I was talking to the head of the English department this week and he mentioned that many of the Thai teachers, especially those just starting out, earn just 15,000 baht a month (~$500), a third of what I earn, so I can’t expect that to be buddy buddy with me went there is such a large disparity. And this is at a private school, I can only imagine what a public school teacher’s salary is. I realize Bangkok’s cost of living is much lower then what it is in the States, even so it can’t be ideal to live on what these teachers are living on. And this doesn’t even include me mentioning the minimum wage of 300-350 Baht a day ($10-$12), something that a 7-Eleven worker can expect to see which is about 10k ($500) a month. Hard to imagine affording your own place on that, plus I hear these minimum wage workers work 12-hour shifts.
During school this week, I gave one of my M3B students a good scolding in front of the Thai teachers. He had the f-bomb written on the back of his phone. I found this completely unacceptable, especially in a school that consists mostly of elementary age students. By the way this student glared at me followed by throwing a tantrum afterwards, it doesn’t seem like he’s used to being told off. As this was occurring, it looked to me based on body language that one of the Thai teachers was comforting him at the same time. It seems these local teachers like to make excuses for the misbehavior of students. The incident led to a meeting between the students in M3B, Thai teachers, the head of the English department, the school principal and I.
No complaints were raised against me, it was primarily focused on the students’ behavior. It seems to have had some effect during the next class. Whether this will last though remains to be seen. It’s difficult trying to make a lasting impact on them as a foreign teacher, with a language barrier, my inexperience and beating them at such a advanced grade. Many of them go to somewhere else for school next year for M4 and probably already have one foot out the door. Even so, I’m up to the challenge of getting results from this group.
I also went to a language exchange yesterday to pick up some commands to use on my students. I’ve found using their native tongue adds a shock value that gets their attention. I got what I was looking for, at the same time I met an International School teacher. He told me how much more the salary is. This all makes sense but at the same time I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a student that went to an International School several months back. She seemed very privileged. I noticed that moving from government, to private, to international gradually increases pay but the work seems less rewarding and I’d feel like I was making less and less of an impact. Enacting change and giving more than I take is part of the reason why I left my accounting position in Reno.
Kingston S. Lim
August 12, 2019