SE Article Archive

  • Thailand is what you make of it by Peter C. Meltzer

    Thailand is a wonderful country with many things to offer: friendly people, happy kids, vibrant nightlife, world-class travel destinations, excellent food, inexpensive shopping, warm weather and much more.  It is a great place to live and work.   Generally, when we ask in our job advertisement “what makes you want to live in Surat Thani?’  The usual answers involves something about Thai culture.  This is good, because Surat is real Thailand and here you will experience real Thai culture.

    The phrase “Thai culture” means different things to different people, though.  To some it means a Thai dancing show put on for tourists.  To others it means seeing how real Thai people live and go about their day.  While Surat has some of the first kind, it has a lot more of the second.  There are festivals, holidays, special events, and more, throughout the year.  Each of these involves something very different than what Westerners are used to and are wonderful cultural experiences.  However, the real experience in Thai culture is meeting Thai people, getting to know them, spending time with them, accompanying them when they invite you places, and learning from them.  The holidays, festivals, etc., are easily accessible.  You can walk into them without being invited and without having to put forth any more effort than getting yourself there.  Getting to know Thai people well enough to the point where they feel like including you in their lives takes more effort.  It cannot be accomplished by sitting at home.  You need to get out and meet people to make that happen.  And it will happen.  Thai people are very friendly and will offer you a drink if you are walking by, help out if you look like you need it, and offer tasty food whenever they think you are hungry.  But you still need to put forth the effort to meet people.

    The general lesson in this is that Thailand is what you make of it.  If you want it to be a cultural experience, then you have to make it a cultural experience.  Culture cannot be delivered to your doorstep.  You have to go out and find it (which is not hard in Surat).  If you want your time in Thailand to be a calm, relaxed, mostly introverted experience then that is completely fine as well.  It is whatever you make it.

    The same goes for teaching.  The experience will be what you make it.  The classes are mostly yours, meaning we will provide the textbook (which is the absolute minimum the students should learn), the training, the resources and the support.  The rest is up to you.  You can put a lot of effort into preparing great lessons for your kids, work hard on improving your teaching skills, and the result will be awesome classes which are extremely productive and very fun to teach.  You can also show up, not throw yourself into teaching completely and achieve moderate results with your kids.  Both ways are fine (although we do prefer the former).  Since we have very little oversight at Super English, the quality of your classes depends almost exclusively on you.  We won’t know much about your class unless we hear compliments or complaints.  Ultimately, the quality and the even the content of the class depends very much on you.  It will be what you make of it.

    Without exception, those who come and put effort into their classes, their cultural adventures, and the school, walk away from the overall experience with an extremely positive impression and great memories.  I would even say there is a direct correlation between the amount of effort you put into something in Thailand and the amount you get out of it.  Reading the testimonials illustrates this very well.  These are all unique individuals who came to Thailand at different times, applied themselves in their own ways, and were rewarded by the experience relative to how much they put into it.  They made it a great experience by putting a lot of effort into making their classes the best they could be, venturing out to experience the culture, staying friendly with their neighbors, colleagues and students, and remaining positive, open-minded and flexible, even when times were tough.  They got as
    much out of the experience as they put in, but I am certain they would say they got much more.

  • Why teach with Super English

    There are many, many schools to choose from.  They all seem to offer very similar things: identical pay, usually the same perks, and obviously everyone is teaching Thai children or adults.  So why should you choose Super English?  First, Super English is completely dedicated to being the absolute best school for teachers and students.  Our school curriculum is designed so that each individual teacher has the flexibility and autonomy to teach in whatever style they feel most comfortable with.  Each teacher can choose not only how to teach but also, to a large extent, what to teach.  We give the classes to you.  They are your students.

    While giving our teachers empowerment in their own classrooms, we simultaneously offer more support than any other school.  We do a full training course prior to teaching and offer feedback, advice and suggestions whenever it is asked for.  We have 3 full-time Western managers who are available anytime you require it.   We try our hardest to let each teacher develop in their own time.  Everyone can always improve and we leave as much room as possible for people to do so at their own pace and according to their own needs.  To this end we have Super English University, which is a rolling training program and full of courses available to any teacher at any time throughout their contract time at our school. Courses include “Discipline 201”, “Advanced Lesson Planning”, “Building Blocks 201”, “Thai Culture 301”, “Advanced Resource Retrieval”, “Muay Thai for beginners”, and lots more.  Additional programs are added as different teachers request them.

    In addition to offering more teaching support, we also offer more resources and practical tools for each teacher to use in his or her classroom.  Our curriculum is designed for each teacher to use it with ease and flexibility.  Our Flashcard Center is well stocked. Most of our textbooks are compiled so that you don’t have to go searching through three separate textbooks to find two pages on what you want to teach.  Everything is ready and easy to use. 

    From the very beginning to where we are now, Super English has always been working hard to be the best school for teachers.  We are always trying to improve in this goal and we always want to hear from our teachers how we can improve to make the school even better.  We strive to recognize, reward and appreciate the efforts and hard work of each individual teacher and make sure they feel valued and part of the Super English team.  Everyone on the team, from the director, to the head teacher, to the teachers, to the Thai staff, is equals.  Nobody tries to boss anyone else around.  We are respectful of each other and act friendly and professionally in all situations.  We help each other, listen to each other, and are always available for any reason.  We are a real team.

    The school is owned and run by Westerners.  This means that you will not encounter the many miscommunications, misunderstandings, and assumptions which often go along with working for an employer from another culture.  Having had personal experience with this and hearing the exact same stories of woe from others, it is quite clear that working directly for Thai people can be very challenging for westerners.  Thai people often find it equally challenging to work with Westerners.  It is definitely a merging (many say clashing) of cultures in the workplace and that doesn’t always go smoothly.  By having Western managers, however, all of that is avoided.  That doesn’t mean that there won’t be other misunderstandings along the way, but at least we are all basing our actions on our common cultural interpretations of reasonable expectations and clear standards of communication.

    Super English does not want to be the biggest school.  We want to be the best.  We are known as the best but we constantly strive to improve ourselves, our teaching practices and the quality which we provide the students.  Our commitment to quality education has led us to the top of English language education in Surat Thani.  Our students truly enjoy learning English and work hard to improve their overall abilities.  They are the top English students in their regular Thai schools and always place in
    the top two in the many different English contests which take place. 

    The main reason for our strong success is that every Super English teacher is sincerely dedicated to providing the absolute best they can to the students who learn with us.  We recognize the importance which learning English has upon their future and we strive to prepare the students as well as possible for that time.  Super English teachers work hard and quickly see the rewards as their students’ English levels begin to rapidly improve.  Our balance between teacher empowerment and flexibility as well as
    total dedication to the students has made us the best school for teachers and students.  And we are still improving.

    Super English - a school run by and for creative, enthusiastic and hardworking teachers.  

  • After Super English by Craig Blackburn 2011

    January 8, 2011

    More than likely, it's a good that that I've taken a couple of years to write something about my two years at Super English and how they influenced the next two years I spent in Thailand as well as more recent events back in the US. I taught at Super English from May of 2005 to April of 2007, first as teacher then as Head Teacher. I left Super English nearly four years ago, which doesn't quite seem possible, and I think the passage of time has allowed for more perspective.

    Super English provided me with the opportunity to develop professionally and personally, something for which I will be eternally grateful. I came to Thailand with no teaching experience and no clue what I wanted to do with my life, to be quite honest. Of the four years, roughly, that I spent in Thailand, the two that I spent at SE were the most important and fulfilling. I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses, particularly with regard to leadership. I continue to draw upon the lessons I learned from Peter and other Super English teachers and the experiences I had.  

    At Thida and other schools in town, I taught every age from Anuban to Mathayom 2, and a variety of skill levels at Super English. Under Peter's guidance, I was able to develop a system that worked for me and my students. When I left Super English, I taught at a large government school in Trang. I taught M5 and M6, and was able to utilize that basic framework that I had developed at SE. Likewise, when I left Trang to work at a hospital in Phuket and teach adults, I was able to do the same thing. Basically, the training I got from SE, and the freedom to develop naturally into the kind of teacher I needed to be, gave me the confidence later to walk into any kind of classroom, whether it had 50+ students, or
    only 5, air-con, fan or nothing at all.

    Working outside of Super English also gave me a different perspective on just how much Peter and the school go to bat for the teachers. Sadly, this is not always the case in Thailand. Peter and Jeab work hard to develop a familial atmosphere in the office and among the teachers. There were always interesting activities and excursions. In addition, I cannot stress enough the importance of the resources that Super English has accumulated over the years. Having worked at other schools, I can really appreciate the fact that we had so many unique materials at our disposal. Finally, the fact that Peter cares about the school
    means that he puts considerable effort into choosing good teachers. This assures you that you are going to be working with interesting and fun people upon whom you can rely. I have worked in places where expectations were low and management didn't care. It was not fun, and the situations were made all the more aggravating because I knew what I had left behind in Surat. So it goes.

