Welcome back to our awesome interview series, ESL Around the World. If you’ve been thinking about teaching English abroad, this interview series was made just for you. Today we’re going to find out what it’s like teaching English in Thailand. Every interview is about a specific place, meant to give you all the information you could possibly need to know.
Marilyn is from New York in the United States.
She has lived in seven countries (and traveled to a whopping 36 in total!), teaching English as her way of income. She’s taught English in Thailand, South Korea, and Vietnam. After just a few weeks in Vietnam, she moved on to teaching English online.
These days, Marilyn is enjoying the digital nomad lifestyle.
She writes inspiring and quirky stories from her adventures over on her blog – Her Quirky Journey. You should most definitely check it out! I’ve almost spit water on my computer from laughing while reading her stories.
Now, on with the interview!
Teaching English in Thailand
Where did you teach and what was your position?
I taught in Chonburi, Thailand, which is about an hour and a half drive southeast of Bangkok. I taught fourth-grade students. We taught from the beginning of November 2014 to the end of March 2015.
What were the necessary qualifications to teach in Thailand?
For my job in a private elementary school, I needed a Bachelor’s Degree. That was it!
What were the hours and pay like?
I was paid just about $900 per month. Although that may seem low, it worked perfectly for Thailand! I earned more than a lot of the Thai teachers there.
I was in school from 8 AM to 4 PM Monday through Friday, but I only taught between one and three 40 minute classes per day! The rest of the time, I was able to sit at my desk and relax.
What was a typical day like?
I’d arrive at the school at 7:30 AM for the first class. I also had the option to have a free breakfast at the school a little before then, so sometimes I’d go to school earlier for that.
Throughout the week, I taught some of the typical subjects, in English (of course): English class, Science, Math, P.E., and Reading. However, I’d only teach 1-3 classes per day. I’d teach English once every day, P.E. twice per week, and Science, Math, and Reading once per week. Since I only taught 1-3 classes per day, I had a lot of downtime!
I spent a lot of my time playing on my computer or phone, reading, or grading homework/tests. I also got an hour lunch break in the middle of the day, where I had two options: either eat the somewhat nasty food at the school or spend a dollar on an amazing lunch at the restaurant on the corner. Most of the time, I chose the latter.
After the last class of the day, I went back to my apartment.
What were the pros and cons of your job?
PROS: I had lots of time to relax, as I mentioned. We also had the freedom to teach what I wanted and how I wanted, which was fantastic. My apartment was only a 10-minute walk from the school.
The agency I went through helped me get my work visa and helped with anything I needed. Each semester was only about four months long and we had a good amount of random holidays. I had the weekends off to explore and relax. There were also other foreign teachers in the school to spend time with, bounce ideas off of, etc.
I learned a lot about Thai culture and can still count to 30 in Thai. I left the country in April 2015! The students were all super cute and curious about my life. I still talk to a couple of them via social networking to this day!
CONS: The pay was quite low compared to other places, like South Korea and China, for example.
I was in control of 30 students each and they often acted up because they didn’t listen to me. The students in Thailand often don’t take English teachers seriously as they know we are generally more relaxed in temperament.
So, they would often take advantage of that. It was hard to control them. The Thai teachers weren’t fans of me because I made more money than they did, so they never really helped me when I needed it.
What’s the best way to find a teaching job in Thailand?
I would recommend using Dave’s ESL Cafe. It’s an enormous job board of schools/agencies looking for ESL teachers around the world.
For our job in Thailand, I found it last minute on Craigslist. But, it worked out for me, so if you happen to be desperate like I was, try there! You can even just Google “ESL jobs in Thailand” and lots of opportunities will pop up!
Why did you choose to live and teach in Thailand? What did you like and dislike about it?
After college, I wanted to travel the world. I was young and broke, but wanted to go to a place that was completely different from anything I’d ever known. That, and I needed a place that was affordable. Thailand hit everything I wanted, even with a bonus of fantastic weather!
I liked so much about teaching in Thailand! I loved Thai weather, food, nature, and culture. It was an extraordinary place! I really did enjoy my students, the entire task of teaching the English language, living and working in a new country, and just overall doing something different and exciting with my life.
I didn’t particularly enjoy the job very much. Even though it may have sounded easy, it was still a job and, therefore, often aggravating. The pay was quite low, as I mentioned earlier.
I was also bummed that my apartment didn’t have a kitchen or any appliances, so I had to eat out for all of my meals (then again, Thai food is so delicious and cheap, so maybe that wasn’t exactly a negative!).
What was the cost of living like compared to your earnings? Were you able to save money?
The cost of living is extremely low in Thailand.
Even though I only made $900 per month, I made it by comfortably. My rent was about $70 per month (I lived in a small, hotel-style room) and a good meal cost about $1-3. Traveling, in general, was also dirt cheap! So, I was able to save a good chunk of my earnings!
Had you taught in another city or country before?
Before going to Thailand, no. I was fresh out of college then.
However, a few months after Thailand, I did teach in South Korea. The job I had was so drastically different! In Korea, I was paid about $1,700, my room was free, I had much smaller classroom sizes (3-10 students!), my airfare was paid for, and I only taught English, not other subjects.
In that regard, that job had my job in Thailand beat.
However, my boss in Korea made the job impossible to enjoy or even tolerate. She was very demanding and rude and she expected the world from me. I often worked 1PM-9PM with no breaks. It was exhausting.
In Thailand, it was far more laid back and my bosses were never “on me” about most things. I actually enjoyed my bosses in Thailand!
What advice do you have for people considering moving abroad to teach English?
My advice is to do your research if you’re serious about teaching English abroad. You can teach in many different kinds of schools or learning centers based on your experience/background.
You could work in public schools, private schools, international schools, and even universities! There are tons and tons of options out there for just about anyone!
Make sure to do your research is my main advice, but also make sure that when you find a job or jobs, ask a lot of questions! It will make you feel better about your decision in the long run.
That, and research the school/learning center you’re leaning towards. Then, when it all sounds good (or, at least decent), then just do it!
Start on the paperwork, get all of your visa nonsense done, book that flight, and go! It was the single greatest decision I have ever made – pros, cons, and all.
There you have it! Sounds like teaching English in Thailand is a pretty laid-back experience! It definitely just got bumped to the top of my list of places to live when I get tired of doing the digital nomad thing. Southeast Asia is still my favorite part of the world (that I’ve been to).
Teaching English in Thailand is a great idea not only because it’s so laid back, but because there are so many amazing places to travel to during your holiday time. If you ever need any info about traveling in Thailand, we’ve got posts on how to spend 3 days in Bangkok, a guide to the Full Moon Party on Ko Phangan, how to ride the Mae Hong Son Loop, things to do in the hippie mecca of Thailand, and Chiang Mai.
Although you don’t need one for the teaching job that Marilyn had, it’s still a good idea to get a TEFL certificate. Not only will it help you find a job, but it will also teach you classroom management, how to plan a lesson, be entertaining while teaching, and help you teach with confidence. Read more about the different types of teaching certificates here.
We got our TEFL certificates with BridgeTEFL and would highly recommend them. They provide a stellar course and will pair you with an online mentor to grade your assignments and help you as you progress. Click here to learn more about BridgeTEFL and the costs of their courses.
If you’re on a tighter budget, we recommend myTEFL as the budget-friendly option. You can save 35% off their full 120-hour Master TEFL Course by using the code gypsies35.
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Stay tuned for the next interview in our ESL Around the World series!
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