Making More Money with Super English

By Peter C. Meltzer

One of the most frequent concerns I hear during the interview phase is that the money in Thailand is quite low. Yes, compared to other countries, the salary in Thailand is quite low. Thailand still qualifies as third world country. If you want more money, go to China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, even Vietnam. Basically anywhere except Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. You come to Thailand for the experience, not the money.

Other applicants go as far as to worry about the salary itself at Super English. Converted into dollars, I suppose this concern makes sense. Just as an aside, though, it’s not really a good idea to bring up concerns about salary when you are already interviewing for a position. If coming to Thailand is something you are serious about, you would have already done the research which told you that foreigners in Thailand make a fine living. But to reassure those who are doing their research, please know that in Thailand, especially in Surat, you’ll be living off the baht, not the dollar. Everything here luckily costs baht too, not dollars. The cost of living is looooowww. So while the average Thai person is making 6000-8000 baht per month, most SE teachers are making between 25000-35000 per month. And SE teachers don’t have to pay rent.

Do most teachers go through almost all of this in one month? Yup. Do they go off to islands and have tons of fun? Yup. Do they go out and have fun frequently during the week? Yup. Is alcohol cheap anywhere in the world? Nope. So yes, while SE teachers do get paid 300-450% more than the average Thai person, they also live a much more interesting lifestyle. There are lots of things to spend money on in Thailand, and the more glamorous vacation destinations, such as Phuket or Samui, are huge money pits.

To solve these financial dilemmas, SE offers something that no other school does: additional money making opportunities. You can earn extra money in a plethora of ways, including:

  • writing articles for the SE website (teachers make 250 baht per article)
  • financial journals (teachers usually make 500 baht per entry, but this depends on their levels of itemization)
  • photo-articles (teachers make 250 baht per article)
  • travel articles (teachers make 250 baht per article)
  • recording audio files for our second website,
  • creating materials for either SE or D&S

If you have an idea, such as an online first year teacher’s journal, then we discuss it and agree on a monthly salary for it. I am 150% for originality, creativity and giving things a try.

What this really means is that there is no limit on how much money you can earn per month with SE. It all depends on how hard you want to work and how much you want to do. You can be an SE teacher and make as much money as you want to. So there really isn’t that much to worry about.

Tribute to Mrs. Janet Phelps

By Brittney Johnson

I have had the great honor of knowing, working and traveling with, and being friends with Janet Phelps, Super English’s Manager. I’d like to take this time to highlight some experiences I have shared with Janet as well as point out some of her unique qualities that make her an outstanding manager and friend.

First of all, Janet is one of the most upbeat, positive people I know. You will rarely find her sitting absolutely still. She always seems to be moving about doing something productive. I fortunately live three houses down from her, so I have the benefit of being able to see how Janet lives on a day to day basis, not just from a working point of view. Janet’s house always seems to be open to people. It is “the place” people go to; to meet up, eat a shared meal, watch a movie, plan things for school functions, eat weekend breakfasts, porch hang outs, drink a cup of coffee, have a beer, or just drop by to say hi. I truly admire that about Janet. Even after a long days work, she is still available to everyone at Super English. People feel comfortable to come to Janet, however small or big the issue is, whether its work related or a personal matter.

It must be difficult to be a boss and friend at the same time. Janet does an amazing job of balancing the two. She is able to kick back and have fun with everyone. She is the one to usually plan a social event and to get people excited about it. But on the other hand, she is also able to get serious when it’s necessary. Even though she is a young boss, but that doesn’t stop her from being professional and everyone respects her for that. She does a brilliant job of stepping in when she is needed, but also giving teachers space to be creative and to figure certain things out on their own. She is a very approachable person. I’ve always felt comfortable going to Janet for advice about lesson plan ideas, traveling, teaching, housing, and personal issues.

On a personal note, Janet is so much fun to be around! I’ve laughed with her more than anyone else in Surat Thani. She has a unique, witty, bubbly and cheerful personality. She always has a way of turning something that may be negative into something that is positive. She is truly encouraging and affirming. I would say she is an optimist. She always has a way of looking at things from a “glass is half full” perspective. And that is contagious. She can turn a sour atmosphere into a light-hearted, cheery environment. And that is so important in a foreign country. People that move to a foreign country to teach English are surrounded by all kinds of unfamiliar things. People can feel uncomfortable not only as first time teachers in the classroom, but also being around new people, not speaking the language, being in a new city, etc. Janet has done an amazing job of making new teachers feel at ease and comfortable in their new homes and in Surat Thani.

I had the opportunity to travel with Janet to beaches, cities and islands with Thailand with Janet. I also went to Indonesia with her during the Christmas break. She is a wonderful travel partner! You get to see a different side of someone when traveling with them. I would travel with Janet again in a heartbeat! I’m thankful to have made some memories with her outside of Thailand.

Janet is truly an inspiration to me in so many ways. I admire her ambition, thoughtfulness, selflessness, and honesty. If there were more Janet Phelps’ in the world, it would be a better place.

The Healing Cup

by Amy McIntyre

Being a teacher in Thailand is amazing. There are many opportunities for new things. You can learn so much that you never thought you could, and being in Surat it all seems to be at your doorstep.

Aside from teaching with Super English, I also wanted to come to Thailand to learn more about Eastern spirituality. I am a Reiki practioner and I wanted to go to a country that would foster my spiritual growth. Thailand’s strong Buddhist influence attracted me and Surat in particular because it is not a tourist destination; it is more of a Thai experience.

When I first arrived I found it a little difficult to achieve my goal of learning more about Eastern spirituality. Many locals do not speak English and no one else seemed to be seriously interested, so I was a little a disappointed. However, during one trip to Khanom, a beach an hour away from Surat, I met a man named Jet Lie. He is an ex-monk in the Burmese Buddhist tradition. He has been a healer for 17 years and has been all over the world. He is originally Chinese and grew up in Hong Kong, but he lived in New York for 8 years. His latest project is Harmony House Healing Centre, where he offers Chinese cupping massage, reflexology, Reiki and Seichim treatments and teaches the techniques as well! Cha ching!!! My life had already gotten 100 times better for making the move to Thailand, but since meeting Jet my life has just doubled with happiness. I went to his healing centre where I discovered the many courses he offered in massage and spiritual healing. I got a message from him just to scope him out and he was amaing! As soon as I got a long weekend holiday I booked my first healing course with him.