    I do believe that there's an opportunity cost associated with teaching English in Thailand. Instead of teaching English, you could be continuing your studies or starting a career. However, I firmly believe that teaching English in Thailand (or going anywhere outside your home country for a year or two) is a good idea. First of all, with regard to continuing your education, what do you bring to a school if you've only just graduated from college? Go out and live. Figure out who you are and what you want to do. Even if you already know that stuff, you have the rest of your life to climb the corporate ladder or apply to law school. Go exploring. Working at Super English gave me tangible and translatable skills that far
    outweigh the opportunity cost of the two years that I spent in Surat. Super English gave me not only international experience, but management experience. These were key factors in both my decision to attend graduate school to study international relations, and, I believe, key factors in my admittance. Having the opportunity to manage people from different backgrounds in a foreign setting is exactly the sort of experience schools are looking for. Though it is not necessarily common for people to switch from teaching to IR, it can be done. What matters are the skills that I was able to take from my experience at SE, and how I was able to work the years I spent in Thailand into a compelling personal narrative.

    Finally, a note about Surat Thani itself. Once you get here, you'll realize the guidebooks got it all wrong. I did, and I was annoyed. Later, however, I was quite happy. While a great many foreigners pass through Surat, the vast majority of them see only the bus or train station, and maybe the night market if they're feeling adventurous. This ensures that Surat Thani, for the most part, remains a relatively "normal" city. Take the boat across to Samui, or the bus to Phuket, and see the difference. It's nice to be near those places, but trust me, Surat is a better place to live. If you need your farang fix, it's only a couple of hours away. Surat and its people are beautiful, friendly, and open. It's an easy city to navigate on foot, by bicycle, or by motorbike. Having now lived in several places in Thailand, I can honestly say that Surat is my favorite. It has, for me, the perfect mixture of elements. The cost of living is low, and the quality of life is high. I made lasting friendships in Surat, with both Thais and foreigners alike, and it is a place that I will always return to when in Thailand.

    Craig Blackburn

  • After Super English by Dylan Bird 2011

    Dear Peter and the Super English Team

    Date; 02/01/2011  - approximately one year and a bit (I did say approximate) since I left
    Thailand for new adventures.

    Current location; a rather chilly and wet England

    Current status; TBC, but exciting!!!

    Peter, a huge word of thanks to you and the rest of the Super English team of fellow teachers and staff, who have all in your own way, great and small, shaped for me my most recent paths.

    Since coming to work for you in Thailand from early 2008 until late 2009, and having such a positive and inspiring experience of teaching, i have been pursuing that path ever since. I arrived home to the UK in late 2009, and landed a job working as a learning support officer for an environmental charity, aiding students studying for qualifications in Environmental Conservation achieve their goals. Post that I worked for some time in a Nursery school in England working with the younger children as a teaching assistant, and in particular with one beautiful young boy, Max, who had speech and language development needs. I am 100% convinced that the tools that  learned out in Thailand and the games and exercises picked up from you guys helped me enormously to communicate with Max and to help him develop his communication skills. Following that I managed to land a pretty sweet job teaching
    environmental education, and English language teaching, to students at a nature reserve in a Costa Rican rain forest, working as part of a programme funded by the European Union. Again, with language barriers, I was able to present information using the physical teaching methods and play-work I had developed in my teaching in Thailand. The skills and confidence I had gained delivering English language teaching in Thailand definitely stepped up the quality of my teaching to students in Costa Rica. Since returning once again to the cold and grim north of England, I am now enrolled onto a professional teaching course, to teach primary school aged children (5-11 year olds) at Manchester University which  will be starting in September, and to keep me out of mischief in the meantime I am applying for posts teaching English as a foreign language with the British Council in Spain.

    I felt I needed to write to you to tell you about all these wonderful and exciting things that have happened to me as a way of thanking you for all that you taught me whilst I was with you and for undoubtedly changing my paths direction in the most positive of ways. Many thanks for the skills, games and tricks I now carry wit me into every classroom. Thank you for the continued support since leaving. Thank you for all the references you continue to write for me. And thank you for being a wonderful inspiration and opening my eyes to the joys of teaching.

  • The History of Super English By Peter C. Meltzer As of January, 2011

    People often ask me how the school was started.  The short answer is “I looked around Surat and saw there were lots of good language schools, but none that were really striving to provide the best for the students and the teachers.”  I felt both groups deserved a school that at least tried to be the very best it could in providing a quality student education and teaching experience.

    A Super Tough Start

        We opened the doors of the school on September 7th, 2004.  We offered three days of free trial classes.  Because of the overload of students and a severe shortage of teachers (just me) classes were only 15-20 minutes in length, sometimes less.  That was as much time as I had to impress the students enough to make them go downstairs and tell their parents that they wanted to come back and study fulltime at Super English.

        Over the next few months the school quickly expanded.  First it was just me.  Then I hired two more teachers, then another, then another.  We were quickly up to five teachers.  Too quickly.  There were problems on every front.  Being a brand new school we had limited resources, which put a strain on teachers.  Another problem was the constant cancelling of classes by the Thai school, which was a major dilemma because we were paying teachers a flat salary and charging the Thai schools per hour.   Scheduling was tough because, at that time, we were only working with Grade 6 – Grade 9 and there was no Thai teacher in the classroom.  As a result, teachers intensely disliked teaching outside of Super English.  Beyond that, we had teachers who were not prepared for Thailand, nor did they like or appreciate the flexibility, autonomy or set-up of the SE system for teachers.  This was before we had a website offering as much information as possible about the job, the experience, etc.  To make a long story short, the very first group of teachers we had was an unmitigated disaster.  But I learned a lot from the experience and started over on building the team and school.

    Major Super Turning Point 1: Craig Arrives

        Around March, 2005, I got an email from a college friend of mine who recommended Craig Blackburn for a position with Super English.  Craig and I talked via emails and then moved on to a phone interview.  Somehow, the phone interview never happened, but I offered Craig a position regardless, the only time I have done so.  I trusted my instincts and they were confirmed many times over.

        Craig was exactly the teacher we needed.  He wanted to be in Thailand, he was self-driven, relaxed, professional, friendly, out-going, flexible and understanding.  He did not need supervising.  He would ask for assistance with whatever he needed, but otherwise he was intelligent and competent enough that he could easily be trusted to operate on his own.  This is important because this is how SE operates: we trust our teachers.  We trust that they are doing an excellent job in the classroom without us looking over their shoulder.  We trust their ability to make decisions regarding their students and their job without having to check with us first.  We trust that if they need help they will ask for it.  As a result, we don’t load teachers down with all kinds of paperwork, office hours, meetings, etc.  In my opinion, all of that is put into place because a school’s administration feels teachers need constant supervising and checking.  And some teachers do.  But those teachers do not belong at Super English.  They belong in some large corporate entity where teachers can only teach from the textbook, the students must pass the exams, blah blah blah, go to Japan.         

        But Craig needed none of that.  He was 100% reliable in every aspect, without needing anyone to make sure he was doing what he was “supposed to be doing.”  This was the right fit for SE and the time in which we started to become the school we are today.

        Craig set the tone for other new teachers.  He was instrumental in keeping a good office atmosphere, making new people feel welcome, keeping the right attitude on the team, and supporting the school.  I quickly promoted him to head teacher.  During Craig’s two years at SE we had a group of truly excellent teachers and team members show up: Jamie Erman, Randy Rivers, Ira Spodek, Bonnie Vidrine and Victoria Biggs.  It was these individuals who, under Craig’s leadership, built the foundation of what SE is today.

    Major Super Turning Point 2: Victoria Arrives

        Victoria was sent to us by Ian Davidson Recruiting Services, which means I actually paid an extra hefty charge for just one teacher, the only time I have done so.  It was worth every penny millions of times over.  Victoria immediately fit in with both the students and the other teachers.  I think I scared her a bit at the beginning, but she quickly got past it.  

        Given Victoria’s obvious classroom and people skills, she was rapidly promoted to senior teacher, then head teacher, then assistant director, then director.  Not coincidentally, it was also during this time that our team expanded from five teachers, to seven teachers, to nine teachers, to eleven  teachers, to thirteen teachers.  Victoria was able to manage things so well that not only were we able to improve our current team, we were able to add on additional teachers and continue improving.  Her work with SE stands out as nothing short of amazing.  

        During Victoria’s 4 year reign we had a lot of really top-notch teachers and truly wonderful people work with SE: Erica Ambrose, Dylan Bird, Clair McCalla, Ryan Johnson, Dez Dyson, Meghan Mulvenna, Lizzie Robertson, Emily Nass, Codie and Caleb Kostechka, David Modini, Katy Clarke, Sarah Richardson, Tristan Rentos, Mitch Burbick, John and Janet Phelps, Brian Steinbach, Chris Ansell, Chris MacInnes, Amy McIntyre, Brittney Johnson and others.  All of these individuals were guided, helped and settled by Victoria and have successfully carried on what she taught them about how to teach and how to be quality members of the SE team.  Several of these individuals are with us today and continue to be the rocks upon which SE relies and thrives.     

