This is the place to air your views on TEFL issues in Thailand. Most topics are welcome but please use common sense at all times. Please note that not all submissions will be used, particularly if the post is just a one or two sentence comment about a previous entry.
If you are a native speaker, then you can do a teaching license and start working for a reasonable salary (80,000 baht and more). If you are not a native speaker, then you will always be at the same level of earning and you have minimal chances to exceed 40,000 - 45,000 baht per month. If at some point you start earning more, the school will find it more profitable to find a new teacher. You will only lose the best years of your life. Of course, dozens of teachers from the Philippines will disagree with me, but they have close proximity to their families, airline tickets are cheap, and they have minimal requirements (their country is still at a very low level of development = they lose nothing).
I've been looking for a new teaching job for the past two months. I was planning to get hired directly by a school, but having received no replies to my emails (probably bad timing, October-November), I decided to contact the numerous agencies that seemed to have plenty of jobs available ASAP. Due to your lack of communication and difficulties in reading and understanding messages and texts, and your laziness, I'd like to ask agents and recruiters, "Don't you like money? Do you like money? Do you want to make money?" Isn't that the reason you're in this recruitment business? If yes, then why are you wasting time, e.g. taking hours and days to arrange an interview or a phone call with you, or asking same questions multiple times, or asking to send a CV which is already attached to the email? Aren't you looking for a teacher to start ASAP? You need to place a foreigner in a school, and I need a job, so get your a** off the couch and put it to work. Thai schools/agencies have a shortage of teachers, so landing a job should have been an easy task, but I guess I was wrong about it.
One pillar of success in the classroom, is knowing your audience. While most here can agree that the typical ESL/EFL classroom in Thailand is not going to be described as a content-rich Liberal Arts environment, the opportunity to utilize the classroom resemble something similar to that of a Seinfeld episode: making something out of nothing.
Very few ("very" being the operative word) have the opportunity to work their craft so that Thai students can explore, ruminate on and learn the conditions and virtues of the human experience. While Mr. Beam claims he is missing the learning targets, in which case, I think he is purposely sandbagging, there is plenty there to work with and what is then sustained, can be the next step in promoting student efficacy ("scaffolding", anyone?).
We all know the concept of working both inside and outside "the box". The typical EFL/ESL classroom is the box. The teacher is the colored dot trying to operate within. It seems to me, in order to create more room for learning opportunities, the smaller the dot is, the more space there is to move about within those parameters.
While the boo-birds will certainly scoff, do ideas on how to mold the classroom into something resembling an active, motivating and communicative learning environment break one's leg or rob one's pocket? One teacher's ideas may not work well in a stuffy dungeon (which they are needed most) but that does not constitute them as weak, or low-level. Remember: the teacher is simply the modeling messenger, while the students (and parents) bare the burden of responsibility for putting the message(s) into practice (no amount of "face saving" can escape that universal truth). Now, just think of the possibilities if that were to happen: Thai students actually doing a bit of homework, practicing what was learned on their own. Should that ever be the case, the boo-birds would be less relevant.
Sharing ideas is a necessity for those wanting to enhance their craft. Moreover, learning any foreign language involves both deductive and inductive thinking. Games can be a great way pathway.
I taught in Bangkok in 2019. It was a great experience but I didn't think too much of the financial aspect. I had 3,000 USD (I'm American) in my bank account before I came. When I left, I had 1,000 USD left. Before I came, one blogger wrote that you will do fine with 1,000 USD in the bank. Totally wrong.
What most travel bloggers dont talk about is the cost to be legally working in Thailand. Most schools don't pay the cost. Visiting immigration, border runs, transportation cost, picture fees, application fees, police clearance fees, work permit fees, etc... If you get scammed by your school and decide to stay in Thailand, you have even more additional costs. You have to find a hotel/hostel and stay for a few weeks to a few months and you're not getting paid for a few months while you find another job. If you can't find a job in 30 days, you have to do another visa run which is an additional cost. These costs mount up. I don't regret living in Bangkok but there are hundreds of costs you won't find out until later, and they can make and break you.
During my time in Thailand, I witnessed many people become seduced with the country and its people. In particular, men often fell deeply in love and lust with the young Thai damsels. Women often fell for the Alpha Thais - the fit, happy Muay Thai fighters. Most of these relationships ended through some sort of manipulative and dramatic event, with the expat often complaining about "dishonest" and "deceptive" Thais who only see them as ATMs or sex toys. I lived this reality and mindset for most of my time there, even though I was never scammed by a woman, I bought into this victim mentality.
Here's my quick point: people will take advantage of weakness no matter where they are from. If you are weak and naive enough to try to buy someone's love through gifts and promises, that is your problem, not theirs. People, particularly women, will test your strength. If they find a weak spot in you that makes you vulnerable to others, she will not have confidence in you as a man. She could be Thai, white, blue, whatever.
This principle of strength is the same as it is in the classroom. Your students will not follow you if you try to pander to them through kindness. They will tolerate you and follow their own needs until the bell rings.
Smartphones have now become a common tool for everyone. They have become a necessity already. I often ask my students and friends if they can last a day without their smartphones, and obviously, the answer is no. For people who can successfully control their desire to use smartphones and endlessly scroll through their Instagrams and Facebook accounts, it is not a big concern. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not consciously manage their screen time. This has become a big concern for many teachers in Thailand.
