Before being placed as English teachers, Marissa and I spent a month in Hua Hin, Thailand completing our Teach English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Certification.
Choosing a program
We signed up to teach in Thailand through Greenheart Travel. Having done much research on various programs, Greenheart seemed to provide the most services for the most reasonable price ($2,340). We chose Greenheart Travel for the following reasons:
- They provide insurance
- They guarantee a teaching position with a very minimum salary of $850/month (huge salary for Thai standards). Other programs provided a set salary, which doesn’t make sense as salaries vary between schools and locations.
- I appreciate that Greenheart is a non-profit, unlike other money-making businesses I researched.
- They provide 4 week TESOL course in Thailand before beginning teaching. Marissa and I wanted to take the course in Thailand rather than online in the US.
- They take care of formalities (i.e. getting non-b immigrant visas).
- They provide 24/7 support pre and post departure for Thailand. This was comforting to know that someone was always available to help us, whether it be for a visa question, a problem with our placement, or an emergency.
- Greenheart Travel prepared us for our move to Thailand physically and mentally with lots of lists and resources.
TESOL Course with XploreAsia
Once we arrived in Thailand, we became part of the XploreAsia and didn’t hear from Greenheart Travel except once to see how our first week in Thailand was going. There were about 100 other people in the October XploreAsia program, but we were divided into groups of 20-30 future-teachers. I was in the Yellow Group and these people were the best part of the entire month.
The first week of our training included 120 hours of “Culture Training”. This involved Thai language classes, a Thai cooking class, seminars on politics, appropriate and inappropriate behavior, as well as visits to local farms, temples and even an elephant sanctuary. Though the week was very busy, it proved to be extremely valuable to my success as a teacher in Thailand. Click here to read about the cultural norms I learned about and later experienced.
The next three weeks of the program took place in the classroom. Each morning, we were transferred to a large school in Hua Hin and took classes from 8am until 4pm. Contrary to my expectations, I did not have much free time after class to explore Hua Hin. The days were long, hot, and tedious, but were made better by our phenomenal instructor, Yaco. He was an incredibly inspiring teacher and really helped us feel confident going into our placements. We practiced executing lesson plans in front of our peers and carried out several of our lesson plans for students during English camp at the end of the course.
Is TESOL worth it?
I am thankful I got my TESOL certification because it gave me the confidence to manage a classroom. Xplore Asia provides many resources to teachers and continues to support teachers throughout their placements. Most importantly, teachers become part of a huge network of Xplore teachers to answer questions about anything from rent, to travel advice, to lesson plans. The best part about taking the TESOL course was the people I met. Our group became super close and I know I will see many of them again.
With that being said, I did not apply the rigid TESOL structure to my lessons after my first few weeks teaching. Though the course was helpful, I don’t think it was necessary to be a good teacher. However, the culture training/orientation was very useful. Lastly, Xplore Asia placed Marissa and I in Pua, Nan, which was exactly the type of placement I was hoping for. I could not have gotten this job without Xplore Asia unless I had a connection at Pua School.
Is TESOL necessary?
Short answer: No. Long answer: As it was my first time in Thailand, it was absolutely necessary that I came through a program that placed me in a school. All reputable programs require TESOL course as it makes you more hirable. It is possible to get a teaching job on your own, but without knowing much Thai language or having any experience in the Thai education system, it would be easy to be taken advantage of. If I ended up in an awful situation, XploreAsia or Greenheart Travel would be there to help work through the issue or find me a new placement.
There are two other Americans working at my school in Pua who are not TESOL certified. They got this job because they knew an American teacher who worked at Pua school before them. They saved money by skipping the TESOL course, but are restricted to teaching in Pua or schools that do not require TESOL certification, whereas Marissa and I have the flexibility to teach English anywhere in the world.