Looking for a teaching job is tiring
Being an entrepreneur is like being on a roller coaster, there are so many ups and downs all the time, and sometimes I question myself if I’m doing the right thing. Since returning back to Bangkok, I’ve been job hunting for an English teacher job, not quite there yet to work on Healthy Hair Asia full-time :( and you know what sucks? Looking for a job. It's exhausting, but I keep positive and think about it like I have sell myself and skills to potential employers. Here it’s not just your resume they evaluate but also your appearance, personality, and experience, Luckily for me, I have 2 years of teaching experience and my Au Pair adventure in China has made me an interesting candidate for pre-school and kindergarten positions. Now my goal to continue my teaching career is to teach at an international school, which is highly competitive in Bangkok.
Fortunately for me, creativity and positive attitude has prepared me for this emotional week, I started unemployed and uncertain, and ended up with so much more! Before I tell you my good news I want to take you through my interesting week.
The story of how I got my first job
Not sure if you know the story of how I got my first teaching job, but when I first came to Thailand back in 2015 I landed my job after some wise advice from the Thai hostel workers who told me: “If you want a teaching job, you have to walk into schools, don't waste your time emailing people.” And that’s what exactly I did, after 1 week living in a hostel in the Sathon area (sadly it went out of business) I got dressed up, printed out copies of my resume, and gave myself a pep talk in the mirror, and left with a list of schools to “walk into.” Now in Bangkok, there are schools everywhere, initially I thought I could work in a university so I went to 3 different universities and a few schools hidden deep in the Soi (street), with no luck. In fact, at one university I accidentally walked into a graduation ceremony! So, I returned back to my hostel devastated and prepared for day 2, but this time I would go to primary and secondary schools. I asked the front desk worker if there were any schools in the area, he enthusiastically said yes and gave me directions. Now, if you don’t know already, I have no sense of direction (without a map). So I got a bit lost, and I asked a nun on the street if she knew where the primary school was located. I eventually found the school, but the guard at the gate led me past the primary school and to the high school (I didn’t know this at the time). So I walked in and with my simplest English asked the Thai grounds keepers where was the English department and they mime to me to go straight. Walking into an empty building I came across a woman (the Head of the English Department), and asked, is the school looking for an English teacher?” She smiles wildly and said yes! 2 weeks I performed my demo interview, and had to return back to the school to learn if I landed the job, which I did, and was offered not only a job but also housing (very rare) in an awesome neighbourhood, and the rest is history.
What’s interesting about this story is the timing, I came to Bangkok during the October school break so when I started teaching I began at the beginning of the second semester. Second, living in a hostel (for 3 weeks) in Sathon, I only stayed in that hostel because I met someone in Hong Kong who referred me to that hostel, which turned out to be in a great neighbourhood littered with schools. Third and most importantly, the Head of the English Department was Filipino-Thai (by marriage). I don’t want to get too political, but in the teaching profession in Thailand, Filipino teachers are not as valued as Western teachers, thus paid less and are mostly hired as assistant teachers, especially if they have dark skin. So, in my case, being bubbly Black American female looking for a job, I think she empathised and convinced the HR and Academic head to hire me and “stand for me” in case the staff or parents (yes parents are prejudice, that is why schools are careful who they hire) had a problem.
Image conscious employers: “we’re not racist it’s our customers”
What makes job hunting outside the US so emotional is that employers can openly discriminate against potential employees. For example, for teaching nearly all schools state teachers have to have passports from US, UK, NZ, AU, or SA, which I guess works in my favour, but some schools do have a preference for Caucasian teachers. So job hunting as a Black female American teacher what I have going for me is my US passport, B.A. degree, my gender, my slim figure and attractive face, and of course my fun personality and creativity. The fact that I’m Black with locs, does work against my candidacy, but not a nail in the coffin, I just have to be very well-groomed.
Interview with EP at Thai School: Can I be honest, can you be well-groomed?
The Thai school year has already begun but I got a job interview with an English Program at a Thai school whose teacher left during vacation and didn’t come back (it happens here a lot). The best way for teachers to find jobs is this popular website, ajarn.com and in the past I’ve used it with little luck, until I did got an email (quite rare) asking if I could come in for an interview. The school was not in an ideal location but I went anyways and met with the principal, a tall, colourfully dressed, South African Caucasian woman. Like Americans, South Africans have their ways of categorising people, so as she explained the school she explained that all the teachers are Western and there are “White South African male teachers” Americans, Brits, one “South African Coloured female” teacher, and the Filipino teachers were all assistant teachers. Even further, female teachers have to be very well groomed, especially the older ones despite their qualifications and experience, because young female teachers are favourable. Shocking? No, this is Thailand, appearance really, REALLY matter, even female street vendors in the sweltering hot sun wear makeup! So, after I was invited to do a demo interview she set me aside and asked if she could be honest with me, which I definitely welcomed.
“Angela, I like to hire female teachers because they have the female touch that men don’t have, your slim, your natural in the classroom, however you are Black, you have dreadlocks. I need to know if you can keep well groomed, so if there are any problems I can protect you from the parents and the staff. I don’t have a problem, in my country you look like any other Black girl, but here at this school, parents pay a lot of money to send their children and have certain expectations of what their teachers look like. It’s out of ignorance, it’s not personal.”
I was not offended at all by this conversation because I understand the reality of living and working in Thailand. So, I politely explained that I do maintain my own hair I will keep very-well groomed, and I look forward to hearing back from her about my candidacy.
And I did. She emailed me that I didn’t get the job, but was positive with my charm and skills I will land somewhere. And I did.
My dream job at an international kindergarten
I got a job as a nursery teacher at an international kindergarten in the best neighbourhood in Bangkok. Not an easy feat, but to prepare for this interview, I went above and beyond by illustrating my own book (pics below) of “under sea life” for my demo interview. One of my activities while I was an Au Pair I would draw pictures of our weekly adventures while my student describe what we did. So I have pictures of us going to the zoo, to space, at a construction site, and under the sea. Is that a bit much? No, because one of my favourite aspects of being a teacher is the ability for me to use my creativity.
So, this upcoming fall I will be working as a nursery teacher, teaching 3 year olds. I’m super excited because the school is really beautiful, follows an American creative curriculum, and the pay and benefits are a lot better than my last school.
A lot of exciting things are happening behind the scenes of Healthy Hair Asia, we will be participating in some tech event competitions and we found an investor(s)!