    Into a Super Future

        You’re asking “What?  That’s it?”  Well, yes and no.  I consider Craig and Victoria the pillars of Super English.  Craig was with us for the first two years, Victoria was with us for the next four years.  She ended her four years with a bang (see Super Siam Party photos here) in October, 2010, which (at the time of this writing) was just a few months ago.  Since her departure we have seen the rise of the Phelps’.  Janet has stepped in as our new head teacher and performed perfectly,  which is not a word I use lightly.  She has done so well, in fact, that she will be promoted to Assistant Director next semester.  John has done extremely well as the Thai School Manager and will be promoted to Head Teacher.  Under their leadership, we will be expanding once again to 15 teachers.  Yow-zaa!  

    My Role by Victoria Biggs

        You’re probably thinking “What were you doing while all these awesome people took care of the school, Peter?”  Well, I like to think I played minor roles along the way, perhaps in the background.  I was also teaching a great deal.  The first two or three years the school was open I taught 7 days a week. I had around 38-41 teaching hours per week.  I would be at work at 7:30 a.m.  I would come home around 8:30 p.m., have dinner, and then get on the computer to do more work until 11 pm or 12 am.  I worked pretty much non-stop.  And for the first 2.5 years I received no pay.  No salary.  No cash.  No fun.  I could only afford to pay for my own basic expenses.  Tough times, but a good lesson to anyone wanting to start their own business:  you have to be prepared to sweat blood.  

       But I certainly have relied on other teachers to help build SE into what it is today.  And I think that is as it should be.  It is supposed to be a school for Teachers (with a capital T).  That it was built by Teachers (the very best, in my opinion) only makes it more likely that we have achieved our goal.   

     I have just read the ‘History of Super English” by Peter Meltzer. It is a great account of the  school’s past and was a really nice trip down memory lane. It is astonishing to think of how many teachers I worked with in my 4 years at Super English. It is also great to know that I keep in touch with almost all of them, which can be difficult as people scatter around the globe.

       I wanted to make one small amendment. It concerns the role that Peter played during Craig  and I’s time at Super English. He makes it sound like he was a background boss but I want to clarify things. He was a background boss only when we were coasting along. Any time I had an issue Peter jumped right in. He covered classes for me, sent me on vacation when I was getting stressed, defended every decision I made and most importantly, even though Super English is his brain child and he has sweated blood for it, he allowed me to be in charge.  That is the sign of a great boss. Always there for you but allows you to make decisions too.

        Peter took me out for dinner whenever we had to work chat, took the time to bring snacks to the office, never failed to bring me some ‘farang’ food back from Phuket, drove my mother around when she visited and accepted my boyfriend of three years as one of the Super family. This is a very involved boss who knows how to support his talented team, make the best use of their talents and ensure they feel appreciated.

        Super English exists because Peter took the risk and put in so much of his time to make it a success. His role in the history can often be neglected because he repeatedly and vocally appreciates the hard work that his staff does for him, but it is important to remember that he is the main pillar.

        And I guess I just wanted to say thank you.

  • The good, the bad, the ugly, and the wonderful interviews 2011

    Name: Amber McCarthy
    Length of time in Surat: 2.5 months
    What are three good things about teaching young Thai kids:

    1. They are hilarious without trying to be! You want to see something funny? Play Pictionary and tell a 6 year old Thai kid to draw an elephant. You’ll get some sort of cross between an M16 and a 2-headed anteater.

    2.  You will feel like a celebrity. You can’t walk anywhere in the school without a horde of kids gathering to follow you while shouting “Hello! Teacher!” and jumping up and down. They yell to their friends “Teacher Amber! Teacher Amber,” while pointing at you and running around in circles. They sit as close to you as possible while eating red popsicles next to your white shirt, all the while just staring at you and not speaking.. They pat your butt and are an endless source of sticky/wet high fives.

    3. They are absolutely adorable. It doesn’t get any cuter than 300 4-7 year old kids singing along to the King’s song while several beats ahead of the song playing on the speakers. OK, I lied. It does get cuter, but you just have to see them for yourselves.

    What are three bad things about living in Thailand:

    1. The noise. Try going to sleep with 5 roosters (possibly with mental issues), gravel quarry with bulldozers, a nightclub and a machine shop all going at 11pm on a weekday. Or even better, at 7am on a Saturday. Earplugs are a necessity.

    2. The smells. Sure, you might smell some fruit or delicious noodles cooking, but odds are that the bad smells overwhelm the good. Sewage, burning trash, mysterious meats (I think out neighbor was cooking canned dog food in a 10-gallon vat last week), and who knows what other sorts of disgusting aromas meet your nose while driving through town.

    3. The trash. Surat Thani would be so much nicer if they paid someone to pick up trash. It’s really disgusting and sad. They use plastic bags for everything, even drinking soda, and then those bags get thrown on the sidewalk because there are no trashcans ANYWHERE. Then the bags (and every other piece of trash) get blown into the river and eaten by fish. Then you eat the fish and everyone dies. All right, that’s a little dramatic. But seriously, the trash thing is out of control.

    What are three ugly things about restrooms with only squat toilets:

    1. There is usually pee and/or water all over the floor, so your shoes and the bottoms of your pants will surely get wet.

    2. No toilet paper unless you brought it yourself. If you did bring it, you can’t flush it. Why? Because you can’t flush squat pots and Thai plumbing is bad. You can’t flush it, so you need to throw it away. You can’t throw it away because there usually aren’t trashcans. Now you get to carry your pee covered toilet paper around with you.

    3. If you’re lucky and there’s a sink, it probably won’t have soap. Moral of the story: always carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer. What you do with the used TP is up to you and I don’t want to know about it.

    What are three wonderful things about my co-workers at Super English:

    1. Everyone gets along. I love that you can put 13 people from different backgrounds with different interests together, and we’ll all want to hang out together. It’s great being able to all go out and do stuff on a regular basis.

    2. They are all supportive and awesome in their own ways. Whether you need a ride, help planning lessons, or someone to talk to about California, someone can help you out.

    3. They are really attractive. I don’t need to explain that. Look at the pictures. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the wonderful interviews

    Name: Peter C. Meltzer
    Length of time in Surat: A decade.  Unbelieveable.
    What are three good things about Surat:

    1. It’s not Phuket, Chiang Mai, Samui, Pattaya or Bangkok.  All of those places have a strong, steady in-flux of expats.  Surat, because of its proximity to Samui and Phuket, has stayed off the radar of most foreigners who are looking to settle in Thailand.  As such, Surat is still very much the town it was 10 years ago and the local people haven’t become accustomed to foreign residents.  I still get the same friendly, welcoming smiles and shouts of “Hello!” from random strangers today that I did back in 2001.

    2. The town is constantly improving.  There are always new restaurants opening and new things being added and discovered.  This year we got a movie theater which shows movies in English.  I didn’t think that would ever happen.  

    3. Everything is easy.  If you want good, inexpensive food it is readily available.  If you want your laundry done for you it can be washed and pressed for a low price.  If you want to go some place in the town it is within a 15 minute drive.  If you want to go away for a weekend or long holiday you’ve got multiple world-class beaches within a few hours reach.  

    What are three bad things about Surat:

    1. It is rarely quiet.  When I go back to the States I go for walks with my wife and we marvel and the peacefulness of the neighborhoods.  In Surat you’ve got street dogs, house dogs, street cats fighting, people cooking outside, daily aerobics being boomed out over a p.a., houses with their own karaoke systems, pet roosters, etc.  Surat isn’t unique in being noisy, however.  It is a country-wide phenomenon.  

    2. Water problems.  There are pockets of the town where lack of water is an issue.  As far as I can tell, there isn’t any distinguishable pattern to it.  At one teacher house we have installed two water tanks and a pump to ensure a more or less steady flow of water.  At my own house, which is far away, I have one water tank and a pump.  If these aren’t turned on there is no water.   Meanwhile, at another teacher house close to the first one they don’t have any water problems.  Go figure.   

    3. Morning and evening rush hour traffic.  This won’t really affect you if you’re riding a bicycle or motorbike, though.  You’ll zip right through.  I couldn’t think of anything else that is negative and particular to Surat.  It’s a great place.

    What are three ugly things about Surat:

    1. The roads right now are a complete disaster.  Some brilliant pencil pusher decided that Surat has to look more western and that the miles of electric and telephone wires currently spanning the city have to be buried underground.  So far, main roads all over town have been ripped up so that these wires can some day be moved out of sight.  The road ripping started last January or February.  It’s mid-July and none of the roads have been put back and none of the wires have been moved.  Yet additional roads are being destroyed daily.   Worse still is that the plan to bury these wires involves shoving them into a narrow tube and the putting that tube in the ground.  Guess what happens every time something has to be fixed?

