Whatever happened to the shopping mall teacher?

Teaching for 300 baht an hour as the rest of the world enjoys itself

You invariably see them ordering the cheapest set meal in KFC or McDonalds. Sometimes they'll even pay the extra ten baht to be supersized. They are the shopping mall English teachers - gliding like pale, undernourished phantoms amid the hordes of weekend Thai shoppers.

And as those same Thai shoppers take a break from trying on pricey designer clothes to enjoy a Starbucks coffee and muffin or a cream-infused éclair at Beard Papas, the English teacher shuffles by and stands out like a nun in a red light district.

Teacher spotting

Years ago, when English language school chains like British American and ECC seemed to have branches in every single Bangkok shopping mall, the mall English teacher was a relatively common sight. Perhaps it's a sign of the times, but they seem so much rarer these days. But on the occasion I do spot a farang in a crumpled shirt and tie, walking aimlessly around a shopping mall, I instinctively know he's not part of some retail development team. He's clearly a chalkie - probably a children's teacher.

The shopping mall teacher has just spent two hours showing flashcards to a bunch of unruly kids who have spent the whole time fighting and pinching each other or crying and shitting themselves.

After lunch there will be even more of it. More kids, more crying....and probably more shit.

And when parents ask how their precious offspring is doing, no one really wants the truth. That's the life of a weekend shopping mall teacher - babysitting kids and sucking up to their parents is basically the sum total of the job description.

Been there, done that

I see a shopping mall English teacher and I instinctively want to reach out and hug them. I want to tell them that everything is going to be OK. Nothing lasts forever. I want to assure them that they won't still be doing this in twenty years time and still getting paid 300 baht an hour for their efforts. Surely the world can't be that cruel.

But the main reason I empathize with the shopping mall teacher is because I was once one myself. I know how desperate and soul-destroying the job can be.

I once worked in one of the swankiest shopping malls on Sukhumwit Road - Times Square. Back then, it was one of the jewels in Bangkok's retail crown. I walked around it a few days ago for the first time in years. I can't imagine why anyone would want to go there.

The ground floor used to have a restaurant that specialized in tiny, overpriced portions of food and milk shakes and occasionally had a pianist who tinkled the ivories while genteel Japanese ladies sipped green tea and tittered at each other's tales. Now it's just an empty space.

Above the restaurant were several floors of retail space containing every kind of shop that you couldn't possibly ever want or need. Places where you could take photos of your dog dressed up as a film star. Shops that sold beauty products made from the gunge extracted from the bottom of The Dead Sea and sold for six thousand dollars a jar. And clothes shops that would put a pair of shoes and a shirt in the window and call it a display.

Time ticks slowly

I've browsed in these shops purely to kill time but it would eventually dawn on you that neither your face nor bank balance singled you out as ‘the right sort of customer' and you were politely told to get lost.

There were no price tags on anything of course. If you had to ask the price, then you couldn't afford it.

Most times, shops were either closed or in darkness - classic vanity businesses that only ever opened when the owner could be bothered to get her arse out of bed and drive into town.

Times Square was a miserable place.

Holed up on the 24th floor in a claustrophobic language school and going slowly stir crazy, these retail establishments were my only escape. Lord knows how many times I stood in front of a window display of Swarovski crystal decanters, playing pocket billiards and gazing at my own sad reflection.

How many times did I stand outside ‘Oriental Beauty' contemplating the ten-week spa package - or in front of the cosmetic dental surgery weighing up the option to have 120,000 baht implants to fill the gap in my mouth that the students all laughed and pointed at.


Only Asia Books and Boots were the two stores where normal people went. They were a godsend for the shopping mall English teacher who had four hours to kill before his next lesson.

Boots was always a good place to waste time in but once you had told the over-powdered, transsexual shop assistant that you were only browsing, the atmosphere would turn creepy and you would start picking up bottles of honey and eucalyptus foot rub for the sheer hell of it.