I have been here in Thailand for almost six years now. On my first day in school, I observed that Thai schools don't particularly prohibit bringing smartphones in the class. At first, I thought it was because the smartphones could be used as an aid to teaching and learning, which of course we could, but sadly it was not for that. Most students would just use smartphones as they wish even if their teacher is there discussing the lessons. It is quite challenging for foreign teachers to implement a no-phone policy since many Thai teachers don't implement this. This has become a great concern particularly in government schools where teachers are tired of doing endless documents for submission, compliance and promotions.
Try browsing Tiktok or Instagram's Reels and you will see many clips from students who are in the classrooms and are simply using their phones, sometimes, including even their teachers in their posts. Sadly, this is the case from grade school to university levels. How can these kids develop the skills they need to function in the future? Thailand should address this problem ASAP or they will live in a future where kids don't really care anymore about anything but their phones.
In my opinion, working for an agency is one of the worse things that can happen to a teacher in Thailand. Unfortunately, many schools in Bangkok are staffed by agencies. Here are some things you should keep in mind before you decide to work for an agency:
1. Agencies charge a minimum of 30% of your earnings. In some cases it is as much as 50% or more. If the school pays 60,000 baht per month, you may get 35,000 baht.
2. Schools pay for the whole school year, so if the agency offers a 9, 10 or 11 month contract, it actually takes even more of your money. If you don't get paid for semester breaks, it means someone took your money.
3. Probationary period can be a total sham. It takes a maximum of 2-3 weeks to organize the documents needed for a Non-B visa, not 3 months. Also, you should get a "work permit" as soon as possible, not after a few months. Working on a tourist visa or visa exemption is illegal.
4. You are just a warm body in the classroom. In case of any problems the agency will always side with the school and not you. In case of any problems with visas etc. the agency will always say that it is your fault.
5. Some agencies provide educational materials (e.g. PowerPoints), but most often they are of low quality, with many errors.
6. Many times you will be lied to by agencies. Their goal is only profit and that you quietly make hours, not your welfare. Some agencies portray themselves as "cool" and "trendy," but they too don't give a damn about you.
Do your best not to have to work for the agency. Good luck!
Being fired as a foreign teacher is par for the course at Thai government schools. Only if you are popular in the staff room will you last very long. Thai teachers are a strange breed, so proud and full of hubris but really know very little about anything. They need to be flattered and made to feel important. The longest I lasted in a Thai school was three years. Being fired from one is normal. All the foreign teachers I ever met were eventually fired including me.
It's a stone cold fact that the most-liked foreign teachers at my school are those that can either speak Thai fluently or at least to a basic conversation level. They get the most respect from students and have no problems with basic commands, explaining worksheets and tasks and maintaining order in the classroom. I've read a number of articles on the internet about not having to be able to speak Thai in the classroom in order to be successful, but I'm not so sure, particularly when faced with a classroom of 40 rowdy and easily distracted teenagers.
Strange that not being paid for not working has now turned to how badly you perceive yourselves to be employed. It's simple and there’s nothing right wing or conservative about it – you don’t like it, you leave. You go back to Europe and ‘the dole’ as people put it, where at least you’ll be fed and housed and have free medicine. What on earth is difficult to understand about that?
You can’t live on 30/40k in Bangkok? I don’t blame you, but have you ever thought of looking elsewhere for work, somewhere in Isaan where the cost of living is cheaper? You’re not prepared to eat Thai food? Too ‘beneath’ you is it? Straight off the dole in the UK and want to live it up in the capital playing the ‘big farang’? I am not better than anyone else, I simply perhaps have a little more sense than those of you who whinge on about having the same rights as in the UK or the U.S? You want those rights? Go back if you can’t hack it here!
You are correct, we only have one support system and that being ourselves and my original post asks why are you in the mess you’re in for not having saved a little for emergencies? There follows a tirade of it’s the schools fault, it’s the governments fault, my wage is too low, I’m not living on Thai food. You say in Thailand there are teachers who get paid 15,000 a month? I can assure you that I didn’t force them to work for that amount and I think that you wouldn’t find any in Bangkok working for that. I have never said (I repeat) that the Thais do not have a social safety net, it is we foreigners who don’t and it is up to us to look after ourselves. Again I repeat, if you are unable to do so then go back to Europe or wherever. The Thai boss does not have to save up for a rainy day because it’s not his rainy day, it’s yours.
Can we stop comparing conditions in Europe or the U.S to Thailand? You know the score here, (or perhaps you don’t) You pay 750 baht a month for insurance if you’re legal? Really? I was legal and didn’t. The school paid for my insurance and I topped it up to provide reasonable cover. You’re not paid enough? Go back home and try the minimum wage. The bottom line is that I don’t have a problem. Some of you guys do and that problem is of your own making in not being able to put a little bit aside each month, instead of blaming everyone else for it. Try the foreign Embassy, see what they say when you tell them you require assistance because you couldn’t or wouldn’t save.
I’ll tell you what the problem is; you’re in the wrong place with the wrong attitude; grow up and learn to adapt and stop blaming everyone else for the mess you’re in. This isn’t Europe. Is that what you were expecting? Has it all been a bit of a disappointment? Are you slowly learning that this isn’t the paradise you thought it was? Stop scratching your head and making excuses. I say this with all respect, but some of the letters I read should be signed 'loser'. You couldn't hack it in the UK or wherever and you've got the same problem here. No change there then.
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