Avoid falling into any of these teacher traps
What are some of the most common mistakes that new arrivals make when they come to teach in Thailand? Actually, not just the newbies - even those who have been here a while. Here's a list of at least 20. I'm sure you could add a lot more.
Organising a job before you arrive
You just knew I'd put this one at the top of the list didn't you? So many teachers are disappointed to find out that a job they were offered when they were sitting comfortably back in America (or wherever) has turned out to be nothing like the picture that was painted.
Perhaps the accommodation isn't what they expected. Maybe the school that was advertised as ‘on the outskirts of the city' is actually twenty kilometers away.
Nothing - and I mean absolutely nothing - beats looking for a job in Thailand when you are here on the ground and you can see things for yourself. OK, I know it's human nature to want the security of a guaranteed teaching position waiting for you when you land. But that doesn't automatically mean it's a good idea.
Why have you been hired?
No, seriously. Why has the school employed you? Your answer might be an incredulous 'well, to teach English of course' - but you might well be wrong.
Have you really been hired to make a difference to the education of your students or have you been hired simply to show up in class and fill a quota?
Are you there just to please the fee-paying parents and let them know that the school has a foreign teacher? (in other words you are there purely for show)
Are you being expected to re-write an entire syllabus because no one else has the ability to do it? Are you being expected to draw all the rabbits out of your own hat?
Don't always tell yourself that you've been hired to do a great job as a teacher because it's not always the case. Knowing the real reason could save you a lot of grief and maybe even your job or sanity!
Dating students who are still studying at the school
Adult students fall in love with adult teachers and vice versa. Let's not pretend it doesn't happen because it does. I'm happily married to one of my ex-students and so are countless other teachers.
If your student is no longer studying at the school, then you are free to do as you please but date a student who is still in your class and trouble is never going to be far away. There are numerous legendary stories of teachers (especially male teachers) dating and dumping students, only to find Hell hath no fury like a Thai female scorned.
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I've heard of teary-eyed students standing up in the middle of class, pointing a finger in the teacher's direction and telling the cheating love rat - as well as the rest of the class - what they've got planned. It often involves a pair of rusty garden shears. The stories might well be urban myth but please - don't take any chances.
I worked for a private language school years ago who put the following clause in teacher contracts (and I can remember it word for word) "If you find yourself falling in love with a student, please let us know, and we will do our best to find you alternative employment".
It was another way of saying "mess about with the students and your ass is grass"
Looking for the cheapest apartment possible
Two words - false economy. Sure, paying 3,000 baht a month for an apartment will leave you with plenty of disposable income but after you've endured a month of screaming babies, police raids, hoodlums fighting in the car-park and a whole list of social problems caused by low-income earners living five to a room, you'll be spending more and more time on outside entertainment to escape all the chaos. And that always costs money.
Take my advice - rent the best possible apartment you can afford. Take a look at the ajarn guide to renting an apartment for more info.
Adopting a casual attitude to interviews
It might be an interview for a teaching job and it might not be the greatest job in the world, but it's still an interview. It's still two professional people sitting down together and discussing matters in a professional environment.
No one's asking you to wear the navy three piece suit with the gold pocket watch but the employer does want you to walk in the door and be the answer to all their prayers.
Be on time. Have all your documentation in a nice folder. Dress smartly. At the end of the day, an interview is still an interview. Treat the meeting with respect - even if you have a dozen other offers in the pipeline.
Not learning how to apply for jobs by e-mail
So many job-hunters need serious guidance when it comes to applying for a job by e-mail. They will send 10MB of attachments that the employer didn't even ask for. The e-mail is often cc'd to twenty other employers. E-mails are often sent without cover letter so how do employers know which job you are applying for?
Never assume that you know everything when it comes to creating a good impression when you are applying for jobs by e-mail. Most jobseekers could do with a refresher course.
Need more info? Teacher recruiter Chris has put some great ideas and advice in this ajarn article.
Relying too much on e-mail communication for your job search
There probably isn't a business day that goes by when I don't have to contact a school or employer to tell them to empty or sort out their Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo accounts because their inbox quota has been exceeded - or tell them to check their spam folder to find some past communication.
I'm constantly amazed by the number of employers who never make regular checks of their spam folder.
In short, Thailand's employers have earned themselves a rather poor reputation when it comes to communicating with teachers by e-mail - and I would certainly agree with that.
Don't limit your job hunt to e-mails only! Make phone calls and knock on doors because nothing will ever beat that direct approach.
Many a new teacher has become worn out by frustration when employers continually fail to respond to their e-mails. Don't be one of them!
Not checking out a school before starting work there
This one always baffles me. Come on - we've all had interviews in our own countries where the employer or interviewer has said "let me show you around the place".
It's all part of the interview procedure. You want to get a feel for the place you'll be spending a third of your life in and get an idea of the colleagues you'll be working with. You might even be lucky enough to chat to a few of them.