You had by now outstayed your welcome. The pharmacist would peer over his glasses and start glaring at you suspiciously and all you could do was smile back and shift uneasily between the tubes of nipple cream and the perfumed panty liners. Eventually you would buy a can of Coke to justify your presence and eke out the transaction for as long as possible.

On a good day you could string out Asia Books for at least half an hour. Asia Books is a fine chain of booksellers but even to this day the Times Square branch comes across as the one that Asia Books forgot. I'm sure it must send staff there just to be punished. "OK that's the third time you've been late so we're sending you to Times Square for a month"

There was always a display stand in front of the shop that had the strangest selection of discounted books imaginable - with titles such as ‘Living with Incontinence' or ‘An Idiot's Guide to Dwarf Tossing'

To be honest things improved very little inside the shop and the store only got three types of ‘customer' anyway - the tourist sheltering from the rain or looking for a Pattaya guidebook, the person who was there to take advantage of the complimentary mints - and of course, the mall English teacher killing time.

Times Square Building Sukhumwit never had a fast food joint but in recent times I've sat in the KFC at shopping malls such as Seacon Square and Central Lard Phrao, and always loved that moment when the shopping mall English teacher has walked in to order lunch.

Lord of the manor

"Mr Brian - Sawatdee Kha" The staff cry out in unison the moment Mr Brian crosses the threshold.

Everyone knows Mr Brian - the girls serving at the counter, the guy cooking the chicken out back, the delivery boy, the girl mopping the floor.

Mr Brian accepts the adulation and in turn performs a little dance with arms outstretched and delivers his own rousing ‘Sawatdee Khap"

This is Mr Brian's domain. It's here that he's king, if only for five minutes. Suddenly the last minute student cancellations resulting in no pay are all forgotten as Brian basks in the limelight.

The reason Mr Brian is so well known is because he goes there for lunch on virtually every working day. It's not that he lacks the imagination to try somewhere new. He just loves the comfort that familiarity brings. The mall English teacher is nearly always a creature of habit.

TEFL goldfish bowl

I feel most sorry for those mall teachers who work in full view of the passing crowds. They work in a sort of ‘TEFL goldfish bowl'. Shoppers and everyday city folk can peer into the mall teacher's classroom as they go up and down escalators and see what really goes on in the world of English teaching.

For the shopping mall teacher this sometimes create its own pressure as the teacher strives to keep his whiteboard tidy and the students actively engaged. The teacher who is teaching behind glass walls in the middle of a shopping mall is a living, breathing advertisement for the language school that he or she works for. 

The weekend mall teacher lives in a world of confused reality. As they stroll around a shopping complex, the 'normal folk' are all immersed in their weekend activities. They've earned their coin from Monday to Friday and are now out enjoying life's simple pleasures.

Old friends discuss Sunday fishing plans over iced lattes. Young lovers hold hands while they window-shop. Noisy families fill their trays with curry puffs in Yamazaki and share teetering gooey sundaes in Swensens. It's like the world is throwing a party and the only person who hasn't been invited is the shopping mall teacher.

Let's hear it for the shopping mall English teacher - sadly a dying breed.


Times Square still has the little French restaurant on the ground floor and there is still very often a pianist there for part of the day. During the post Christmas period, they did have the whole place cleared out for some refurbishments, but it is all back to normal.

Asia books is no longer there, but Boots still is. I never thought about spending time there...very bizarre place to hang out. When I am forced to kill a few minutes, I usually grab something at Subway or Starbucks. And, of course you can always just walk to Terminal 21 or Robinson.

As for feeling sorry for them...when I worked at Inlingua years ago, I never felt that I stood out and I really liked working in a shopping centre. The pay wasn't bad for being fresh out of university. Very sorry that you had such a negative experience. But, I don't think you speak for many.

