Testimonial

by Craig Blackburn (May, 2005 – May, 2007)

I came to Thailand originally because I had never been to Asia and was interested specifically in the history and culture of Southeast Asia. I first came to Thailand because I had friends who had come and enjoyed it immensely. I was also familiar with the cuisine and ate Thai food regularly back at home. It seemed a logical first choice to visit. The first trip I took was only two weeks. Not enough time. As happens frequently, I fell in love with the climate, the people and the food. The pace of life agreed with me. I decided to come back and live here for a while.

When I was making plans to move to Thailand I spent some looking at available options as far as work goes. It seemed difficult to find jobs outside of education or diving. I was a bit leery of working in a school for several reasons. I did not want to be one of the unfortunate souls who “falls into” teaching. I’ve had some bad teachers in my time. I didn’t want to be one of them. In addition, I wasn’t really sure whether or not I liked children. That might sound strange but most of my experience with kids was via the restaurant industry where, by and large, children are nightmares. I ended up getting in touch with Peter through a mutual friend. I wanted to know about living in Thailand, work opportunities, etc.

Applying for a job at Super English was not something I had intended to do but after trading emails with Peter it was what I did. From the start, Peter came across as very enthusiastic and sincere. The information he sent me on the school was interesting. I didn’t really have much to compare it to at the time but now that I’ve been here I realize he was really trying to prepare for me what it would be like. There’s only so much of that you can do. The rest involves showing up and throwing yourself into it. But seeing pictures of teachers, pictures of the school and the students helped. It was also nice to show my family this information. I’m pretty happy to go into situations with little or no expectations but my family wanted a bit more info on what I would be doing aside from killing them by moving half-way around the world.

I was fortunate to have two weeks to travel before I began training. I arrived in Bangkok and almost immediately boarded a train for Khorat. I’m extremely glad I did. Traveling alone was a big help as far as acclimation was concerned. It was also nice to travel to Northeastern Thailand as it is the least toured area of the country and has excellent food. Not many people spoke English so I had to learn the basics of Thai quickly. By the time I had gotten down to Surat I’d seen some amazing things, met some great people. I was no longer waking up at 3 AM.

The training itself was not stressful at all. For a few hours a day myself and another teacher would come in to the school and Peter would go over either teaching basics or aspects of Thai culture in relation to education. Peter stressed that we were in charge of our classes. There would be no one looking over our shoulder. Having someone put this much trust in me when I had really no idea what I was doing was as reassuring as it was unsettling. Basically, Peter made it clear that he and the school were supportive of the teachers. Having been a teacher at other schools, he’s experienced some of the more annoying and tedious aspects of working as a teacher. Lesson plans in advance, rigid curriculums, other generally lame stuff. Our life would be relatively free of hassle and paperwork.

The classes themselves. At Super English, it was about what I had expected. Classes ranging in size from five to fifteen but usually with about ten students. Students of varying ages and skill levels. The first few classes were a bit rough as it took me a while to get the hang of time management and discipline. Throughout my time at Super English (1+ years), Peter has been fully supportive and extremely helpful. Any time I ask him a question or come to him with a concern about a student or class, he deals with it. When one of my classes needed straightening out, he taught it for me and got the kids on a routine and typed out a class procedure for me. He’s an amazing resource as he has much experience teaching. He also works hard to keep our office stocked with the best teaching aids around. A lot of books and materials he brings back from the US. The school really puts teachers and students first, the business aspect second. I can honestly say that its goal is to educate children. I’m extremely happy and fortunate to be working in a place where I can get to know my students and design classes that will enable them to learn.

At Thida: When I first started teaching, Thida was a complete fiasco for me. The classes were out of control and there was very little learning happening. Gradually, I got a handle on some of my classes. Again, Peter and the school were of great assistance. Due to the combined efforts of Peter and Pla (an administrator at Thida), we now have Thai teachers in our classes to handle the discipline. That frees us up to actually teach. The difference between Thida this year and last year is like night and day. What was once a dreaded necessity is now a lot of fun. I really like my students. I taught them last year in M1 and it’s nice to see them actually progressing. A note here about the Thai educations system: it is completely screwed. Not much learning goes on across the board. Things are changing, but slowly. It takes some patience to deal with the weird stuff they throw at you. The best thing to do is just smile and shrug and appreciate it for its oddness. Don’t worry about not having any teaching experience. I had zero experience myself before Super English. For me it was the perfect learning environment. No one told me what to do or how to do it. At the same time, if I had questions all I had to do was ask. The school does an excellent job of supporting the teaching staff with teaching resources and roundtable discussions of teaching aids and the like. It’s all very open. If you were to find that something you were doing was working very well then we would probably ask you to tell other teachers about it. And if you had a problem with a certain area then there’s always the chance that it will end up the topic for discussion. Peter has always been extremely supportive. I’ve mentioned things to him in passing and then had him come in the next day with suggestions and tips. For me, the school is a classic case of “what you put into it is what you get out of it.” If you care about your job, if you care about teaching the kids, you will be a good teacher because you will do what it takes to become a good teacher. There’s a learning curve, too. No joke. Every day I go into a classroom with kids I learn something new or tweak something I’ve learned before. It’s the nature of the beast.

