Teach Enrich Empower
Tim Fitzgerald - Teaching in Thailand
The TEFL course definitely gave me the confidence I required to make the step I needed. I have to admit I wasn’t sure about going abroad to teach English at first. I’d never fancied myself as a teacher. But then again, I didn’t fancy doing what I was doing either…serving coffees on minimum wage.
After university (studying music) it seemed the options I faced were working in a music company doing monkey admin work (with no pay), or working as a pot washer in a coffee shop. No thanks!
I ended up going back to my summer barista job for a while just to get some money in. It didn’t pay well and was impossible to save anything. I did however manage to scrape together the money needed to do a TEFL course with The TEFL Academy. I was curious about finding out more about this teaching thing. If I was going to do it I realised it had to be now. Besides, there was nothing I needed to do in the UK that couldn’t wait six months.
My 120-hour TEFL course began with 20 hours (over 2 days) in a classroom with other likeminded people followed by 100 hours of online assignments to do in my own time. The two days in the classroom were great as I got to meet people doing the same thing as me. I’d never spoken before with someone who had taught abroad, it always seemed a little mythical to me. In the past people would say it was a cliché to teach abroad but then they had never done it themselves. I then thought to myself: I’m in the UK working in a minimum wage job I dislike… that’s the real cliché.
After the TEFL weekend I decided to sit down and make a plan. I moved in with my mum for three months and started to save a little money temping in an office whilst doing my online work. I utilised my contacts and discovered I knew someone through my Dad who taught in a school in Thailand. I emailed him and he replied suggesting I fly over to interview with his school. I was reluctant to go without getting a job first. But then I realised that if I fail I’d only have get a flight back… no big deal!
I saved enough money and booked a one-way ticket to Thailand!
“The world is too big to stay in the UK forever.”
Two weeks later I had a job in his school. I’m still there now, and it’s great. Most Thai schools require 3 simple things:
1) A university degree (in any subject)
2) A 120-hour TEFL certificate
3) For you to come in smart and fresh looking (obvious, as you’d think but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this).
The TEFL course definitely gave me the confidence I needed to make the step I needed. If you’re interested in teaching in Thailand, here’s what I can tell you about it. It’s crazy cheap to eat here (Thai and western). Food is everywhere and it’s fresh and delicious. There’s no need to cook, unless you want to. I have cooked only once in 18 months! The wages (£600 – £700 per month) go further than I expected. Apartments are also more modern and stylish than I thought too. Even so, rent is so much cheaper and I still have more money left over than I would in the UK. My apartment has a king sized bed, separate bathroom, balcony, wardrobe, desk, TV and fridge. In London it would cost me a fortune. Over here it’s 4200 baht a month (£80) plus about 2000 baht (£40) a month for electricity (depending on how much air con is used). The total: £120 a month. If you have no debts that still leaves over £500 disposable income. Travel is very easy out here; local buses are frequent and very cheap. I decided to buy a motorbike, which as long as you’re careful is a great way to get about most cities. I paid it off over a year and now own it (a new Honda Scoopy; Google it, it’s awesome!). If I want to travel to Bangkok or other towns, a typical coach journey is very cheap too (a four hour air-con coach ride is about £7).
With teaching you typically work 20 – 25 hours a week in a government school with paid holidays. I actually teach 18 hours a week, though it’s often less as classes are sometimes cancelled for whatever reason, which is great for me, more free time! The experience of teaching is also cool. Thai students have more respect for teachers out here. I enjoy teaching older students (14yrs to adult) but as a qualified TEFL teacher looking for work independently you can decide if you want to apply for a first school or a high school. For me, teaching English can just be about something you find interesting. The fact it is taught in English is the main thing. For example, if you want to teach the class why Steve Jobs is great, you can do that. Having a TEFL just teaches you how to do that well.
In the UK teachers constantly battles egos, the national curriculum and continuous marking. In Thailand you are more like your own boss and the students aren’t egotistical. I don’t spend countless hours on class plans either as I thought I would. The world is too big to stay in the UK forever. I have been in Thailand for 18 months now and I still plan to work another six more months before seeing what my options are. Right now, I feel I could go anywhere and I know I haven’t missed anything in England that was that important.
If you are wondering about whether a TEFL course is worth doing, I would say it’s one of the best things you can do for the small amount of money it costs. And it can always be used in the future if you ever plan to travel and need to make money or gain an experience. If you’re looking for a long break and need to sustain yourself abroad you’ll definitely benefit from doing the course and getting the knowledge you need to be able to teach in a way that’s fun for you and the students. Teaching is not such an intense thing either; it’s just the sharing of knowledge and expression of opinions. You will have more time to do things you want to do in life if you teach, particularly in South-East Asia.
I hope reading this has been informative to anyone looking into doing this. Thanks, and good luck.
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