By Craig, Bangkok (3 years ago)

Julien, I think it's wonderful that you pay your 'shopping mall teachers' 50,000 baht a month. But what % of shopping mall teachers are earning that kind of salary? I bet it's less than 5% - but by all means take your guess as well.

By Philip, Samut Prakarn (3 years ago)

I own and manage a pair of language schools (Modulo, Central World and Rama 9) here in Bangkok and though this article is an interesting piece of creative writing, it is just that: creative.
I have to defend my teachers here because it seems like you try and describe a huge part of the Thai private education sector by using your own poor experience. Overly generalizing makes for a fun read but in your "article" you alternate between exaggerating and being completely wrong. There are literally hundreds of schools in the Kingdom.
The average salary for my teachers is around 50,000 a month, they have health/life insurance and paid holidays. That obviously doesn't make them rich, but it's more than most teachers in the country and a lot more than the average Thai person. Do you just sound condescending because you're making (presumably) more money than them?
All our classrooms are closed, not the glass aquariums you describe. We do teach children, but 70% of our students are adults. Let me answer the question in the title, since you forgot to do so yourself: the mall teachers are doing fine and you should write about things you actually know about.
In conclusion, all of my teachers are qualified, experienced professionals and they do a much better job teaching than you do writing.

By Julien Michaud, Thailand (3 years ago)

What the F%&ck you guys moaning at? If it wasn't for these companies and agencies most of you would still be working in McDonald's or Wall mart! It's a job for god sake - and it helps to keep you in a place you love "Thailand", you ought to be thankful! It's money for old rope, bit boring at times - but isn't all employment. Jeez give you lot the world and everything in it and you'd still find things to be negative about!

By taffy, Wales (3 years ago)

Reminds me of my early days in Bangkok. Regularly had 3 hours between classes at the shopping mall language center. Spent 200+ baht on taxi fares, to teach 4-6 hours a day at 350-400 baht an hour. I often, on sleepy days, would kill time by getting a foot massage or watching a movie where I would take a nap.

Good ol' days

By Ken, Bangkok (3 years ago)

I did this work a couple of years back, here in China, its exactly as you describe. Tons of rich people everywhere and the only non chinese (wei guo ren) are the teachers for the English school. I remember one of the most senior teachers there only made 30 rmb more than i did an hour she had been there for two years already. Its just awful the way this industry continues on.

By Mark Rodgers, China (5 years ago)

@julien. What's the major difference between your language center and one in a mall? Just curious.

By Mark, Chanthaburi (6 years ago)

Haha! I love your article! I was myself a "mall teacher" for several years! Its all true... Sad but true! I hardly see a positive end to the whole educational system here in Thailand... Fortunately, I ran off those malls a few years ago, working now for a private school and having my own language center. Now, if I go to a shopping Mall... It is because I really need something and I have no further choices ;-)

By julien, Pathum Thani (6 years ago)

nice exercise in creative writing...but you never answered your own question. Is the mall teacher really going away, and if so, why?

By frustrated, (6 years ago)

Many of the shopping mall teachers are now Asian - mostly from the Philippines, but some are Thai and some are Chinese. So, we are still there, but perhaps not as recognizable to you.

By joe, BKK (6 years ago)

I remember that ladyboy sales assistant at the Boots there at Times Square. He flirted with me when I was buying condoms there once. Ha.

By Henry, Bangkok (6 years ago)

As a veteran of British American and ECC in the late nineties this brought back a few memories, mainly good ones tbf.

They gave me my first taste of teaching and I met some great characters both among the staff and students and the variety of classes was part of the fun.

Oh and I'd never be seen dead in a KFC or MaccyD's - I was there to learn about the culture don'tcha ya know - only the finest food court B20 special for this ajarn :-)

By Paul, UK (6 years ago)

I enjoyed your article specifically the swearing. Times Square Sukhumvit is a bone cold, boring, mostly deserted building, I'm surprised anyone goes to mall there. The hapless English teachers should avoid it at all cost.