You want to garner first hand how the place is run and most importantly, whether you will be a good fit.
So why do we constantly hear about unhappy teachers who agree to start a job, sign a contract and then don't set eyes on the school until the agent takes them there on the first morning. That's just insane!
Not charging private students in advance
Many teachers who have decided to supplement their income by offering private lessons have learned the hard way. If you don't charge private students in advance, then your ‘business' is dead in the water.
If you think Thai students won't call you up ten minutes before the lesson is scheduled to start and give you some flimsy reason why they can't make it, then think again. It's happened to all of us.
Get students to pay for ten hours in advance. Tell them that any cancellations must be made the day before the lesson. Come up with whatever system suits you best - but be sure to come up with one.
If you fancy going down the freelance teaching route, then our freelance teaching article is well worth a look.
Thinking that you are going to change the world
I don't know why but from experience, this seems to affect female teachers more than males.
I've seen many a weary soul slam the teachers room door, bury their head in their hands after a lesson and ask why none of the students seem to be progressing.
You can lead a horse to water but it won't always drink. Some students want to learn and others don't.
Accept that you aren't going to change the world. As long as you do your best and you make the effort, then no one can ask any more of you.
Planning a whole lesson based around last night's homework assignment
You probably had an extra ten minutes in bed on the strength of it. Yesterday you assigned the class some homework and today's lesson will be spent checking it. What could be simpler?
Wrong. Half of the class hasn't done it and all you can see is a sign that says ‘this way to Shit Creek'.
In the wonderful world of lesson preparation, a good teacher always has a plan B.
Not laying down the law from day one
This is about giving students a set of rules on the first day of class.
Telling them when they can use mobile phones. Telling them what you expect from them in terms of assignments, etc, etc. And it doesn't end there.
It's also about letting the school staff know that you'll work hard for them but you are not willing to be owned by them. Sometimes you'll say ‘yes' and other times you'll say ‘no'. It's all about finding a happy medium.
You don't mind giving up the occasional Saturday to help run a school sports day but you do object to being given less than 24 hours notice. So best to say 'no can do' - because you've already made plans. Lay the law down from day one. By all means be reasonable - but that doesn't mean you have to live life as a ‘yes man'.
Not saving enough money for those first few months
New arrivals often ask the question ‘how much money do I need to bring?' and the straight answer is ‘as much as possible'.
It could be several weeks until you find your dream teaching job and in that time there are apartment deposits to pay and all sorts of everyday living costs to factor in. Oh, and don't forget it could be a month on the job before you receive your first pay packet.
Landing in a foreign country with 500 dollars in your pocket might well be considered ‘living life on the edge' but it's also reckless and stupid. Want to get an idea of what things are likely to cost? It's all in the ajarn cost of living section.
Not researching Thailand's visa regulations
If there is a country with a more complex set of visa rules and regulations than Thailand, then I'm yet to hear of it.
Don't be the teacher who gets caught out at the border because you didn't understand how a particular visa works. Don't be the teacher who relies on the Thai admin staff to tell you how many days you are allowed to stay in the country on such and such a visa.
It's your passport. It's your visa. They are your responsibility.
There's a wealth of info on the internet regarding Thai visas but it's always best to go and speak to an officer at immigration than rely on Facebook opinions.
Make sure you know how the system works (as best you can) and what the particular visa you hold entitles you to.
Believing a couple of negative reviews
One of the great disadvantages of the internet is that any Tom, Dick and Harry can sign up to a discussion forum or chat board and stick the virtual boot into any institution.
But always keep in mind that bad news travels faster than good. Just because a school has received a couple of bad reviews doesn't necessarily mean it's a terrible school to work for.
OK, sometimes there's no smoke without fire, and if a school gets blasted on several different forums, then you would be wise to approach with a degree of caution, however, there are a lot of disgruntled employees with an axe to grind.
Sometimes the complaints are justified but very often they are the opinions of a person who wouldn't fit in anywhere.
Spending too much time in the company of teachers room moaners
Every teacher's room has one. Some staff rooms have several. They are the ‘resident moaner' and spend too much time in their company and their negativity is sure to rub off on you.
All Thai kids are stupid. Teaching is a job for losers. The academic director is useless. Why is my pay always late? - the list of gripes is never-ending. You're left wondering how the guy has managed to live here so long. Truth is he doesn't know the answer himself.
Distance yourself from these people and you'll enjoy your time in Thailand far more.
Not preparing lessons
Fail to prepare. Prepare to fail. Students can spot an unprepared teacher a mile off.
Don't be one those teachers who thinks it's clever to give lesson prep a wide berth and mistakenly believes they can wing it with free conversation (which rarely / never works anyway)
Doing ‘too much' research
Do I turn left or do I turn right after I go through Bangkok Airport customs? Which taxis do I need for the journey into the city - the yellow and green ones or the pink and blue ones? What happens if I take the wrong color and end up wandering around naked on a piece of wasteland in Nonthaburi?
