Victoria Biggs Testimonial 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
Victoria Biggs One Year Testimonal
I have been in Thailand for just over three months. It has been a whirlwind adventure. Exhausting, wonderful, challenging, and fulfilling. I want to help all potential teachers understand exactly what they are signing on for so the following testimonial will be honest and raw. Get ready…
Work: Teaching in Thailand is an experience onto itself. You need to understand that all eyes will be on you. When I started at Thida I was overwhelmed. Although I had a lot of experience with public speaking, I was intimidated. The classes are huge. Over 50 kids. Remember that you don’t speak their language and they don’t speak yours (yet!!). You have to rely on body language, clever lesson plans and humor. Peter provides you with extensive aid on creating lesson plans. His approach to Anuban’s (kindergartens) is unparalleled and he provides you with a simple weekly lesson plan. There is constant support which I found very helpful because it is easy to become disillusioned with Thida. You only see your Anubans for 30 minutes each week and Thida often cancels classes. It is easy to feel that the odds are against you and in a lot of ways they are. You need to remain positive. If you truly have a love for children, if you can laugh at yourself, if you are willing to give your all even when it seems ‘pointless’ then you will excel at Thida. It may sound bleak but you need to understand that after my classes I generally have a huge smile on my face because the children are so funny, and sometimes all you can do is laugh.
Teaching at Super English is a completely different story. You see your students for five hours each week. You witness the fruits of your labor. There are a lot more direct rewards from working at Super English. You have creative freedom. Peter helps you hone the fundamentals of teaching and then he encourages you to interject all of your personal creativity. I love it. The staff dynamic is wonderful. There is always someone to help with lesson plan ideas or discipline problems. You never feel alone. It truly is rewarding. The students become your students. The class sizes are small. From day one I felt comfortable at S.E. and that is saying a lot considering I had never formally taught English in a school setting.
Living in Surat: Ahhhhhh, Surat. It is real Thailand. You have access to nearly all the little frills and comforts of home. You can shop, eat foreign food, and even buy English newspapers but don’t let that fool you, Surat is nothing like Canada. You need to prepare yourself (again) for having all eyes on you. There are a significant amount of English teachers in Surat but often you are the only ‘farang’ (foreigner) around. People will point at you. They will shout at you. (hey you!) You will occasionally bring small children to tears with your ‘strange’ appearance. It is a headtrip. Generally speaking the people are very friendly and very interested in you. On a darker note. I have been robbed twice since arriving in Surat. I have also been the victim of one attempted robbery. None of these incidents were violent but they did shake me up. It is a city and you are a ‘rich farang.’ I truly am not frightened in Surat but I think it is important for potential teachers to understand that it is not all safe, kind and cheerful. (Although it predominately is!)
Money: If I had the opportunity to do it all over again I would save more money before coming to Thailand. You do make enough to live in decent luxury but you are here for an adventure and you often want to spend money on going away and the what not. Peter is wonderful about trying to make his teachers lives easier. One month he was aware that all of the teachers were hurting for money so he paid us in the middle of the month as well as the end. (S.E teachers are paid monthly.) You will not be broke but you will not be rolling. You can live very cheaply but most do not. I don’t. Just know that you will not be saving a ton of money.
Play: There is plenty to do in Surat. There are always people going out on the town. Often times it is these little mini ‘excursions’ that suck up a lot of your money. I must say that it is worth it. The bar scene is very different in Surat than most other tourist destinations in Thailand. You see real Thailand. You hear real Thai (cover) bands. You dance, you play. The music selection is limited and I do miss going to see ‘real’ bands, but I have a wonderful time reveling in Surat nightlife. There is other things to do besides go out on the town. Many friends have joined Tae Kwon Do, go running at the island park, play basketball or go to computer shops for games and internet. There is plenty to do you just have to make an effort to find it.
Food: I am a vegetarian. (No meat including seafood) This has been cause for some headaches in Thailand. I can always find something to eat but the options are often quite limited. By asking around I have managed to find at least 5 restaurants with an array of vegetarian options. Three of these places only serve food until the late afternoon which is a bit frustrating but really I always have something to eat and it is generally quite good and cheap. One more thing. Everyone will tell you to watch out because the food is really spicy. It is, but a bashful smile and the request for ‘little spice’ it nearly always honored. One last thing. There is very little cheese. Good for the cellulite factor but still disheartening.