This is the Harmony house. There are two medium priced rooms at the top and a dorm room at the bottom.

Harmony house is a 100 meters from the beach! So you can learn and sun bathe!

I decided I wanted to take advantage of Jet while I am here, as his prices are so cheap compared to anywhere else in the world. He is not out to make money. I have done my Seichim level one and two, both of which really complement the reiki. I have also just completed a Chinese cupping course. So if I ever wanted to make money from this I could go anywhere in the world and do so. For a one hour session in London it is £70 a pop! Chinese cupping is a method of applying acupressure. To apply a cup, the air inside it is heated, the cup is applied to the skin forming an air-tight seal, the air inside the cup cools and contracts forming a partial vacuum, enabling the cup to suck the skin, pulling in soft tissue, and drawing blood to that area.

Chinese cupping. Yep I can do this!!

These are the 300 Baht shacks. So cute! The bathrooms are the white building behind.

These are the more luxurious rooms.

If you sign up for a course with him he gives you discounts on the rooms. When he is busy teaching, his girlfriend, who is also very good and very sweet, can give you any of the treatments. They will always welcome you with some tea from Taiwan and local fresh fruit.

Even if you don’t want to do a course it is a fantastic place to chill out by the beach. There are rooms from 150 Baht up to 8oo Baht. All brand new and all really nice. The dorm room has four beds, so it’s perfect if there is a group of you. There are also little huts for 300 baht which are very nice. Or if you want to splurge there are various other options.

All the teachers in Surat have been very supportive and open about my study of healing techniques. I have been able to get lots of practice in on many of them. I have also discovered you can do many retreats at temples. I am doing my first 10 day mediation retreat in Bangkok in March, although there is also 10 day retreat every month just 45 minutes outside of Surat at Wat Suan Mohkh.

Here is Jet Lie’s website to see other treatment and courses he offers. If you are interested in learning mediation he is about to start a FREE workshop every Sunday afternoons which will include experience introductions to Massage, Body Balancing & Energy Healing Treatments, free Life Coaching consultation and you will get the chance to meet like minded people.

The First Annual Super English Poker Tournament

By Jessica “want another one?” Gallant

Saturday, January 22, 2011 was the First Annual Super English Poker Tournament. Luckily for us teachers at Super English, Peter likes to take it upon himself to throw the occasional party in our honor and provide the entertainment, drinks, and snacks. It was decided that this party in particular should be a poker tournament. Brian is quite the poker aficionado so he was put in charge of organizing the event and making sure the cards and poker chips showed up, along with all of the players. The buy-in was one hundred baht per person, and wouldn’t you know that Brian won the entire tournament and made off with 1,200 baht… coincidence of talent, coincidence of luck, or coincidence of management; I’ll let you decide.

Brian was really great about the entire thing and he gave us all poker names. Present at this event were: myself (“Jess-tified Homicide” Gallant), Mitch “Mr. Folds” Burbick, Janet “Your turn!!!” Phelps, John “The Punisher” Phelps, Chris “Flimsy” Ansell, Brittney “Whittles” Johnson, Tristan “2wo Times” Rentos, Anneliese “Cold Coffee” Charek, Blake “The Rake” Schlaich, Amy “All In” McIntyre, Mike “The Kid” Rogers, Peter “Teddy KGB” Meltzer, and Brian “The Needler” Steinbach.

There were two tables, and players were eliminated as the night progressed until finally The Needler beat everyone. I do not play poker, so I was the bartender. As such, I should take full responsibility for the incredibly spirited fun that everyone had. But not for the consequences suffered the next day, because I just did as I was told.

In addition to this being a really fun poker party, it was also an appreciation party for Tristan. Tristan is now finishing his second full year with Super English and will soon be moving to Vietnam. Many co-workers gave little speeches about how great Tristan is, and we all pitched in to create a Vietnam Survival Kit for him. This kit included some essential things from Thailand to help him remember his roots, and also some useful tools for surviving in Vietnam. There were quite a few things in this kit that were really cool. One of them was a video that Mike made. He recorded the bike ride from Tristan’s house to Thida and then to Super English so that Tristan will never forget his daily routine here. His students all made cards for him, and Janet made him a really awesome Commie-Detector. Overall, the Poker Tournament was both a really fun party and a really great appreciation event for Tristan. Just watch out for Brian, because he’ll take you for all the baht you’ve got.

Traveling in Southern Thailand

by Tristan Rentos

Let’s call a spade a spade here – we’ve all come to Thailand to do a bit of traveling (when we’re not doing our very best teaching English, that is). What’s the best way to go about this? In my two years of living here I’ve picked up more than a few tips, here’s what I’ve learnt.

Note: If you are interested in train travel, have a read of Chris’s article. I will be focusing on buses and boats.

OK, firstly the basics. Surat has two main bus stations, they are called Talad Kaset 1 and 2. They are located on Talad Mai Rd, which is the road that Suratpittaya and Thidamaepra schools are on. Talad Kaset 1 is for local travel around Surat only, so you won’t be catching the bus from there. Talad Kaset 2 is where to get the bus to the main tourist haunts, namely Krabi, Khanom, Khao Sok National Park, Phi Phi and Koh Lanta, *Phuket (more on Phuket later), Hat Yai etc. You have two choices – the public bus (big bus) or a minibus. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH – DO NOT TAKE A PUBLIC BUS UNLESS YOU HAVE TO! Public buses stop every 5 minutes to pick up or drop off a local, they are always dirty, overcrowded and the air con/ventilation system is always inadequate. Also, because they go through the towns they never take the most direct route! I have calculated that a public bus is almost always 2 hours behind a minibus. Yes, a minibus is around 100 – 150 baht more expensive but unless you have a car then this is the best option. When you do get in the minibus, sit in the seat next to the door as it has the most legroom. Yes, you will have to get out when a person gets off but it’s worth it, trust me.