    2. The driving.  Bangkok drivers are pretty bad, but they are constrained by the limits of the roads
    they drive on, as well as severe congestion.  Phuket remains the only place where I have seen a dead
    person lying by his motorcycle after a traffic accident, but even on Phuket the bad driving is contained to certain sections of the island so you know when to anticipate it.  In Surat, anything can happen at any time.  Yesterday, for example, I saw a truck come to a complete stop in the middle of traffic then sit and hold everything up so they could perform a u-turn across two lanes into a parallel parking spot.    

    3. The dogs.  I used to like dogs.  Now I wouldn’t mind sending them all to Vietnam so they could be served up at a specialty restaurant.  The street dogs are loud, dirty, aggressive and annoying.  The dogs people keep are loud, dirty, aggressive and annoying.  

    What are three wonderful things about teaching:

    1. You get to work with fun-loving, happy, enthusiastic, intelligent, affectionate and wonderful kids. You get to play a major part in their life and they in yours.  Together you learn, change and grow.     

    2. Inspirational, surprising and transcendental moments.  They can’t really be described, only experienced.  

    3. You’re teaching in Thailand.  You’re not in cubicle, you don’t have to worry about your 401k, you don’t have to worry about your mortgage, unless you’re British you have very good job security, you have minimal paperwork, you are encouraged to have fun every single day, and, by Thai standards, you’re very well paid.  Life is good.

    Name:  Blake Schlaich
    Length of time in Surat:  9 ½ months…
    What are three good things about Surat Thani?

    Contrary to what Lonely Planet may say, Surat Thani is a great town.  While it may seem lacking to the common backpacker passing through for a night to catch the next night boat to the islands, Surat has many good things to offer.  I may be biased after living here for a while, but Surat Thani is a great town in which to get the full “Thailand experience” that you won’t find in Bangkok or without leaving the islands.

    The biggest advantage to Surat is being in a “real” Thai town where you can really experience the culture and the people.  While Surat is decent in size, it is not the metropolis of Bangkok.  Nor is it a major tourist vacuum like Koh Samui where most people speak at least some English and their job is to cater to western tourists.  In Surat, you get to witness a Thai town where people live and work and have built a real community.  Within a short time of being in Surat you will have unknowingly picked up the basics of speaking the Thai language (ordering food, giving directions, greetings, etc.) because you have to.  You are engulfed in the local ways, may be it by language, menu, and or customs.  Being in Surat allows you to experience real Thai culture.  

    With that said, a perk of living in Surat that cannot be overlooked is that while you can get the full Thai experience, Surat’s location allows you to be at several of the world’s most beautiful islands and beaches in less than a few hours.  There is no doubt that most people want to be emerged in the cultural experience while in Thailand.  But what would living in Thailand be if you didn’t get to experience the unmatched magnificence of Thailand’s beaches.  There’s a reason why all the tourists go there!  Any weekend of the year there is the opportunity to visit the destinations that tourists travel from all over the world to reach.  Location, location, location!Another benefit of Surat being the town that it is, where it is… the prices.  Since Surat is not place that most people do more than merely pass through, as locals we get to enjoy local prices.  A plate of delicious Thai food for $1 U.S.?  A 32-ounce beer for $1.50 U.S.?  A two hour Thai massage for $6 U.S.?  YES. YES. And YES.

    What are three bad things about Thai beer?

    You can’t beat the price of Thai beer.  That’s the only plus side of the story.  I do my fare share of drinking it and I have sampled, as far as I know, all of the popular beers sold in Thailand.  The verdict… eggghhhhhhhhh.  Luckily, I have developed somewhat of an immunity to the pitfalls of drinking Thai beer.  For those of you who have not, I am truly sorry.

    First of all the selection is lacking.  Chang (the lower end) and Singha (the higher end) just don’t give you the variety that one is used to in a western country.  Even with Tiger and Leo, which I don’t believe are actually made in Thailand, there just isn’t much to choose from when you’re in the mood for a certain something.

    The selection wouldn’t really be that bad if the beers actually had a decent taste.  The first couple of Singhas aren’t too bad but after a long night, believe me it’s not something you desire to taste again anytime soon.  I can only describe the difference in quality of the beers here in Thailand as thedifference between Natural Light and Keystone (in the States).  Don’t even get me started on Chang.

    Ohhhh, Chang.  I once thought you were my friend and soon learned that you are one of my most formidable enemies.  Chang will draw you in with its cheap price and shiny green label.  The reason why its dirt cheap is because it tastes like dirt and makes you feel like something even worse.  Drink more than two or three, my friend, and you will get the regrettable experience of what I like to refer to as a “Changover”.  I know what hangovers feel like.  A Changover makes a normal hangover feel like a day at the spa.  My advice, pay a few baht more and drink a beer that tastes not quite as bad and that won’t make you feel like you’ve been kicked in the head the next morning.  Word.

    What are three ugly things about Bangkok?

        This was a tough one, because there are not many parts of Thailand that I can say fall into the “ugly” category.  One thing comes to mind.  I lived in Bangkok for a few months before moving south to Surat.  I think it’s a pretty cool city, but like most other metropolises, it has an ugly side to it.  The public transportation in BKK is actually quite good.  They have a plethora of options to choose from, be it tuk-tuk, motocy, public bus, subway, or sky train.  Howeverrrrrrr, the smog and pollution are incredible.   You can see it, you can taste, and you can smell it.  Every time I visit Bangkok, within a few hours my throat hurts and my eyes sting.  Many people you see walking down the streets wear what looks like a surgical mask to try and escape the toxic air.  In a city of more than 10 million people I am not surprised that there are cars in abundance, but I guess emissions checks aren’t a standard practice in Thailand, huh?     

    To go along with the aforementioned, littering and trash disposal is another source of major pollution in BKK.  With basically no public trash cans the streets become receptacles for rubbish.  Filth lines the gutters and no one seems to notice.  Public works, like trash pickup is lacking and huge piles of garbage sit out for days.  And people wonder how the rats get the size of small dog there!  If LA and NYC had a pollution baby its name would be BKK.  

    Lastly, I would say that an aspect of the city that makes it ugly are the amount of unfinished buildings and construction projects.  Everywhere you look there are incomplete developments and abandoned sky rises.  Someone told me that this is because of the economy.  A dozen years ago when it was booming, people started building, building, building.  Then when it took a nosedive, there was no money left to finish these massive projects and they were left as giant blots on the landscape.  

    What are three wonderful things about Thailand?
    I could write an entire article on this one.  “Wonderful” is probably one of the best adjectives one could use to describe Thailand.  I’ve traveled all over the world and I have never been anywhere that there are people like there are in Thailand.  Everyone is friendly and helpful and hospitable.  Of course,there will always be exceptions, but as a whole I have never met a kinder, friendlier population.    

    Quite possibly my favorite thing about Thailand is the food.  I don’t know how I haven’t gained 20 lbs. At first it may seem limited.  Rice or noodles?  Chicken or pork?  You would be amazed at how many awesome dishes can be made with these options and the addition of a few vegetables, herbs, and some Thai know-how.  It’s the perfect combination of spicy, salty, sour, and sweet.  I often think about what it will be like to eventually go home and not have real Thai cuisine whenever I want.

        Last but not least, the natural beauty of Thailand is a surely a wonder.  The waters of Koh Tao, the beaches of Kho Phi Phi, the mountains of the north.  I have never seen anything like them.  Being lucky enough to live in a place that these beautiful locations are so accessible still amazes me after being here almost a year.  Every time a spend a weekend a way, I look around and think to myself, “Wow.  My life is awesome”.

  • Why Super English Rocks by Brittney Johnson 2011

    I have been aware that Super English rocks since my first encounter with SE.  The entire process of getting hired to teaching classes has been a smooth and positive experience.  The management and staff have been transparent, personable and accessible from the beginning.

    I taught English in Korea last year.  So far my experience in SuratThani has been completely different, in a positive way.  I had never taught before going to Korea.  So as a new teacher I expected to get a lot of feedback and things to improve on.  There was no oversight or anyone to go to with questions.  I was never told if I was doing a good job or not.  The school was run more as a business than a school.  So the focus was keeping the parents happy and making money.  Not on quality teaching. And they didn’t make us feel comfortable asking questions.  I just had to figure it out on my own.

    My first week at Super English has been incredible!  Everyone has made me feel so welcomed.  Even though I had a short training, it felt very thorough.  I observed the director, Victoria, for 2 days. She made sure I was prepared, confident and ready to teach my own classes.  She took extra time to help me plan my own lessons.  The other teachers have taken time out to show me around Surat.  I feel that the management and teachers are all accessible if I have any problems or questions.  Everyone has been incredibly encouraging and supportive.  In Korea, I had to figure out everything for myself.  I didn’t have an entire staff of people there for me if I needed anything.  