By Charles, Chiang Mai (6 years ago)

Haha , loved it.
I did 6 weeks with ECC back in 1994, my first gig as a teacher.

By robert, bangkok (6 years ago)

I understand what you are getting at here but my English school is based in a mall and I don't feel like I fit this category.

I never eat in the mall, I always go out to eat, it is very close to central Bangkok so people are used to seeing foreigners and I earn more than any job I have ever seen advertised here. I am definatly not a creature of habit and work with 8 other foreign teachers

As far as the world throwing a party I am not invited to...I start work at 12am so if I go out untill 2am getting to work the next day is no problem...every day is a party day and usually I am the one inviting people.

By UK Teacher, Bangkok (6 years ago)

Brian - I love the reading, and many moons ago I did that task just not in a shopping mall. That didn't last long ha ha ha

By Kanadian, China (6 years ago)

Shopping Mall teachers. Gosh..........one step above unemployment. What a pitiful existence.

By Steve, Doha, Qatar (6 years ago)

I agree with Paul.

I taught my first mall English classes with ECC as well and they were a great place to start, to "get my sea legs" so to speak. I always smile when I think of the friends I made and the nice, genuinely interested people I worked with, if only briefly.

Being a mall teacher isn't a fantastic job, but I don't think it's a terrible one either. Mall schools and teacher agencies are, I think, good places to start for newbies. Of course, they usually move on, like I did, once they are self sufficient in the Thai system.

I recommend being a mall teacher to all first timers and thanks for the great article! :)

By Jason Alavi, Rangsit (6 years ago)

KFC? McDonalds? Why would an impoverished Mall teacher be eating at such ridiculously overpriced establishments? ... Oh, I get it. You're just making this up.

By Teachermark, Chanthaburi (6 years ago)


I infer that you are Filipino. I understand your comment, but find it a little bit contradictory and insulting, as well as sexist; 'white guys' blah blah.

For me, I have worked with a total of 9 Filipinos. Each person has been highly educated in the field they teach in; namely, biology, maths, education and English. However, I could only understand two of the people I worked with. The rest of the Filipinos I worked with were incomprehensible in the language of natural English (not Spanglish, or Filiinglish). I also found most of the Filipino teachers I met were willing to go along with anything the Thai management requested of them (therefore, not willing to try and change things for the better).

I would like to ask, why hire Filipinos, when Thai schools could hire Thailand's own (Thai) graduates?

By Britabroad, Chiang Mai (6 years ago)

Eunice, I was deeply offended by your racist post.

I know and have worked with many Filipino people, many of them have been treated a lot worse than I have and in some instances, reminds me a bit of human trafficking and slavery.

Filipino people complain just as much or more than us "white people" do. Your post was one example of a self-serving complaint i.e. complain about the farang so as to make the Filipino look good.

If you honestly think you are doing yourself favours by not complaining about your life and that of other Filipino people, I respect your choice.

Just remember, Filipino people are treated as non-native speakers, whilst you may now get 10-20,000 Baht less than native speakers (typical govt. jobs). With the general trend going downwards (salaries), if the native speaker starts to accept your 10-15,000 Baht a month salary, expect the salary of Filipinos to be at around 6,000 a month.

Complaining serves multiple purposes: to get something off a grumpy person's chest and help one relax, notify employers that what they are doing is wrong and ensure they are notified that there are lines that should not be crossed (ensures basic employement conditions) and as a means of group brainstorming.

One day, when you have 24 hours to leave the country and your influential employer calls up his/her buddies at immigration (or threatens such), you will understand that is was because there was no grumpy spokesperson, you were abused as much as possible.

By Mr Grumpy, Thailand (6 years ago)

Very true and honest account of the sad plight of many.

