clean and professional, and basically, they were right – I did get my job in person – not online! Hooray!
The experience…initially I found it daunting. It was at a private expat school for Russian children, but still, I was initially nervous. However, I had a lot of support from teachers out there in lesson planning, what works and what doesn’t. Through the sheer act of teaching/practising 5 days a week I found I figured things out for myself too through simple experimentation and observation. Teaching so often, you also become aware of how you are most effective and the type of teacher you are. Once you understand this it’s easier to work with because you know what your strengths are and can work towards these.
Living and working in Thailand is very different from the UK as you can imagine. Things are very laid back and easy going there so it’s important not to get caught up if students are late (though this doesn’t mean you can be!) or the school staff don’t find the same things as important as you do. The best way is just go with the flow of what’s happening even though in your head you may be thinking ‘this is absurd – this / we would never do it this way in England!” And we probably wouldn’t but remind yourself that you are now in Thailand and things work in the Thai way, not our way! Once you ‘get’ the culture and give up the need to control, have things done efficiently or effectively – which is how we are programmed in the West – it’s actually a really peaceful way to be and in some senses contains more wisdom than the Western way. It is Thai culture never to show anger or upset – no matter what. Though not apparent (Obviously! From what’s just been said) they do not take kindly to anger or criticism as there culture is based on peacefulness. Their language is a beautiful one, once you get to know it, and their way is the way of the flow of life rather than deadlines, targets or sales figures!
Practically, hiring a scooter is the best way to get around in Phuket. It’s much less costly than a taxi or a scooter taxi driver; just always wear a helmet (although most don’t – though also Westerners are more susceptible to being fined 100 baht for not doing so) and ensure you refrain from drink driving or getting on a scooter with someone who is. It may sound obvious right now but I knew many people who got into serious accidents because of the latter – thankfully those were the ones who were wearing a helmet so lived to tell the tale, unlike the many I heard about who didn’t. Traffic accidents are highly common there as is death by this too. But if you are respectful of the dangers, careful and smart there’s not too much too worry about. Housing is pretty easy to find in Phuket it just depends on your budget. It varies from 5,000 Baht a month for a room to 30,000 for a huge big house – which usually would be a house share with other teachers. Western food is easily available but more pricey – if you want to budget then you can cook your own meals – yes they have a Tesco there! Tesco Lotus in actual fact – with the Clubcard and everything except lemons! 🙂 Or you can simply have Thai food which is very inexpensive and yummy! Just to give you an idea – a salad bowl from the western style pizza place costs 99 baht yet a plate of chicken rice (slices of chicken, half an egg, spring onion, tomato, cucumber, rice, 2 sauces and chicken broth) costs a mere 30 baht (less than £1!).
Life of luxury…massages range from 150 baht ((£3/hr), horse riding starts at 300 baht (£6/hr), yoga is about the same as UK prices 350 baht (£7/1.5hrs) and the beautiful beaches are FREE!
So, if you want life in paradise, are happy to learn and adapt to another culture/way of life (or you will hate it!) & want to get experience teaching / make a difference, then head abroad…to Thailand maybe! 🙂
One last bit of advice…ensure you sync your arrival with the countries school term time so you arrive when they are looking for teachers rather than when they just finished hiring! Good luck! 🙂