After my TEFL course in Hatyai, I decided there was nothing else there for me. So I decided to move to Bangkok. One of the ladies who did the course with me had an apartment in Bangkok and she kindly offered me a place to stay while I looked for a job. The TEFL school got me an agent in Bangkok. I was scarcely there a day when she told me she had an interview lined up for me. I was over the moon!
Due to the fact that I was unfamiliar with the transportation system, I was late by 3 hours. I was terribly frustrated and embarrassed. However when I got to the school where the interview would take place, everyone was laid back and my agent kept saying “mai bpen rai” which means no worries or never mind. I was relieved, until the school supervisor, who was the ‘power that be’ as far as hiring new teachers was concerned, arrived. He took one look at me and said something to my agent in Thai. I could tell from his body language that it wasn’t good. The agent translated what he had informed her that they didn’t like to hire black teachers. I was dumbfounded and discouraged. I’d been warned about this but I’d chosen to stay positive. I had a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate and I had read of black teachers in Thailand who had made a success of it. But at that moment, my hopes came tumbling down.
To my surprise, I heard from them the following day. They wanted to put me on probation. Having no other alternatives, I decided to eat humble pie and go back. Only a handful of the foreign teachers were friendly. I later found out that due to the high turnover rate, nobody wanted to invest their emotions in someone who might leave soon anyway. The Thai teachers were polite but somewhat distant and cold. I later found out that they earned very little compared to the foreign teachers, but they did the most work. I came to understand their resentment.
I found the course books way too advanced for the levels I taught. It didn’t make sense to teach difficult subjects like science in English, when the students didn’t even know how to have a basic conversation in English in the first place. I thought the exams were a joke. We were allowed to ‘help’ the students during exams.
The teachers had to adhere to some very strict rules, especially when it came to dress and grooming. One day I found myself being severely reprimanded for wearing a blouse that covered my shoulders but not my arms. It was as if I had been dressed like a harlot! We got slapped with a fine for arriving to school 5 minutes late, for forgetting to sign in upon arrival at school, not grading the books timeously and for dressing ‘appropriately’. The worst is that you were somehow expected to just know these rules without being told about them beforehand. I know I’ve painted a very negative picture of the school, so I’d like to tell you about some of the positives.
Once the Thai teachers got to know me, they actually started liking me and some even said flattering things to the supervisor about me. I started making friends with the foreign teachers too. The majority of the students were lovely , they were a real pleasure to teach. They made me smile every single day. The school offered free lunch to the students as well as the teachers. The students were extremely generous, I remember before the December break, all the teachers received presents from the students. I had so many presents that I had to hire a taxi to go home. We got paid for not working during the holidays, provided you had worked there long enough. So I actually started making the best of the situation and loving my job.
Soon after, I started enquiring about getting a work permit. They started giving me the run around for two months, and my agent wasn’t helpful at all. In the meantime, my visa was expiring. I kept thinking they would come around, but they didn’t. I was glad when another opportunity came knocking on my door.