By David, Sathorn Bangkok (6 years ago)

Hi Eunice,
I would like to respond to your comment regarding Native English Speakers complaining all of the time! The Thai MEO has said "that from 2014 there will be no non-native speakers permitted to teach at government schools in the Kindom of Thailand". Maybe, you all will be complaining then!!!

By Keith, Nigeria (6 years ago)

Eunice. With respect, I would revise your passive voice. Enough said.

By Paul Rogers, Kuwait (6 years ago)

Who was the nameless idiot that wrote this load of BS? Instead of writing about something you obviously don't know the ins and outs of, why not make yourself useful and come up with something interesting?

What's next? Trashing the garbage collectors, cashiers and similar jobs for just doing their job.

Thumbs down.

By Herman Jones, Bangkok (6 years ago)

White people or we called them Native English speakers are seemed to be always complaining. To the white guys out there, if you think you cannot handle the situation anymore, then go. There are lots of qualified Filipinos with MA degrees and the likes who love teaching at tutorial centers. And you cannot hear them complaining.

By Eunice, Langkrabue, Khampeang Phet, Thailand (6 years ago)

Would a more "profitable area" involve Columbian pharmaceuticals?

Even my friend, who is a medical doctor (GP), in the UK with many years of experience, does not make $10,000 a month or $120,000 a year.

I am still waiting for an informative and fact filled article that tells all us TEFL and/or fully qualified teachers how we can make more than engineers and doctors etc....

By Mr Grumpy, Thailand (6 years ago)

Get your PGCE and get out of Thailand!

By Keith, Nigeria (6 years ago)

I have never tried to live off of teaching in a shopping centre, but I have done it on a part time basis more than once. I've needed the money a few times, but normally it was actually the fact that it was in a good shopping centre that made it fun. I pretty much spent whatever I made right there in the centre, but it did help subsidize my appetite.

By Craig, (6 years ago)

Get out of TEFL teaching and move into more profitable areas.

By Jack, Someplace nice (6 years ago)

I must have missed something a decade back when I worked in management.

I surely missed something when I changed careers to become a qualified teacher.

The salaries on this forum are exponentially increasing by the post.

We are now at $10,000 a month and the hammer has yet to fall!

Can I kindly ask all those, who are chauffer driven teachers (in your Bentleys), to kindly write a how-to article?

By Mr Grumpy, Thailand (6 years ago)

Mr.Lilly, I have worked in 2 schools in Sisaket which is quite a small town but we have KFC and always was the place to go and have lunch, and I find what you are saying is such a load of rubbish that students look at you they way describe, I have only ever found people and students to have nothing but respect for the farang teacher here.

Also in Ubon where I went to do shopping when I worked at Det Udom I had nothing but admiration from students and their parents if they were with them, I have lived in Thailand 8 years now, to gain respect you have to give respect in return.

Charlie Wilson.

By Charlie Wilson, Sisaket (6 years ago)

Not to worry, Jack. I suppose 300,000 Baht is a start. Could you maybe put in a few more hours to increase it further?
Always remember, as long as you are happy, that's the main thing, old chap.

By Paul Rogers, Kuwait (6 years ago)

Mr. Lilly

You don't come across as like a braggart, why would anyone brag about such a low wage? You come across as something quite different.

During a good month I can pull in well over 300,000 Baht from book royalties, teaching salary (Not an ESL teacher obviously) and consulting fees.

Does that make my opinion worth three times yours?

By Jack, Someplace nice (6 years ago)

Mr. Lilly,
I apologize for calling you a woman, but let's be honest about it, you do go on like one. For the record Mr. Lilly I have a PGCE.and QTS . Terefore, to say I lack intellegence is quite insulting coming from a TEFL teacher like yourself.
I work for a university in Nigeria, earning the equivalent of 250,000 baht per-month. So, please stop bragging about yourself and leave the rest of the population who have a sence of humour to enjoy reading well written, humourous articles.

By Keith, (6 years ago)

Philip asks if there are any suggestions for this dying breed.

