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Part 2: Challenges for a “Non-native” (L2) ESL Teacher

by: Rolly Obedencio, ang ating ULIRANG GURO in Thailand
** Part 1 of his story)
** Part 3 of his story
** Part 4 of his story
Continuation...The experience in China was so rich that I was able to teach six university classes, three middle school classes, six elementary classes, and one kindergarten class for one year. Yet I felt that something was lacking. Towards the later part of my stay in China, I came to realize that I needed more formal TESL training to certify my experience and observations. I had enough experience, and I wanted more certification to qualify for better opportunity and possible positions. TESL/TEFL training schools, however, are scarce to find in China and if there are, the training fee is too high.
While I was in quest of more knowledge in honing my teaching skills, I considered Thailand. After much searching on the net, I ended up in Thailand, the place where I thought the training ground for more rigorous TESL.

Few months before coming to Thailand, I was faced with another challenge--job hunting. I never wasted time. My goal was to individually send about three hundred résumés in a month, an average of about ten applications a day. Filling the employers’ inboxes, I might be guilty of sending unsolicited emails. Responses were varied, such as about nationality, accent, color and others. Some common phrases were: “Native speakers only”, “Good accent, but you are brown”, “No more vacancy, but I can recommend you to my friend of your good accent“.

I have observed that the employers’ first preference of teachers was definitely not the Filipinos, but the so-called “native speakers” of English (L1). The second is any L2 whites. The third could be the blacks, and the fourth could be the Filipinos and other Asians. This preference of nationality, race and color was not new to me, since I had met it China. I wouldn’t mind if language schools or any business-oriented institutions make their preference of teachers on color, race or nationality. It’s business anyway. However, it irks me a little when a school is an established institution of higher education, either a privately owned or a government type, which does not consider applicants by skills, experience and qualification. To me, this is close-mindedness and a lack of education. These types of schools don’t have any values in education, but look at an educational institution as a mere business industry.

I was forced to devise my marketing strategies to sell myself at a job interview. Usually, I don’t send résumés right away if they aren’t needed; Instead, I make a call to get an interview, which I got more interviews through it. When the person on the other line gives a go signal, it’s the time to get ready for a more impressive actual presentation, loaded with answers to objections. I was determined to inject some “anesthetic” ideas when I unearthed an interviewer’s objections before he/she could articulate them. I had to be proactive, or else I would lose the opportunity. I wonder why I didn’t have any teaching demos at those interviews, when those other applicants with me did. I reckon I had five memorable interviews in my first week in Chonburi: at two high schools and at a university in Chonburi, through phone call with EF-Chiangmai, and at a secondary government school in Bangkok. I wanted the one in Bangkok, because of my preference of place.

In my second week, I decided to attend a TESL/TEFL/TESOL certificate course at a training school in Bangkok. I was happy that I met a lot of Filipinos who wanted to do the course, too. Most of them were education majors, but were shy when any white folk was present in class. Our L1 professor had to boost these teachers’ self-esteem (EQ), as he believed was the primary secret in achieving success. Methodologies, strategies, management and other techniques were discussed. There was heavy emphasis on accent, as the professor claimed that it was this other reason that Filipinos have to improve to get and maintain a decent job. I was given the privilege to train some of them on phonology. I was glad that those who endured the course got their decent job.

Salary was another challenge. I had the skills, experience, qualification, yet my boss-to-be at a government school wanted to negotiate the salary I wanted to a much lower rate than that of the whites. We were in a kind of tug-of-war or seesaw situation when each of us was pulling each other to his end or to my end. We met at the center when he asked me whether I had any TESOL certificate. It was good that he graduated a Master in TESL at a nearby university. He understood my concerns, and we closed the deal to a little lower salary than that of those white teachers. It was worth it. I got the job. (To be continued...)


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