This is the place to air your views on TEFL issues in Thailand. Most topics are welcome but please use common sense at all times. Please note that not all submissions will be used, particularly if the post is just a one or two sentence comment about a previous entry.

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The Status Quo

Dear All, I taught in Thailand about ten years ago at a government school. Over the last ten years or so,I have taught in Japan, China and now in Dubai.

I occasionally visit this website to see how things are developing in regards to salaries and working conditions. To my surprise it seems that the salaries have remained the same and in some cases working conditions have got worse.

I enjoyed my stay in Thailand, but from week one, I knew it would only be for a short period of time. I still don't understand why teachers stay in Thailand for a period of of more than a year.

Poor salaries, poor conditions, lack of respect from some Thai teachers and students whom have no incentive to study hard.

Good Luck!

Keith in Dubai

A crazy job interview

Earlier this year I had an interview at one of Thailand's most prestigious schools (in most top 5s). The panel interview went fairly well, as did the demo lesson. However, after this (I had been there for almost 2 hours at this point) they asked me to write some lesson plans and gave me a text book at the pre-intermediate level. The woman gave me about twenty blanks sheets and basically told me to start 'from the beginning'. I asked 'How many do I need to write?" She just said "Do all." They then left the room.

I started and nobody came for about an hour. Then one of the bosses came in and asked "You ok?"

My reply was to ask again, "Do I need to complete 20 lesson plans right now?" The reply was "Yes, please." I laughed and said "This will take me all night." I had done about four plans in an hour and on seeing my rather perplexed look, the woman said "Ok, you can go now. We will be in touch."

I didn't get the job. I just wonder if they would've kept me there until midnight!


Finding teachers just wasn't me

What makes a good teacher? In a county like Thailand where you can teach kids with zero qualifications or experience, I'd say being normal is the biggest thing. Having a good work ethic and integrity will enable you to learn as you go, try your hardest and simply do the best you can do.

But let's get away from the teacher, and focus on their surroundings. Let's look at a good boss. A good boss is responsible for finding the best teachers hers/his budget allows. You can only work with what you have. If you take from the budget because you're a greedy boss, looking for good teachers will become increasingly harder and karma will rear its head now and again. I was given the job of finding new teachers at my old school and two of them couldn't have been better. The 3rd one turned out to be awful and was quickly replaced.

Instead of whining and moaning about this guy being a bad teacher, I took full responsibility. I told the school to employ the guy and the buck stopped with me. I got a new guy in and he was 'okay'. It was hard really. The budget was limited and their were no perks to offer. I tried to reward the two good guys as much as I could, but they quit at the end of two years because it really was a disposable job, and they were headed home anyway.

In the end, I went back home. I was in two minds when leaving and this swayed me. The final straw was telling the new guy that it was a 12 month contract when really it wasn't. It was 12 months if the school wanted to retain you and you wanted to continue another year. If you wanted to go or the school wanted you gone, it was 10 months.

Lying to the guy didn't sit well with me at all and I really felt like a scumbag. Fortunately, he left after four months. I decided that it wasn't for me. Loved my teaching, but hated having to find new teachers. It takes a certain kind of person in this environment to lie and not give relevant information just to get someone in the door. That really isn't me.

I left early in 2016 and it seemed to be getting so hard to find good teachers. As I told my school when they complained about wanting good teachers, "good teachers are not obliged to come and work for you". Basically 'pay up or shut up'.

My advice to any schools in the current climate is, if you find a good teacher, hold onto them for dear life. I fear it's becoming near impossible at a TEFL level now in Thailand to find new good ones.


Check out 'formal' online teaching

In addition to ESL online teaching, there are also many opportunities for more “formal” online teaching in universities and even primary schools. For example, online higher education has become pretty well established and is provided by both totally online universities and as part of mixed programs of online and face to face courses provided by many traditional universities.

Almost all American universities provide some courses online. I have been teaching online at a variety of universities around the world for going on ten years now, teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses as well as acting as a dissertation chair and committee member.

Most of the work is part-time and the pay is the same as adjunct faculty members get anywhere in the world, while not high by Western standards it does provide a pretty good standard of living for those of us who mainly live in developing/low income countries like Thailand. While I most often combine online teaching with more traditional employment, I almost always make more money from my part-time online teaching than any full-time job in a developing country (unless when working at a Western University in China or other neighbouring country).

My online teaching has paid for my two children to attend university and paid for the house we recently bought.

Also there are opportunities for qualified teachers working with students in the USA being “home-schooled” although I don’t have any specific experience with this.

Does online teaching work? There is extensive research comparing the outcomes of online versus traditional university education, without coming to a simple answer. It seems for some people at some times, online education produces as well or even better results than traditional education, while in other people in different situations the outcomes might not be as positive.

But, if some students think it is worth paying for, then the market says it works.

I don’t have any personal experience in online ESL teaching, but I doubt online ESL teaching, due to the abundance of competition, will ever be a guaranteed path to riches, but I suspect for many teachers it could be a decent supplement to meagre ESL wages and even an alternative for a few people to having a traditional ESL teaching job at a school.


I'm outta here!

In response to Mike's letter (Problems with the System, 20th December 2016) I have just tried unsuccessfully in my Thai government school to set up a two-tier system where those choosing to live here for many years could have the choice of a contract where they are able to teach 25 hours a week for a salary of 45,000.

Those new to Thailand must start on 18 hours a week at 35,000 as they need the time to prepare and increase their pedagogies. Our turnover of staff is about 60 to 70 % each year so with a second tier, for those staying a few years, we would have more teachers stay and fewer teachers needed to be employed due to extra hours us living here would cover.

As I said, I was unsuccessful so I am off to see more of South East Asia where i will receive the same salary as someone with no experience but will learn much more as I travel around.

Like Mike, I started teaching in Thailand 12 years ago. I achieved my BE in 2009. I do feel like the only person who benefited from us farlangs was us. I have learnt so much. The kids have not unfortunately. As John Lennon once said "Life is what happens to you while you are planning other things"

T Mark

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