If you do get travel sickness, buy some Dimin tablets from 7/11. They are in a small blue packet, and cost 10 baht for two tablets. Only take one tablet 30 minutes before you travel, don’t take both unless you want to end up like Jessica on the boat to Samui. Tickets for minibuses can be bought at any of the tourist outlets at Talad Kaset 2, the more Thai you can speak the better because they have made more than a few mistakes on my tickets over the years (e.g. wrong time or date).

Phuket deserves a paragraph of its own, because this place is another world compared to Surat. Firstly, never take the public bus to Phuket unless you have an iron stomach, because it goes over the mountains near Khao Sok and it gets a bit twisty in the corners. When you get there you will be swamped with offers from tourist touts. All I can say is do your research before you go because unless you have a Thai person with you these touts will try every trick in the book to rid you of your hard earned cash. Most prices in Thailand can be negotiated in half, even in Bangkok, but in Phuket these guys are steadfast and expensive. Even tuk tuk drivers will charge you a flat rate and stop at their cousin’s jewelery shop to ‘say hello’ and try to make a few baht commission along the way. If you want to make them go away, here’s what to say:

  • Pom/chan mai nak tong tiao kap/ka (I am not a tourist)
  • Pom/chan mai son jai kap/ka (I’m not interested/don’t care)
  • Mee rong raaam layo kap/ka (I already have a hotel)
  • Mai ow kap/ka (no thank you)

If you go any stronger than the above then you are being very rude and I wouldn’t recommend it. Most tourist touts and tuk tuk drivers are honest people just trying to feed the family, but it’s the bad apples you have to worry about.

Now, what about the islands? You have a few options here. The night boat goes to Koh Samui/Phangan/Tao, you can catch it from the pier opposite Milano’s Pizza (about 2 mins walk from SE). This is the cheapest option, but true to its name the night boat takes all night, so if you don’t like boats you will need a better option.

In my opinion, the best option to get to Samui is on the Seatran Ferry. This is a huge boat that leaves from Don Sak pier, which is around one hour out of Surat. You can buy tickets from the PC Service Station, which is 2 doors down from Suratpittaya school. The ticket costs 230 baht and includes a bus ticket to Don Sak and the boat to Samui. When you get to Samui, you will land in Nathon. Walk to the end of the pier and catch a tuk tuk to wherever you want to go (probably Chaweng if you’re a bit of a tourist) – it should cost you around 60 baht. If you want to go on Phangan (where the full moon party is held) or Koh Tao then you can catch the Lomprayah Ferry from a pier near Big Budda on Samui, it’s easy to find.

Final comment – if you want to escape the tourist touts and the crowds that come with them (as well as the ridiculous prices), go to these places: Khanom, Railay (in Krabi), Khao Sok National Park, Songkla, Koh Lanta Noi, PhangNa and Chumpon.

Enjoy your holiday!

How I Got Here

By Peter C. Meltzer

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “How and why did you start Super English?” Here is the answer:

I first visited Thailand in the summer of 1999. I had gone to visit my uncle, who was working in Hong Kong at the time, and he and I took a quick weekend trip to Bangkok. Even though I don’t really like big cities, I immediately felt right at home. I clearly remember the taxi ride from the airport into town, driving at breakneck speed while my uncle talked about Thai culture. “Thai people are much more relaxed about things than westerners,” he explained. “Thais like to try things out. Maybe mix a bit of purple with some orange, add a spot of pink, and see what it looks like? Looks bad? Oh well, never mind. Looks good? Great!” It’s a basic approach I have tried to carry over to Super English.

The rest of the weekend in Bangkok only cemented my initial response to Thailand. The food, the weather, the people, the scenery, the prices, everything felt very comfortable. The pad thai I had by the side of the main river in Bangkok still stands out in my mind as the best pad thai I have ever had, and there is some wicked good pad thai in Surat. I left Thailand with a sense of knowing where I belonged.

I graduated a semester early from the University of Virginia and spent those six months volunteer teaching for the International Rescue Committee. I taught a family of Bosnian refugees. I worked primarily with the mother and father in the family, while another teacher worked with the teenage sons. We sometimes combined the groups and did a joint lesson. It was a truly educational experience. The IRC doesn’t have a lot of (or any) resources so there was no training, minimal orientation, and no support. They handed me a binder with about 150 random pages and the address of the family. I would go to this family’s sparsely furnished apartment once or twice per week and sit at the kitchen table with mom and dad, who could speak almost no English. No whiteboards, no photocopies, no get-up-and- run-around activities. I used whatever useful pages I could find in the binder provided and improvised the rest. I learned a lot about teaching. I also learned that teaching was something I was reasonably good at. I already knew what I wasn’t good at (calculus, micro-economics, almost all sciences, etc.) so it felt good to discover a fun, rewarding skill that could also help others.

I had also done a fair amount of coaching during my time at UVA. I worked as the assistant track and field coach at Western Albemarle High School, which sits about 20 miles outside Charlottesville, VA. This was also an activity I found fun and rewarding. I had some success in coaching and enjoyed working with kids.

I decided to combine my various skills and teach ESL abroad. My first choice was, of course, Thailand. However, it was very hard to find any position outside of Bangkok at the time. After a long search, and almost ending up in Japan, I found one position available at a language school in Surat. I applied for it, never heard back, then tried again, and got hired. I arrived in Thailand on July 27th, 2001. The position started out great. I loved it. The paperwork was somewhat reasonable, the classes were somewhat fluid, but the kids were sensational. I loved every minute with those kids. They were fun, creative, intelligent, affectionate, compassionate and motivated. I was able to see almost daily how I was improving their English. I threw myself into their education with great enthusiasm and energy. When I wasn’t actually teaching, I was thinking about teaching. What types of fun, interactive activities could I do with the kids to help their English improve? What was the next step in their English language development? How could I make the lessons challenging, rewarding and productive? I thought about the students’ likes and dislikes and incorporated them into presenting lessons, dialogues, games, etc. It was a great time.

