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.
My friend, who is Thai, has recently qualified as a teacher and got her first job in a provincal school in southern Thailand. She is a sweet, kind and funny girl, keen to be a good teacher and loves kids.
Recently I spoke with her about how important and satisfying it must be to be able to nurture, support and guide young people through the learning process. Unfortunately she was horrified at the thought of this, "no no no, we are not allowed. We must be strict and control the students" she has, in the first few days, seen teachers hit a student and another teacher call a young child 'crazy' because they didn't understand the question and asked for help. Is it the teaching system that needs to change or is it the culture of the teachers?
I came to teaching as a second career. Teaching got me out of the condo and the additional money buffeted all my cash burn. Having said all that I almost went to teacher's college after university. There were a lot of difficulties along the way but to be honest most of the pressure I placed on myself.
In my opinion 80% of teachers don't care and never will. Paying them more than 35K per month is just money in the bin. 10% care somewhat and 10% take it on as a career and profession. Here, I'm discussing EFL and all schools sans true internationals. I'm amazed at the full grown shirkers and artless dodgers. Having done this for a decade I shouldn't be but as we start the new year, I am.
Professional development is not easy to come by but few have any interest. It's all about silly games, methods to waste time, nailing down a staple of activities and tired worksheets so as to place a water bottle and your school owned notebook on your desk and slip off somewhere for an hour or three or...simply head home. Year on year they learn nothing new then gripe about their pay. They've become accustomed to the school and when they weigh a pay package at 42k compared to the 37k they've been making as long as they can remember, they decide that the effort is just not worth it. So, there they sit.
Another thing I have noticed that teachers never do is help students on their own time. It seems that any moment that could be spent off campus is better so than time spent helping their students. It's so self serving. New teachers bring in a bit of freshness and positivity but I'm struck by the false pride. Even when I started at 50 + I knew I hadn't a clue how to teach and was constantly searching for mentors and ideas. So few and far between I had to train myself. It's even a bit shocking as I see many of these younger teachers having gone through these limited programs playing games and doing board races but all that stuff academically speaking it's just purely a waste of time.
Moreover, with few exceptions I'm absolutely stunned at the lack of depth that most teachers have related to technology.
It's not been an easy road. One needs to constantly be searching for a school that's a fit for you personally. It will never be perfect and nothing even close. In the end, I traded my perfect school for money and although I am making approximately 20k + per month more at this new school plus bonus + perks, it is a bit of a lunatic asylum.
Why in world would anyone be teaching students with such abysmal English abilities? Not only are these poor kids challenging in themselves but the classes are complete headaches and the schools are generally disasters. This is precisely where a person with any sort of talent and career ambition does not want to work. There are better schools with far better facilities, students with exceedingly better English abilities, his students with grand ambitions and motivation. If you are sincere and genuine about your career then seek to educate yourself to a point where you can provide the best students something of value. Then, go make yourself 80,000 baht a month.
I know times are hard and the lack of teachers may cause suffering for some schools, but the number of so-called agencies offering teachers' work seems to be more than there are teachers and the new title of 'Non-NES Teacher' is impressive.
Like the agent who advised teachers in a school near me, offering 35K with no mention of other benefits including insurance payment or work permit or assistance with accommodation, and also not knowing that the school had been offering 45K inclusive for three teachers. What's amazing is that they were explaining to me that they only make a little money from acting as the school's agent.
Still, the school has no one with the qualifications required at present and certain other agencies still offering very poor monthly returns with few legal benefits. And they wonder why we are happy to stay teaching online to international students because we can earn more or the same and stay at home. Alas the schools are getting what they deserve and hopefully the agencies will wrap up and disappear
It is time for Thai parents to realise they pay for the teaching and not the grades. Too many kids get high marks for literally doing nothing. In old days everyone got a passing mark. Now that is not good enough they still want 80% even when they do not deserve it. Wonder when that will change?
Usually your experience doesn’t matter too much as long as you’re likable, preferably younger and enthusiastic towards the students. The degree matters but here in Thailand the TEFL doesn’t matter as far as obtaining a job but will help you in the classroom with lesson planning and classroom management. Don’t accept a lower wage in regards to your experience. 38-43k is the usual “fair” wage. Don’t work for less, it’s not worth the time or frustration.
