Every Filipino teacher in Thailand can relate. Expectations are far from realities!
When I arrived in Thailand ten years ago, I was loaded with high expectations. Like any overseas worker, I expected my life to turn 180 degrees. I thought less about what work would be like. I focused on the lifestyle that I’d be able to have once I start working abroad.
It was a shortsighted vision. After a month in the kingdom, the excitement started to dwindle and the reality of an overseas worker slapped me hard. Teaching abroad isn’t a fairy tale journey. It was then when I began to formulate my actual expectations on what life would be like.
Here’s a list of the expectations I had as a Filipino teacher in Thailand, and what the reality has been since I arrived. I also include some pieces of advice according to my personal experience while living and teaching in the kingdom.
Finding a Teaching Job in Thailand
Before coming here, I was told that finding a job in Thailand was a piece of cake. There were many schools in need of foreign teachers and with my six-years teaching experience on my sleeve, I won’t have a problem getting one.
The reality was quite the opposite. While it was true that many schools were looking for foreign teachers, Filipinos weren’t considered foreigners. I was a “Khun Philippine (Filipino)” not “Falang (Foreigner)”. Many school heads preferred the Native Speakers (NS) over Non-Native Speakers (NNS) and considered us fill ins or second priority in case they won’t be able to find one.
I don’t call it ‘discrimination’ but a matter of preference. Schools with special programs like “EP (English Program) and IEP (Intensive English Program) collect excessive amount of school fees. This is the reason why parents also demand that their children will have foreign teachers. With foreign, they meant “white skinned” only regardless of whether they aren’t from English speaking countries nor aren’t degree holders.
- Job hunting is one of the toughest ordeals an overseas worker may go through. You will receive a handful of ‘nos’, but just keep pushing. Go as many schools as can be and submit your resume. You’ll get a ‘yes’ in a matter of time.
- If you’re just starting your journey as a Filipino teacher in Thailand, you may start from smaller schools. When you have gained considerable experience and have established rapport with Thai students, you can move to bigger schools which also offer better wage.
Salary of a Filipino Teacher in Thailand
When you think of working abroad you think of high salaries. It is normal for us to expect much better monetary compensation because that is what we’re here for. I had high hopes of being able to save in no time and come home for good.
The salary in Thailand depends on which school one is employed. There are schools that offer at least 18,000 to 25,000 baht while some schools give 30,000 to 40,000 baht salary grade to their Filipino teachers. Still, there are institutions that pay higher than those I’ve previously mentioned. Of course, an applicant’s qualification matters.
My first school here in Thailand offered me a salary of 23,000 baht and was raised into 25,000 after a year. I believe it was a good start. But one of the reasons I left the school was the disparity of my salary and that of a Moroccan teacher who was receiving 30,000 baht for just having a fair skin.
- It is important to know our worth when we apply for work. Yes, we aren’t native speakers of English language so we can’t demand a compensation at par with them, but we have the right to ask for a better offer.
- Please walk away from offers that degrade not only yourself but your profession as well. One of the reasons why the monetary compensation of a Filipino teacher in Thailand keeps decreasing is because many are taking low offers just to survive. In the long run, everybody gets affected especially the newcomers.
The Workload of a Teacher in Thai Schools
I taught in the Philippines for six years before coming here. With the teaching load I had back there, I expected nothing less in Thai schools. I anticipated longer working hours and even demanding schedules. I readied myself with sleepless nights of teaching preparations and lesson planning.
When I signed my contract, my boss told me that I will have a workload of 22 hours for the whole week, but when my class schedule came there were only 18 periods of teaching. It wasn’t what I prepared myself for but ‘who would complain’? I didn’t!
With the 18 periods a week, the maximum hours of teaching in a day was only four hours. There were days when I only had two hours or one. Meanwhile, Thailand has numerous religious holidays and schools always make advance celebrations. When they do, classes are suspended which free teachers from their classes.
- All Thai schools are different. They have different policies when it comes to handling their foreign teachers. My experience might not be the same as other Filipino teachers. This goes to say that Pinoys who are teaching at the universities have different schedules and working hours from Filipino teachers of kindergarten, elementary and high schools. Don’t compare yourself from teachers of other schools.
- My piece of advice if you’re a newcomer is to come for work. Allow yourself to be surprised if you get a lighter load when you get your class timetable.
- When you’re fortunate to have more free time than workload in a day, make yourself more productive and more efficient as a teacher.
Teaching English in Thailand
I have a degree in BSE, major in English so I wasn’t worried about teaching English to Thai students. With my six years of teaching experience I was confident that I’d be able to deliver what was expected of an English teacher. I was also excited that I’d be able to introduce campus journalism to Thai schools.
When I started teaching I realised that when my department head told me to teach basic English, she really meant the ‘most basic’ aspect of the language. I taught Grade 9 and Grade 11 classes and found out that there weren’t apparent distinction between the two levels when it comes to their English language skills.
During the first month of classes, I felt like I was a rock star in school. The students were quite excited to have a new teacher. When I wasn’t the new ‘kid in town’ anymore, I started to have problems with their behaviours in the classroom. I had to change my teaching approaches.
Things were different when I moved to an EP (English Program) school. The students were more exposed to English language so they have a better command at it. Little by little, I introduced to them one of my passions as a teacher – campus journalism. Before I left my second school, I was able to publish a school magazine.
- One of the reasons why I got frustrated during the first few weeks of my ESL teaching career was because I set my standard too high. Thai students are foreign learners of English, so keep the learning fun and easy.
- Be flexible. When your teaching strategy doesn’t seem to engage the students, be ready to flip and modify it to sustain the students’ interest towards you and to the lesson you are teaching.
Wrapping it Up
As you get ready for your venture as a Filipino teacher in Thailand, it is logical to have certain expectations about what life would be like out here. From someone like me who has been there and has done all of that; my advice is for you to keep an open mind.
When you keep yourself open to every possibility, you will be able to adjust easily. Most likely too that you will discover that reality is even better than what you had expected.