The town of Surat also really welcomed me, as it does so many teachers. The people were so warm and friendly. There were always invitations and activities. Thanks to their efforts, I felt very much at home. I studied muay thai at one of the local gyms and the owner, Ajarn Somboon Tapina, has become like a family member.

After about seven months on the job, things started to take a turn for the worse. The paperwork began getting out of hand. They originally required some, but now they seemed to be adding new things every other week. The school wanted typed student evaluations (at least one page per student), typed class procedures (a 10+ page document updated monthly), typed lesson plans (one entire week submitted in advance), typed students profiles (at least one page typed per student and updated monthly), plus an enormous amount of additional paperwork required for an off-site class at a government school. Over the last few months of my contract I was spending substantially more time in front of the computer than in the classroom (I was teaching 24 hours per week). I felt completely burnt out. When I got in front of the kids, I wasn’t thinking about the class. I was thinking about how I would be at the school until 9:30 pm typing. It wasn’t fun. I felt stifled, both intellectually and creatively. A few months before my contract was up I let the school know that I planned on leaving when my one year commitment was through. I stayed until the end of my contract, finished strong, and knew I needed a break from teaching.

I moved to Phuket and worked with hotels. I worked as a consultant, primarily assisting Thai hotel management in marketing and customer relations. I also worked hands-on with the various departments in improving customer service and guest relations. Eventually, one hotel hired me as their in-house marketing manager. I was the only foreigner. It was a very educational experience. I won’t go into too much detail, except to say that all the managers would meet every morning. The meeting would last 2-3 hours. Every morning. Each day the managers would debate the decisions they had made the previous day and then change their minds from those earlier decisions. Even worse (or perhaps better), the decisions they made in these lengthy meetings had pretty much no effect on how the hotel was run because once the managers left the meeting those decisions weren’t discussed or promulgated amongst the general staff. So a few hours every morning were simply burned away. I lasted six months before I couldn’t take it any more. The straw that broke the camels back was when I prepared a meticulous (they wanted exact height measurements of beds and things like that) 30 page report for an online reservation system called VIP and the hotel management came back and complained that I had to redo the entire report. Why? Because the commission rate they had given me was incorrect and their “other marketing manager”, who resided in Bangkok and rarely had any communication with the hotel, had already independently offered a different commission rate to VIP. Moreover, they said the mistake was my fault. Brilliant.

After my foray into working directly for Thai people, I went back to teaching. I hopped around various language schools in Phuket as a part-time or substitute teacher. I worked with three or four different schools over the span of a year. I saw how they operated, how they treated their teachers, how they set up their educational programs, and more. It was uniformly unimpressive. There was no commitment to the teachers because there was such a high turnover. But one could also argue that there was a high turnover because there was no commitment to the teachers. Apparently, this never occurred to the schools. The lack of commitment was apparent on all fronts. The schools were very hesitant to provide any visas, resources, support or assistance. They simply assigned you a class, usually at a Thai school and you showed up. Once again, I learned a lot about teaching. Before going into one second grade class, they handed me a paper with the lyrics to “row row row your boat” on it. I asked them if this was supposed to be the lesson. They just shrugged. I showed up at the Thai school and was escorted by a Thai teacher into the storage room, which was a long, rectangular shape. The back half was stacked with chairs, drums, outfits, tables, etc. The front half was moderately clear and had a small, A4 size whiteboard on rollers. There were no chairs or desks set up for the students. They wouldn’t have fit in the room anyway. I was somewhat perplexed and was about to ask the Thai teacher what was going on when 55 eight year olds came storming in and sat down in two long lines down the length of the room. The Thai teacher smiled and left without another word. I looked at the sheet of lyrics in my hand as the kids were jabbering away in Thai. I tapped the board a few times to get their attention and said, “Hello!” They immediately burst into laughter. I folded up the song lyrics and did my own teaching. How did I teach 55 eight year olds for a full hour with no book, no resources, and no clue as to what their English ability already was? Without them destroying the room? I’ll tell you when you get here.

I could go on and on about many similar teaching experiences such as the one described above. Suffice to say that the lack of commitment from the schools towards teachers was, in my opinion, translating into a lack of commitment from the teachers towards the students, which isn’t really surprising. How is a teacher supposed to do their job without any direction, guidance, advice or support from those in charge? It can’t really be done, at least not with any continuity.

After 1.5 years I realized that Phuket was a great place to visit but definitely not a great place to live and work. I had learned a lot but hadn’t achieved much personally or professionally. Surat was where I still felt most comfortable and knew I could make the most difference. So in May, 2004, my wife and I decided to move back to Surat, which is her hometown.

I started looking at the other language schools in town and what they were offering. At the time, there were three major language schools in town and smaller ones were opening and closing sporadically. The final impetus to open Super English came from two main realizations: 1) The larger schools were good schools, but to me they seemed stagnant, both in terms of academic development for the students and the type of professional development they were offering teachers. In other words, none of them were trying to be the best they could possibly be. 2) Some of the newer, smaller schools were opening for all the wrong reasons and were, in my opinion, doing more harm than good.

I wanted to create a school that tried to be the very best it could be. Not the biggest, just the best. Whether we achieved the goal of maximizing our potential or not was secondary. The main thing was at least to strive for it. I truly felt that the students, Surat Thani, and the teachers who come all the way over here, deserved a school like that. In my, and many others opinion, this is really one of the very best places in Thailand. I felt like the town had done so much for me during my first year that this was a way I could try to show some reciprocity. I also believed that if you let teachers teach with as few impediments as possible that they will achieve much better results.