    Super English encourages teachers to be creative and effective by not having to follow a strict curriculum.  We have targets that we focus our lessons around, but it’s not limited to that.  We have a lot of flexibility.  In Korea we had so much pointless paperwork to do everyday.  We spent hours upon hours on paperwork that didn’t help in our teaching.  It actually took away from quality teaching because we spent more time filling out paperwork than actually teaching.  SE’s motto is to put your focus in the actual classroom.  SE truly cares about the staff and students.  SE focuses on having fun, because if the students aren’t having fun, they aren’t going to pay attention and therefore will not learn.  SE stresses both, have fun and learn!  I’m still figuring out ways to achieve both.  But that is the beauty of SE.  Peter, the owner and founder of SE, encourages teachers to try new things.  If it works, great!  If it doesn’t, oh well, at least you tried.  The possibilities are endless at SE and I’m so excited to be part of such a well-rounded, positive team!

    In conclusion, SE rocks because of the people who work there and the way the school is run.  The people are who make SE what it truly is.  They make it more than just a place to learn English.  SE really focuses on quality teaching.  You can tell that SE cares more about its students and maintaining good teachers than making money.  This is extremely important.  The teachers are treated with respect and given quite a bit of responsibility.  SE is all about empowering their teachers.  We take our jobs seriously and give it 100%!  But the best part is if we need help, there is an entire staff there to lend a hand! 


  • Why I have decided to teach with SE by Jessica Gallant 2011

         I am currently in my fourth year of teaching high school history in Philadelphia.  During the middle of last year I became incredibly restless.  I loved teaching, but I felt like I needed an adventure.  I had heard of people moving overseas to teach English, and after some research I knew it was something I wanted to do.  It seems to be the perfect opportunity for me to remain in the teaching profession and simultaneously get away from my life’s routine.  When I started my journey over a year ago all I knew was that I wanted to give ESL a try.  I could never have imagined how happy I would be with my decision to teach for Super English.

         Choosing Super English was easy; it was the 14 months before that decision that were the most difficult.  Like many prospective ESL teachers, I began by attending a certification course.  Even deciding what school to attend for my ESL certification was hard for me.  I researched for about two weeks before going to Transworld Schools in San Francisco.  It was there that I first realized the serious nature of the ESL world.  People had made it seem like all fun, games and travel, but I learned that isn’t true. Teaching English as a second language is a lot of hard work and it takes someone who is dedicated and passionate.  As soon as I completed the course, the director of my school gave me a list of 300 schools internationally to contact.  In addition, I registered for just about every ESL employment site on the Internet.  I got emails daily and spent hours browsing jobs.  The idea of finding a job overseas was totally overwhelming.

         I knew early on that Thailand was a place I wanted to go.  As I continued my job search, however, it began to seem like a lesser option.  Places like South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan had many jobs that had good perks and high pay.  I had numerous offers that would have provided me with free airfare and high wages.  My practical side had me convinced that one of these places would be better.  I almost signed a contract and started the Visa process for an English school in Pusan, South Korea, but something about it didn’t feel right.  I eventually realized that although teaching may be serious, I didn’t have to be so rigid about my choice of where to teach.  I opened my mind again to the possibility of teaching in Thailand.

         My reasons for choosing Thailand were numerous.  To be honest, the first was the weather and the beaches!  I thought to myself, if I am going to move half way around the world and away from everything I know and love, I do not want to deal with harsh winters or snow. Another reason I chose Thailand, and Surat Thani in particular, is because it seems to be more authentic.  Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea have all been more heavily influenced by Western culture, while parts of Thailand tend to be less impacted by globalization, largely due to the fact they were never colonized by a Western power like the others.  I also wanted a place where I can immerse myself in authentic Thai culture, and not have simply a tourist experience.  You may have noticed that I had two conflicting desires; I wanted proximity to beaches without the atmosphere of a tourist town.  Surat Thani is a perfect combination of both worlds; it is a true Thai town with ready access to Koh Samui and other popular beaches and islands.

         I chose Super English for a few reasons, and as I mentioned it was a fairly easy decision.  I was browsing through the available jobs on Dave’s ESL Café and I came across the ad for Super English.  It included a link to the Super English website, and upon examination of the site and its stories and photos I became enamored.  I could tell immediately that the place had personality.  Then I saw the photos of the kids and the classrooms, the teachers, and the housing.  Everything was very visually appealing and I started to imagine myself teaching the kids pictured in the classrooms, and living in one of the adorable houses.  I was also enticed by the fact that an American owns the school.  For me, it is comforting to know that in a foreign land there will be someone who understands where I’m coming from and who can offer me some guidance.
         The interview, via Skype, is what sealed the deal for me.  I was so nervous, but Peter immediately put me at ease.   His line of questioning showed me that he was not only interested in my teaching credentials, but also in me as a person.  It was the best interview that I have ever had.  Peter is kind, funny, smart, and down to earth.  About 30 minutes into it, I knew I wanted to work for him. The decision to uproot my life was not an easy one, so naturally I asked Peter a million questions, and he answered them all.  Finally he asked me the one question I was waiting to hear—“Would you like a teaching position at Super English?”  I was so happy—I said yes right away!  

         The following weeks made me completely confident in my decision.  Peter made sure I felt like a part of the Super English family right away.  He sent out an email to all of the other teachers announcing that I had been hired.  Within hours I had emails from numerous members of the Super English community welcoming me to the team.  Since then, I have been in constant contact with both Peter and the other new teachers.  I have never felt so welcomed and supported at a new job.  After months of being stressed out about finding a job and a country where I would feel comfortable, the search was over.  I have found a home, and I am so excited about what my future holds.  I can’t wait to get to Surat Thani and start my new life as a Super Teacher!

  • Why you should sign on for a second year at Super English by Janet Phelps 2010

    John and I decided about mid-way through our first year that we wanted to sign on for a second year at Super English. It was the best decision we could have made. I haven't regretted it for a second. But it wasn't an easy one to make. We agonized over it for awhile. So, here are some things I've learned through hindsight that would have made that decision a lot easier.  

    It takes awhile to adjust here. It's hot. And loud and confusing. The food is spicy and the showers are frequently cold. There are lots of mosquitos and lots of kids. I only mention this because it's the stuff that can get under your skin in your first few months.  All of this newness compounded with missing family and friends and snow and cheese can lead to some serious new teacher blues. Sometimes people come in and are so happy to be here, that all of this other stuff doesn't sink in until after a few months. Either way, it can be hard to see Surat and teaching here for what it really is. You don't know if you really like it until you've been here for at least six months.

    For me, things changed dramatically after that first six months.

    I bought a motorcycle. I finally started learning my way around town. Surat grew from the 3 square-km area I'd been circling into a much bigger place. I found favorite places to eat and drink coffee. I discovered the hole-in-the-wall shop where I can find real cheese and found the phone card that lets me call home for 1 baht/minute. I finally learned how to order more than 2 rice dishes in Thai and got to eat more than fried rice and fried basil with chicken for every meal.

    Most importantly, teaching became about 100 times easier. I had a really hard time at first, and I didn't really like my students. I subconsciously believed they were out to get me. They weren't. Obviously, they still aren't. I really like teaching now. I like my students so much. But, I didn't really start enjoying them until I'd gotten a handle on the practical aspects of entertaining and controlling a classroom of 55 screaming kids at Thida. I became a much, much better teacher after that first semester.

    If this is your first experience teaching in Thailand, the good news is it just keeps getting easier. Lesson planning also becomes about 1 million times easier about half-way through your second semester. Lesson planning time suddenly drops from 1 hour per class to about 10 minutes. You start enjoying your students. You start really enjoying your classes and getting to know the Thai staff and sharing private jokes with your kids, when suddenly, it's time to go home.

    1)        It's too soon. I love living here. Most people do. Teaching at Super English is great, and  Thai kids are fun. We get lots of time off and have very little paperwork to do. This is a great place to live.

    I came to Thailand with my husband at the same time as two other teachers. We all started in October. A year after we arrived, two of the four of us were preparing to leave. John and I had already decided to stay on another year. Both of them were so sad. One said this was the best year of his life. Neither wanted to leave. One of them actually decided last minute to stay on. Because of that decision, he ended up with a terrible schedule and only a few hours. It would have been better to decide sooner.

    2)        You can't explore all the places in just a year. If you come to Thailand for a week, you'll see everything you want to see. But when you're here a year, you realize how much more there is! There are dozens of secluded islands and beaches within just a few hours of Surat. And then, you've got all of northern Thailand, not to mention the surrounding Southeast Asian countries. Seriously, if you want to get the most out of that expensive Transatlantic (or Pacific) flight, stick around awhile. Give yourself time to see everything you want to see and to even go back to a few places you really like more than once.

