Bye, bye Thailand
When poor evaluation strategy and lack of communication mean one thing - the exit door
I worked for many schools in China.
Some schools declined to renew my contract, but no school in China dismissed me mid semester, i.e, after the probation period. Most schools gave me a recommendation letter. The last four schools invited me to renew my contract. The supervisor at my last school gave me a perfect ten on every item of my evaluation. By contrast, I have taught at five schools in Thailand and only one has let me finish the semester and given me a recommendation letter.
At the school here, the English academy director told me at the end of my probation period that I had failed my evaluation. I tried to meet with the principal to explain to her:
“There was no evaluation. The English academy director spent 5 minutes in the classroom with me. The Thai teachers usually left the classroom immediately after I arrived and mostly played with their phones the few times they stayed.
The education consultant you sent to observe one of my lessons stayed about 10 minutes, didn’t take any notes, and didn’t ask me any questions. Nobody studied my lesson plans [even though I paid an English translation major graduate student handsomely to translate them into Thai precisely so my Thai supervisors and Thai team teachers would understand what’s going on in my classroom], read my transcripts, watched my videos, saw my flashcards, looked at my vocabulary lists, etc.
No one who filed a report with you about my teaching or presented you with any details about my content, tools, or methods, because none of your staff observed any of my lessons.
I didn’t fail my evaluation because there wasn't an evaluation.
Furthermore, I have ten videos of my students practicing their conversation skills with me. In these videos, every student in every class is speaking every word of every sentence, sometimes very enthusiastically and always with excellent pronunciation. (The English academy director dismissed the video proof of my classroom activity and didn’t pick up paper copies of my lesson plans when I laid them on the table in front of her)”
But the principal refused to meet with me.
Chinese school officials just want foreign teachers to give students a good English lesson. But apparently there’s a lot of office politics in Thai schools.
I ran into this at other schools during my previous trips to Thailand, such as academic directors at two schools declaring I wasn’t qualified to teach math, even though one of them never set foot in my math classroom and neither of them looked at my math students’ notebooks.
Or the Thai English teacher whose English level was so low, she had to ask one of my students to explain my lesson to her in Thai because she didn’t understand anything I was saying or writing on the board.
So I recognized the problem and thought I was ready for it. But the trouble in previous schools always came from people who sat in the back of my classroom and aimed sniper fire at me, constantly interrupting my lesson and objecting to the way I was teaching.
This time, they hired me based strictly on my resume - no introduction video, no demonstration video, no interview. There was no dress code, there were no office hours, no one nitpicked about not signing in with red ink. They left me alone.
No one objected to my teaching strategy, no one tried to tweak me. I took that as a good sign. I took that as an indication they were happy with what I was doing in the classroom, that they saw no reason to intervene or get involved. So I was caught off guard. First by the English academy director’s accusations, then by the principal’s refusal to meet with me.
If I had known what was coming, I would have photographed the English academy director and others playing with their phones in my classroom. I would have asked her to provide details about my lessons to prove she knew what I was teaching and how I was teaching it, questions she was in no position to answer. I would have turned on my video camera and said, “Have a 5 minute dialog with me or tell me a one paragraph story. Speak to me in complete and correct sentences with standard pronunciation.”
I suppose I could have even threatened to stand outside the gate and pass out a flyer inviting parents to observe one my lessons, then observe one of her lessons, then said, “And we’ll see which one of us gets evaluated.”
Although even issuing all those challenges would not have guaranteed she would have shut down the charade. She was convinced she had the advantage. She was a manager and I was a worker; she had tenure and I was on probation; she’s Thai and I’m foreign; she presumably had a relationship with the principal and I hardly knew the principal.
So I’m out of here. I doubt I’ll find a school in Thailand that will pay for my apartment deposit, my first month’s rent, and my visa expenses even if they want a native speaker with experience teaching Thai students. So I would be facing the same financial risk at a new school in Thailand.
So I’ll probably return to China, where the salaries are much higher and the rent is free, or America, where the economy is doing much better and the Bureau of Labor Statistics claims 7,000,000 jobs are waiting for me (even though my driver license expired while I was in China).
