The DoS by default

What can happen when your director of studies is a clueless foreigner

I worked for a language centre for two years and it was definitely my most enjoyable teaching job. I gave it up to get a normal 9-5 job so I could spend more time with my girlfriend.

About 50 teachers came and left in my period. There were a lot of wrong 'uns but also a few gems. These gems are still my good friends today. But I'd like to talk about my old director of studies.

A DoS by default

My old director of studies was this burly English guy who seemingly barely got past his GCSEs. He got the job because he played the game and had been there longer than everyone else. This guy had sold his soul for a paycheck of about 60,000 a month.

I remember first meeting him for an interview and just getting bad vibes from him. He was socially awkward and was completely inept. Never trust a man who doesn't make eye contact.

During my two years at the centre I was only late once. I had half a sick day (even though my boss wanted me to not go home 'cos he was too lazy to cover me), and I had students signing up again to learn with me. It was all good. I kept busy teaching 30+ hours a week, and my boss kept busy leaving me alone and looking busy himself.

But as with any inept boss who fears losing their job, they can't help themselves by breaking things that are not broken.

He did many dishonest and stupid things, but I'd like to recall my first problem with him.

I worked six days a week. I was lucky my schedule was always Monday to Friday and stayed that way 'cos many students wanted to learn with me. I chose to do Saturdays as an extra. My usual hours were 12.00-20.30 - Mon-Fri.

Lost drinking time

One day, my schedule said I was done at 6pm on a Friday. Wahoo! I never got to leave early. So, on the Friday I was all set to clock out and have a beer. He called me into the office and asked for a "massive favour". He asked me to cover a part-time teacher from 6.30-8.30 as she had to go to hospital.

Now, I really didn't want to have to do it, but he said he really needed me to. I also 'assumed' I'd get the money from the class as she was part-time. I said yes and ruined my beer time.

Where's my money?!

Come the end of the month there was no extra money for the class. My boss said I was contracted a certain amount of hours and I was below my quota. I said that wasn't fair and he should have told me at the time. I still would have covered the class, but I appreciate honesty. He obtusely said 'You could have just said no".

From there on in, he'd ruined any trust and decency between the two of us. Any classes that needed to be covered were met with "Oh, I'm so busy marking tests and proof reading". He knew it was BS, but because he was an inept boss, he didn't know how to take control. He went off and printed a poster saying "Teachers must cover classes when asked!". A real manchild in charge of 30+ teachers.

The second incident I had was with a private student who signed up for 80 hours. A great guy who travelled for work so just wanted to chat and practise his English.

Well, one night I had a few beers and forgot to set my alarm. I woke up at 10am to a phone call from the sales girl, "Where are you?". I apologised and asked if someone could cover me. They said my student didn't want a different teacher, so don't worry. My student said it was no problem. He would see me tomorrow.

Come the end of the month - my boss docked me the equivalent of 2 hours part-time from my salary. If another teacher had covered me, I wouldn't have been docked he told me. He had got his revenge.

Unfortunately for me, my student cared about who was teaching him. I ended up just sticking two extra hours down on my extra pay sheet and they paid me anyway. Again, my boss was totally inept and just assumed I never lied on my pay sheet. I only did it that one time.

Can you travel?

The 3rd example incident is the reason why you take care of your staff and don't try to cheat them. My boss, after all the shitty and underhand tricks he played on people, asked me to work on Saturdays at a different centre. A centre far away from where I live.

I thought it was just to cover a course. Maybe 20-40 hours and then be back to my local branch where I was contracted to work. I agreed to cover there for no more than 8 Saturdays. He said, "Great! But if we need you there permanently on a Saturday, you can do that, right?"

I knew exactly what he was doing and I just said "You know what? The course you want me to cover - I'm not sure I can cover it now. Let me go away and think about". He replied sarcastically, "You'll think about it???" And I never covered that class.

My language centre was very busy back then. I pretty much always had a full schedule where other teachers didn't. Teachers who weren't so popular (but on the same money as everyone else) were given mundane tasks like putting all the books in order. That took about 10 mins and it was back to twiddling their thumbs again.

I didn't care that they were earning the same as it wasn't my business and I'd rather be teaching than sat doing nothing.

The nightmare ends

I'm pretty sure my old boss was fired about a month before I left. They said he went home for a holiday, but he never returned. The Thai owner did his job for the last month.

I knew something had happened to him so I offered my services to help. She admitted that they didn't actually need anyone to do this job. All he did was create schedules for teachers and find new teachers. She could do that. She then began to ask questions like, "what exactly did he do?". I ripped the "teachers have to cover!" sign off the notice board and said "He made signs like this when his tricks didn't work and he didn't know how to assert himself".

She just smiled looking baffled.

One out of four ain't bad

I've worked under four foreigners. The first one was fantastic. A fully qualified teacher with his own business who really wanted to be the best. The thing I liked the most about him was his honesty. He would admit his mistakes which made him very humble and easy to get on with.

The next three were just terrible people. They weren't qualified to manage and certainly didn't have the experience to be in control of anything. Perish the thought they ever had to teach an unruly class of young learners. They'd be a shivering mess in the corner after the lesson had finished. But they always had a stupid answer for when things went wrong. It was never constructive and their arrogance just did more harm.

