If you’re like anything like I was, then you’re probably sitting there thinking of ways to live and work in Thailand legally. Or maybe you’ve come here on vacation and want to stay longer. Maybe you’re sitting at home thinking Thailand would be a great country to explore.
There’s a common view here in Thailand among my teacher- and non-teacher friends: Teaching English is the easiest way to get started in Thailand, regardless of the line of work you are currently in. If teaching isn’t your first choice and you’d prefer to put your business degree to use in a marketing department, without prior Thailand working experience, it can be hard to land a job in Bangkok.
The exception being teaching. I have friends who taught English and then opened their own businesses (like Sky Robert Penderis, one of the founders of PlayLab). I have friends who started as teachers and went on to become managers for multinational corporations (like Travis Byrd, strategic recruiter at Agoda). Even I got started as a teacher—just to feel things out—but have since moved on to other work.
While teaching English is one of the easiest ways for foreigners to find work in Thailand, there are still some requirements you want to look into completing in order to pave that path for yourself. One being a TEFL degree. But whatever you do—take a TEFL course in Thailand.
All TEFLs Are Not Created Equally
I made the mistake of taking an online TEFL course before I moved to Thailand. I thought it would give me a head start once I got here. But quite the opposite happened.
First, the online TEFL was a 100-hour course. When I got to Thailand I learned most schools in Bangkok hired only teachers with a 120-hour TEFL certificate. Second, the online course did nothing to prepare me for the classroom.
My first teaching job in Thailand, I worked at a language center in a mall in Bangna. They needed a substitute for one of their classes. I happened to hand in my resume the same day. They accepted my 100-hour TEFL, but my 100-hour TEFL failed me.
My first class went over with ease; a one-on-one with a young lady—an event planner—from a popular hotel chain. She wanted to talk and have me refine her accent as we went along.
This ESL teaching thing is easy,” I thought.
My second class, though, went terrible. I had to teach 12 four and five year olds. Up until then, I had experience with my six month old daughter—that’s it. I wanted to teach adults. But I thought I’d impress the owner of the language school by taking the job. And I thought I’d gain classroom experience.
I started class like I thought every teacher starts class—by singing the alphabet. And to my surprise it worked. The kids sang along, waved their hands, and giggled. But after the song ended, they grew restless. Some boys left their chairs, peeled from the classroom floor the foam letters, and began knocking each other over the head with them.
The shy kids crawled under their desks. One girl ran up to me and wrapped her arms around my leg.
I love you,” she said.
And then she started to cry. I looked up at the clock. An hour and fifteen minutes remained in class.
Now, this wouldn’t have bothered me if the classroom was built of bricks. But at language centers, most classrooms have glass walls; parents like to make sure the teacher gives their children attention.
So, since parents witnessed my meltdown, it only added to my demise.
That night I went home feeling like a tornado scooped me up, spun me around, and dropped me on my head. I vowed never to teach kids again. But I also learned my 100-hour online TEFL was insufficient. I scoured the Internet for reputable 120-hour TEFL courses. That’s when I found Text-And-Talk Academy.
Text-And-Talk Academy in Bangkok
I decided to go to Text-And-Talk because they’re a few schools I know that is accredited by the Thai Ministry of Education. More importantly, they’ve been teaching TEFL courses for seventeen years. And James Parmalee, the guy who runs the academy, has been teaching much longer than that—forty years to be exact. Also, most forums I checked and most independent reviews I read had positive feedback.
But to get to Text-And-Talk I had to take a ten minute taxi ride to BTS Bearring, ride the BTS all the way to Mo Chit, then take a bus from BTS Mo Chit to the academy. About an hour-and-a-half travel each way.
But I knew, from what I’ve read, the sacrifice in travel-time would pay off. So I went to Text-And-Talk, enrolled in the TEFL course, and went home with a set of books that would become like my Bible for teaching English. James even took $400 off the course price because I had a 100-hour TEFL.
I told the language school I was working for about my dilemma, and they let me teach adults until I finished my TEFL.
The Text-And-Talk TEFL Course
The TEFL course was six weeks long, a reason I picked to enroll. Other courses were four weeks long and crammed a lot of theory into those four weeks. But James spread his course over six weeks, which gave me time to ease into my studies.
From Monday to Thursday I went to Text-And-Talk school for six hours a day. Although, you spend most of that time in activity-based learning. So you’re getting up out of your chair and working with other students. I was unaware of it, but getting in front of class was preparing me for life as a teacher.
The first two weeks of the TEFL course we learned about teaching language and the dos and don’ts of the Thai classroom. And at the end of the first two weeks we gave a fifteen minute practice presentation to our classmates. Shaking the nerves off with everyone from the class gave us many laughs. We shared the same fears about public speaking, but trouncing them together bonded us.
The next two weeks of the course we put to use all we learned. For two days a night we practiced teaching at an insurance company near the academy. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “John, I’ve never taught a day in my life. Now I gotta teach a bunch of managers at an insurance company?”