Classes are large at Thida, to be sure. I’m actually looking forward to it for a couple of reasons. First, there will be a Thai teacher in the classroom with us. This will help matters of discipline immensely. There shouldn’t be any problems with kids acting up or creating distractions. Of course, some of the kids will zone out. That’s fine. Teach the kids that are paying attention. With a class that large it will be difficult (if not impossible) to involve everyone. In some ways that makes things much easier. We approach the Thida classes with an open mind and have fun with them. You’re going to be way more fun than the Thai teachers without even trying. Teaching is a lot like performing. You get in there, work the crowd, end on a high note. With larger classes you can also experiment with group activities and that sort of thing.

As far as living in Surat goes, I like it. The town has enough bars and restaurants that I don’t get bored. It is also inexpensive. If I want to go out every night, I can. If I want to sit in my house and read, I can do that too. The social scene, like the school itself, really hinges upon how much effort one puts into it. There are plenty of other farang teachers around town and they’re all usually open and inclusive. In addition, there are plenty of great Thais in Surat. I love going to restaurants or bars by myself and practicing Thai. It’s probably one of my favorite pastimes. Surat is close to a lot of tourist attractions in Southeastern Thailand. Phuket is just a couple of hours away. Samui and the other islands are close. Getting away for the weekend is easy and a fun way to break up the week or month.

Oh, yeah. Vacation. We get a lot of it. It’s excellent.

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Testimonial

by Bonnie Vidrine (May, 2006 – May, 2007)

When I came to Thailand, it was my first time in Asia. Nothing was remotely similar to America or Central America. Thai people drive on the opposite side of the street, they put corn on top of their pizza, and they ride their babies on motorbikes. I have been in Thailand since September of 2006 and now things are wonderfully familiar. Super English is more like a family then I would have ever imagined. They are warm and truly care about their teachers. They seek to bring out your best qualities and nurture them. We are all teachers in one way or another to the people in our lives, but Super English has cultivated my talents as a teacher and encouraged me to grow. It has been a life changing experience.

About me: I’m a country girl from Louisiana. During high school, I worked as an acrobat instructor for kids and teenagers. Then, I double majored in English writing and Business at a Jesuit University in New Orleans. After I graduated, I had a brief, very boring career in banking. Following Hurricane Katrina, I moved to Belize, Central America to practice travel writing. I volunteered with children in the country and had a blast. While in Belize, my father encouraged me to move to Thailand, a country he has loved for years. I took his advice and a position at Super English and have had an incredible experience here.

Testimonial

I arrived in Surat Thani about two months ago to teach at Super English Language School. I took a Global Tesol course in NYC, which I’m glad I did. It definitely helped to prepare me for some of things to expect as a teacher. I applied to job postings all over the internet and got a lot of responses in return. Some of the school representatives I had phone interviews with couldn’t speak English well and were unable to answer any of my questions. When I came across the Super English School I just knew it was different.

From the very beginning of the application process, Super English seemed more of a teacher oriented school than any other. The responses I received were friendly, encouraging and genuine. Unlike all of the other schools I applied to, they encouraged me to ask questions and answered all of them directly and upfront. Choosing a school to work in for one year is not easy. I wanted to choose a school where there are other native English teachers and one that would provide the most assistance in getting acclimated to Thai society. After three weeks of being in Thailand, I knew I made the right choice.

I have found the staff and management of Super English to be very welcoming and inviting. Being here for the first time is a bit overwhelming to say the least, but the teachers here all made me feel like one of the team very early on. They helped get me set up right away in my own house and showed me around town which was really helpful and so appreciative. I was so thankful that Peter, the Director of the school, picked me up from the bus stop in Surat. I definitely would not have been able to find my way. I trained with him and another new teacher for about a week and went right into teaching.

I was a bit nervous at first as this is my first time teaching English in a classroom environment, but the Director and other teachers have been extraordinary in terms of what they expect of me. They are so laid back and understand that it takes time to develop into a good teacher. I was nervous that I wouldn’t know what to do or how to teach; whether I’d be able to even make a connection with the students. The staff just keeps reminding me to just have fun. And after about two weeks of teaching I can honestly say I am having a lot of fun.