    3)        And to be with people that you like! If you're making a career out of teaching around the world, most of your friendships abroad will have a one year expiration date. Super English has a really fun atmosphere among the teachers. Stick around: Get to know people. Get to know people: Have more fun. This isn't just true for our fellow teachers. It's true about Thai people too.

    4)        It takes awhile for people to start warming up to you. When I showed up for the first day of my third semester, there was a palpable change in the way the Thai teachers at my school looked at me. All of a sudden, the hardened veteran middle school math teacher was grinning at me and pinching my cheeks (Yes, really.) It seems strange, but imagine if you saw new teachers coming in and out every six months. It'd be hard to put your heart out there I'm sure. I've been surprised by how much warmer people are once they realize you're not leaving right away....

    5)        And that you can speak Thai. OK, so I can't really speak Thai, but Thai people are very, very generous if you just give it a try. I remember being shocked when SE teachers would ask for a bottle of beer in Thai from our neighbors. Then the Thai neighbor would turn to me with a huge grin and say sincerely in English, “He/She speaks Thai so well!” A year and ½ later, I can also “speak Thai so well!” Learning languages doesn't come very easily to me, and it's taken me a while to learn my way around in very basic Thai. But even the little bit I've gotten down has made my experiences here so much better.

    6)        Cash. Second year teachers get paid more. It's pretty simple: Stay longer =Make more money. There's a bit of an increase in hourly pay, but mainly it's the expenses vs. income that changes. As long as you're here you'll be saving for the next place you go. It's difficult to save money in just a year here. This is a question we get from new teachers' a lot: “Will I be able to save money?” Of course, you can always save money by not spending the money you make. But you know, nobody wants to do that when you're living in beautiful sunny Southern Thailand.

    7)        This brings me to the issue of stuff. When John and I first got here, we wanted to buy some furniture and a stove and a motorcycle and some other stuff, but we couldn't justify doing any of that if we were just going to be here a year. We didn't have much money saved up, and we wanted  to (and did) use most of it for travel. But our second year in, our quality of life is a lot higher. We've
    got a really comfortable bed, have adopted homeless cats and dogs and regularly use our little toaster oven. Of course, I'm not saying you should stay somewhere longer just so you can buy stuff! But, if you're freezing through a cold shower and contemplating whether you should go to Chiang Mai for Christmas break or pay 1,500 baht for a hot water heater, sign on for your second year and do both.

    8)        And this is where I bring up the little issue of professional development, which we don't talk about very much in the travel-TEFL crowd but matters when you've got somewhere you're trying to get to. This is a small school so Super English teachers have the chance for a lot of one-on-one training and counseling. If you have a problem in your classroom, someone will always be here to help you think of creative ways to deal with it. Peter has some excellent strategies and teaching plans that really work with kids. But he's also open to teachers trying almost anything creative to deal with problems in a classroom, and he lets you learn by doing instead of just copying what someone tells you to do.

    9)        We also get more freedom than any other other teachers' I've met here to do what we want to do with our classes. When I wanted to teach my students to make requests, we played “Honey, let me see you smile” (EFL version: “Will you smile, please?”) for an entire hour.  A year later, my students still ask me “Will you smile, please?” when I'm sad. We stand up and scream and run around and shout words in English. It's a lot of fun to be able to teach in your own style.

    10)       Hugs. Don't laugh. Coming from the U.S., I was so, so, so hesitant about touching my
    students my first semester here. And then you've got the whole cultural, no touching on the head or the face or with your feet or blah blah. So, I was paralyzed into No Touching land. But Thai kids LOVE getting and giving hugs. It took me a year to realize the most powerful effect my teaching was having on kids was them knowing that I liked them. And, slowly, I started liking them a little bit and then more and now, a whole lot! I love getting hugs from my tough teenagers and seeing their faces light up when I give them a squeeze on the shoulder or a high 5. This is my favorite part of my job! But it took me awhile to get comfortable with them. And that brings me to:

    11)        Names. Good luck learning all of your students names in a year. Seriously. Good luck.

    12)        And last, but most importantly: Super English is a really, really great place to teach. Of course, none of these reasons would matter at all if working here sucked. I think it's impossible to beat this company for work environment, schedule, support for teachers, training and fun. I work with the best group of people I could imagine. SE staff really work to help you become a better teacher. And you can't beat the location. I love how close we are to the beach. Surat has so many amazing restaurants and rice shops to explore, you could never get bored with the same old thing. Air Asia keeps offering cheaper and cheaper flights from Thailand to all over Asia, and I'm finally learning my way around in Thai.

    If you want to travel around the world, that's cool. This is a great place to be for just a year. But if you're interested in really experiencing Thai culture, in building relationships with Thais and other foreigners and really knowing this place, stay longer. You don't really get the full experience unless you stick around a little bit.

    Are you convinced yet?

  • Couples Must Read by Janet Phelps 2010

    So, you're in a relationship, and you're thinking of coming to Thailand with your significant other, right? You may be wondering how moving abroad will affect your relationship. And if you're not wondering that, maybe you should be. I mean, at least give it some thought, right?

    John and I have had a great experience at Super English and in Surat Thani, and I really want the same for you. So what follows is some unsolicited advice that will hopefully make things easier on you and your boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, spouse or other significant other.

    Moving to Thailand: It's not easy, but it's not difficult. There will be times when one person loves it and the other hates it, and then that will switch. People go through lots of changes and mental swings as they adjust to living abroad. Thai culture can be really frustrating for us farang. Unfortunately, mutual dislike builds into cynicism that can deepen until it overshadows all the good things that are happening.

    The fact that John and I have loved it here isn't because we're more awesome than any other couple or better at life or anything like that.

    We had been together for five years when we joined Super English.  Moving here was really, really good for us as a couple. We've gotten to spend way more time together and had so much fun traveling and trying new things. We've also made a lot of amazing new friends.

    John and I both grew up overseas and moving around a lot so it's something we had been planning on doing since we started dating. We joined Super English after a really intense and difficult year of living in a commune with our good friends (yeah—long story). I mention that because it really put things in perspective for us when we got here. We were so grateful to have our own space that we didn't care about the heat, not having consistent running water or sharing a semi-furnished house with 4 strangers.

    Even though being with someone who knows you can help so much with homesickness and loneliness when you move abroad, I've seen many couples break apart in my nearly three years in Surat Thani.  

    Of course, when you take two people's thoughts into consideration, you are doubling the chances that someone won't be happy with the new job, apartment, boss, lifestyle, food, etc. It's also pretty common that a couple will love it here, but not fit in well with the staff team or the school. And then there is the most painful scenario in which the trauma of such a dramatic change exposes underlying rifts in the relationship. In that situation, some couples tough it out and grow and others give up and go home.

    I know that's painful because it's happened to my good friends here. One particular couple I know had
    been together for five years before coming to Surat. They split up after deciding to sign on for a second year because their interests had diverged deeply in the year since they arrived. Another friend's significant other decided they had other interests just two weeks after they arrived and returned home.

    I've noticed that successful couples tend to have some things in common. They've usually been together for a significant amount of time before coming here, have discussed their expectations in advance; they like being together, have fun together, are adventurous, communicate well and are comfortable discussing their problems with each other. They're willing to hang out a lot with other people but know how to make time for each other. They take their jobs seriously and have moved or lived abroad before.

    On the other hand, I've noticed that couples who hate it here or end up splitting up do a lot of these things: They tend to withdraw into their relationship when things get hard instead of reaching out and making friends with other teachers, use their increased influence as a couple to make things harder or difficult on others, don't know how to have fun together or expect their partner to stay the same.

    So make sure and have the 'expectation discussion' before you get here. Ask each other what you're expecting when you get here. Talk about what you'll do if what you hope for doesn't happen. What if one of you gets repeatedly sick every other week for the first six months? What if one of you gets really homesick and depressed? What if one of you becomes an alcoholic? (Yeah—that happens more than you might expect, actually).  

    Let me explain that part up there about withdrawal being destructive. Thailand is all about being open—open to new experiences, new foods, new people, new adventures. I've seen lots of couples who become really insular the longer they're here. They stop hanging out with other people or trying new things. That's obviously OK, but you need to have a support network of people around you who can help you. Living here is really what you make of it. You both have to be willing to say, 'We will have a good experience here. We will both do our best to make this good experience.'

    For couples who get stuck in a negative space, their cynicism can really affect other people on the team. Super English teachers tend to see each other a lot. If a couple has decided that the food in Thailand is inedible, they'll share those thoughts with other people, who may not agree, but will certainly feel the angry bias against life in Thailand in that thought. That's really easy to do because we all hate something about living here—even if it's just being far from our family and friends. The reality is we need each other to make it through the all of the inevitable difficult times here. We need each other's encouragement and enjoyment to remind us that it's not all bad at times when that's all we can see. It goes without saying that couples tend to share mean gossip with each other a lot—something else that can really rub off on others and cause a lot of hurt.