If you've never worked in Thailand before you'll probably see a lot of things you won't like (6-year-olds drinking Pepsi at 8am, teachers turning up stinking of beer and/or cigs, teachers being told to ''just pass them'' in exams even though in reality they can't answer the question 'What is your name?'...the list is endless). My best advice is try not to rock the boat or change anything...unless you work in one of the very top international schools, your well meaning advice will be ignored. Just come and enjoy your time here!
Do try and be nice to your Thai co-teacher if you are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have one. They are the boss make no mistake about that. Be nice to all your Thai colleagues. Don't tell them what to do. Don't come in with a superior attitude. Beware your foreign colleagues, they can be very slimy. Don't take work home with you. Don't do extra if you dont want. Don't think you're going to get anywhere unless you train yourself. CPD is nonexistent in the typical EFL Thai schools. None of this applies to international schools obviously, Have fun, try to get out and meet as many people as you can and travel at each and every opportunity.
Cary, Ed and James
I agree that when Filipinos come to teach in one school, they really make a lot of noise in their free time or even on the public transportation and that is something as a Filipino, I dislike the most. I have my work ethics and I always observe them. As much as possible, when we are inside the office, Filipino teachers should refrain from speaking their language or any other dialects. Speak English! Or if you wan to speak your dialect, at least speak softly. Most importantly, do your job and never practice professional jealousy. I personally don't like cliques in the workplace because I see it as a starting point of all internal and professional problems. Please Filipino teachers, love your work, love the children, respect others and keep your comments to yourself. Always bear in mind that we are not in our country and we must be socially and professionally responsible. Nobody asked you to come and teach here. It was all your choice, so please behave!
In response to 'qualifications won't turn your fortunes around' (Postbox 25th March 2022), I'm halfway in agreement. While it is true that getting better qualified does not automatically lead to higher salaries, there are indeed good options here for those who look for them.
I can only speak for myself, but I left back in 2016 to get experience teaching back home. I was able to work at a public school in the States, and later at an international school in Asia. During such time, I added onto my qualifications with a graduate degree in my content area and in curriculum and instruction. I was then able to come back to Thailand in 2021 to work teaching in my content area. The salary is in line with what I have made with my previous two jobs, which affords me a nice life if I may say so.
The jobs *are* out there. Admittedly, it's not a guarantee but to suggest that there aren't jobs here to support a decent life is simply silly. Now admittedly, I don't teach ESOL (though I did for much of my career) but the experience doing so has helped me with my students, who are varied levels of ELLs. I would say that if you are experienced in teaching your content area, there are jobs to be had. I think many teachers who stick it out here and improve their skills and qualifications find themselves in better jobs. For those considering upgrading their qualifications, while it is true that it is no guarantee of a massive upgrade there are jobs to be had.
Teaching in Thailand is a joke. Most of the things pulling you here can be found in other South East Asian countries. For what many of these so-called 'international' schools are offering, in terms of salary, a non-degree holder could likely achieve in countries such as Vietnam.
Many schools in Thailand simply don't respect foreign teachers (of any nationality) and contracts are meaningless and frequently dishonoured. You don't even want to try bothering with these 30-40k jobs, especially in Bangkok. If you choose to, consider that they may not pay for your holidays and likely don't provide any meaningful health insurance. In addition, I have found that you often need to budget for materials, if you wish to make your classes interesting/ enjoyable.
After arriving with no degree and no experience, 8 years ago, I now earn about 100 pounds a month more than I did then. This is having gained a BA in TESOL and an M.Ed. Take it with a shovel of salt when people claim that gaining education qualifications will turn your fortunes around in Thailand. The reality for myself, and many other teachers I know, is that you put in a shift at school (hybrid learning and clown world goof rules) and then have to go home and do 2-3 hours of online teaching or you're living hand to mouth. Have a good read through the letters on Ajarn, to get a feel for the situation, and just look at the qualifications the job ads are demanding in return for what they're offering. In short, do your research before coming here. I'm on my way out.
"A difficult school to work in is only made all the more so with chancers" - the chancers are only allowed to exist because of the schools and agencies employ them.
