Going with the flow

Getting a teaching job in rural Thailand

Like many of you reading this site, I've been an avid follower of ajarn.com for quite some time. It's been an invaluable resource, assisting in my transition to Thailand.

I'd been teaching within FE and HE in the UK for many years and I'd always held the dream of teaching abroad.

What a place!

Back in 2007 I made my first trip to Thailand with my Thai fiancé. I fell in love with the place and we got married. At that time my wife was making preparations on laying foundations for building our home in N.E Thailand. Teaching back in England was becoming more of a challenge, and after one stressful Ofsted inspection too many, I considered it time to move on and make the leap.

I'm a fully qualified teacher with nearly twenty years teaching experience. So why not, life's too short.

By that time Mrs Q had moved back to Thailand to oversee construction of our home. My brother in law is in the building trade and he commenced building us a comfy bungalow on my wife's land.

Looking for work

I'd been scouring the internet for teaching posts, reading up on Thai culture and a few great help books. I arrived in Thailand on a tourist exemption visa and took the month off sourcing work. I'd met with an English manager at a local school who'd offered some sage advice on his fifteen years in Thailand.

We had a long talk, probably been a while since he'd spoken with an English native. I also visited a couple more local schools with my resume at hand to find potential teaching posts. There weren't many opportunities in August, yet it wasn't long before the job offers came in from a few schools, agencies and a local university.

Within FE and HE I'd become accustomed to lecturing students from sixteen years old plus, so Mattayom level or university was more suited to my skill set. The university offer was appealing, but it took them so long to arrange a job interview I grew impatient. Not a good sign, on their behalf with the administration.

Lucking out

I then met up with a small, local teaching agency that was growing its business, and I got on really well with the CEO. After an informal interview and checking my qualifications, I was offered a job there and then. I was keen to visit the government school I was to teach at, which was located in a rural area. With approximately five hundred students, at Mattayom levels one to six, I got a good ‘vibe' from the lovely location.

Meeting the director and students was a plus too and it all seemed rather laid-back. Something I've had to get used to, from the manic pace to teaching in England.

Despite being seventy kilometres from home I was more than happy to make the commute. I'd previously worked at a grade one college in London, which was a fair commute. Believe me the salary, i.e. ‘danger money' was good, but not worth it.

Crazy roads

So I needed a car. That proved more complicated than expected. But the car salesman was happy to make concessions when he heard I was a teacher. One thing I begun to learn here, the amount of respect teachers lauded upon from the Thais. More than I received in the UK.

So after two months arriving in Thailand I was to start teaching. My only regret is that I hadn't moved to Thailand sooner.

The Thai visa and work permit have been a bit of a kerfuffle sorting out. That's another story altogether, and now I'm a popular visitor at immigration. We always end up having a photo opportunity of sorts. Imagine my surprise when everyone wanted a picture with the ‘farang' despite the fact I'd overstayed my visa. Seriously though, get on well with your local immigration and visas become far easier.

But overall, the most stressful part of my job is the drive to work. Yes, driving in Thailand is an eye opener, to say the least. Mirror, signal, manoeuvre? Manoeuvre, what's that indicator for, oh look a nice mirror to do my make-up/hair etc. I'm still amazed at how many young kids I've seen zipping about on mopeds, covering their faces from the dust kicked up by the cattle truck they're tail gating.

The right decision

Anyways, my teaching contract will be up for renewal soon and I hope I can continue to teach at the same school for next semester. It's been a great adventure whilst teaching here.

Even ‘working' on Christmas day was fun, as I played the role of Santa Claus in the students Christmas pantomime.

I would recommend anyone wishing to teach in Thailand, to seriously give it consideration. I'm here for the duration and yes, it has its downsides like anywhere else, but I still have to pinch myself to realise that I'm living my dream, working and living in Thailand. Just be prepared to take each day as it comes, and go with the flow.

Nigel Quinn

You might be interested in....

Teaching in the sticks - 31 cool and awesome things about living and teaching in rural Thailand

Bangkok or up-country? Which is best? - Are you a city boy or a country bumpkin?


Mark, Nigel

Many thanks to you both for taking the time to reply to this potential newbie.

I look forward to reading your article Mark



By Sean, England (2 years ago)

Sean, you have inspired me.

I'm in the process of writing an article for this website for educated people over 40, who are thinking about the move to Thailand to retire or at least stick around for a while.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (2 years ago)

Hi Sean,
I'm pleased you liked the blog. Much like yourself I have the qualifications and experience but I'm still a newbie teaching in Thailand. I'd highly recommend reading 'Teaching in Thailand: A Practical System' which helped me immensely and of course searching through ajarn.com. Also Marks advice is on the money. I don't possess any TEFL qualifications to date, which hasn't hindered me in getting teaching offers. I've met more teachers with TEFL quals, some with/without degrees but not much classroom experience. I'd say go for it. Maybe don't discuss politics ;)
Best of luck. NQ
P.S. Mark, we've got an inspection this week.

By Nigel Quinn, Thailand (2 years ago)

Thanks for the sound advice Mark.

Ajarn seems to have the balance right-taking the business of teaching seriously whilst enjoying the Thai culture and having a good laugh.

I have one more question if you or anyone wants to venture a reply-I am 47, have a degree (Politics) but no TEFL qualification. I have a postgraduate qualification in Careers Guidance and I have worked in English High Schools and Further Education Colleges for 10 years delivering groupwork from time to time but mainly one-to-one .

Initially I was considering applying for a Teaching position in Thailand without taking a recognised TEFl qual e.g. CELTA. In terms of competition to find work and the possibility of completely floundering when entering a classroom to teach English, is this a wise move? I have got a few course books which I could imagine mongrelising and developing lesson plans from.

I know there may not be a comprehensive answer to the above but any thoughts gratefully received.

Apologies if this isnt the correct thread to be asking these questions.



By Sean Millar, England (2 years ago)

Hey Sean.

Every single case of people who have had a bad experience in Thailand has been entirely the fault of that person.
It's next to impossible to have 'bad luck' over here.

Here is the list of reasons why people fail in Thailand.

Poor planning.
Bad research.
Not enough money.
Importing Western sensibilities to an Asian culture.

If you are reasonably educated, easy going and have common sense then everything else falls into place just fine.

To misquote the song... If you can't make it here, you can't make it anywhere!

By Mark Newman, Thailand (2 years ago)

Decent article. I am thinking of heading out to teach English for a year or two so good to hear about someone having such a positive experience.

From reading other, sometimes horrendously negative, posts on another EFL site it would seem your philosophy of 'taking each day and going with the flow' is the best approach to living and working in Thailand.



By Sean Millar, England (2 years ago)

Cheers Mark. I shall download a learn to speak Thai for the commute :)
As for Ofsted ...

By Nigel Quinn, Thailand (2 years ago)

Great stuff and thanks for taking the trouble to write down your journey.

That 70 km commute is a challenge.

Mine is 45 kms and takes me about 45 minutes. (I'm a slow driver.) I suspect like me, you have no radio channels that interest you. I download Howard Stern shows and burn them to a CD for my commute! I also have a flask of coffee and some breakfast along the way. By the time I arrive I feel great.

What do you do in your two hours each day in the car?
Even after 5 years I still love the drive to and from work. It's quiet and relaxing.

Good luck for the future and have a good life in Thailand.
Sound me out if you're ever near Ratchaburi.
Should your school write a thank you note to OFSTED?

By Mark Newman, Thailand (2 years ago)

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