Who do you work with?

Who do you work with?

Recognize any of your colleagues from this list?

We've all worked with teachers like this from time to time. 

Mr Reception

More commonly seen at Thai language schools, this is the teacher who always seems to get on with the Thai reception staff better than other teachers. 

In those final moments before class starts you'll find him giggling and gossiping with the Thai receptionists about what they did the previous night and where they had their hair hilighted. He's also the farang who lends a shoulder to cry on when they have boyfriend problems. 

Not quite an out and out sissy, but there are certainly eyebrows raised at his unwillingness to join in with the laddish banter about Saturday's  footy or the shortcomings of the new cleaning lady.  He prefers to find out where the girls are going for lunch and invariably ends up tagging along.

When he needs the receptionists to do something for him, they fall over themselves like a personal Maid Marian. When you want something done, you're nigh on invisible.

The Borrower

"Are you using your Interchange tape. I seem to have left mine somewhere?"
"Oh bloody hell, I've forgotten me neck-tie, you haven't got a spare one in your desk have you?"
"You couldn't lend us 500 baht until tomorrow afternoon could you?"

If you're familiar with any of these requests, then you work with 'the borrower'  And as you'd expect - tapes are never returned, money is never paid back, and well, you'll certainly need to get your tie dry-cleaned.

Stressed Eric

This is the teacher for whom 25 hours in a day still wouldn't be enough. He bursts into the teacher's room at one minute to nine, demanding coffee, flashcards, and someone's help with his lesson plan. 

At lunchtime, he'll ask someone to 'get him something from the food court' because he's strangely the only one still with a pile of test papers to plow through and just doesn't have time. 

If student reports need to be given in on Friday, he'll hand over a pile of dog-eared papers on Monday afternoon. 

I've seen stressed Erics actually take off their necktie with the knot and loop still intact just so it will save them precious seconds in the morning.

Khanom Jim

He gets on with all of the Thai staff so well that he never has to spend a baht on food. 

He is fed a daily diet of free curry and Chinese noodles, gaeng som served in little metal stacked lunch pails, and lashings of sticky rice desserts and khanom that look like they should taste much nicer than they actually do.  During evaluation season this factor generally overrides any concerns about his teaching.

Mr Hustle and Mr Bustle

Was there ever such a pair! Mr Hustle - a former salesman - is always trying to sell you something, using his fast-paced sales patter to 'teach' bemused students. Mr Hustle figures out the grading system and successfully exploits it to the Thai staff's satisfaction, though ultimately is rumbled after all the classes complain.

Mr Bustle thunders through the staff room with the ground shaking as he walks. A professional teacher of 30 years, he has devised a system of grading that only he understands and involves mountains of tiny squares of paper and microscopic spreadsheets, which are shuffled and dealt like a master croupier.  Can often be found despairing and clucking at official paperwork that interferes with his own. 

Perpetually adopts the stance of a blue-arsed fly. Eventually he's ordered to re-write the grading book after his mountain of paper contains too many low scores.

Dr. Know

The ultimate professional who has been in Thailand about 10 minutes and proceeds to lecture all around him about Thai culture, teaching practices and methodologies and student discipline techniques. He usually lives in a bubble and doesn't let the real world in too often.

Mr Do-us-all-a-favour-and-leave

This type of teacher cannot get along with any foreign teachers in his department. He will lie about, intimidate, harass foreign staff, and do his best to make sure his manipulated desires are met. 

Believes that only he knows how to teach and other teachers, no matter their qualifications and experience, are not real teachers. He will come across as charming with Thai staff, will have pseudo-relationships with them, but will stab them in the back as well.

Unfortunately, these pseudo-relations cast him as the "Super Teacher" in the eyes of many native staff members, allowing him to continue his false sense of power. 

This teacher is very insecure, cannot see his own faults, and will even use his students for his thirst of power and control. When finally confronted by higher powers than himself, this type of teacher will accuse those higher powers as being incompetent and useless (never mind while pointing one finger at others, three point right back to him). 

Afterwards, he'll run to Thai staff and claim he is being victimized. This teacher's satisfaction only comes from undermining those around him and creating daily problems. Nothing but a troublemaker.

Bob Native

He's been here for 15 years, is married with two kids, speaks, reads and writes fluent Thai, knows how to work the system, keep the Thai staff sweet, and knows which wai to perform where and when. Pretty likeable but tends to bang on about the good old days of living in Thailand far too often.