Transportation: I ride a bicycle. It works. It is good exercise, cheap and you get the smug satisfaction of helping the environment. Some teachers rent or buy motorbikes. Up to you. The traffic is somewhat chaotic but really not terrifying. You catch on quickly.
Travel: Surat really is a travel hub. Having been here for only 3 months and working every week I have managed to use my weekends to travel to 3 different islands, one beautiful mainland beach, and one national park. Many of these places I have visited numerous times. If you want to work somewhere where the location affords you infinite travel flexibility, then Surat is perfect.
Thailand is wonderful but you need an open mind. Come here with good health (mental and physical), a sense of humor and a desire to help children learn and everything else will fall into place. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
Victoria Biggs Testimonal
People often ask Randy and I why we have stayed in Thailand for over 1 year. The general, simple response is, “We love Thailand!” However that grossly oversimplifies things. Randy and I have stayed for different reasons but many of the core reasons are the same.
The Roommates = Randy and I found wonderful friends in each other. We both felt that it was not something to let go of lightly.
The Work = I had the wonderful and fulfilling opportunity to advance at Super English. I adore my work both as a teacher and as head teacher. Having often worked with children but never as a foreign language instructor, I felt I was only genuinely hitting my stride just as my contract was finishing. I didn’t want to deprive myself of the opportunity to become an excellent teacher. I also didn’t want to leave my students just as I was seeing (and hearing) great advancement. Randy had never worked with youth in a steady work environment. He took his time adjusting to teaching. It was only towards the end of his contract that he was feeling very secure in his lesson plans. He realized he should keep pushing his boundaries. He had never thought that speaking in front of 55 children could possibly become enjoyable, but it had. He wasn’t ready to let go of his students. There is also a lot of pride when you work with youth. Forgive the sappy/hippie mentality but you feel so much better when you know you are touching children’s lives. That happiness spills over into all aspects of your life.
The Language = Thai is really hard. Really. I am also a slacker when it comes to studying (don’t tell my students). Personally, I needed well over a year to feel good about my attempts to speak Thai. Learning a new language is rewarding but I needed more time.
The Culture = Thai culture is different than Western culture. I read all the books but the best way to learn is to make Thai friends. I did that, and frankly I wasn’t ready to leave them. A year gives you enough time to scratch the surface but if you stay longer it feels like you might actually be able to understand some of Thai culture. Everything starts to seem less shocking and different and starts to make more sense. It broadens your perspective. Also when you can say you have lived in the country over one year you do stop feeling like such a tourist.
The Parties= Thailand is fun. I love the freedom to go to an island on the weekend and dance until 7 in the morning. I love dancing and I will never stop wanting to watch Thai men dance. It is the most extraordinary thing. (You have to come here to see it!)
Silly little things that I wasn’t ready to live without……
- Being chased down by 20 students shouting “Victoria is beautiful!” (I’m so vain.)
- My bicycle. I am proud to use my own power.
- Thai food. The vegetarian restaurants rule.
- My unofficial title as best ‘farang’ female pool player. (And consistently beating cocky Thai men)
- Lie. The name of the street dog that sleeps on my porch and guards my house.
- Ferry rides. My time to read.
- Pleasure in the simple things, like cheese.
- The prices. So low.
- Riding my bicycle and hearing ‘good morning teacher’ from folks on motor bikes
- Sang som. Thai whiskey. You’ll understand when you get here.
- Thai music. I can’t stop dancing like a Thai man.
- Geckos, cockroaches, fist-sized spiders, poisonous centipedes. They all add a little excitement to
- The smell of sunscreen year round.
- Not having cable.
- The hugs. I am now addicted.
Seems like just yesterday I was writing my first testimonial. It was a time of growing pains and dramatic highs and lows. Now I am settled. I am two years in and the current Director of Super English Language School.
Why did I stay? For many, many reasons. One of the foremost being that I take my time getting to know a place. After one year at Super English it was clear to me that I still had a lot to learn. Both about teaching and living in Thailand. I didn’t even question staying on longer. Then the potential for advancement opened up and I jumped on it. I feel very proud of the time I have spent at Super English.