Relax. I felt the same way. But when I got to the insurance company relief calmed my nerves. Despite their corporate statuses, the students were more nervous than me. They spoke in one- or two-word sentences. But only if I talked to them first. When I used the methods of Text-And-Talk though, the students opened up and we had a great time. Teaching for those two weeks alone tremendously boosted my confidence. And the feedback I got from the experienced teacher who sat in on my class was a game changer.
The last two weeks of the course, we taught kids and teens at the Text-And-Talk school. You probably guessed what happened, right? I had flashbacks of my kids class at the language center. But to my surprise, when I followed the teaching method I learned at Text-And-Talk, class went smooth and we had a great time.
Is a TEFL All You Need?
You’re might be wondering if all you need is a TEFL to teach English in Thailand. Since you’re looking for work in Bangkok, I’m assuming you have a degree. And between your degree and a 120-hour TEFL, that’s all you need. And what’s even better—you can have a degree in any field. So if you want to go on to use your IT degree, go ahead. As long as it’s from an official school, you can teach in Thailand.
Even though I have a BA in English, I learned all the ESL teaching methods through the TEFL course. And they even have a short lesson on grammar to refresh your memory. But thinking too much about grammar will drive you crazy. As ESL teachers we’re not the grammar police. Most of what I’ve learned about grammar came on the job. Each time you prepare for a lesson, the book gives you the grammar point.
And if any TEFL course promises to turn you into a grammarian, look elsewhere. Teaching English in Thailand demands more than a deep understanding of grammar. And that’s why I loved studying at Text-And-Talk. Because they covered everything about teaching English in Thailand.
We learned not only how to teach English, but more importantly, how to teach English to Thais. And knowing the Thai psyche alone has helped in many areas of life in Thailand. (Remind them to tell you why you should never write a Thai’s name in red on the whiteboard.)
The TEFL Course That Pays For Itself
If the course price deters you, let me explain how I made the money back in one month’s time. I made 8,000 baht a month as a teacher with my 100-hour online TEFL. After I graduated from Text-And-Talk, I went back to the same language center, and upon observation of my new skills and confidence, they gave me more classes. They also gave me a teaching position at a food distribution company in Bangkok. From there, other jobs arose, and I found myself having to turn away work.
Since graduating from Text-And-Talk I’ve worked at multinational corporations in Bangkok, Chonburi, and Samut Prakan. And I’ve picked up a lot of side work teaching adult students from my classes, or teaching their husbands and wives. I went from making 8,000 baht a month to making over 70,000 baht a month. That means my course paid for itself after one month of teaching.
From reading this, you can probably sense teaching adults is my thing. But you can go your own route. Text-And-Talk Academy offered my classmates and me a weekend job after graduating. I went back to the language center, because it was close to my house. But my classmates took the job. Shortly after they went on to find long-term positions in public and private schools.
James gives students a list of every school and contact number in and around Bangkok. So whether you want to teach adults or kids or teens, with some due diligence, it’s possible. James also runs a recruitment program, so he can help you find a job as well.
It’s been almost three years since I’ve graduated from Text-And-Talk, so I can write about these things from a long-term perspective. And if you’re wondering if my feelings about the academy still hold up, let me tell you this: they do.
Transitioning To Other Jobs
Now, do you remember what I said earlier? I was unsure about teaching in Thailand forever. But I thought teaching would help me live and work in Thailand.
Well, the longer I’ve been here—thanks to teaching—the more opportunities come up for other work. I’ve always been the creative type. And even though I brought creativity into the classroom, I knew I wanted to have total creative control over my life and work. Because I have two kids, I wanted to work from home so I could be closer to them.
So I’ve since cut back on my teaching hours and have dedicated more of my time to creative endeavors: writing, editing, and videography. I guess you could say teaching helped me get my foot in the professional workplace in Thailand. And from there I progressed into things I love doing. Not that I hate teaching—I want to do a multitude of things.
I mean, if not for teaching I would’ve never pitched an idea to Karsten to write an article for him about teaching in Thailand. He turned down my proposal because someone else covered the topic. He instead asked me to write an article about having kids in Thailand, as my wife and I just had our second daughter. One thing led to another and then he asked me to join his team as an editor.
My background in Muay Thai has also helped me. I’ve filmed and edited promo videos for Muay Thai companies. I filmed a short documentary piece on a fighter. I’ve even become a fight commentator for Max Muay Thai. So you see, the longer you’re here the more opportunities come up.
And if you like tech, there’s a whole list of tech positions open here in Thailand. But you need to get here first. And you need experience working in Thailand. Teaching English gives you that experience. And it gives you the time to make important connections.
Although I’ve stopped teaching full-time, I can’t imagine my life today without my start as a teacher and without the help of everyone at Text-And-Talk Academy.
If you’re interested in enrolling at Text & Talk Academy, check out their website. And when you enroll, mention Thailand Starter Kit and you’ll get $100 off your TEFL course.
They have two courses left in 2017, one starting on October 2nd, and the other starting on November 13th. Reserve your spot today.
In early 2017, I was saddened to hear that James had past away. His son, Ben, took over his role at Text-and-Talk. I’d like to send Ben and his family my condolences.
Good luck. And if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I’ll answer them.