Yes there is!

It involves all the grumpy, but qualifed and experienced teachers to:

1. Group together and open co-operative schools. With joined resources, I am sure all workpermit and visa issues would be manageable. I also believe this will result in great employment and student conditions.


2. Start a registered teachers union. Legally possible from my understanding - provided it is registered.

By Mr Grumpy, Thailand (6 years ago)

Any suggestions for another 'dying breed' in Thailand's wonderful world of TEFL?

By philip, (6 years ago)

I suppose in the final analysis Mr. Grumpy makes a good point and others here have made some good points. I suppose I felt the writer was mocking ESL teachers in some way, his tone seemed patronizing in the way it mocked mall teachers and this didn’t ring true with his final statements 'let's hear it for...' and 'sadly a dying breed'. But I can understand the concept of taking a chill pill, and I happily do so now. At least in regards to the writer’s piece here on Ajarn.

To Keith, a comment like that shows a rather pitiful lack of intelligence. The phrase "get a life" is one of the tritest clichés used in forums and comment sections today. Using that phase to diss a perfect online stranger is not only childish but also shows a clear lack of both intellect and imagination.

Of course I have a life. My wife is Thai and I teach English in China. I made 102K Thai Baht (based on today’s rate exchange) last month, and earn 828 Thai Baht per 50-minute teaching session, tax free, in my current job. If I sound like a braggart, that fine, but I’ve paid my dues as an EFL teacher and got my 120-h TESOL certificate in Thailand.

I’ve taught a bit in Thailand, in-between jobs when I wasn’t in Korea, Vietnam, or China. I've never taught in a school in Thailand that was located in a big shopping mall, but I worked for Wall Street English in China for one year, at a center skirting one of the biggest malls in Shenzhen. It was a good job for me and although there are always better gigs I'd never write about my experience there in the sassy way the writer here did. But again, that ship has sailed.

Finally, let’s address the ignorance and disrespect of people who childishly address a person by their last name on a forum like this, like the kids used to do in high school. This shows a clear lack of moral fiber and character. And then, to top it off, you brilliantly claim your place upon the dunce-of-the-day chair by assuming so much as to call me ‘woman’. Well, sorry mate, wrong again!

By M.E. Lilly, China (6 years ago)

"The mall English teacher is nearly always a creature of habit."
- I couldn’t do anything other then agree with you on this point. For me, the mall English teacher" is more of name of an ability that most English teachers in Thailand will develop over time. Saw quite a few of them last time I was in BKK.

- "An Idiot's Guide to Dwarf Tossing'"
Finally! I have books who are dealing with the strangest of subjects but hey, this is the one that I have been waiting for!

By Oskarh, Gothenburg, Sweden (6 years ago)

When i read this article, i had a notion that the author was just trying to express his/her point of view about teachers. But for me, we must know if we hurt others by our words.There is power in tongue. I agree with Jim/bangkok. We should be open-minded about this.

By yabs, saraburi (6 years ago)

The way things are in America right now 300 Baht an hour sounds damn good. Can you say 20% real unemployment and 100 people with University Degrees applying for 1 position at McDonalds thats pays well under 300 Baht per hour after tax.

By jim, Bangkok,TH (6 years ago)

Relax Lilly!

My name is Mr Grumpy. You are starting to sound like you deserve the name more than me!

You are an essay writer. The article was not an essay!

You appear to want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Good luck with your futile quest. It is next to impossible to write all you desire in a few web pages.

The article's title was ‘Whatever Happened to the Shopping Mall Teacher’. Your criticism would have some ground if it was titled ‘The In-depth Analysis of Shopping Mall Teachers’, had a ten page bibliography, and was sent the British Educational and Leadership Council.

I actually liked the article. It was fluid and interesting and gave me a smile. It was better than watching TV for 5 minutes!

By Mr Grumpy, Thailand (6 years ago)

Awesome article. Made me smile throughout, and laugh out loud quite a few time.