The school itself is a wonderful work environment. Yes, it has its stresses but they are far outweighed by the benefits. The Owner of the school (Peter) has been a very accommodating, informative, supportive, and fun boss. There is a genuine feeling of ‘teachers first’ at Super English and I am very happy to be continuing that ideal.
The town is a wonderful (if not oddball) mix of people from around the world. You are free to try and fit in with the Thai culture or just relax that second language portion of your brain and hang out with the teaching crew. There is always something to do. Sometimes you have to work a little to find it, but it can be found. Oh, yes it can be found.
My quality of life here is amazing. No, I am not saving any money for the long term but that is because I choose to travel every chance I can. I do need to slap myself when I whine about the necessity to have a ‘lean’ month. Which means I can’t go on a mini vacation to a tropical island every weekend. I eat exceptionally well. I eat out or I eat in (about the same cost). I can drink at leisure. I have made wonderful, eclectic friends. I can relax here.
My mother always told me that you should do something everyday that scares you. In Thailand you do that. You challenge yourself everyday. And I can’t think of a better environment to that in than Super English.
Victoria Super English Testimonal
Three years. I have been with the school three years. That, in itself, is a fine testimonial. I will go into a few specifics. Here is the short list of why I have stayed and enjoyed my time at Super English.
- My boss. Peter is a very open minded boss. He lets people excel at their own rate. He is also open to any kind of new idea. If it is proposed correctly and it will do no harm to the students, teacher ideas are never shot down. I also appreciate that he accepts all kinds of teaching styles. He always tries to understand where teachers are coming from. He also appreciates that moving to a foreign country is difficult and tries to counteract this whenever possible. I am very thankful.
- Opportunity for advancement. I was able to become a head teacher, assistant director and director. I always felt supported. Any ideas I had were supported, even if they were not always successful. I was able to create a new management system, expand on contracts, create syllabi and curriculums, deal directly with teachers issues (some comical and some quite intense!), and really feel like I was running the show. I was trusted. This is a very unique opportunity that I feel cannot be found in many other places. I am grateful for all the experience I gained at Super English.
- The students. At Super English Language school I was able to keep a core group of six students in my class for three years. I saw those kids every workday for an hour for three years! I will always cherish my time with those kids and when I see them approaching new teachers and speaking confidently in English, my heart glows. Teaching is often a very slow progress and rarely do you get to see how much you have helped. At Super English I was able to witness that growth.
- Freedom in the classroom. I was always trusted to do a good job. I was able to ask for help whenever I needed it. I was never pressured into observations or video tapings. Those things make me feel anxious and impeded in the classroom. Peter respected this. This freedom allowed me to grow and become a good teacher at my own pace. As director I was often observed but because I was allowed to find my footing at my own pace I was fully confident in my abilities. I appreciate that Super never feels like trial by fire.
- Holiday time. Super English has the most holiday time. This is great for allowing you to explore the country and really get a feel for where you are living. It also makes you a better teacher because just as you are beginning to feel burned out. Blamo, Island time!
- Feeling of security. I always felt like I could ask the school for whatever assistance I needed. Even if it was not work related. That is a really cool and unique thing about Super. When you are on the team, they really have your back. Not many jobs can give you a feeling of belonging, security, and validation that the work you are doing has purpose. Super (Peter especially) provided me with all three.
These are the main reasons I stayed. The biggies. There are many small reasons as well. I firmly believe that for a first comer to Thailand Super English is one of the best schools you could come to. It works hard to support you. Not many other schools do. I am very thankful for all my time with Super. And for all the memories…
Directors top 5 list. Top 5 things not to do in a classroom: (all of these have happened)
- Walk in and start erasing the board while the Thai teacher’s lesson is still ongoing.
- Wear shorts and flip flops.
- Open 5 textbooks on a student’s desks, start reading, and never look up.
- Fall asleep.
- Start brushing your teeth and then excuse yourself to spit.
Top 5 reasons for being late: (all of these have been used)
- Turned my alarm off in my sleep.
- No one woke me up.
- I had to poop.