Quit worrying and go with the flow. Thailand is a go-with-the-flow country. There's very little structure to anything. Accept the fact that you will make mistakes and that you will learn from the experiences. There's nothing at all wrong with a reasonable amount of research, but if you over-prepare, then you are putting too much pressure on yourself and setting yourself up for failures.
Thinking that the TEFL jobs advertised on the web are all that's available
I like to think that ajarn.com has the best selection of currently available TEFL positions in Thailand but it's by no means the be all and end all.
There's an old saying that the best jobs never get advertised and teaching jobs are no different.
Who knows what gems you might unearth by simply enquiring at the school admin office or making a speculative phone call? There's a school near my house that's had a ‘teachers wanted' sign hanging on the school gate for months. They've probably never heard of ajarn.com either.
Confusing a vacation with actually working here
You aren't the first person to fall in love with Thailand because you spent an amazing fortnight here - and you won't be the last.
Cocktails by the poolside, foot massages on the beach, your spending money burning hole in your back pocket and your every whim catered for. Is there a greater place on earth than Thailand in which to be pampered as a tourist?
But be warned - it's a world far removed from waiting for crowded buses in the rainy season, arguing with a landlord who won't return your rental deposit and an employer telling you he doesn't have enough money to cover this month's salaries.
When you start working here, that's when you'll discover what Thailand can be all about. Most long-term teachers will tell you that the pros far outweigh the cons. They are probably right - but recognize the fact there are plenty of downsides.
Allowing students access to your Facebook page
I know, I'll allow the students access to my Facebook page. What a great idea! What better way for them to practice their English writing and conversation skills and have fun at the same time.
Trust me - it will all end in tears. Your old pals Macca and Big Dave back in Liverpool probably had a great laugh at the photo of you and the lads mooning the photographer in the middle of a hill-tribe village. Not to mention the one of you passed out on the toilet floor at the end of last year's Christmas party. But are the students going to share your sense of humor?
Do everyone a favor and keep your private life private - and that includes Facebook.
Not learning the basic aspects of Thai culture
I watched a TV program recently featuring the world-famous TV chef Gordon Ramsey, who was travelling around SE Asia honing his culinary skills. When he got to Bangkok, he was invited to one of the most popular street-food stalls in the city so our Gordon jumps into a tuk-tuk, and what is the first thing he does? He rests his feet on the metal frame directly behind the driver's head. I could barely watch.
Familiarize yourself with at least the very basics of the Thai culture.
I've seen many a new teacher get into hot water for discussing sensitive issues in class or pushing those cultural boundaries too early in the relationship. Don't get paranoid about it - just be aware.
Panicking when a student asks what a separable phrasal verb is
Do you really need to know what a compound noun is? Do you need to know whether a certain verb is followed by the gerund or the infinitive form? The answer is ‘yes, because you are an English teacher'. English teachers know this stuff.
If you don't know your basic grammar structures now, grab a copy of the best grammar reference book you can find and read it cover to cover.
But be comforted by the fact that you will never know everything and one day, when you least expect it, the brightest student in the class will ask you a grammar question that no one could possibly answer. Now is not the time to panic. Tell the student that you are not sure of the answer but you will find out and get back to them (and make sure you do) Job done!
You might be interested in....
Mistakes that long term teachers make in Thailand - What do the old hands often do wrong?
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You say Thailand has complicated visa rules for teachers etc.
Vietnam has now made it very difficult for teachers to get work permits and temporary residence cards. So much so that I am considering returning to Thailand.
By David Williams, Vietnam ( ex Thailand) (22nd February 2023)
If you enjoy irrational behavior all around you, blind nationalism, ridiculous uniforms, general fascist aesthetics (marching, flag hoisting, shouting through microphones), extreme noise, and like to be treated like an enemy within, get a teaching job in Thailand. I also recommend spending your time and money on expensive masters qualifications and teaching degrees in order to work in Thailand. This will successfully introduce you to the Kafaesque world of education where you will never be able to use anything that you have learned. You will soon learn that the colour of your shirt is much much more important than the standard of teaching. Wear the shirt, tick the boxes. Lie your bum off. Do a respectful wai to your senior colleagues even though you know they would prefer that you don't exist in this world. This will enable you to waste many years of your life and make a bunch of superficial friends who you will never see again if you ever manage to escape from your school.
Sarcasm aside.... don't bother. If you want to live in Thailand for some reason, save some money and buy a visa. There are various options for that.
By Gurtude, Bangkok (7th February 2023)
Somethings that I find very annoying, Is listening to teachers who no matter whats is expected, keep failing to use their common sense and preparing things in advance. When The Thai head of the department asked why, their answer is because they haven't been told or shown, even when they state they have years of experience, and there are other teachers in the staff room willing and happy to show or help them. And the so-called teachers assigned to say teach conversation, but continue to just offer worksheets and when doing exams or tests, knowing that they may have hundreds of students, but wait till the last week and offer upgrades that really don't reflect the student true abilities. If done correctly they can give honest grades and stop believing all students get a pass, if they have produced continuing marks that show a student is trying or not, sure, the student will get a low passing mark, if attendance is good and effort has been made and highlighting the failed student who hasn't attended or produced assigned work.