I’ll have to call my travel agent this week to give him a decision. But I’m pretty sure teaching English in Thailand is no longer an option for me.
An interviewer once asked me, “What do you like about Thailand?” I responded, “What’s to not like about Thailand?”
But this time, it might well be bye bye Thailand.
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Chinese run centres/ schools regardless whether there are Chinese from certain South East Asian countries or China itself or East Asians f ok East Asian countries itself can be notoriously nasty and are known to be extremely exploitive, unpredictable, chaotic and extremely unfair, besides known to pay pittance.
Too many of them were known to be more interested in profit than in quality.
By wpass, Somewhere in Asia (29th May 2019)
By now, you should realized the typical Asian mentality, i.e., if they think can on their whims and fancies or even from a petty complaint from one of the naughty brat parent, they would irrationally or for no valid reason, dismissed even a good teacher.
For example, there was this strange scary Asian woman in an Asian exchange booth in Bangkok finding fault with my currency (and refusing to change) and thus making my life difficult even though there was most probably nothing wrong with it. And many unfair Asian employers are known to be incompetent or blatantly unfair in their dismissal policies.
So, therefore, no matter how passionate or how good we are in our teaching, one still need to beware of petty, unfair dismissal from substandard Asian employers, depending how "powerful" they think they may be.
I also hated the fact that Thai people rudely talking to me in Thai even though quite obviously I am not Thai.
By wpass, Somewhere in Asia (29th May 2019)
Something must have gone badly wrong for you not to finish a summester. I've never had a Thai criticise my lessons. However I know a guy who was sacked for being miserable and never smiling and sure enough in our school he was miserable in our school as well. I think there are two sides to this story and all the thais would have the same answer as to what they thought of you. Your Co teachers would have been thinking the same thing. As mine said to me the other day.. So and so was never happy, never had fun with the students so they were all talking about it. China is a place where everyone is serious Thailand not so. I believe you have the wrong attitude for this country, no one's problem but China is the right place for you.
By Brad, Thailand (26th May 2019)
"Bob Dobbs, Church of the Subgenius?" Bit pretentious, but whatever.
1. You ask some good questions...mixed in with a bunch of inane insinuations/strongly loaded questions.
2. Credit to you for recognizing the guy is committed to doing a good job.
3. There are definitely potential reasons over which Carl has no control you fail to mention.
4. A run of four bad employment experiences is unlikely, but definitely possible here...even for a good teacher, some might even say especially for a good teacher (depending on how you define that, but let's not get into that now). It's just a damn small sample set for putting the onus all on Carl for these failures, as you seem to.
I think he's just not a cultural fit--at least for educational institutions--in Thailand. If he were, I think he might have a better developed spider sense for understanding how it works here: the unspoken rules, the red flags, and the disconnect between reality and what's on paper--thus spotting unsuitable employers *before* he gets hired by them.
By Matty, Chiang Mai (6th April 2019)
In each case are you working with Filipinos? Are they in positions to perform evaluations or talk smack to administrators? Were you replaced by NES? They are absolutely known to sabotage efforts and replace NES with their lot.
Were you hired on at premium rates but did not deliver? Constantly show late and seen leaving early. Usually leaving before 3pm is the kiss of death.
Finally, usually if the kids are ok with you, you'll keep your job. You've stated they were very happy with your efforts.
Obviously you are deluding yourself, writing the piece. Follow ups but it's all a big mystery to you. Naw, something is very wrong with what you're doing. Losing four jobs mid term. It's really difficult to be dumped mid term because the schools no that there's no better out there in October and they have the hiring hassle.
China: is this public school or language centers? If the latter that explains much. If the former and you're in some backwater, that would explain that as well.
My 2 satang
By Bob Dobbs, Church of the Subgenius (16th March 2019)
When I first began this I was expecting a whine from someone who was not cut out for teaching, lazy, indifferent. You seem to be quite serious about teaching. Which leads quickly to the ultimate question, why are all these schools dismissing you?
My first question is are you creeping on the kids OR do you just seem like a creepy guy?
Do you have something offensive about you? Bad odor, atrocious dresser, slovenly?
Is it possible you get on the wrong side of Thai teachers quickly? Have you ever commented to students about the lack of English abilities of teachers?
