Teaching in Thailand- "the good, the bad and the ugly..my story"
By Tirina Simons
One of the biggest online marketing campaigns now is teaching abroad. And Thailand is a major player. As Thailand and other non-western countries seek to raise the level of English amongst their native people, the internet is flooded with ads promising "an experience of a lifetime", complete with long stay visas and accommodation to boot. As people seek fulfillment and change, these offers are quite tempting. But wherever you go, you can’t escape the fact that there will be good experiences and bad ones. This is my story...the good, the bad and the ugly.
Although I was not drawn to Thailand or Pattaya to be a teacher, I did decide to teach out of a love for the profession (oh yeah, and for income). I first taught within the Pattaya City School system. It was a great experience, one that got my feet wet, established me as an international educator and provided me with an insightful look into the education and work culture of Pattaya.
My husband and I taught for the government school for about one year, after which we established our "English Boot Camp" brand and facilitated a three-week day camp teaching English through creative and performing arts. Over one hundred students participated. It was a great success.
I then went on to teach at an international school located just outside of Pattaya. I was hired as a preschool teacher and with over 20 years of teaching experience, I found the job to be quite enjoyable. During my three-year tenure with the school, however, I saw the situation transition from good, to bad, to ugly.
The beginning of the end came in January 2013 when I went on maternity leave after the birth of my son. About two weeks before I went into labour, I trained the young lady who would be taking my place temporarily until my return. According to Thai Law, I was allowed to take up to
90 days leave without it affecting my position.
The school asked me to come back early to work on a special project. I was informed my position as preschool teacher had been permanently given to the substitute teacher, and I would be working on a different assignment as the ESL Coordinator. Although this position required a higher skill set, my rate of pay would not increase. They wanted to improve their previously ineffective ESL program and bring it up to speed with other international school programs. I was to do research and write a new ESL curriculum based on the needs of our students for the start of the new school term in August 2013.
After completing this assignment, I told my boss that over the summer break I would work on Phase II of the project which would be to set up the classroom and order the necessary supplies. I was then informed I would not be implementing the program but would be returning to the classroom as a preschool teacher.
Wow, the wind was knocked out of my sails. I was happy the summer holidays had come
because I really needed a break at this point.
Over the summer break, the school contacted me, offering me the position as the ESL teacher. But within two weeks, they again changed their minds and the entire ESL Program
was cancelled. I was also terminated because, as my termination letter notes, there were no "cross-lateral positions available" for me at the school.
The good news was that because I had worked three years at the school, I was entitled to
at least six months of severance pay, which would afford me ample time to find a new job
and support my family in the meantime.
The bad news was my school ignored the Thai Labour laws and offered me only two months of pay and the promise of a reference letter, upon request. This was quite vicious of the school as they are aware I have eight children and a terminally ill husband to support.
I went through all the proper channels to complain, officially, but to no avail. Apparently the system is not set up to enforce the rights of the employee, but to blanket the illegal acts of the schools.
I contacted an old colleague of mine from the school who had also had a bad "break up"
regarding severance. She fought and won and put me in contact with a friend who knew a good lawyer. His name is Kevin Harper of British Law. He had written a letter to the school on my friend's behalf. In the end, the school agreed to pay all that was due to her.
I made an appointment with Kevin and told him my story. He was appalled that the school would go to such lengths. Although I needed a demand letter, I couldn't afford one. Kevin agreed to write it at a discount.
After receiving the demand letter the school offered me one more month of pay, and refused
to negotiate further. Kevin was furious. He said he hated to see people being taken advantage of and my case has become his personal battle.
As time passed, our financial struggles grew worse (it had been about three months since my termination) After receiving an eviction notice from my landlord for not paying the rent, we were forced to borrow money from friends and pawn precious keepsakes.
Kevin offered to take on my case under contingency. If he didn’t win, he would be paid nothing. He was dedicated to pursuing this case until justice had been served.
And to back up his stand he agreed to pay our rent every month (via a loan agreement) until the case was over. For a lawyer, in a relatively small case, to put his name, company reputation and money on the line, is unheard of. My family and I consider Kevin Harper to be a champion of humanity. This case has yet to be settled but in the meantime, I feel secure knowing someone is on our side. Thanks Kevin!
Despite this setback, we have never regretted our decision to move to Thailand or be teachers here. There are many great people here and we have many friends. This is my story and I am hopeful it will have a happy ending. Stay tuned!