I teach students who range in age from 6 to 15 and they are absolutely amazing. They come to class, participate, have lots of energy and genuinely enjoy learning English. The kids are so excited to see us every day, it’s hard not to have fun. The Director and Head Teacher are so encouraging and are constantly giving me ideas for my classes. They keep reminding me that I can’t screw up. But I don’t know about that. The school is designed where the teacher is the best resource for the students and not the text book, so I have a lot of flexibility over how to introduce the material to the class – which makes teaching fun. I don’t have to be rigid or boring in terms of teaching from a book like a lot of the other schools require. The school has so many resources that finding a fun activity to do with the classes is never too hard. Another positive experience is that the school doesn’t require a lot of administrative work. This gives me more time to come up with creative lesson plans.

I am really impressed with how Super English is run. It’s organized, it’s efficient, they really care for the students and from what I’ve seen they really go over the top to make sure the teachers are comfortable. They put the welfare of the students above the business which is really important to me. I am a long way from being the teacher I know I can be, but I am really glad I chose to come to Super English. I’ve been teaching in Super English for about nine months now and it’s been quite an adventure. I came to Thailand primarily to experience the culture, the people and see more than I could as a backpacker or a tourist. When I first got here, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know what the living situation would be like or even if I would make it as a teacher. It seemed difficult: standing in front of a classroom teaching young children in a language they didn’t understand and in a culture I didn’t understand. Especially when I found out there would be as many as 55 students in a classroom. I remember speaking with the head teacher about this and he insisted, calming me down after bringing it up numerous times, that it’s not as difficult as it appears. Well, he was right. It’s so much more fun than it sounds.

I teach younger children, ranging in age from 5 to 11 and they are an amazing group of kids. It always makes me laugh how eager they are to run as quickly as they can into the classroom each day. They know they’re going to have fun, way before the class even starts. They have so much energy and it’s hard not to be affected by it. It really doesn’t take long to start making real progress with them either; specifically in the classes at Super English. I see the same students there every day, track their performance and help them in the areas they need it most. The classes at SE are small, which allows me to give individual attention to every student. I joke around with my younger students in English, and what’s great is that they understand the humor and make jokes right back at me. It didn’t take me long at all to make a connection with them.

I find that it doesn’t take as long to prepare my classes as it did when I first got here. Teaching really does get easier and much more enjoyable over time. At first, it was a bit overwhelming since I didn’t really know what to do or what was expected of me. The training Peter provides is top notch, but once you’re up in front of the classroom, it’s easy to forget what you went over in the training. The management is really great about this and they expect it to take a bit of time for you to get your bearings. This is why the training is on-going and the environment is such where you can ask questions or brainstorm with other teachers to get ideas. In fact, in addition to interacting with the students, the best part of the job is the relaxed working environment. Coming from New York City, I am accustomed to stressful working conditions. Here at Super English, the management allows all of us the freedom to work at our own pace. As long as we maintain certain standards in the classroom, which is easy to do, Peter affords us the independence to do what we want with our students. There’ s no one checking up on me, no one observing my classes or watching my every move. He really goes out of his way in trying to make all of us as comfortable as possible so we can focus on teaching.

It’s certainly been an adventure both living and working in Suratthani, definitely one of the most enriching experiences I have had to date. I know it’s a bit cliché, but I have really discovered a lot about myself over the last few months. In addition, while learning about Thai culture, I’ve also gained a deeper understanding of American culture. Simply stated, Surat is an awesome place to live and I am so comfortable here. The people are so friendly, the cost of living is really low and the weather is hot all year long. I remember my first night in the apartment: hearing strange noises coming from the outside, watching geckos crawling (more like wrestling) on my ceiling and wondering if I made a mistake by uprooting myself and coming to Thailand. It’s so funny to think back on those first few days. I heard people say that everyone finds there niche after being here for a while, and this is certainly true. After nine months, I can honestly say that I have found a home here. The street my apartment is located on isn’t the cleanest, but after living here for almost a year, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in Surat. I would definitely not have said that when I first arrived, especially after being chased down the street by some stray dogs. I recently purchased a little electric scooter and very much enjoy cruising around town meeting new people every day and practicing Thai with them. I have as much fun staying in town on the weekends as I do when I travel to the nearby islands. In fact, the Thai food here is so good that I often find it to be better than the food in some of the more touristy destinations. In recent weeks, I’ve been involved in a chess and minesweeper competition with a fellow teacher in town and regardless of what he says, I’m winning.

If not for my desire to accomplish some career goals in my home town, I would definitely stay on for another year. I am sure Surat hasn’t seen the last of me (or my yellow scooter)!!