Are your lessons an absolute academic snoozefest? Is it you lecturing them all class period or following a book page by page.
Are you very overweight and appear to struggle thru the day. A sweaty struggling mess?
Have you missed days or random classes?
There are other things that might knock you out end of year like perpetually being late, Thai teacher issues, uninspiring classes, general weirdness. Not doing gate duty they still would keep you till years end imo.
No, there's something consistently wrong and maybe offensive in what you're doing. Why don't you straight up ask the agency and any fellow teachers you may have in contact. There's something terribly wrong with what you're doing given the apparent energy. Even if you don't love teaching, you seem to be well making more effort than 80% of teachers I'm constantly stuck with.
Translatng a lesson plan? Up to them 555.
By Bob Dobbs, Church of the Subgenius (15th March 2019)
Normally in Thailand they have predetermined the outcome, so it sounds like they had already decided you would not make the grade. The evaluation was just a formality. Sounds like there was not enough sanook (fun) in the classroom, and you could be a teacher from God, but if they do not get their daily dose then as the saying goes "your ass is grass". Welcome to Thailand.
By Jonny John, Bangkok (10th March 2019)
HI, Carl. There's no need to go digging around for case studies or wasting any more time on this. Each of us has spent a number of years in both Thailand and China; if you notice on all of my posts, it says Beijing. You don't need to prove to me which one is better for certain people, because I've already moved on. And if I'm being honest, I don't plan to stay in this country either once my contract is up. There are too many opportunities out there for good teachers. You're not stuck in either country and don't have to be putting yourself through this again and again, regardless of who is at fault or what happened. You made the right decision to leave. Each context has its pros and cons, and that includes the specific schools, employers, directors, etc., in each of those contexts. Maybe now you're better at sniffing things out before you sign on the dotted line. Your recent article brought up a lot of memories I have of teachers that really didn't have themselves together and tried blaming everyone else. There are a lot of those. Maybe you're not like that; I don't know. But I don't want to get into a back and forth discussion on here over it. That isn't productive for anyone, and after a while, it'll probably be just you and I reading the responses anyway. However, I also don't want you think I am just attacking you or something and then ignoring you afterwards, so I keep feeling obligated to reply. I appreciate that you've engaged with me on this in a civil manner. Good luck!
By Nathan, Beijing (6th March 2019)
Nathan, when I'm finished at the post office and the travel agency, I'll get back with you with some case studies and how I should have responded in those cases, as well as some additional and insightful Thailand/China education personnel comparisons. In the meantime, check out "Can you teach science?" here at Ajarn.
By Carl Slaughter, Chonburi, Thailand (5th March 2019)
We get it. Thailand this, China that, but your comment still doesn’t explain the fact that there are thousands of foreign teachers who work in Thailand and don’t get fired during or after the probation period and do get their contracts renewed. If this had been an isolated incident, I would have been unequivocally supportive. If it had happened twice, maybe still. But four times? This is on you--to either figure out what’s going wrong and/or realize that teaching in Thailand is a completely different animal. It’s not like you’re the first foreign teacher to come to Thailand and work. Your article doesn’t explain how thousands of other foreign teachers in Thailand are able to keep their jobs year after year. Basically what you’re saying is that the Thai staff didn’t like you, presumably because you’re a foreigner(?). Fine. At four different schools? Okay, sure. But what about every other foreigner who has a job at a Thai school? Were you the only foreign teacher at these four schools? If not, how long have the other foreign teachers worked at those schools? Were they doing anything differently? And if it’s not because you’re a foreigner, then why was it? I was trying to be a bit nicer about this in my first comment, but based on your response, it is evident that you are still either unaware of or are skirting around the real issue, whatever it might be. Like I said in my first comment, I really do wish you the best and hope you get back on your feet. I hope to read an article in a year’s time about your success in a new context, teaching or otherwise. Best of luck.
By Nathan, Beijing (4th March 2019)
In China, they invited me back; in Thailand, they couldn’t wait to get rid of me. In China, they sent a foreign supervisor to observe one of my lessons and had him write up a detailed report; in Thailand, they lied to principal about observing my lessons and offered no written proof of their alleged time in my classroom. In China, local colleagues who spent time in the classroom with me stood in front of the class and clarified my lessons for my students in their native language, but Thai colleagues harassed me from the back of the classroom or left me to fend for myself.