    This is something else that's hard for couples to take: Your partner will change. Sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, a lot of times for the better, many times for the worse. It's inevitable. This  experience changes people. Don't expect him or her to stay exactly the same. I came here with a sociologist and a workaholic social worker. I'm now married to a Muay Thai fighter and a poet. Not bad, right?

  • My Experience Working for Super English by Amy McIntyre 2010

          I remember applying for Super English and filling out the questionnaire wondering if I was ready to take the leap.  I got a reply the very next morning, and a Skype interview arranged that afternoon.  At first I was a little hesitant about coming to Thailand.  I was not sure if I was ready to leave everyone and everything I knew.  After talking to Peter I instantly felt better and had a good feeling about the decision.  I knew Super English would be the place for me.  I applied for many jobs all around the world and I heard back from most of them, but I didn’t get the great welcoming feeling I got with Super.  I wanted to get experience as a teacher and Peter was so supportive and understanding I took the job as soon as I was offered it.  I was offered a job in March and began in July.  I booked my flight straight away and started to save.  I had millions of questions every day and I would often email Peter, the teachers, and the new teachers due to arrive the same time as me.  Everyone was very welcoming and friendly and answered all questions and provided me with lots of advice.  Time flew by and before I knew it, it was July!  I remember having a mini-panic… I was terrified of the thought of teaching!  I was questioning if I had made the right decision about moving half-way across the world to begin a new job I was not very experienced in.  My last 2 weeks with my friends and family were so great I started to think maybe I shouldn’t leave. I sent a very long email to one of the teachers telling her about my fears and thoughts.  She replied instantly and put me at ease.  Brittney was also new and had arrived two weeks before me.  She said she felt exactly the same way but assured me that all would be well, that I would love it, and everyone was friendly.

     I was greeted at the airport by Wen, the Thai staff administrator at Super English who handles many important details on the Thai side at the school.  She had a little sign with my name on and all the teachers had written me a little welcome message.  I began to get nervous as we approached the house; I started practising my “hello, hey, hi” in my head.  When I arrived I was made to feel very welcome.  All the teachers came out to say hello to me on my first night.  I was bought snacks and drinks.  I had a ton of questions about the teaching and everyone shared their stories of when they first came. 

     I feel I settled in really quickly and everyone was really great at making me feel welcome. People took turns showing me around and took me to shops to get settled.  I arrived on a weekend so there were many parties and events; I managed to meet most of the other teachers in the city.  I was amazed and relieved to see that there was a large community of foreign teachers around that hang out and spend time together.  Super English put on a welcoming Hawaiian party for us and it was a great bonding session.  A few drinks, a few cringing dance moves always speeds up the process.

     I cannot believe how fast time flies.  I have one month left!  I am very sad to be leaving, I have had such a great time and experience.  Super English has been the best company I have ever worked for and my job has been the best job I have ever had.  I feel so fortunate with my experience teaching for Super that I am a little nervous to move on as I have been treated so well here.

     I have been lucky to have had nothing to complain about here.  I know if I had had any issues, Peter would have been more than happy to help sort out the problem.  I did have a small problem with some students being disrespectful.  I was a little embarrassed with the nature of the problem but I went to Janet and Peter since I was not too sure how to handle it and they were great!  They really stuck up for me and were on my side.  Peter came to the school to let the administration know that that kind of behaviour was unacceptable.  He brought it to the Thai teachers’ attention and the students have since then been little angels.

    All the teachers that work for Super are amazing.  They have all really helped me grow as a teacher.  They have all sat and listened when I have had a bad day and always said something really positive to help me get back up again.  They have often given me new ideas for the classroom and given me fun ways to manage the classroom as I felt I struggled with it at the beginning.  I have had some really fun nights out with them, some great weekends away, and amazing holidays as well.  They have been my family here and I love them all and will miss them dearly.  Peter really looks after his staff.  He always throws parties and is very generous.  I have had a great time.  If you are reading this because you have accepted a job then you should be really excited!  Coming here was the best decision I have ever made!

    One other bonus for me moving to Surat; I have met the love of my life!  I met him on my second day here at a house party.  Things like that never used to happen to me.  I was always the unlucky one.  I had actually gotten out of a relationship and was going through an awful break up.  That was the last thing on my mind.  It was love at first sight.  I am incredible happy and we are moving to Japan together. 

  • Why I have decided to teach with SE by Brittney Johnson 2010

         I have decided to teach with Super English for many reasons.  First let me say that I have done thorough research on teaching English abroad.  I taught English for 1 year in South Korea.  It has always been important for me to find a quality school when job searching.  Some people I know took the first job they were offered to teach English abroad.  Not me.  I wanted to know details about the school, curriculum, housing, salary, hours, co-teachers, the town I’d be living in, etc.  So when I began job searching for my next teaching position abroad, I had some basic criteria that I was looking for.  I was open to teaching anywhere in the world.  But as soon as I talked with Peter, I realized some of the things I thought were important to me, were not as important as the unique, organic and supportive environment I felt I would experience with SE.  I was looking for an authentic quality school, rather than just a high paying job. Normally, when getting offered a job that didn’t pay as much as other schools or countries, I would automatically disregard and not even consider it.  However, as soon as I talked with Peter, I knew it was worth taking into consideration. He was very open and honest about teaching at SE.  He patiently answered all of my questions, gave me time to consider, and instantly put me in contact with current and future teachers who answered all of my questions immediately and honestly.  I felt an instant connection with him as a boss, the other teachers, the school, and the overall approach and mentality of SE.  I could tell Peter had put his heart and soul into starting and maintaining SE.  I researched the school’s website and was thoroughly impressed by the teacher’s testimonies and the transparency about the school.  

    Peter is completely upfront and honest about the positives and negatives of working at SE in Surat Thani.  In my experience in Korea, the private language schools are run as a business first, and a place of learning second.  They care more about money and keeping the parents happy.  I could tell that SE was the complete opposite of that.  It is apparent that the kids and quality teaching come first.  I really loved the overall vibe of the school and the amount of support, respect and encouragement all the teachers seemed to get.  I love the fact that the teachers can try new things and be creative, even if it ends up not working.  It seems to be a place where fun and creative learning thrive.  There is no way I would have taken a job teaching English in Thailand if it were for a different school.  But I felt like I really couldn’t miss out on this positive, challenging and exciting experience at SE. I really feel that SE is an exception to all other schools in Thailand (and the world for that matter).  I can tell teamwork, support and quality teaching are priorities.  I am thoroughly looking forward to teaching at SE, working with the other teachers, meeting my new students, challenging myself and experiencing the “real” Thailand. 

  • Why I have decided to teach with Super English by Amy McIntyre 2010

        I am fortunate to be able to say that I have managed to do a lot of travelling throughout my life thus far.  I am always taking off on a new adventures and living & working in different countries but the older I get, the more I ask myself how long I can keep this up?  After one long spell away I told myself that I should go back to the UK, focus on a career, money and buying a house however, now that I have been in the UK for a couple of years I can never seem to focus on any of those kind of things and I spend a lot of my time planning other trips and fantasizing about getting out of England.  I have been searching for some thing that will allow me to be able to get set up in life, travel and help make a difference.  Over the last five years the idea of TEFL has crossed my mind many times.  TEFL will allow me to do all the things I believe I need to do without having to keep coming back to the UK. I have tried all kinds of jobs and one thing I know for certain is that I never want to work in an office again!  I now don’t care about how much money I make, who wears what or any nasty office politics – it’s the simple life for me.

       All the signs seem to be pointing in the right direction; it’s just taken me a while to actually read them.  After I took the plunge and completed the TEFL course I started to apply for jobs immediately. The fear I once had has now turned into complete excitement and a certain belief that this is the path I should be on.  I applied for many TEFL jobs and I waited eagerly for a response.  I remember applying for the SE job late one night.  I got a response the following morning and set up a SKYPE chat for that very afternoon.  I instantly clicked with Peter and I felt as though I had known him forever.  I didn’t feel nervous and it didn’t feel like an interview, we had a bit of banter and he got to the point.  I was offered the role.  I did hesitate at the beginning as all the other jobs I had applied for started to respond.  I was offered another 7 roles in various countries, all offering good money, benefits, paid holidays and my flights.  I was faced with a difficult decision, but having called them all I noticed that none of the others came close to giving me the warm feeling that I had with Peter.   

       This is my first teaching job and hopefully it will be my new career.  I really want to learn as much as I possibly can and be as creative as I can.  I didn’t get the impression that the other schools were particularly keen to assist me in this way.  No one seemed interested in me or my lack of experience and I felt that there was little or no support.  I really didn’t want to take some thing just because it was good money.  I was looking for some thing that would allow me to be happy and comfortable in this my first teaching post. 

