6:30 am in Chiang Mai. I am slowly dragging myself out of bed. It’s my second week of working in Thailand and I’m slowly beginning to think what I should do next. Is it worth looking for another job? Another school? Maybe it’s time to go back to England? I look at Chris, who is sleeping next to me, and I think that digital nomads are lucky. They sleep until noon and do whatever they want. I would like that, too. My problem is that I don’t have skills. I’m not a graphic designer, I don’t know how to programme and I don’t know how I could earn my money. Two years ago I left a well paid job at a corporation in England to teach English in Thailand and now I was ready for yet another change.
I get to school. My boss points at my white shirt and says ‘Joanna, no!’. ‘No? What?’ I ask. ‘No’ he answers. So, we stand on a corridor for a minute, or two, bouncing ‘no-s’ back and forth. Finally he says: ‘Today is Monday. I tell you – bring purple t-shirt on Mondays from today to end of year. It’s for the princess’. Thais love their Royal Family and this year the oldest princess celebrates 60th birthday, so to commemorate that everyone wears purple t-shirts, which is the colour assigned to the princess. But I find out about this a little later. Right now I am trying to find in my memory a slight trace of the information about the t-shirt, but without any luck. Of course he didn’t tell me about it.
But I wave him off and tell him that I will bring it next week.
Communication with the school is harder and harder. I think my boss is a little fed up with explaining things to me. Other teachers can barely introduce themselves in English. My Thai is ok, but not good enough to understand what’s going on around me.
I’m going to do my classes. For around 5 hours I’m trying to teach the kids something. ‘Where is he from?’ I ask one of the classes, pointing at a student. Nothing, no answer. They look at me like I’m from a different planet. I have been trying to teach them simple questions since I’ve started and I cannot see any progress. Maybe I’m a bad teacher? My students are really nice and funny, but they don’t want to study. They don’t do their homework, they are late for classes and they don’t pay attention during the lessons. I feel demotivated.
I decide to look for another job. I find some information about teaching English online and decide to apply for a few positions. ‘I can do this’ I tell myself.
For the next few weeks I attend interviews. ‘I’m sorry’ says an owner of one agency’ you seem great, but I don’t think my students will like your accent’. My English is fluent, but I have a slight Polish accent.
Another company, based in Vietnam, tells me I don’t have enough experience. But I don’t give up. I am still looking.
One night I meet my friends for drinks. A very nice, English girl joins us. Her name is Amy and it turns out that she also once taught at a school in Thailand, she also had problems with communicating there, she also has a blog and… she teaches English online with Education First! We talk and she gives me details for the company she works for. I send them an email with my CV and they get back to me with an offer of an interview.
Everything goes really well during the interview. The interviewer asks me about my nationality. I tell her it’s British, but I was brought up by Polish parents, who really wanted me to be bilingual, hence my accent. She doesn’t have a problem with that.
However, my biggest problem is the internet, which is not fast enough in my building. I promise her I will fix it.
After a few days I get an answer that I was accepted and I will start my training next week. I am trying to sort out the internet issue. Chris finds a good fibre optic internet with Sinet (a Thai internet service provider), but it can’t be installed in my flat, so we install it in Chris’s apartment.
The online training is great, but very intense. There’s so much information that I can’t get my head around it. Amy says that it’s just like that at the beginning, but the job itself is really simple.
After a week I go through a quick training, have a conversation with my mentor and I’m ready to teach!
My first lessons are great. Everything is prepared for me earlier. I don’t have to spend hours on lesson plans. I log into a class 5 minutes before. The students from all over the world are already waiting. There are usually 3 to 6 of them. The lesson lasts 45 minutes and is based mostly on going through PowerPoint slides, correcting the students and then producing a short report and grading everyone. Easy – peasy!
However, I’m really tired. Every day I get up at 6:30, go to school for 8 hours, go home, eat dinner and then teach for another couple of hours until 11 or 12 at night.
After my boss doesn’t want to tell me when my holiday is and doesn’t want to approve it, I decide to quit. I feel a little bad leaving them in the middle of the semester, so I find a replacement for myself.
In November 2015 I become an online English teacher, a free woman and a digital nomad of some sort.
It has been almost a year. Thanks to the remote work I lived in Vietnam, I’m living in Poland and soon will move back to Asia.
I have quite a lot of experience in online teaching. I know what skills you need to have and how to become an English online teacher. I realise that there are a lot of companies that hire online teachers and I know that many people would like to work as one. In my next posts you will find out how to become an online English teacher, what kinds of jobs are out there, how to earn more money and how online teaching differs from teaching at a school.
I teach for Education First and I’m very happy with them. If you would like to find out more and apply for a teaching position with them, please visit their site: http://teachonline.englishtown.com/ and as a referee put my name: Joanna Szreder.
If you have any questions about online teaching, please leave them in the comments below.
If you want to know more about teaching in Thailand, have a look at these posts:
How to become an English teacher in Thailand
Do your TEFL course and become an English teacher in Thailand