Dirty Darren

Thinks he's fluent in Thai because he knows the words 'goo' and 'mung', and frequently likes showing off his skills. Has intimate relationships with some of his students and also does their tests for them. 

Frequently absent, Darren will punctuate his absence with foul whiskey breath appearances. Eventually gets carted off to IDC on a six-month overstay and the local mafia come after him about a gambling debt.

Fred Semester

Hates teaching but that's all he can do to prolong his stay here. 

Hasn't the temperament to last longer than one semester in any one place, and so drifts from town to town on a bi-annual basis. 

Initially liked by the school for his clown-like antics in front of the kids, it's only a matter of time before questions about his constant red face and bloodshot eyes eventually leads them to the conclusion that he's constantly pissed and stoned. Fred is also prone to breaking the photocopier and blaming it on others.

Mr Cool and Ms Unflappable

This charming duo is so thoroughly Thai-ized that their only motto is, "Mai bpen rai," which they gladly translate to "doesn't matter" and "not important" and "let's decide that later." 

They endear themselves to the Thais by adopting four-syllable, mispronounced fragments of the Thai language, and smiling incessantly. These folks could teach Eskimos how to be cool. Nothing bothers them - sudden changes of schedule, other people's absences, misbehaving students. Nothing.

Of course, these 'teachers' have no lesson plans, and they do very little teaching. They also don't get involved in office politics, and can never be arsed to insult anybody. So naturally they're popular..........and they get re-hired.

Too cool for school

This one is just off his TEFL course and straight out of university. He thinks he's got it all down pat and relies on his wit and repartee to get him through his lessons. He's out down Khao San every night chatting up students at various after-dark joints. He's constantly late but laughs this off. He's unprofessional but gets away with it purely because of his youth.

The Grammar Head

There you are preparing lessons in the relative peace and tranquility of the teacher's room - nose in a textbook, minding your own business, and then suddenly out of the blue "Does anyone know if you can use this with a split infinitive?" or "I'm compiling a list of binomials. Does anyone have anything to offer"

This man lives and breathes grammar rules and sentence structures . He can tell you what a predicate adjective is without even thinking about it. He can answer the age-old question of when to use gerunds or when to use infinitives without breaking sweat. 

Fred Realia

The teacher who shows up all other teachers by constantly dragging foreign objects into the staff-room with the intention of using them as teaching aids. His CELTA reference is his bible, and he worships the ground that Penny Ur and Mario Rivinludicrous walk on. 

His lesson plans are completed weeks in advance, and is constantly praised by Thai staff to the irritation of everyone else. He's thinking of writing a book or starting a website.

The question asker

Picks up a pair of scissors and asks "do these work?" 

Constantly in need of attention. "Has anyone seen ............" is another favourite. 

Also sits at the computer looking at news websites and saying things like "I see they won then." or "I can't believe that happened". 

This person takes the word 'annoying' to a whole new dimension.

Light-fingered Larry

This character is invariably the roving replacement teacher. The school/agency depends on his uncanny ability to be in the classroom of an ill/missing teacher in less than 30 minutes.

After receiving a phone call at his dilapidated townhouse in Nonthaburi, this teacher usually exploits his transient-like status by wearing brightly colored short-sleeved shirts with the top three buttons undone. He is known to piss other teachers off by loudly declaring that he is off to the "sports bar" at the end of his last class, which usually happens to be just before lunch. 

Unfortunately, however, there is sometimes a sinister and rarely spoken about element of this fella's make-up. Occasionally after he has been in the teacher's room, items ranging from the Thai secretary's mobile phone to the head teacher's sandwiches go missing. 

No one ever points the finger at Light-fingered Larry, although drunken discussions at the staff Christmas party usually provide a good indication of what everyone thinks.

Tarquin and Flossie The Backpackers

They arrive as a couple, demand dual jobs, and will be gone in four months. They spend every second weekend somewhere exotic like Samui, spend the latter half of the semester looking at internet jobs pages for when they return to the West because teaching isn't really 'their thing'. 

They make no attempt at grading books. Complain that nobody told them about anything about having to give students tests.

Hong Nam John

Nobody knows what he looks like because he's rarely seen. The threat of extra assignments means he's invisible. He supposedly teaches a full load, but is usually busy dropping a full load while reading the Bangkok Post in his "office".

