Today, I received the news that the teaching agency which I have worked at since early July 2011 would be unable to renew the contracts it holds with area schools. One of the more ridiculous aspects of the Thai education system is that the agencies — those companies that act as liaison between the schools and non-Thai teachers — have to bid on new contracts prior to the start of EVERY TERM.
Previously, contracts were renewed every school year which made life a little easier. In most cases, schools will go with the lowest bidder rather than quality of the teachers or past history with the agency. My agency has had a long and successful run in Phuket but in recent years, changes within the Bangkok home office and the loss of our branch manager a couple of years ago has brought about an era of uncertainty as we ended up with less schools each term.
However, today’s news was made even more disheartening when it became known that the reason was a technicality in the company registration. It sounds like somebody forgot to file some pretty important paperwork. The end result is that the vast majority of our teachers will now be looking for work should they wish to continue full-time employment at area Thai government schools, administered by the local municipalities. Almost all of the schools are controlled by three different agencies (well, were) — two based here in Phuket and the other in Bangkok, I believe.
As I mentioned, I have worked for this agency for more than eleven years now so it is truly the end of an era for me. Even in the lean years of COVID-19, they always managed to find work for me. Pre-pandemic, I had more work than I could handle at times as I became the go-to guy for business courses and classes for high-profile clients. Still, it is not the absolute end as I will still teach my students there on the weekends.
While with the company, in addition to daytime classes at the municipality schools, I taught such clients as Krungsri Bank of Ayudha (customer service staff and management personnel), staff working for the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), officers and enlisted personnel at the Royal Thai Navy’s Third Naval District Command HQ (including the admiral in charge of all of southern Thailand’s waters), as well as the fashionable crews of H&M and ZARA. I also became certified to teach courses for advanced level testing such as TOEIC, TOEFL and IELTS.
Eventually, I became our branch’s Deputy Head Teacher and as such I was responsible for our English camps and other at-school activity days including all organization, materials preparation and I was usually in charge of the camps themselves. Oh, and I was the traveling Santa Claus each year — visiting local kindergartens with our branch manager to spread our special form of holiday cheer in a Buddhist nation.
Needless to say, I have been extremely loyal to the company. It wasn’t just a job — it was family. Before our long-serving branch manager relocated to Canada, we had many staff events that truly made it feel like home away from home. I stuck with it, even though not every assignment was ideal (it took me a long time to warm up to last-minute fill-in assignments, for example) and the pay was not always what I could make elsewhere. For the most part, I was happy to go to work each and every day and I tried to share that enthusiasm not only with my students but to other teachers as well.
I made a lot of friendships through the agency — staff, teachers, adult students — and have been to my fair share of weddings, baby births and, sadly, more funerals than for my actual family members. We lost several in the past two or three years — none to COVID, however.
I hope that within a few days I will be able to write the “And A New Beginning” companion post. I already made contact with the other large agency in Phuket and I certainly hope that pans out. After a brief period of adjustment, I am sure that my loyalty and enthusiasm will be applied to any new employer as much as it was to the previous one.
My planned lazy week (the rain promotes that) is now out the window. Tomorrow, I will need to do a bit of shopping — I lost a pair of dress shoes to the floods and am in need of new trousers. I suppose I should also seek out a place to print copies of my resume as it wouldn’t be in good taste to print it at the office. I believe the flood waters have gone down in most areas so I can make it out and about, although the rain has not let up at all.
Please stay tuned for the next chapter of my nearly two decades as a teacher in Phuket, Thailand.
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