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.
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“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!
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.
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.
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
involvessomething 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
someit means a Thai dancing show put on for tourists. To othersit 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 youplaces, 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.
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