I took everything I have learned, seen, experienced and thought about and rolled it into Super English. I actually often did the opposite of what I had seen and experienced. Instead of checking teachers through six tons of weekly paperwork, I tried to completely do away with it. Instead of promoting solely based on seniority, I promote based on ability. Instead of either giving a teacher no materials at all or very strictly regulating what page has to be taught in class on which day, I tried to find a middle ground that allowed the teacher as much creative autonomy as possible. Instead of shooting down every idea anyone had, I tried them whenever possible. Instead of thinking of management/administration as a controlling body, I thought of it as a supportive entity. Instead of calling everyone in for lengthy, weekly meetings, SE generally has just one meeting at the beginning of each semester. Instead of requiring office hours, we give teachers the freedom and flexibility to think about their classes whenever they choose.

I believe that over the past six years we have achieved great success. I am proud of what Super English is. As far as I know, we are the only language school that:

  • offers a unique, multi-structured support system for teachers
  • has students that study for free based on financial need –
  • allows teachers to choose what to teach – requires no office hours
  • hasn’t raised the price of classes in over three years (we are the least expensive language school by more than 30%)
  • consistently tries out new ideas and approaches to educating the students
  • offers teachers additional money making opportunities, such as writing online articles, taking photos, or recording audio files
  • has monthly out-of-class contests for the students to help them improve their English
  • has monthly cultural events, such as a muay thai lesson, a Thai cooking lessons, a beach party, a riverboat trip, and more

As much as possible, we are a school built by teachers and for teachers. Whatever minimal paperwork we do ask for is either required by the Thai schools we work with or the Thai government.

As far as I can tell, our teachers enjoy their work immensely and feel that they are really helping the students. Our teachers operate relatively independently and, I believe, as a result the students learn faster, better and have more fun doing it.

Our aim is to live up to our slogan, “The Best School for Teachers and Students.”  While we may or may not have achieved that goal, we will continue to strive for it. And if we are someday recognized as the best then we will still continue to strive to provide the best possible education for our students and the best possible work experience for our teachers. Without either of those two, there would be no Super English.

Vietnam: Not Just A War

by Tristan Rentos

Due to the generous amount of holiday time that all Super English teachers receive (the most of any language school in Surat) we have a wide selection of travel destinations to choose from. This year, Chris and I went to Vietnam. This wasn’t my first time in the ‘Nam, nor will it be my last. This country is truly something special. The sad fact is when most people think of Vietnam, the next word that pops into their head is ‘war’. These words seem to go hand in hand, such as ‘pint of beer’, and ‘hot and spicy’. For many people, especially the older generation, this is what Vietnam is – a war that was fought over 35 years ago and defined a part of their lives back in the day. For me, Vietnam is about two things – the atmosphere and the scenery.

Let’s get one thing out in the open: I have been to Vietnam twice, spent most of my time in the north and I have never been openly racially vilified or been a victim of any crime. I am not an American, but sometimes people jump to the wrong conclusions. OK, so we all get charged more than Vietnamese people when we’re out and about, but Vietnam is not alone in having a dual pricing system (Thailand does this as well). As for the inevitable comparison between Thailand and Vietnam, they are two totally different countries with different cultures and histories. Vietnamese food is less spicy than Thai food, and has more of a Chinese influence. I will say one thing though – thanks to French influence (they ‘managed’ the country for a few years as part of French Indochina) the Vietnamese bake excellent bread, brew very tasty coffee, and most importantly have really good domestic beers, in my opinion far superior to Chang, Singha and Leo that we have in Thailand. Saigon Export (black label) isn’t just a good Vietnamese beer, it’s a good beer full stop. Oh, and ladies, the chocolate is excellent!

If you are a Super teacher living in Thailand, I would suggest that you confine your traveling to the middle and north of Vietnam, simply because the south of Vietnam is too similar to the south of Thailand. The beaches are better in Thailand, there is better tourist infrastructure in place and Saigon is trying a bit too hard to be like Bangkok (you might as well just go to Bangkok and have the full ‘Sukumvit’ experience rather than the junior version in Saigon if that is what you’re after in a holiday). The middle of Vietnam, however, is not similar to Thailand and has some real gems. Even if you don’t get a suit made up, Hoi An is such a beautiful old town that you will find yourself walking around for hours looking in every nook and cranny for that one souvenir that you just have to take home with you. Hue is the old capital of Vietnam, and the old citadel is well worth a look if you’re an old building buff like me.

Now the north, in my opinion, is the highlight of Vietnam. I’ve been banging on about this for years, but Hanoi is the best capital city I have been to anywhere (yes, that includes Canberra, the capital city of Australia which is about as interesting as dry toast). The old quarter, famous for its shopping is literally a maze of lanes and side streets, with one particular product being sold by multiple vendors on one street (for example, on one of the streets north of Hoan Kiem lake every vendor sells shoes – just shoes – on the entire street). As with Hoi An, you will want to just walk around for hours on end, looking in every shop for that special find. The lake itself is a nice place to sit and relax, and the baguettes, coffee and tree lined boulevards make for a relaxing place to collect your thoughts, despite the crazy traffic.

I won’t go too much into Halong Bay, because both times I’ve been there it has been foggy and I haven’t seen much to write about (better luck next time I hope). Right up in the northern mountains on the Chinese border is a town called Sapa, and this is Vietnam at its best. You cannot go to Vietnam without going to Sapa, because these are the best views you will see outside of the Nepalese Himalayas (and yes, I’ve been there too). Basically you get the overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, a town on the Chinese border, then get a connecting minibus to Sapa. You find a hotel, dump your bags, then venture out to a coffee shop and talk to the charming minority villagers who try to get you to buy souvenirs. In winter, several cafes have an open fire going, it’s like being in the Swiss Alps without the massive price tag or the skiing. You can hire a car/motorcycle and explore the local villages, which I highly recommend doing. I have never been to a place with better ambiance than Sapa; if someone told me that I had to spend the rest of my life there I would be very happy.

