Monday, March 30, 2009

erika is employed

I have a job! I’ll be working at a local public/government primary/elementary school, teaching introductory English to cute kiddos. Should be fun – lots of games and acting and singing, and good teaching experience: if I can get metagrammar across to 5-year-olds with whom I share no language in common, teaching anything else will be easy. I’ve been contracted through a nearby language school, Fun Language International, which will not only handle all the administrative things like my paychecks, etc., but will also provide lesson plans and materials, teacher training support, transportation, etc. Pretty good setup for a new language teacher like me.

(added later: Erika teaching Thai kids)

I found the process of getting a job here to be bizarre and slightly bewildering. It was nice to be in high demand: there is such a desire to learn English here that native speakers of English who are certified to teach the language and who have teaching experience are like gold. I had schools fighting over interview times, and could easily have argued for much higher salaries. I didn’t feel right about demanding more money, though, since what they offered generally was about 6 times the rate for the Thai-citizen teachers at the same schools: there’s only so much privilege I’ll put up with, and what they’re paying me will be enough to live quite luxuriously here.

One of the toughest parts was conducting an interview when the people interviewing me spoke imperfect English with very heavy Thai accents. There’s only so many times you can ask, “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” without seeming either incompetent or rude. Added to that is that often I actually had heard them right, and just couldn’t believe that they were asking what they were asking. What the interviewers were mostly interested in were my life story and personal characteristics, from my opinion of my elementary school to my current religion and marital status. Some actual questions (not made up): Father’s/mother’s/spouse’s occupation? Family’s financial status? Who is the person you love most? How intelligent are you? What kind of diseases do you have? What are your opinions on this obscure Buddhist theological debate? Quite unlike any interviews I have conducted before. All my reading of Thai social anthropology texts before coming over seemed like overkill at the time, but every tidbit proved useful: I understand the reasons for most of their questions, and so could answer the questions behind the questions.

School doesn’t start until the first week of May, so I have a bunch of time free. No money, but time. So I’m off this evening on a month-long adventure exploring the natural environment of Thailand from southern tip to northern tip by mountain biking, swimming, hiking, rafting, on elephant back, and occasional cheating train bits. Stay tuned for lots of pictures!

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