I, sadly, have also been a shopping mall teacher, in Phitsanulok. I dreaded the weekend when I had to go there, and deal with the ineptness and lack of organisation of the language school. Luckily for me I only ever had to teach adults and teens, but it still wasn't a highlight of my TESL career.

By Britabroad, Chiang Mai (6 years ago)

I got a chuckle out of the article, and felt it wasn't mean-spirited in the least.

But I have never "published: online personal essay so I am not sure how valid my opinion is.

It least it was a nice break from the "I Hate Thais" blog posts by Steve and Tom.

By Jack, High and Dry (6 years ago)

Jeez Louise! Judging by some of the comments left here you'd think we were commenting on an article in the Guardian.

It's just a bit of fun. I've been in this position, and I hated it. Some of it rings true and some of doesn't (for me).

TIT - don't take yourselves too seriously. Heaven knows no one else will.

By Liam, Bangkok (6 years ago)

Hey Lilly!
Get a life woman! The article was awesome!

By Keith, (6 years ago)

I do a lot of my own writing, and one thing I do know as a writer who publishes personal essays online is that all comments, though sometimes misunderstood, are equally valid.

My comments didn't put words in anyone's mouth (as one commenter has done in response to my critique). My comment was simply my own reaction to the story from the viewpoint of someone who knows a thing or two about essay writing and felt the writer's field of view was a bit on the narrow side. He missed a chance to bring his story full circle.

His is not the full story at all, but rather a partial and limited look at the life of a mall teacher that shows the writer's lack of experience and in my opinion his laziness or unwillingness to tell the full story. It may have been his truth, but when it comes to writing there is always the missing element of universal truth that must be told. The writer skims the surface of truth but fails to tell the whole story; so his piece, in my view, falls short, and comes off as a slightly amusing yet shamefully slanted portrayal of the sort of life he trying to write about.

My comments were hardly discrediting, nor did they in any way invalidate the true experiences of the writer. My comment may have been in the form of a subtle criticism, but that's the risk we take as writers when we put our work out there for everyone to read.

And comments are part of the process of writing. If you can't take the heat, why bother writing in the first place. To be a good writer, one must have a strong point of view. Writing is, after all, one of the greatest expressions of self-indulgence.

Writing at its finest is also a collaborative process; the writer can either seek benefit from my comments or toss them aside. Unless you're the writer, your comments here, against mine, are just sour milk from people who think every comment must be of a kind and gentle nature. So not true!

By M.E. Lilly, China (6 years ago)

M.E Lilly sites one benefit of being a mall teacher is, "having the freedom to take long breaks". In reality, however, a 4-hour gap was never long enough to go home, but too long to hang around. No, I'd have to be on my knees poverty-wise before I became a mall chalkie again.

By Timbo, Bangkok (6 years ago)

Give us a break Lilly!

You are disecting the article as if it was a postgraduate thesis!

Also, your tone is a bit patronising by assuming both the readers and the writier cannot be objective and critical.

By Mr Grumpy, Thailand (6 years ago)

Having also shared this experience, I couldn't help but chuckle. Some good points about the hours spent killing time before the next lesson and the unpaid cancellations. However, besides the inconveniences like that there are also the good moments. I learned my trade by working for the aforementioned ECC and I can honestly say that despite moving on to better things, I have some great memories of those times. If you get a good run of hours through the week, that 300 baht can indeed accumulate to a reasonable monthly salary. Ok, I wouldn't like to go back to that life now, but at the time I was feeling my way and will always have great memories of my early days as a chalkie around Central Lad Prao.