When it’s all said and done, Vietnam is far more than just a former cold war battleground. You couldn’t have a better holiday in your very best of dreams. Vietnam: Not just a war by Tristan Rentos

Why You Should Stay for a Second Year at SE

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 mosquitoes 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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….
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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:
  10. Names. Good luck learning all of your students names in a year. Seriously. Good luck.
  11. 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?

December 2010 Financial Journal

by Amy McIntyre

(This is part of a series where Super English teachers track their spending for one month to give prospective teachers an idea of the cost of living in Thailand. See the rest of the journals here)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

  • 99 Baht: lunch at KFC (yes, I feel terrible about this, not only did it taste horrible, but it was expensive! I wanted some from home comfort but instead I learned a valuable lesson…)
  • 205 Baht for dinner at Earth Zone (Anneliese’s birthday dinner… fun!)

Total Food/Drink and TOTAL: 304 Baht

Thursday, December 2, 2010

  • 165 Baht @ Thai Post: Mailing Christmas cards home to America
  • 45 Baht @ Coffee Zone: Delicious green tea blend shake
  • 104 Baht @ 7-11: yogurt, dried fruits, nuts, coffee, water
  • 30 Baht for dinner: Pad Kreaw Prau at the rice lady

Total Food/Drink: 179 Baht, Personal Total: 165 Baht, TOTAL: 344 Baht

Friday, December 3, 2010

  • Family Mart: Raisin bread, orange juice box, water: 35 Baht
  • Noonoy: 17 Baht for water and Thai iced tea
  • 15 Baht for a Coca-Cola at the corner store
  • Night Market: 30 Baht for curry, 25 Baht for fresh fruit smoothie
  • 265 Baht at stationery store: pencils, pen, pencil sharpener, notebook

Total Food/Drink: 122 Baht, Total Personal: 265 Baht, TOTAL: 387 Baht

Saturday, December 4, 2010

  • 20 Baht: tuk tuk to the bus station
  • 230 Baht: Boat/bus ticket to Koh Samui
  • 60 Baht: tuk tuk ride from ferry to hotel in Samui
  • 500 Baht: hotel for two nights (split with Anneliese) in Samui
  • 80 Baht @ 7-11: yogurts, waters, banana cakes, Ovaltine
  • 30 Baht: split tuk tuk ride from Big Buddha Beach to Chaweng Beach, Samui
  • 480 Baht @ Mexican restaurant in Chaweng – chips and salsa, fajitas, and margaritas.
  • 50 Baht: Drink at a bar in Chaweng
  • 175 Baht: late night tuk tuk ride back to Big Buddha Beach from Chaweng

Total Transportation: 515 Baht, Total Accommodation/Hotel (personal): 500 Baht, Total Food/Drink: 610 Baht, TOTAL: 1625 Baht

Sunday, December 5, 2010

  • 100 Baht: split an awesome octopus shirt with Anneliese as a gift to Mitch; Captain of Team Octopus
  • 250 Baht: Kanye West Teeshirt (for myself and totally worth it)
  • 400 Baht: carved elephant figurine (Christmas present)
  • 200 Baht: 4 really nice magnets (Christmas presents)
  • 150 Baht: Candle (Christmas present)
  • 257 Baht @ Bookazine: card and calendar (Christmas presents)
  • 200 Baht: Sandwich at a café for lunch
  • 175 Baht @ Starbucks (couldn’t help myself!): Mocha Light Frappuccino; aaah a taste of America.
  • 50 Baht donation to a mission/orphanage based in Samui
  • 400 Baht: Dinner @ a really nice and delicious Indian food restaurant. Yum, so worth it.
  • 140 Baht: Movie theater – to see the new Harry Potter movie. Not worth the 140 Baht, I am sorry to say.

Food/Drink Total: 775 Baht, Shopping Total (Personal): 1357 Baht, Personal Total: 190 Baht,

TOTAL: 2322 Baht


(Note: this is unusually high because of the trip to Koh Samui)

Monday, December 6, 2010

  • 200 Baht: Meter taxi ride from the hotel to the ferry in Samui
  • 75 Baht: noodles and mango shake for breakfast at a café near the ferry
  • 230 Baht: Boat/Bus ticket back to Surat from Samui
  • 30 Baht: tuk tuk ride home from bus station
  • 30 Baht: dinner at the Night Market

Total Transportation: 460 Baht, Total Food/Drink: 105 Baht, TOTAL: 565 Baht

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

  • Tuk Tuk to Noonoy: 15 Baht (It was raining like crazy so I didn’t want to ride my bike!)
  • 91 Baht @ 7-11: 2 Gossip magazines (75 Baht; to cut photos out of to use as a teaching aid/activity), breakfast, water.
  • Tuk Tuk to Super English: 20 Baht
  • 17 Baht @ Tops: large apple
  • 30 Baht for dinner: Pad kreaw prau at the rice lady

Total Transportation: 35 Baht, Total Food/Drink: 63 Baht, Total Personal: 75 Baht,

TOTAL: 173 Baht

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

  • 30 Baht for lunch: Pad Kreaw Prau
  • 15 Baht for a Coca-Cola before Super English classes
  • 40 Baht for dinner: Isan chicken and sticky rice
  • 33 Baht @ 7-11: 2 banana cakes and an ice cream bar

Total Food/Drink and TOTAL: 118 Baht

Thursday, December 9, 2010

  • 85 Baht @ Coffee Zone: Green tea blend & slice of banana pie
  • 30 Baht for dinner: Pad Kreaw Prau at the rice lady
  • 199 Baht at the Night Market for a new watch
  • 300 Baht: 1-2-Call phone credit
  • Thailand Post: 4,457 Baht… this is totally insane, I know. I mailed home several Christmas gifts, to more than one address. I chose regular airmail, which takes two weeks. The cost was so high because it usually is, some of the gifts were heavy, and I shipped to more than one address/ had more than one box. This was not a typical purchase and many teachers do not do this. Thank goodness Christmas only comes once a year! This expense hurts to admit!