Maybe if all these unqualified teachers out there had a qualified boss it wouldn't be so bad. Someone who knows how to manage people and utilize them. Reward the good ones and dispose of the bad ones quickly.

Instead, they tried to manage by lying and cheating. They thought that being a boss gave them some kind of omnipotence. That they could constantly lie and cheat people making 35k a month and these people would never ask questions nor just walk out one day. "Party Paul has really left us in the shit today! He's not picking up his phone and Dave saw him down Cowboy last night". Yea, creatures of habit behaving like creatures of habit - shocking!




The comments section for this article has descended into something of a nasty expat discussion forum slanging match - so we need to put a line through it.

Constructive comments and stories will continue to be entertained and published. The rest won't.

By Philip (, Samut Prakarn (3 weeks, 2 days ago)

@ Steve C -Once is enough to be considered an appalling, lying, thieving employee!

Easy there, Mother Theresa.

If you read it properly and used common sense, you can see why I claimed the deducted two hours. Plus when I covered that part-time teacher and didn't get paid, I was over my 42 hours office time as stated in the 'contract'. I was actually in that week for 44.5 hours. That's why, as my DOS so eloquently put it, "you could have said no".

Funny how when the boss can't do the employee a favour because 'it's in the contract", but when the employee plays that card, it's met with "You're not a team player. You have a negative attitude".

In my two years there I was late once and took only half a sick day. I was entitled to 10 sick days a year. Many other teachers went over their sick day allowance simply because they didn't care. I could have picked up the phone that morning and said I was sick. Day off fully paid. But instead, my first instinct was to rush there.

In these situations we have teachers there to cover. In fact, that is one of the DOS' main duties. Cover teachers which he very rarely did. The only reason no one could cover is because my student didn't want another teacher. He wanted only me. I'm sure if my student knew I was going to be docked 'cos my DOS lost face when trying to pull the wool over my eyes, he would have taken a cover teacher.

This is a huge problem teaching here - being good at your job. When party Paul doesn't come to work or rocks up stinking of Sang Som, it's business as usual. No one is shocked or 'appalled'. In fact, he's given praise for the few times he does show up to work on time. When a teacher who was only ever late once in two years comes late, it's "Come on! We expect better from you!"

By craig, Bangkok (2 months ago)

This was a good read. I too have worked in a language centre and its true, the manager will either make or break that kind of school. But I have also found that the Thai management will always favour the person we would consider socially inept to be manager, as from their perspective that person is respectful and will do exactly what is expected of them. It is unfortunate but thats just the way it is. I would still recommend the language school to newbies over the standard 45+ hours a week trapped in a standard Thai school / open prison though! Thailand is a great place to holiday but the reality of working there will never change. It is worth a year of anyones time absolute max.

By Daniel S, Far away from Thailand (2 months ago)

"I ended up just sticking two extra hours down on my extra pay sheet and they paid me anyway. Again, my boss was totally inept and just assumed I never lied on my pay sheet. I only did it that one time."

Once is enough to be considered an appalling, lying, thieving employee!

By SteveC, Bangkok (2 months ago)

I'm kinda torn over language centres. Everything you guys said is also true in my experience however I still found them better paying and more reliable than Thai schools with less or at least different bullshit. I can totally sympathize with the evening finishes though. It was depressing when you get off at 9 in ramkhamhaeng and was tough to find anything to eat.

By Bigbadb, Not Thailand ( thank the gods) (2 months ago)

Farang bosses who try to emulate the Asian boss with foreign staff don't work well. In Asia the boss is the boss. The boss often treats their fellow Asian staff as they please. They always have to look important and busy.

If you're a foreign boss with foreign staff, why would you behave like that? Because we are in Asia? It doesn't work. People can be pretty cool if you appeal to their better nature. Make them feel valuable and part of a team. Make them feel they're making a difference and are welcome to add to the business. If you treat people like shit, you're going to have an unproductive workforce. This is true anywhere in the world regardless of the culture. The Thai staff I work with hate our boss for one very simple reason - she's a massive c***.

Treat people with respect and dignity and they'll usually show it back. A pretty simple concept that seems to be lost in many work places because you have bosses who simply don't know what they're doing. Too scared to let staff get on with it because they fear they'll be let go. But this is what a good boss should be doing. Cultivating talent.

By Sam, Bangkok (2 months ago)

"and the inconvenient weekend hours grows old"

I would also give a mention to the evening hours as well. It's 5.00 pm and everyone is making their weary way home. Except you. You've got an evening conversation class from 6.30 to 8.30 - half a dozen low level students who have all had a tiring day at work and would rather be doing anything except studying English. But you're all stuck with it! By the time you've finished, put your books away in your locker and had a ciggy with a fellow teacher, it's well after 9 pm and the Bangkok traffic is still bad. Now where are you going to find something to eat? Horrible.

By Phil, Samut Prakarn (2 months ago)

A very satisfying read... and I must say I can see through your eyes in every one of the anecdotes.

There's a lot to be said for language schools... the hours, the flexibility and the varying levels of classes... but there's not much else.

As good as these places are for newbies to cut their teeth and learn the ropes of teaching students of many levels, the lack of consistency, the pretty lousy pay and the inconvenient weekend hours grows old.

But it's definately the place to meet the real odd-balls of the trade. That aspect alone is a Mark Twain adventure!

By Mark Newman, A. MUANG (2 months ago)

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