By Peter, Up country (31st July 2021)
All of these things can be avoided if people coming to Thailand would already hold a teaching degree. Many people think they are teachers of anything because they come from an English speaking country. Thailand is changing its teaching requirements from no degrees in education to degrees in education needed. If you want a great teaching position in Thailand then do the following:
A. Pick up a teaching degree in Education from your home country
B. Apply for a job via one of the good job services programs such as www.searchassociates.com or www.schrole.com
C. Come to Thailand qualified with at least 3 years of teaching experience.
If you follow these steps then you can land a wonderful job in one of the many international schools.
Do your homework and check out the international school before you sign a contract. Some of the lower rating international schools pay very little but expect a great deal of work. If the school is decent and trustworthy they will tell you the starting salary and all benefits upfront. The ones that do not tell you the salary upfront are usually low paying and not worth your time.
Working in a Thai school can be very satisfying and rewarding as long as money is not an issue.
By Ajarntom, Home in Florida (15th February 2021)
Article needs to be freshened up. Not entirely accurate either. At least by the successes I've had over six years.
(Phil - I've just had a re-read of the article and I'm still very happy with it)
By Jim Beam, The Big Smoke (21st January 2020)
Overall not a bad list, but like most things, the real world is more complicated and what might be good advice for one person might not be so good for another.
For example, the very first item, "Organising a job before you arrive" might not always or even often be a mistake. Moving half-way around the world is a big deal, and having a "bird in the hand" might not be all bad. Knowing there is a paycheck on the other end, especially if one has children or other financial obligations can create some piece of mind. Although if one is young and fancy free with a healthy bank account or support from Mom and Dad, it might be a different story.
Ok, what if you first job is not all you expect? You move on, its not that big of a deal, I suspect there are very few long-time teachers in Thailand who are still working for the first place where they started.
Obviously benefits from and conditions of jobs differ, but the idea the vast majority of schools in Thailand plan to make your life as hellish as possible upon arrival doesn't pass the common sense test.
Schools have budgets and due to the nature of the industry most schools realize turnover among foreign English teachers will be high, but nevertheless most schools which bother to hire Foreign teachers do try to keep the good ones.
Most of the problems teachers have are due to there being a mismatch being between expectations. Some of the posts found on here basically saying white English teacher good, Asian school administrators bad are not helpful.
Not everyone is cut out for living in a such a culturally distant foreign country, nor is everyone suited to teaching English long-term.
When I first came I did not have a job lined up, but did have a few contacts and interviews lined up which gave me the confidence to make the move. My first job? It was great, the pay was low, most of the work was on the weekends and the facilities left a lot to be desired. But they did provide some basic training and gave me an opportunity to stand in from of a classroom, often making a fool out of myself, but also maybe learning a little. I stayed six month and moved on to a position with better pay and more prestige.
But the first job was perfect for that time when I was in transition in careers and locations.
Since that time, I have worked in many other countries in a variety of temporary positions, and each time I had an employment contract signed before going abroad.
So while the first "mistake" might apply to the people in the same category the writer probably was in when starting, it might not be good advice for everyone.
By Jack, Someplace nice (20th November 2018)
My question is towards the over qualified degree toting grammarian who is working in a country for less pay. Is it because of humanitarian reasons?
By Bob Johnson, Bangkok (12th October 2018)
it was a great blog thank you for sharing. the greatest mistake i was doing at the moment searching job before reaching Bangkok :) i ll stop it and follow your suggestions.
By aynur, pakistan (10th July 2018)
The Groan-Grammar method of teaching English was used in the 18th and 19th centuries.
There is very little speaking practice and most language is focused on learning the rules of grammar and writing.
Up until yesterday, it was also known as Grumpy-Grandpa-Grammar methadone because of practitioners being held together by Wired*
*a play on words referencing the pre-bust dot-com boom-era magazine from 20+ years ago
As of today, practitioners are insisting the rename of Grumpy-Grandpa-Grammar one method.
By B Gloave, SE Asia (31st May 2018)
Yeap! And if the school can't find people who will do this for 35k, it's the teachers' fault. Bury your head in the sand. That will really help.... Or, the schools/agencies can adapt. Adapt or die, with the agencies seemingly choosing the latter by dying slowly and painfully.
Who'd have thunk that paying the same salary year after year and increasing the workload would make it harder to find teachers? Come on, teachers! Pull your finger out. The greedy schools and agencies need you!
Many of these schools and agencies had it good for 'far' too long. And I have zero sympathy hearing about their demise. They've done nothing to change or adapt. Just complained it's not fair and it's someone else's fault. I guess it's not only the teachers who do that.