Mr Mysterioso

Like Melchizedek of old, this man appears on the scene for a brief time, with absolutely no paper trail that tells from whence he came. 

His university diploma? That's in the post from Lord Shaftesbury, post-haste, any decade now. His TEFL certification? Got lost in the Irawaddy during a trek with Aung Sahn Suu Kyi. That letter of recommendation from his prior school? He'll get that out of the backpack that he left in Kanchanaburi, when the lead singer of that famous rock group....

No can one figure out what this fellow has actually done on this planet since birth, because other than the amazing tales and name-dropping, somehow the actual title of his alma mater is ..... missing. 

His origin is about as vague as "America; I'm American." Yes, and so are the Inuits and the Tierra del Fuego-ites. 

Pick a city in the USA and he'll have a drunken story about it, which he probably cribbed from "On the Road," but try to get specifics out of him, such as the name of the main street in that city, and suddenly he has to go to the toilet.

And like Melchizedek, this character vanishes as suddenly and totally as he appeared. No "exit stage left," no good-byes. You'll be lucky to run into him at something like Sean Penn's cocktail party, where he'll have an entirely new ID. 

Oh, as a teacher of English, you ask? Scared to death of grammar. His lesson plan for a 50-minute class, if forced to come up with one, will be five lines long, based on the textbook. The students don't like him, but somehow he's not so bad that they'll actively complain. Nice guy, though. Maybe he's a spy.

Mr Deathwish

Is absolutely incapable of cordial relationships between either farangs or Thais. Turns up to school on the first day of semester sporting two black eyes and broken fingers and proceeds to tell all and sundry how firstly he had a beating from the biggest farang in town, and then decides to try and leave a sing-a-song shack without paying for his private singing lessons. Doesn't quite get as far as the second day of semester.

Mr Scammer

Pleads poverty to get a pay advance from his latest school before disappearing never to be seen again. Oh, maybe seen briefly in the staffroom blagging money.

Mr Showpiece

The teacher that the management always wheel out to show off to parents and MOE inspectors. A sacrificial lamb both hated and appreciated by the other native-speaking teachers.

The Weekend Warrior

The teacher who comes in on Saturdays and Sundays to "help out", who either doesn't teach full-time or is teaching elsewhere during the week and is "moonlighting" at your place on the weekend. Although this teacher needs to teach weekends to make ends meet, they never seem to know when it's pay day!

Mummy Teacher

The teacher who has a full-time job being a Mum and comes in to school in the mornings to help teach the young ones. In it for the love, not the money (always the most dangerous type)

The Cover Monster

The moment the head teacher rolls into the staff room with the days casualty list and periods available, cover monsters immediately drop what they are doing and grab their timetable to see how many lessons they can cram in today. 

This is done to give the illusion they are a team player and helping out the school but the reality is they just want more money and are prepared to kill to stop others getting the extra work. 

Unfortunately, their teaching method is to show a video or hand out colouring-in sheets and sit in the corner doing the crossword or reading text messages

The Apologiser

Always starts a sentence with, "I'm sorry but ..." and then proceeds to ask a question to which the answer is so obvious - even to those teachers who've only been working in the school for ten minutes. They usually have few friends and remind you of those sad types who spend their free time propping up bars and trying to make conversation with anyone who'll listen.

The Screamer

This teacher has a limited vocabulary of Thai words and thinks that by screaming them at young students he will achieve his desired discipline objectives. The words are usually the Thai equivalents of 'sit down and be quiet!'. As this teacher is invariably new to Thailand, he often suffers from a form of classroom shock, leading to crazed fits of screaming, mostly at students standing on chairs with their hands on their heads.

These fits not only scare the daylights out of students and Thai staff, but also are usually sufficient to promote discussions amongst other foreign staff regarding the chap's mental health. 

The screamer usually means well, is a nice bloke, and quietly respected by other teachers for his harsh disciplining of students.

The Chronic Complainer

This person sits in the teacher's room and complains. About everything. The students not doing an activity, the students not respecting the teachers, a particular student who progresses slowly, tardiness, unruly behavior, cell phones in class, the food in the school canteen. 

Then there are the moans about the administrators and the manager. Complaining can bring the mood down. It also spreads like a virus. But year after year, these chronic complainers stay and sign on for another academic year. Why?