Is it a coincidence that the younger Thai teachers smiled a lot and engaged me, but the older Thai teachers were sourpusses who ignored me or you-know-whats who attacked me? Is it a coincidence that my translated lesson plans sat on my desk in Thailand, but the language studies dean in China asked me for the English version of my handouts? Is it a coincidence that the teachers who were friendliest toward me, paid the most attention to my lessons, and made it a point of telling me they approved of my teaching were Muslims? Is it a coincidence that my Chinese team teachers noticed, usually nodded, and sometimes even gushed when my students had fun with me and were even affectionate toward me, but the Thai homeroom teachers always seemed to be looking the other way when my students hi fived me or danced enthusiastically to the songs I played?
These patterns have become noticeable to the point of undeniable. If I do the same thing during every lesson, in every classroom, in every school, in every country, and get opposite feedback from different corners, surely the explanation and the solution is not with me.
There is one universal constant in all of my experiences and that is the response of my students. From kindergarten through college, I have received overwhelming approval from that group. In high school and college, my best students have usually come to me at the end of the semester to tell me that I am one of their best teachers and that they benefited from my curriculum and methods. Also, I have always made a good impression on colleagues and supervisors who are serious about education and their roll in it.
So context is going to factor heavily into any navel gazing I do.
By Carl Slaughter, Chonburi, Thailand (4th March 2019)
"I have taught at five schools in Thailand and only one has let me finish the semester"
This statement is quite troubling, along with a few others, although it does appear that you made a great effort to do things 'the right way'. Considering the high number of very terrible teachers that have maintained jobs in Thai schools for many years, having four schools turn you away so quickly makes me think that you seriously need to be reflecting a bit more critically on yourself and what you have done/are doing. I understand that the situation is dire; I taught in Thailand for eight years and China for two. I believe that everything you wrote is true. However, I feel like there are some details missing from this article, details that maybe you didn't notice at the time and don't even notice now. It might be worthwhile to take a serious, critical look inward rather than highlighting everything that everyone else did wrong. I don't mean this as an attack on you, and do support your decision to move on from teaching in Thailand, as I have also done, but it seems like it would be worth the time to think about what may have been the real reason behind four schools getting rid of you so quickly. It's not like they don't need teachers. They would have had to have gone through the hiring process again, simply creating more work for themselves. And just because schools in China have let you get on with whatever you feel like doing (although you did mention that some did not renew your contract), that may not mean that whatever you are doing/did is right. Anyways, hopefully this all works out and you secure a great job somewhere else. Best of luck with the job hunting.
By Nathan, Beijing (4th March 2019)
Interesting read Carl.
Seems like you do care and have taken at least some teaching qualifications based on what you plan for classes.
I'm interested to see if you've thought of teaching in a language center? Higher pay, western management (in some cases) and proper contracts make them a much better option than government schools in my opinion.
Best of luck with your next move.
By Richard, Bangkok (4th March 2019)
Four schools in China and five in Thailand (over how many years?); and in only ONE of five schools in Thailand let you finish the semester? In my experience, only in very rare and extreme cases is a teacher not allowed to finish a semester as finding another person to take over the case can be a real burden on the school. What happened in the four Chinese schools? Why didn't you stay at one of them? Was your contract not renewed?
Of course we can find examples of schools, businesses and other organizations making stupid personnel decisions in Thailand or elsewhere, but it is not in the school's interest to fire "Good" teachers as it is not on a businesses interest to fire good workers.
Of course one needs to keep in mind the school, business or other organization defines good and not the employee.
Go ahead and blame "Thailand" if you want, but if you want to avoid further professional problems you might want to look closer to home and reevaluate your choice of careers.
By Jack, Land of smiles (4th March 2019)
You're probably too smart for their, the administrators, liking. Good luck!!
By Jaidii, Lopburi, Thailand (4th March 2019)
Understand and with you 100 % , that's Thailand for you , great place to visit but to teach it's awful
By Richard, Tokyo Japan (4th March 2019)