By Craig, Bangkok (9th November 2017)
1. Not taking the job seriously, each and every day. Teaching is serious business. You are charged to mind and educate minors. You see Thai teachers screwing around? You're at the wrong school - or the right one.
2. Wearing professional clothing. A button down collar shirt at the very least.
3. Showing up a few minutes before class or worse, late.
4. Not showing deference especially to admin, head teachers, even cleaning staff you should be polite.
5. Don't turn on the AC before 8am unless it's expressly allowed.
6. Never do anything to Thai staff that would allow them to lose face.
7. Don't play games in class unless they are connected directly to a learning objective and lesson plan.
8. Plan. Plan. Plan.
9. Try not to give your lesson plans to the school if at all possible.
10. Don't give lazy teachers anything. You'll never get anything in return except headaches and more work. Sideline them fast.
11. If you work really hard your first year you still don't get to be head teacher.
12. Figure out fast where the pay scale tops at.
13. Never work more than 20 hours a week.
14. Never do more than three courses.
15. Don't work in a school that does not have functioning LCD and audio in all its rooms.
16. Remember all your kids names. Every single one.
17. Never drink more than five drinks the night before work. 0-2 is preferable.
18. Get a good night's sleep and never look like you've been out all night when you step in the office or in class.
19. Tell the students your door is open and mean it.
20. Learn wtf the TCT is and does. Become an authority on it as well as your visa type.
21. Don't stop caring. If you run into trouble, care more.
22. If it's not working for you get out. You're not fooling anyone.
23. Never do anything, ANYTHING, creepy towards the students. Never make off color comments or mention the Royal family or politics.
24. Don't bring sandwiches to work. That's just gay.
25. Love your students.
Finally, learn wtf you are doing in a classroom immediately. Become knowledge about the four skills, pronunciation and yes grammar. Learn how to properly run skills assessments and how to write a lesson plan.
By James Beam, The Big Mango (7th November 2017)
So I wanted to make a few comments in regards to what a newbie may or may not face when first teaching in Thailand, and I can only draw on my own personal experiences. Firstly, image is very important in Thai culture and if you're not handsome or gorgeous then you may not get as much positive attention than those who are, but this is anywhere right. So you need to understand that you have no personal rights in Thailand, and there is constantly going to be chatter about your character, your teaching ability among other things and these things may or may not be true and you have no way of defending yourself in Thailand BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS. Thai people don't care about you and what made it worse for me was the discrimination I got from the Phillipino instructors who get paid less and do all they can to smear "white teachers". Thailand along with Vietnam are truly the worst countries I've ever taught in. Try Cambodia, you genially feel appreciated over here.
By Ting Tong Farang, Phnom Penh (1st May 2016)
Always worth a re-read of this great article... but there's something missing and something that most people learn the hard way...
Always find out as much as you can about why you have been hired.
This will save you a lot of grief and maybe even your job or sanity!
Have you been hired to make a real difference to the education of your charges? Have you been hired to simply show up to a classroom and fill a quota?
Are you being expected to re-write the entire syllabus?
Are you being expected to draw all the rabbits out of your own hat?
Don't kid yourself that you have been hired to do a great job as a teacher because it's not always the case.
Also - another less important point worth learning fast:
Whilst Thais are famously un-punctual and extremely disorganized, it may come as a rude awakening to find out that these endearing cultural traits won't apply to you!
You'll be hounded to the gates of hell if you are late for a class or haven't planned something miraculous for your students, even though all around you, sloppiness and late arrivals to classes are being enjoyed by your Thai colleagues.
It's not fair, is it!
By Mark Newman, Thailand (15th January 2016)
Thank you. I needed reminding.
By Kat, Bangkok (28th March 2015)
What a superbly written article! And I laughed myself to tears! Thanks so much, loved this.
By Monica, Italy (12th December 2014)
My compliments! I have been teaching in China for over years now and have never seen advice on TEFL work so well spelled out in an article before.
By Mark Rodgers, China (5th September 2012)
khunkrumak.com - Agreed, you need that slize of luck anywhere. However, I don't have to try my luck anew in the UK, because that's where I LIVE and had experienced anything hardly 'dire' there nearly all my life (so thank you and you may spare the introductions. I've been a UK Civil Service Principal Officer for 22 yrs). Still cannot understand how looking snow-white can make one look the part in an Asian Buddhist country! If that's Thailand, as you say,it ought to speak volumes of the 'Amazing' degree of intellect Thailand can do without. The venom of spite some people have for others who look different to them is a poison that ought to be siphoned out before it devours them. Finally, dear khunkrumak.com, teacher qualifications, experience and the ability to get the job done well and on time counts for nothing as looks supersede them all per your infinite wisdom in Thailand - Appearance over substance! Need I say more? - you deserve to be here!
By Sir Heath, Phitsanulok (7th June 2012)
Sir Heath hints at the fact that he isn't a white man under forty. Just a heads up... you won't get the part if you don't look the part. This is Thailand. good luck back in the UK. You'll need it. It's more dire there than you can imagine!