By Paul Rogers, Kuwait (6 years ago)

I’ve been through some of the major malls here in Bangkok a few times. Observing over the past few years, there are fewer and fewer students in there. Most of the students are confined to Saturday and Sunday classes.
There is really no money to be made in Language schools and times are harsh.
Most parents who want their child to attend an English class will often choose a private tutor to do the job. Why? Parents are getting more involved in their children’s education and are doing their shopping.
Some Thai / Japan / Korean parents are turning to Thai’s placement agencies who arrange tutors for other teachers.

By Abdul, Bangkok (6 years ago)

Your take on EFL teachers who work in Thai malls rings with a disheartening yet strangely sympathetic tone. As a writer, please remember that your own personal experiences and feelings don't necessarily speak for those of others. As a writer, isn't it your duty to observe and report the other side of the coin? Clearly, not all mall teachers in Thailand are the sad sacks you describe, walking around looking like "pale, undernourished phantoms" with "crumpled shirts and ties" and eating junk food set meals. There are aspects of this type of work that redeem such an ignoble description. Having a job you like and enjoy, having the freedom to take long breaks, having work where satisfaction comes in helping others, and living in an exotic foreign land, to name a few. Teaching English in a Thai mall might not be the top gig on the planet, but it's a job, and most of us who work must toil and kill time and wait for our leisure as much as the next fellow. As a writer, you must be careful not to miss the chance to tell the full story. And as any good writer worth his salt knows, all one has to do is look.

By M.E.Lilly, China (6 years ago)

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AP Courses Teachers for Beijing

1 day, 6 hours ago

฿90,000+ /month

Various locations

English Teacher Position for Beijing

1 day, 6 hours ago

฿90,000+ /month

Various locations

Qualified NES Teachers

2 days, 2 hours ago

฿40,000+ /month


TEFL Courses & Training

Get off to a good start...

Take your course
in Thailand!

Training Directory

Featured Teachers

  • Jason


    American, 45 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Adrian


    American, 30 years old. Currently living in Thailand



    Filipino, 51 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Jakob


    Icelandic, 35 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • scott


    American, 53 years old. Currently living in South Korea

  • Jenna


    South African, 22 years old. Currently living in South Africa

  • Anas


    Palestinian, 39 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Dr. Nay Myo


    Myanmarese, 31 years old. Currently living in Myanmar

  • gregory


    French, 38 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • josejie


    Filipino, 20 years old. Currently living in Philippines


Sine Education

No TEFL required.

Mediakids Academy

Top TEFL job placement provider with competitive benefits and an unforgettable experience.

English Planet

To be internationally recognized as the leader in quality English language training.


Vacancies for in-house and corporate teachers at the finest schools in Suphanburi City


We get you a job! Options for school placements all over Thailand

BSI Broker

Brokers for ajarn health insurance and for all your Thailand insurance needs.

Siam Computer & Language

Competitive teacher packages with benefits and bonus incentives

Kajonkietsuksa School

First bilingual school in Phuket. Vacancies for kindergarten, primary and secondary teachers.

Kasintorn St Peter School

Progressive English program school near Bangkok employing NES and Filipino teachers

Inlingua Thailand

Premier language school with many branches and corporate training.

The Hot Spot

Air your views

Air your views

Got something to say on the topic of teaching, working or living in Thailand? The Ajarn Postbox is the place. Send us your letters!

Contributions welcome

Contributions welcome

If you like visiting ajarn.com and reading the content, why not get involved yourself and keep us up to date?

Will I find work in Thailand?

Will I find work in Thailand?

It's one of the most common questions we get e-mailed to us. So find out exactly where you stand.

Teacher mistakes

Teacher mistakes

What are the most common mistakes that teachers make when they are about to embark on a teaching career in Thailand? We've got them all covered.

The dreaded demo

The dreaded demo

Many schools ask for demo lessons before they hire. What should you the teacher be aware of?

Renting an apartment?

Renting an apartment?

Before you go pounding the streets, check out our guide and know what to look out for.

Can you hear me OK?

Can you hear me OK?

In today's modern world, the on-line interview is becoming more and more popular. How do you prepare for it?