Sydney sexpat

The guy who rolls in every morning smelling of Spey Royal and regales his colleagues loudly during assembly about last night's sordid threesome with internationally understood hand and body gestures.

Somchai Limpwrist

The 'hormone challenged' local teacher who spends all day loudly flirting on his mobile and gossiping frantically about the farang teachers, uninhibited by any known facts.

The Singing Nun

This Filipino's dreams of a successful career as a singer in the resident house band at Spasso have been laid to rest and she's now committed to saving money. 

How and why she lives on a grand total of 4,725 baht a month is never fully disclosed. 

She's good friends with every other Filipino within a 100-mile radius of Bangkok and spends her free time meeting up with each and every one of them. No boyfriend however. She's saving herself for Jesus.

Simple Sid

This part-time teacher/clown is a feature of most Thai schools/language agencies. 

The two key prerequisites for this teacher's position are (a) Thai nationality and (b) being a blood relative of the school owner. 

This teacher's key responsibilities include covering classes, although only in the rare situation that the roving replacement teacher was run over by a tuk-tuk on the way to the school, and preparing school policy relative to the foreign teachers department.

This teacher has usually been educated in the U.S., although clearly spent his/her time abroad socialising with other Thai and perhaps Chinese students as he/she has absolutely no idea about how to communicate with Westerners. The male version often assumes a nickname such as Sid, which is invariably derived from the name of his favourite football player/coach.

It is usually very clear that this teacher has been over-indulged by his/her rich family since day dot and is, as a result, as thick as two short planks. 

At the end of the day, this teacher would probably be happier selling ice cream in his/her local moobaan, but such employment would cause massive loss of face for his/her family.

Scarface Sam

He comes into the office the day after calling in sick with a large bandage on his face claiming that he "fell in the bathroom." Through office gossip the other teachers find out that the girlfriend he unceremoniously dumped showed up at his new bachelor pad and slashed him with a box cutter. 

It wouldn't normally matter that match except that he may be the DOS or academic manager, and thus a (cracked) pillar of the community.

Henrietta High-up

She's the classic teacher or head teacher who talks so highly of the bosses it almost forces you to vomit. You know she's lying through her teeth and that the employers are unscrupulous crooks. 

She basically will do anything to move up the EFL career ladder and it shows but what the bosses don't know is that she moonlights for their #1 competitor in the evenings! 

Still, her impeccable taste in clothes, ability to speak Thai, and talent for doing nothing shows she's the right candidate for the job.

Michelle Moustache

English backpacker studenty type in need of a Gillete Mach 3 and a rocket up her arse. 

Incessantly whining know-it-all voice, dead keen on interacting with locals, which often means shagging motorcycle taxi drivers or beach boys. 

Wants to get close to Thais while wearing a singlet and thongs in the classroom. 

Has a nose stud. Gets all the high-paying jobs cos she's blonde and sounds it. Doesn't know an infinitive from an initiative

The Siamese Twin

He comes in and immediately his phone rings and its the little trophy girlfriend who doesn't know how to get out of the flat and asks for advice on how to open the door. 

Advice is given (loudly so all can hear), the phone goes down. A few minutes later and the phone goes again and this time its "what bus do I get to get to college?" (she has only been going there for two years but never mind). "What should I have for lunch/dinner/snack?" invariably follows.

The phone constantly goes throughout the day as 'the trophy girlfriend' is totally incapable of making any decision without consulting the boyfriend who publicly puts the phone down with a shake of the head and a muttered "useless Thai girls!" but secretly is overjoyed as it reinforces his secret view of himself as a knight in shining armor who is riding to the rescue and is indispensable to the world at large. 

He also spends all his free time with her and goes to the pub with her as well (sometimes wearing her uniform)

The Minimalist

Now, we all like to find ways not to work too hard- but the Minimalist is a master. He'll be the first one to find someone to take over his class (for no extra pay) and the last to volunteer. 

He's the one who's out sick so he can go on his 5-day beach holiday.  The students are lucky if he shows up only 10 minutes late with the papers he copied last year for a subject that's not even vaguely like the one he's teaching. 

One of his master moves is the bait-and-switch - pretend to be volunteering in a meeting to do something with another teacher, then abandon ship when the other teacher has committed. Grades? That's what dartboards and random functions are for. 

Strangely, he seems to hang onto his jobs - possibly because of his excellent skill at flattery and snitching.