By khunkrumark.com, Thailand (7th June 2012)
On 2011-10-21 I wrote:
Just to add to the points made; if you have problems with some students, it’s best you don’t bring them to the attention of the Head of the Section the students come under. Because, in almost all cases, you will be seen: a) as a nuisance and a knit-picker, b)you will be seen as inefficient, c) you have problems with Thai students, Thai attitudes and Thai ways, d) you will never be told that the real reason is that the Head simply wants to enjoy the nice bits of his/her status and never wants to stick her fingers in the mud.
The best way, if you want to survive and not be ‘a trouble-maker’ is somehow deal with the problems yourself. This way you can hope to prolong your tenure.
An Update: I did commit the mistake of bringing some first year students' problems to the attention of the Head of the Section in June last year. By September, after 4 and half year at this University, despite 'an excellent record of work' as per the Dean; my contract was renewed for just 6 months. Even though the Dean assured that the contract will be renewed after March 2012, I started looking for other jobs from October 2011.
Employer 1 : Called in person. Completed application form. Was asked to complete Self- Profile with education and employment history and achievements to date. Profile with originals of academic, professional certificates and courses attended etc submitted in 2 weeks. Following many telephone requests, was invited for an interview in March this year. Only one panelist was present as the other three were 'away on urgent matters'. The panelist wanted me to attend the 2nd interview the following week. I turned up at the 2nd interview when I noticed another candidate. He has just arrived from a far away town, wearing shorts and a tee shirt and carried a back pack. He said he was an American school teacher. He got the job.
Employer 2 : This was a local Catholic school. I was selected at the interview but contrary to what was told before, they were prepared to offer only 15,000 baht per month as I did not have a 'European' appearance. My citizenship in UK where I have lived for 38 years gaining all my qualifications/experience were irrelevant in the eyes of this employer. Teachers of European nationality and appearance were paid 30,000 baht.
Employer 3: Got called for an interview at a local girls' school. The Head of English lady was pleased with me at the conclusion of the interview and said that she would let me know the outcome in 3 days. She also said that there were 3 vacancies and that there were no other applicants as yet. Nothing was heard after the 3 days. Upon inquiry, I was told that all the vacancies were filled. The school was closed during the previous 3 days.
Employer 4: Went for the interview at a large private school in the area. Interview lasted for 30 minutes. Many questions, many answers. No news of outcome for a week. When telephoned, was told that they only are interested in teachers not older than 40 years.
My contract at the University I worked was not renewed in March.
I have given up all hopes of securing a teaching job in Thailand now and will be returning to UK soon.
By Sir Heath, Phitsanulok (1st June 2012)
About the Facebook sharing issue? Well... why not create one for just your students. It's great for business, too! ;)
By khunkrumark.com, Thailand (15th April 2012)
"The writer grossly exaggerated what Gordon did. He rested his feet behind the driver, but nowhere near his head. It was behind his back"
The soles of the feet are still pointing at the driver. Ask the driver if he feels that's acceptable? It might not be the point anyway - why not just rest your feet flat on the floor like I do? And that's not being 'culturally constipated', that's using good old fashioned common sense. Always put plenty of it in your suitcase when you're doing your packing.
By philip, (28th March 2012)
On the subject of Thai culture. After reading the part about Gordon Ramsay in the tuk-tuk, the first thing I did was to watch it on Youtube. I was expecting some kind of cultural faux-pas. But no!
The writer grossly exaggerated what Gordon did. He rested his feet behind the driver, but nowhere near his head. It was behind his back.
At the end of the day, if tuk-tuk drivers don't want passengers to do that, then don't put metal rails behind the driver.
The most important point is that the tuk-tuk driver is providing a service to a customer. It's not up to the passenger to pay more respect to the driver. Some expats in Thailand are culturally constipated.
By Paul, Bangkok (28th March 2012)
I totally disagree with the comments about never complaining about students or the school.
I'm not a moaner by nature, but in my experience, I have found it necessary to compalin about one or two things.
Many years ago, I was teaching 6 nurses at a language school. There was also a gay guy in the class who kept distracting other students and being over-camp when answering questions.
When it was getting unbearable, I stopped the class and told him that no-one was impressed with his behaviour and that he needed to stop annoying me and the other students.
I also reported this to the school director, who completely understood and told the student in question that if he heard one more complaint about him, that he should find somewhere else to study and that his Farang boyfriend would also be informed that he wasn't taking his classes seriously.
We never had a problem with this student again.
By Paul, Bangkok (28th March 2012)
Totally agree with Sir Heath. NEVER, EVER complain to the Thai Head about your students or the school in general. It WILL come back to haunt you! If u really need to let off steam then do it with another farang. In class, deal with things as best you can and if it is really that bad then start to look for another job. Simple as that I'm afraid.....