Total Food/Drink: 115 Baht, Total Personal: 4956 Baht, TOTAL: 5071 Baht

Friday, December 10, 2010

  • 26 Baht @ Tops: Water and an apple
  • 55 Baht @ Coffee Zone: Green Tea Blend
  • 10 Baht @ corner store: Oishi Strawberry Green Tea juice box
  • 30 Baht for lunch: Chicken curry with rice
  • 100 Baht @ 7-11: 30 Baht pencil/pen/ruler set, waters, 7-Up, yogurt, Ovaltine: 70 Baht
  • 5 Baht for dinner at the night market: fried chicken with sticky rice and two spring rolls

Food/Drink Total: 256 Baht, Personal Total: 30 Baht, TOTAL: 286 Baht

Saturday, December 11, 2010

  • 6 Baht @ 7-11: Water
  • 55 Baht for lunch: cow soi gai at the Isan place… yummy curry soup
  • 360 Baht at Pacific Plaza: t-shirts (2) for my brother for his birthday
  • 75 Baht @ Amphur Coffee Shop: Strawberry Smoothie and a bottle of water
  • 30 Baht for dinner: Pad Kreaw Prau at the rice lady
  • 25 Baht for a strawberry smoothie at the night market
  • 120 Baht for an amazing t-shirt (for myself, whoops) at the night market
  • 150 Baht at the movies! Yes, we went and saw a move at the Coliseum that had English subtitles… it was some really rad Samurai movie and totally worth the cost.

Food/Drink Total:191 Baht, Total Personal: 630 Baht, TOTAL: 821 Baht

Sunday, December 12, 2010

  • 380 Baht for laundry at the really good laundry place; again it should be noted that this is ridiculously high and that the same amount of laundry could be done for about 70 Baht at the other laundry place… but there was mold all over my work clothes and these women are just incredible. Again, everything came back like-new clean and smelling great. They’re the best cleaners ever.
  • 40 Baht for lunch: cow Soi at the Isan place
  • 40 Baht at Coffee Zone for a cold green iced tea
  • 10 Baht @ corner store for two bottles of water
  • 30 Baht for dinner: Pad Kreaw Prau Gai at the rice lady
  • 20 Baht @ the fruit stand: two large apples
  • 130 Baht @ 7-11: 20 Baht for Mr. Sang’s oil to stop the incessant itching of my many many mosquito bites, 100 Baht 1-2-Call phone credit, and 10 for raisin bread for breakfast tomorrow.

Total Food/Drink: 150 Baht, Total Personal: 500 Baht, TOTAL: 650 Baht

WEEKLY TOTAL: 7,684 Baht

note: this is unusually high due to shipping Christmas presents home to America

Monday, December 13, 2010

  • 37 Baht @ 7-11: two bottles of water and a small bag of cashew nuts
  • 1050 Baht for three bus/ferry tickets (advance purchase) for my father, brother and I to Koh Samui for Monday, Dec. 27th.
  • 255 Baht @ Sahathai: body spray, hand sanitizer, and Ritz crackers and Skippy peanut butter (the peanut butter and crackers are for my P4 class at Noonoy so that they can try some American snack food tomorrow)
  • 30 Baht for lunch: yellow chicken curry with white rice
  • 230 Baht at the night market for a new skirt (whoops)
  • 40 Baht for dinner: Seafood Pad Kreaw Prau at a different rice lady… and amazing!
  • 5 Baht at corner store for a water

Total Food/Drink: 112 Baht, Total Personal: 1535 Baht, TOTAL: 1647 Baht

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

  • 28 Baht @ 7-11: 3 bottles of water, banana cake
  • (free lunch at Noonoy)
  • 5 Baht @ Super English for a snack
  • 40 Baht for dinner: Chicken with rice and a fried egg.

Food/Drink Total and TOTAL: 73 Baht

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

  • 27 Baht at Family Mart: 2 waters and a yogurt
  • (free lunch at Thida)
  • 210 Baht at the pharmacy: contact cleaning solution (so expensive! But comparable to American prices…) 377 Baht at Sahathai: shampoo, conditioner, hair repair crème, body wash, baby powder, body spray. Expensive, but this is the first time since I have been here that I have had to buy any of these things, so relatively speaking not too bad.
  • 50 Baht at the Night Market for dinner: chicken nuggets (20 baht) and chicken curry and rice dish (30 baht)… clearly I was just a little bit hungry

Total Food/Drink: 77 Baht, Total Personal: 587 Baht, TOTAL: 664 Baht

Thursday, December 16, 2010

  • 25 Baht @ 7-11: two bottles of water and a yogurt
  • 55 Baht for lunch at the Isan place: cow soi gai… yummmm
  • 37 Baht @ ThailandPost (the post office): mailing a letter to USA
  • 10 Baht for a snack before teaching at Super English
  • 30 Baht for dinner: chicken and rice dish at the night market
  • 40 Baht for bathing water (we currently have no water at the house, but this is a known problem and we are moving out soon)

Total Food/Drink: 120 Baht, Total Personal: 77 Baht, TOTAL: 197 Baht

Friday, December 17, 2010

  • 28 Baht @ 7-11: 3 bottles of water and a banana cake for breakfast
  • (free lunch at Noonoy)
  • 5 Baht for cookies before Super English
  • 30 Baht for dinner: pad kreaw prau gai at the rice lady
  • 166 Baht @ 7-11: 3 bottles of water (18 baht), a bag of cashews (35 baht), a new pair of flip flops, and a key ring for my brother for his birthday.

Total Food/Drink: 116 Baht, Total Personal: 113 Baht, TOTAL: 229 Baht

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Miraculously I did not spend any money at all today. I ate breakfast at home, had plenty of water already, and then Peter treated all of the Super English teachers to a day of Muay Thai (where I ate three oranges for lunch) and an amazing dinner and dessert at a really nice Isan restaurant. Amazing!