    One of the first things Peter advised me to do on arrival is to take a few days to get settled.  Thereafter will be given three days training and the opportunity to watch others teach before I fly solo.  I was honest with Peter; I explained that I was nervous, had no previous experience and that I had only recently passed my TEFL course.  Peter reassured me by making me feel calm, confident and positive.  I gave myself a day to think about it and the only thing on my mind was Super English.  I had a warm feeling and just knew it was for me.   

       I know I have made the right decision.  I get regular updates from Peter.  I have been emailing a few of the other new Super English teachers and already I feel part of the family.  I am thrilled to discover that we are all of a similar age with similar interests.  I am so looking forward to being surrounded by like minded people and to learning new skills and techniques along the way.  It is my intention to be creative in the classroom to help the children learn in a way that I know can be fun.  

       I want to use the opportunity to learn more about Buddhism, the Thai language and their culture, meet new people and most importantly making a difference to the children.  Five weeks to go – nervous – oh yes.  Excited – definitely!  

  • What do teachers think is the most positive thing about working with Super English? 2009

    “Active, interested students.”  Ryan Johnson

    “Really getting to know the students and seeing them progress leaps and bounds as time goes by.  Also the community of teachers Super English fosters is really helpful, not to mention tons of fun.” Erica Ambrose

    “Working with the kids, seeing them have fun while learning and know that I was a part of making that happen.  It is extremely rewarding to know someone is enjoying learning from you and with you.”  Peter

    “Freedom to develop into whatever sort of teacher I am inclined to be. Freedom of curriculum. Relaxed work environment.” Craig Blackburn, former teacher

    “Hands down the atmosphere and the children. Given the opportunity to work in such a positive atmosphere with kids that make me smile is all I could have asked for.”  Jamie Erman, former teacher

    “The most positive thing about working with SE is how smooth and painless you’ve made such a monumental transition become. “ Scott Saier

    “Working with genuinely caring, friendly, and nice people: the staff at Super English, the staff at the Thai schools, and my students.” Caleb and Codie Kostechka

    “Feeling continually supported. Working in a foreign country is daunting at times.  It is nice to know I
    always have someone to talk to or help me (personally and professionally). Creative freedom and possibility for advancement.” Victoria Biggs

    “The students.  Having taught kids between 4 and 11 years old I find Thai kids to be kind and fun-loving with a little hint of crazy.” Clair McCalla

  • What do teachers think is the most negative thing about working with Super English? 2009

    “Long days.”  Ryan Johnson

    “The schedule is tough to deal with on some days.” Erica Ambrose

    “Dealing with the not-so-honest types that occasionally pass through, much as we try to avoid it.  We pour a large amount of time, money, and energy into trying to make our teachers happy and content.  We try hard to be a good school with good management and a good team atmosphere.  It is very depressing when someone tries to deliberately damage that.”  Peter Meltzer

    “Additions to existing classes by either new students or current students being moved.” Jamie Erman

    “The most negative thing about SE is also somewhat positive.  Being based in Surat, you really get an
    authentic Thai experience.  There is nothing touristy about this city.  That being said, had I not spent a
    month in Thailand before coming here, the cultural and communicational differences I’ve experienced since coming here might have been a little overwhelming.“ Scott Saier

    “The split shift.” Clair McCalla

  • Top Ten Reasons to Be a SUPER ENGLISH Teacher From least to greatest by John Phelps 2009

    10. Set Thai culture immersion setting from stun to kill!  If you are afraid you will be in a foreigner bubble, this is the place to come. You can easily find Thai friends, eat only Thai food, and hear mostly the Thai language if you so choose in Surat. You can blow your mind with all things foreign.  However, if you want some Western comforts, expat friends, and Western food to give you a little comfortable home culture cushion, you can find them as well. 

    9.  Surat Thani is a gateway city.  It will inevitably lead to other cities.  So tell your children: “If you want to end up in places you never thought you would be, go ahead and do Surat Thani.  Just see what happens.”  I'm serious.  This is no laughing matter.  You can leave on the night boat and be on  a tropical island such as Ko Samui, Ko Phanghan, or Ko Tao overnight.  You might get on a bus for two hours and end up living in a bungalow down by the river in Khao Sok Rainforest.  Fail to get off that bus, and well... you could end up pushing long boats in the Andaman Sea in just another two hours.

    8.  Surat Thani is a Thai cuisine Mecca.  Surat Thani is known among Thai people for its fresh  seafood of several varieties.  There are soft shell crabs in the night market that will make you forever forfeit your fish sticks.  Spicy yellow curries with shrimp, oysters, sea bass, barbecued prawns, crabs  that look like facehugger bugs from the Alien movie.... it will take you at least a year to taste all the typical dishes.  If you don't like seafood, Isan style barbecue restaurants, Chiang Mai food, and Chinese-Thai food are in abundance.  You can go to cheap places or one of several fancier places, eat like the gourmet King/Queen of Cuisine and still go light on the budget (30-120 baht for a dish).  At the night market, which is one of the best I've seen in my nearly two years here, you can eat 20-30 baht dishes from one end of the street to the other.  You'll stuff your stomach with aromatically amazing dishes for less than 80 baht (if you can eat a lot).

    7.  Employee advocacy.  All language schools hire teachers, and most pay them.  That is usually where it ends, though many go on to annoy their teachers with lots of changes in work schedule, paperwork, and living accommodations, etc.  Peter hires, trains, pays well (he will recognize and honor your efforts), and sticks by his employees.  For example, most teachers go to work not just at their own language school, but at a Thai school or business.  I have seen him work to ensure that unexpected and unpaid cancellations of classes (which can dramatically cut your pay) and creation of pointless paperwork do not happen to Super English teachers.  He negotiates with the schools and businesses, and saves the teachers hours of Thai-style indirect argumentation.  It is good to have someone who really cares that you are having a good experience to stand up for you.

    6.  Absolute minimum amount of paper work.  Though previously mentioned, this is really sweet!  It deserves its own spot.  There are really only two other language schools in Surat Thai that can get into the higher quality schools that Super English serves.  Both of them require their employees to complete far more paperwork on a daily basis.  The amount of paperwork for a Super teacher varies for the type of class, so if you want to know specifics, you can feel free to email Peter or another teacher about it.

    5.  Creativity.  Peter and the management team value thinking of new ways to draw students into the deep end of the English pool and making them swim.  After training, if you want to have your students learn the language targets by singing, dancing, jumping through a series of hula hoops (I did that one, it was fun!), you can do it!  If you want further assistance, Peter and the management team will help you implement twists to your lessons that will keep your students engaged, learning, and having fun the whole year.  Teachers at Super swap ideas over lunch and at the teachers' room frequently.  After some time here, you can get to the point where your students are so into your class that they will rarely ask for games.  You can not find that at any language school I have heard of in Southern Thailand.

    4.  Super English students are eager to learn.  I know I shouldn't make hasty generalizations.  We do have our challenging students, but the atmosphere of a Super English class is unique.  We affirm the students and get the class into healthy competition or educational games that have a team-building element.  Classroom management is not easy, but we keep it positive by building the students up with praise and other positive reinforcement.  They respond to our attitude toward them with a desire to get into the class and have fun.  Our students know that learning English is fun.  Or it could just be the mind control.  I have them chant “English is fun!” occasionally.  

    3.  Super English has a high contract-completion rate.  Looking at the group of friends I have made among teachers in Surat Thani, I have friends from four major language schools.  The friends from the other schools, with a few exceptions, have a much shorter shelf life.  It is very common for them to become unsatisfied with their working conditions and break their contracts.  With very few exceptions, Super teachers like their jobs and their lives in Surat Thani.  This makes for a group of peers with whom you can bond and share experiences for at least the whole year contract period.  Most other schools are a bit chaotic with all the turnover and puzzling over how to fit the number of staff to the classes that must be taught.

    2.  Vacation time to the maximum!  Super English has an amazing number of holidays.  The other major schools have excessive amounts of unpaid “training” time that usually makes their teachers sit in offices while the Super crew is on the beach.  For instance, all Super teachers either get March or April off, then most of May and October.  It is unpaid time, but you can easily save enough cash here to vacation for the entirety of it.  It is a common mistake for me at the pub to ask a non-Super teacher how their vacation was, and get a frown back.  I often forget that they have to work so much.  Let them eat cake!  No, sorry, I take that back.  I think that got someone into trouble once.

    1.  Super English has the best environment to develop you as a teacher in Southern Thailand.  The above mentioned low turnover rate is an important part of this, because we have teachers who gain a lot of experience in their classes instead of bailing early or getting a new jumble of classes to cover episodically.  Most language schools offer you some form of training and require you to do heaps of paperwork to make sure you are doing your job.  In place of that, Super English does a rigorous and short training up front, then guides you through your teaching experience with as little or as much assistance as you request.  Super English gives employees the freedom to try new ways to teach while offering a safety net consisting of the director, assistant director, head teacher, and peer teachers to help you stretch your capacity to make your students become English rock stars.  Or tourism guides.  Or English rock star-tourism guides like David Bowie in Labyrinth.