By Paul, BKK (19th March 2012)
Read "Culture Shock thailand" one . It will give you great insight into thai culture and save you a lot of problems. Nobody is immune from culture shock. Educate yourself on the subject and be able to recognize the symptoms of culture shock so you can better deal with it. I have seen a great number of farangs here in Thailand who seem to never resolve these issues and have to live with culture shock indefinately it seems. Of course they may just be winging little snotheads, sometimes it is hard to tell.............
By leelepper, bangkok (23rd November 2011)
@ Deville, where on earth did you find a decent apartment in Krung Thep for 3k?
By rich, Nowhere (31st October 2011)
Excellent article. However allow me to add a 22nd Teacher Trap: Working with a tourist visa and without a work permit. This is a very serious offense in Thailand with harsh legal consequences and should never be neglected.
By Chris, Amnat Charoen (Essan) (24th October 2011)
Just to add to the points made; if you have problems with some students, it's best you don't bring them to the attention of the Head of the Section the students come under. Because, in almost all cases, you will be seen: a) as a nuisance and a knit-picker, b)you will be seen as inefficient, c) you have problems with Thai students, Thai attitudes and Thai ways, d) you will never be told that the real reason is that the Head simply wants to enjoy the nice bits of his/her status and never wants to stick her fingers in the mud.
The best way, if you want to survive and not be 'a trouble-maker' is somehow deal with the problems yourself. This way you can hope to prolong your tenure.
By Sir Heath, Phitsanulok (21st October 2011)
"Re payment in advance: Another disappointing over-generalization that again will often not apply. Many Thais are understandably wary of paying 10,000 baht in advance to farang when it would be so easy for dare-I-say most farang to runoff with the money"
I think you're 100% wrong but it all depends on the set-up you have. When I used to teach at home, I would invite potential students into a nice air-conditioned study room and have a friendly chat and perhaps give them a 30-minute demo lesson. Nine times out of ten, they couldn't get their advance money out quick enough. And personally, I never ran off with anyone's money. Everyone got what they paid for.
By philip, (5th October 2011)
Re payment in advance: Another disappointing over-generalization that again will often not apply. Many Thais are understandably wary of paying 10,000 baht in advance to farang when it would be so easy for dare-I-say most farang to runoff with the money.
Cancellation rates of up to 50% come with the territory i.e. Thais in Thailand - and there ain't a whole lot you can do about it: So, like travel time, you just have to factor it in rather than insist on a BIG downpayment and probably lose the job - unless maybe they're rich neighbours.
By Deville, Bangkok (6th September 2011)
I'm afraid I have to disagree about accommodation costs. I've rarely had to pay more than 3,000 for a good apartment i.e. one without any of the drawbacks mentioned. Of course, if you simply must have something downtown or covered by the train routes, well that's another story.
By Deville, BKK (22nd August 2011)
BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO!
Excellent points ONE and ALL! I formerly had a job as Director of Studies at a private language school here in Bangkok and let me tell you, the number of "alleged" teachers coming through my office door with their ignorant and "I-don't care" attitudes, was legion. Whether it was for an interview, a cancelled class they should have taught or a disciplinary meeting.
When reading this article, PLEASE take heed, there is not a comment in it that you should dismiss as rubbish or insignificant.
Note to the author: Well done Sir, I hope ALL teachers visiting this site reads this and pay attention
By Former D.O.S, Bangkok (19th August 2011)
I would disagree about allowing your students to access your Facebook profile, or at the very least, a specifically created Facebook profile.
I know many teachers who have created a second profile, with a few photos of their life in England, added a few responsible friends (usually other teachers who won't go posting about how drunk they all were over the weekend) and have found it benefits their relationship with students.
I myself only have the one profile, although with strigent privacy settings for my students which are all on a separate friends list to my friends, colleagues and family. What they can see is very restricted compared to my mates back in England, but they can see some of my photos from travelling, write on my wall, and talk to me on chat when I set myself to available for their group.
It has been an incredibly helpful medium for teaching, and for encouraging students to participate in English outside of the classroom and those set hours.
Students that are shy to speak in class, "chat" with me online, and as a result become more confident to speak up in class. My photos and albums also provide talking points and encourage conversation. I am mindful to make my status something a student could be able to translate and comment upon. Sometimes I even write in Thai to provoke an English reply.
I have also created a "Group" for my students, where they can talk with each other, and we can post articles relating to their diploma subject, I upload helpful worksheets or other materials and we organise events outside of school time such as going to the cinema to watch a film with an English soundtrack.
I definitely agree private lives should remain private, but with a little bit of effort social networks can be an interesting, and modern teaching aid.
By Life, Hat Yai (16th August 2011)
A "Teacher" does not know these basics because they were here on vacation, ran out of money and thought "teaching" would be a good idea to continue said debauchery. I don't know how many "falangs" I've seen come through my school that only teach for the paycheck, don't plan lessons and get trashed every weekend and even come to their classes drunk. Hell, almost my entire TESOL class were partiers, who ran out of money, were clearly inept on the culture and traditions of Thailand and dressed inappropriately. I totally agree with these points. Learn about the culture and only teach if you truly care about the kids. Not to continue your downward spiral. Grow up.