TOTAL: 0 Baht

Sunday, December 19, 2010

  • 1,796 Baht @ Big-C: notebook paper, plastic paper protectors, toilet paper, tan top, dress, 5 Happy New Years cards for the Noonoy staff, 5 Ferrero Rocher gift packages for the Noonoy staff, two bottles of Sang’s oil for bug bites. (The most expensive part of this—about 1,500– was the gifts and the cards for the staff at Noonoy: this was not a necessary purchase.)
  • 33 Baht @ 7-11: water and peanuts
  • 40 Baht at the fruit stand: 2 apples and a package of green grapes
  • Total Food/Drink: 73 Baht, Total Personal: 1,796 Baht, TOTAL: 1, 869 Baht

WEEKLY TOTAL: 4,679 Baht

Note: this is unusually high due to the purchase of ferry tickets to Samui and the purchase of New Years gifts for the staff at Noonoy school.

Monday, December 20, 2010

  • 93 Baht @ 7-11: 3 bottles of water, rain bread, sesame cashews, peanuts, strawberry yogurt.
  • 238 Baht for two pairs of flip flops for my little brother so that he has some for the beach next week!
  • 40 Baht for lunch: chicken with rice from the night market
  • 29 Baht @ 7-11: 1 large and 1 small bottle of water, 1 banana cake

Total Food/Drink: 162 Baht, Total Personal: 238 Baht, TOTAL: 400 Baht

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

  • 69 Baht at 7-11: hair gel (18 baht), 3 bottles of water, strawberry yogurt, pens (20 baht)
  • 20 Baht tuk tuk ride to Noonoy
  • (free lunch at Noonoy)
  • 15 Baht tuk tuk ride from Noonoy to Super English
  • 40 Baht for dinner: rice with chicken and vegetables.

Total Food/Drink: 71 Baht, Total Transportation: 35 Baht, Total Personal: 38 Baht

TOTAL: 144 Baht

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

  • 154 Baht @ Sahathai: green and red colored paper for Thida & Super English kids to make Christmas cards with.
  • 342 Baht @ 7-11: 1 bottle of red wine for my head teacher/school owner at Noonoy (299 baht), 1 Happy New Year card for her (16 baht), 2 bottles of water (12 baht) and one loaf of bread (15 baht).

Food Total: 27 Baht, Total Personal: 469 Baht, TOTAL: 496 Baht

Thursday, December 23, 2010

(I didn’t really eat much today because I wasn’t feeling well, so I ate bread at home and rice at the Thida Christmas party).

  • 285 Baht for laundry: Again I went to the really expensive place where they do an exemplary job because I had some serious mold problems going on…

Personal Total and TOTAL: 285 Baht

Friday, December 24, 2010

  • 40 Baht tuk tuk ride to Noonoy (it was so expensive because I had luggage with me)
  • 7 Baht for water at Noonoy
  • 50 Baht for internet access card at travel company
  • 100 Baht for bus ride to the airport
  • 200 Baht for 1 kilo of oranges at the airport
  • 10 Baht for water at the airport
  • 490 Baht for dinner at BKK airport

Total Transportation: 140 Baht, Total Personal: 50 Baht, Total Food/Drink: 707 Baht, TOTAL: 897 Baht

Saturday, December 25, 2010

* I was with my father, which meant that (I am a huge spoiled brat and) I didn’t have to pay for anything, so I didn’t keep track.

TOTAL: 0 Baht

Sunday, December 26, 2010

* I was with my father, which meant that (I am a huge spoiled brat and) I didn’t have to pay for anything, so I didn’t keep track.

TOTAL: 0 Baht

WEEKLY TOTAL: 2,222 Baht

Monday, December 27, 2010

* I was with my father, which meant that (I am a huge spoiled brat and) I didn’t have to pay for anything, so I didn’t keep track.

TOTAL: 0 Baht

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

* I was with my father, which meant that (I am a huge spoiled brat and) I didn’t have to pay for anything, so I didn’t keep track.

TOTAL: 0 Baht

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

* I was with my father, which meant that (I am a huge spoiled brat and) I didn’t have to pay for anything, so I didn’t keep track.

TOTAL: 0 Baht

Thursday, December 30, 2010

* I was with my father, which meant that (I am a huge spoiled brat and) I didn’t have to pay for anything, so I didn’t keep track.

TOTAL: 0 Baht

Friday, December 31, 2010

* I was with my father, which meant that (I am a huge spoiled brat and) I didn’t have to pay for anything, so I didn’t keep track.

TOTAL: 0 Baht





First of all, OMG. Seeing how large my Personal Total is kind of makes me feel like crap. Here are the excuses I would like to make for this enormous amount of money spent: First off, it was Christmas time so I spent a lot of money on Christmas and New Year’s presents for friends, family, and coworkers. This is something that certainly is unique to the month of December and definitely will not happen again. Second, I did go to Koh Samui for a weekend, and accommodation and shopping there got the best of me. Third, mailing presents home killed me. It is just so expensive to mail presents home. Luckily I was able to send some birthday presents I had bought in advance for people in the United States home with my father and brother, who will ship them within the United States for a fraction of the cost. I can promise you, and myself, that this month is an anomaly and that my personal total will not be that high in January.

I am also so grateful that my father came to visit me for the holidays and (although it’s somewhat embarrassing to admit as a 27 year old woman) spoiled me like a small child so that I did not have to spend my own money while in Bangkok, Samui, and Phuket. I know I probably sound like a huge brat, but I’m actually okay with that. It was awesome.

Again, I am surprised. I spent almost 20,000 Baht this month, which by any account is an absurd amount to spend while living in Surat Thani. I still, however, spent about 7,000 Baht less than what I made in the month of December. So the lesson of the December Financial Journal remains the same as that of the November Financial Journal: even if you’re a financially irresponsible moron like me, you can still manage to save money while working for Super English and living in Surat Thani.

Top Ten Reasons to Be a SUPER ENGLISH Teacher

by John Phelps

(From least to greatest)

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 Pha-ngan, 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, Isaan 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.