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.
Currently showing posts tagged Teaching
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?
“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
“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
“The split shift.” Clair McCalla
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!
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.
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.
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,
adviceand 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 endwe 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 leastwe 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