By Min0kichi, Bangkok (16th August 2011)
Brilliant article! Absolutely everything was spot on. One can tell you've had a lot of experience here. I might add one more, if you don't mind.
"Listen to well intentioned advice with an open mind and open heart and realize that it's easier to learn from others mistakes than to make them yourself." (Or something along those lines.)
I've had a few teachers, almost always males, who don't want to hear any well intentioned advice. They know everything. They almost never last, usually hanging themselves, metaphorically speaking.
Again, great article! Thanks.
By Jason Alavi, Rangsit (15th August 2011)
I think it's important to mention that spending too much time in the company of teachers room moaners is almost as demotivational as spending too much time in the company of teachers room smart arses.
By A 'Teacher', Phnom Penh (13th August 2011)
"I think it’s also important to note that the term ‘newbie’ doesn’t always mean ‘new to teaching"
Hi Mike, actually I never consider the term 'newbie' to apply to someone who is new to teaching but rather someone who is new to Thailand.
A person may have been teaching in Japan and China for 20 years but if it's their first time in Thailand looking for a teaching position, I would still refer to that person as a newbie.
On the ajarn discussion forum, we have the 'Newbie Zone' where newbies can introduce themselves and ask questions, etc. Very few of the people who take advantage of it are new to teaching. They have some experience from somewhere but they are unfamiliar with Thailand. Or they have only been here before for a short vacation.
By philip, (12th August 2011)
I think it's also important to note that the term 'newbie' doesn't always mean 'new to teaching'. There should be a clear distinction made, as I know some people who consider a new teacher at a school to be a 'newbie,' regardless of any prior teaching experience. This is false and not at all conducive to a professional work environment.
For a real beginner, i.e. someone who has never stepped foot in a classroom, sure, some of the points listed would most certainly apply. However, the points being made that really have nothing to do with classroom teaching are erroneous, or at least should be considered as such. I know that Thailand attracts a diverse group of foreign teachers, but come on, to not know to bring enough money? Seriously? These are the folks that should never be allowed near an international flight. It also says a lot about the individual. Would you want someone who hopped on a plane with USD500 teaching your child? Clearly that tells me that those who do so are totally irresponsible...and teaching is something that requires people who are mature and responsible.
By Mike, USA (12th August 2011)
Hi Phil. I agree with you, but still, some of the points mentioned on the list go without saying - i.e. common sense. To think that adults still do not have these basics is, like I said, frightening. I believe this list is good, don't get me wrong, but I think the overall impression it gives is somewhat depressing for professional educators / students, not to mention it casts a rather dim light on the TESOL profession.
I still believe that this is mainly seen in education. In my experience, and having a degree in an unrelated field, I have found teachers to be very different (almost naive) from professionals in other fields. Perhaps this is due in part to the fact that as a teacher you are working in an isolated environment (i.e. not real world).
To be honest, reading the above list makes me feel embarrassed to call myself a TESOL teacher. How can a 'teacher' not know these basics? Parents entrust their children with these so-called teachers on a daily basis, so to have items such as 'planning' on that list is really quite lamentable.
By Mike, USA (12th August 2011)
Mike. Common sense is in short supply everywhere. It doesn't just apply to teachers either. I think Peter makes the most valid point - people are reluctant to listen (because they think they know it all) especially where resumes and applying for jobs by e-mail are concerned.
I'm recruiting teachers at the moment so I get a fair number of applications and read through quite a lot of resumes. So many folks need some serious guidance on these matters. It's not a lack of common sense. People genuinely haven't learned the basics.
By philip, (12th August 2011)
While this list covers all the basics, I think it's frightening that 'teachers' even need to remind their colleagues of these basic guidelines. Would you see this kind of list outside of education? I highly doubt it. Go to a company (say a trading firm or something similar) and ask around if a similar list has been shared with their colleagues. Chances are they will laugh at you. I think TESOL is one of those fields where you get a mix of those who are professional educators and those who are doing it for entirely different reasons. So I suppose this list is useful for all those pretending to teach...though on a whole it makes the whole profession appear somewhat laughable.
Common sense people...ever heard of it? All the points above are what I consider to be nothing more than common sense. Do teachers have some sort of deficiency?
Do yourself a favour and get a proper teaching qualification so you can start a proper international teaching career. Many professional teachers in the West are being laid off and will more than likely take up posts overseas. If that happens, all those in need of such a list will soon find themselves out on the streets begging for a job to continue their life in Thailand (or other developing countries).
Only in education...living in a bubble.
By Mike, USA (12th August 2011)
A great article which all newbees should learn by heart. The problem however is that most of them are reluctant to listen to any advice given to them so they'll have to experience things the hard way like we all did....
By Peter the Great., BANGKOK (12th August 2011)