The Silent Guru

Comes into the teachers room everyday, never says hello to anyone, but always speaks to you if you speak to him first. 

Has a few teacher groupies who usually sit with him and ask him questions about life. Is full of hard-won worldly experience - some quite horrific and painful. 

Any story you may have, he has one even more terrible and astounding. Always pleasant and accommodating, but is rumoured to have a psychotically bad temper. 

Never goes out with the other teachers. Usually enjoys a puff of Mary every now and then. I seem to have one of these in every school I go to.

Quincy A. Cessment

This teacher is bedazzled by the need to assess student levels. "How can we help the students improve if we don't know where they're at already?" This is the guy that makes teachers meetings five times longer by insisting that everyone practice marking sample essays. 

The problem is that when you inherit any of his former students in a subsequent term, you realize that he apparently spent all his time assessing them, and none actually teaching them. It will only take you about five seconds to assess his former students. They are crap.


Nice article. Each time I thought you were coming to an end, there were a few more funny teacher-types to give me a chuckle. Thanks!

By Bob, Phrakhanong (16th March 2019)

Hilarious! You missed your calling. You should have been a columnist. Surely the major newspaper syndicates would pay you 6 or 7 figures to entertain their readers.

By Carl Slaughter, Chonburi, Thailand (5th March 2019)

Mr. Teenager likes to borrow things without returning them. He plays games and insists that he already returned them, but YOU don’t remember. Meanwhile, he feels smug and happy that he fooled you for looking again through your things until you notice them piled up somewhere under his stash. No apology is ever given.

By thiruppathy, (23rd November 2011)

Don't forget Terrible Ted.
Hasn't got a clue how to teach anything other than "American" so he forces Thai children to learn all of the states, cities, habits and culture of his homeland, (like thats relative to a Thai fishermans son). Spends his time in class playing games and then complains that the reason he can't follow the curriculum as well as his co-workers is all the Thai teachers fault. Spends all his free time dissecting everyone elses behaviour and telling all within earshot how great he is. Whines and cries about his prostitute/girlfriend leaving him when he stopped giving her money and she didn't even take her valentine card. And then breaks down like a lil bitch when he is fired for creating a "poisonous atmosphere at the school".

By John, Thailand (10th August 2011)

Most of the people you've mentioned are really harmless. At least you haven't worked with:

Dr. Pedophile who seems like an innocent and well-qualified instructor who keeps to himself, but turns out to be a fugitive who jumped bail and ends up on the late news after being arrested by the police. 'Man, I use to work with that creep, eww!'

Ms. Overqualified who complains daily that she isn’t paid enough and has other job offers from people who want her ASAP, but not as a teacher (something much more lucrative, of course). She stays for the ‘love of the kids and teaching,’ but keeps waiting for the non-teaching career that she studied for so hard in university. Ms. Overqualified has a way of making you feel like you are a stupid loser to be teaching at xyz school and really wants to know why you stay or started there in the first place. Mirror, anyone?

Mr. Teenager who’s in his early-to-mid-twenties and longs to relive his days as a secondary schoolboy so much so that he hangs out with his teenage students before, during and after class. This isn’t enough time with them, so it’s weekends out at the pubs so he can buy them rounds of whiskey they’ve never tried. His daredevil attempts at catching the back of a fully loaded, moving songtaw as he barely holds on, are enough to make you think, ‘grow up, teacher.’

Mr. Teenager likes to borrow things without returning them. He plays games and insists that he already returned them, but YOU don’t remember. Meanwhile, he feels smug and happy that he fooled you for looking again through your things until you notice them piled up somewhere under his stash. No apology is ever given.

Mr. Nightmare is probably the worst of them all. The first day you meet him, he warns you, ‘I’ll give you nightmares’ and he means it too. People think he’s funny because everything that comes out of his mouth is nothing but insults and harsh fighting words. Mr. Nightmare needs a whole chapter here.

By Lisa, Nonthaburi (30th July 2011)

Utd were relegated by results elsewhere...it is dramatic hyperbolist fantasy that it was Dennis' backheel that caused the relegation. Piffle, as it were ! Piffle and flim-flam !

I gotta be in a definition, from above, somewhere. Unfortunately, my lack of reflexisive insight (a minor oxymoron ), disallows me from being able to humbly or arrogantly ascribe myself to one of those quaint teacher categories.


By insideleft, Right here, right now (29th July 2011)

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