Teaching Certification


Teaching overseas is the best way to combine great working conditions with living an exotic lifestyle. But it’s not without pitfalls for the unwary. I’m going to share a little story with you about how an experienced international teacher ended up having a really, really bad couple of days…
When you are getting ready to move overseas, you will definitely want to take a very close look at what kind of visa you need to get. Moving your teaching career abroad isn’t the same as going on holiday. You are not entering the country for tourism purposes, and most countries distinguish between tourism visas and, well, non-tourism visas!

You many need to get a non-immigrant visa, or a business visa or a working visa… there are many names and number designations that are country specific. For example, teachers who are moving to the United Kingdom require a working visa (or a working holiday visa if they’re under 30) but I needed a non-Immigrant B visa to enter Thailand to take up my post here.

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What kind of stuff do you teach at CMU? I teach English language skills - grammar, reading comprehension, listening, and writing, to all the university students who are non-English majors (the English majors are in a separate program). I have students from engineering, general science, biology, foreign languages, accounting, and many other disciplines.
English classes are required for all science and humanities students. These classes cover the first two years of study. As many as 1500 students may be enrolled in a particular English class during a semester. That means that there are probably about fifty or sixty sections being taught by twenty or twenty-five ajaans, each with two or three sections. Some of the lessons involve listening to a tape, and on certain days you can hear the same lesson reverberating through the hallways, as different classrooms play the same tape at the same time, but not quite in synch with each other. Or, you may hear a humanities tape and a science tape mixed together in the air. Charles Ives would have been proud.

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How many classes do you teach, and how big are they? At CMU, I usually teach five classes per semester, which means five classroom hours a day, three days a week. Usually I have two or three sections of the same class, which means if I have a good lesson plan for one section, I can use it over again in the later sections of the same class. On the other hand, sometimes I have a terrible lesson (it happens) in the morning class, and later I improve on it. Or, sometimes I have a plan that works really well in the early going, but by afternoon all that magic has somehow gotten out of focus like the previous night’s dream. Lesson planning is not a static thing; it’s very organic.
My classes at CMU usually contain from twenty-five to thirty-five students. Once, by some twist of fate, I got a class of only thirteen students, but that’s very rare.

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Okay! School vacation’s over! Ready to go back to class? No?? Don’t worry, I won’t make you work too hard or stand up in front of the class… unless you want to, of course. But if you’ll just follow me, I’ll show you where I work.

What kind of job do you have? I teach English at Chiang Mai University, known in northern Thailand as maw-chaw. (Maw-chaw is the initials for the university in Thai.) I got the job when I first came to Chiang Mai a year ago, and so far they seem to like me. I get paid by the hour, and I teach 15 hours a week. I don’t make a lot of money, but it’s enough to get by if I budget myself and don’t go hog-wild on weekends. Most farang ajaans at CMU have a second job, and so do I. My second job is at a Catholic high school for girls. Between the two jobs, the money I make is pretty good.

What is an ajaan? An ajaan is a college teacher, a professor. It’s a title of respect. When I go out on the town, people who know me often call me ajaan John. It means they think I’m a really swell guy. I kind of like it.

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The Best Teaching Jobs in Thailand

Opportunities for the Experienced English Teacher

Whilst teachers without a degree or EFL certification may be able to find work in a few Thai government schools and private language institutes, an experienced and highly qualified teacher has far more options available.

The highest salaries can be found by teaching in Thailand’s many upmarket international schools. While most are based in Bangkok, more are opening up in other provinces such as Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya. These schools provide teachers not only with a good salary but teacher accommodation and opportunities for self development too. Most schools detail their recruitment packages on their respecive websites. The Thai Ministry of Education provides a detailed list of international schools and their contact information.

Teaching in Thai International Schools

In international schools and bilingual programs students are not necessarily Thai. They may be children of an expatriate couple or from a mixed marriage between a Thai and ‘farang’- the Thai word for foreigner.

Working in such a cosmopolitan atmosphere is both motivating and rewarding. Students study with many other nationalities, using English as their medium of communication, a common third language to facilitate conversation between each other, be it Thai and Swede, French and German, Korean and Japanese. Consequently, their learning curve is much shorter as they immerse themselves in English, both for social and academic purposes.

International Schools also offer the teacher structure and support. They have the best teaching facilities and employ non-teaching staff to provide assistance to both students and teachers. Most schools are based on the British Curriculum, such as Dulwich International College or St John’s International School. Others follow the International Baccalaureate, Australian or American system.

Other benefits include long holidays and many schools offer a flight allowance and relocation assistance, a rare commodity in Thailand. International school teaching vacancies listed on the job database at ajarn.com, (Thailand’s foremost source of teacher recruitment) show the range of benefits available, with salaries levels quoted at around 60,000 baht per month ($1900) for a qualified and experienced teacher. This is considerably more than the average English teacher’s salary in a government high school or private language institute, who advertise their salaries at 30,000 - 35,000 Baht per month.

An additional bonus is that job opportunities are often advertised in Educational publications outside of Thailand such as the Times Education Supplement (TES) and the Education Guardian, a supplement of the British based Guardian newspaper (online versions are available). This is unusual, as most Thai schools insist on a face-to-face interview and therefore tend to advertise locally.

Teaching in Thailand’s Hotels and Tourist Resorts

Don’t overlook the advantages of teaching in the private sector. Some of the best teaching positions are to be had in the major hotel chains in Bangkok and the main tourist resorts. The Marriot Group, The Hilton and Six Senses Resorts are just a few of the hotels which are likely to employ their own English language trainers.

Salaries are usually around 40,000 baht per month but are topped up with a guaranteed monthly gratuity (a share of the tips) and a food and beverage allowance for use within the hotel’s restaurants.

Students (hotel employees) are adults and are often highly motivated, eager to apply what they have learnt in the classroom to their job. Planning lessons and writing materials are also easier for the teacher as employees share a common background and similar work ethic. It is therefore much easier to provide examples in a specific work context, whether it be a vocabulary lesson, visiting a guest room to identify the items in it, or use of the hotel menu to learn how to take food orders in English and describe dishes to guests.

Whilst the contracted holiday allowance is not as attractive as in International Schools, the paperwork and record keeping is considerably less, avoiding the time consuming completion of a mountain of attendance sheets, student reports, school lesson plans and teaching records, currently required by the Thailand Ministry of Education.

Bear in mind that hotels do not always advertise their vacancies, as often potential applicants enquire ‘on spec’. Sending a resume, references and copies of your qualifications to the relevant Personnel department will enable your details to be kept on file.

Where to Find a Job

In addition to the teaching vacancies advertised on ajarn.com, look in the local, regional newspapers for jobs in the main tourist areas. Thailand’s most popular English language daily, The Bangkok Post, regularly features teaching positions in its classifieds section and publishes an Educational Supplement (The Learning Post) every Tuesday. Local teaching websites are another good source of job hunting.

Good Luck!

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