I worked for a language centre at the beginning for two years. No help from anyone. I was left to work it out for myself. I taught everything from young kids to IETLS. I loved the job and the learning curve, but I needed a job with more social hours.
I got a nice little job at a kindergarten school. 8-4pm and weekends completely off. I went to the interview with a nice shirt and tie. I had a copy of my degree and CELTA, and a CV with 2 years of experience teaching children and adults. I got the job and started off on 35k a month (this was over 10 years ago and they're still paying the same). I noticed very quickly that this school would employ anyone. Experience or not, degree or not, teaching cert or not, and even smart attire or not. That's right, some people rocked up to the school wearing shorts and t-shirts and were given jobs there and then.
After my first year, the school employed three young British girls. They were like 20/21. They had no experience and no qualifications at all. They were here to travel and party. I don't blame them for taking the job. Someone basically offered them a working holiday and they took it. But it made me realize the importance of worrying about your own work, your own class and your own business.
Anyway, about one week into the summer camp I get a phone call. My boss from the agency sounds very worried and tells me the school has complained. Now, I know full well the complaints aren't about me, so I play it dumb and ask, "oh, what have I done wrong? What did the school say about ME? She sounds even more worried and tells me, "Oh, not you, Liam. The school really like you and say you're doing a wonderful job". Again, I know where she's heading with this but I continue to play dumb. Like if the complaints aren't about me, why are you calling ME?
She goes on to tell me that the new girls aren't really teaching. They're just letting the kids play with toys and showing cartoons. This woman is so feckless and bad at her job, that she doesn't have the decency to just say exactly what she wants. She wants me to say it for her like it's my idea. I knew what she was doing so I had some fun with it. I told her that's terrible and it's hard to find good teachers. I knew she had their numbers but I offered to text her their phone numbers so she could speak directly to them.
At this point I can hear the despair in her voice. She's getting annoyed with me and losing face because I'm not allowing her to take advantage of me. She finally tells me that I've been at the school for a year. I'm a great teacher who the school likes. I thank her for her kind words but I continue to be confused as to why she's calling me. She tells me that I'm a "senior teacher" now. And as a 'senior teacher', It's my job to take new teachers under my wing, show them how to teach and be responsible. I tell her that I'm not a senior teacher. I'm no one's boss and this is the first I'm hearing of this.
She continues with, "no, you ARE a senior teacher. You get paid more than they do". This is the point where I snapped and got really pissed off with her. I kept my cool but I was very stern and articulate in explaining my position. I told her that I get 1k a month more than they do. The reason I get a measly 1k more a month is cos I did a year already. Nowhere in my contract does it say I'm a senior teacher and responsible for anyone else. In fact, it's the same contract as my first one, just with 36k a month as opposed to 35k.
I tell her that I started off just a year ago with the same salary. Me, with a degree, CELTA and 2 years experience. I told her that if she wants me to be a "senior teacher" - she can discuss it with me in person and we can talk about more money. That's even if I would want the position anyway. She tells me she's disappointed with my attitude. Again, this really pisses me off, so I tell her that I have a great attitude. I come to work and do my job well. And seeing as these three girls aren't doing that, they're the ones with the bad attitude so call them and tell them this.
I'm the kind of teacher who will always help his fellow teacher. Fellow anything depending on the job. I know what it's like to be new in a job. But at the end of the day, you have to ask for help. This agency I worked for thought that not only could they employ anyone without doing their due diligence, but that the good teachers there would do their job for them also.
I came to Thailand 5 years ago, found a job at a private school in Nonthaburi and I've been working at this school ever since. I can't really compare it with other schools, but from what I heard from other foreign teachers, our school isn't all that bad. Some local teachers seem to be friendly and polite. However, on many occasions, I've heard Thai teachers referring to me and other foreign teachers as "farang" at school, in front of everybody, including the students. But we teach our students to say "teacher'.
I understand if someone calls me farang in the street, outside the school, that they don't mean to be rude. It's just what Thais call us. But it's not appropriate to use this word at school, in front of everybody, including the foreign teachers. I'm a fully qualified teacher by the way. Five years at the school and still a farang. I'm just sick and tired of the attitude/lack of manners. Dear colleagues, do you have the same experience at your schools? Is it the time for me to find another school? I just want to work at the school where people acknowledge you and give a little respect.
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