- My bike chain fell off.
- The damn roosters wouldn’t shut up.
Top 6 reasons I am now the most jumpy person I know
- Never ending cockroach foot attacks.
- The cockroaches also fly. Face attacks.
- The centipede the size of my hand crawling up my thigh in bed.
- The spider the size of my face jumping out of my toilet bowl.
- The giant scorpion in my backpack.
- MOTH BATS!
Super English 4 Year Testimonial by Victoria Biggs
Four Years Later……..
My experiences with Super English have been extraordinary. When I took on the job as English Teacher four years ago I had no idea how many wonderful, challenging and resume-pampering experiences lay ahead of me. I have compiled a list of my unique work experiences at Super English. I want every prospective teacher to realize that if you work hard to excel and advance at Super English you will have boundless professional opportunities.
First: the Teaching! - Creating lesson plans and teaching Kindergarten classes. Age ranges from 3-5. The class sizes varied from 25 students to 55.
- Creating lesson plans and teaching regular Prathom classes (Grade school: Grades 1-6). With class sizes ranging from 12 to 55 students.
- Creating lesson plans and teaching regular Mathyom classes. (High School: Freshman through Senior.) With class sizes of 40 to 55 students. Government and Private schools.
- Creating lesson plans and teaching EP Mathyom classes. You see the students for one hour four times a week.
- Creating lesson plans and teaching conversational and professional English to nursing staff at both a government and private hospital.
- Creating lesson plans and teaching at a private language school (Super English!) Age ranges from 4 to 18. Class sizes from 6 to 16. I taught one particular level for 3 years. I saw those kids for one hour every day for three years. I really got to see the fruits of my labor and that felt great.
- Teaching at day camps for Prathom students held at private schools with 200 students in attendance.
- Teaching at day camps for Mathyom students held at a government school with 150 students in attendance.
- Teaching at Super English camps.
- Teaching at overnight Thai English teacher’s camps. 30 Thai teacher’s from all over Southern Thailand in attendance.
- Teaching at an Autonomous Learning Seminar for Thai English Teachers.
- Teaching a Parent’s class to help them improve their children’s English ability.
Second: The Management! - In my four years with S.E I have managed over 40 teachers! (An average of 11 teachers per year is needed to teach classes. Over 95% of these teachers completed their contracts!)
- Managing teachers from countries all over the world. (Canada, America, England, Scotland, Australia, South Africa…)
- Managing teachers in both personal and professional aspects. This management position is unique because it is our job at Super to make sure that teachers are comfortable in a foreign country. (From where to eat, to where to buy tampons, to how to teach a class of 55 students.)
- One of the most interesting aspects of managing at S.E is a chance to do cross cultural business dealings. It is very interesting to learn the differences between Thai and Western concepts of professionalism. A unique opportunity to really begin to understand Thailand.
- Super English teachers teach from the youngest of children (about 3) to adults in a professional setting. I have trained teachers for all of these age groups and varying class sizes. Being a manager at S.E really keeps you on your toes!
Third: The Fun Stuff!
- Organizing a Christmas show every year. We put on the performance in front of about 400 Thai teachers. The videos are online.
- Playing teacher’s game of basketball in front of 4000 screaming Thai students. (I assume they were screaming for me.)
- Organizing monthly cultural events. From cooking classes, to boat trips to Thai sport excursions.
- Creating themes for staff parties. And deciding what liquor goes best with the theme!
- Creating appreciation songs and skits for teachers that have done a great job. Always entertaining and a unique bonding time with your staff team.
- Going on holidays (completely separate from work) with your staff team. It is always amazing to be a part of a close knit group that manages to play and work together in harmony. (It is an even more amazing feeling to know that you are the leader of this group!)
Managing and teaching in a foreign country offers many interesting and unique work experiences. Yes, your time in Thailand will inevitably be incredibly fun, but if you are willing to give a little extra and become a manager, then the fun is balanced out with a very educational management experience that will prepare you for any other feasible management position. Management with Super English gives you the opportunity to learn to balance work and fun, private and professional, in an understanding and compassionate atmosphere. I feel much stronger as a professional and even more importantly my management experience has helped me to become a more compassionate, patient and understanding human being.