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.

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My take on agencies

A lot of people want to know what it would be like to work in Thailand. After having been here for 8 years I will tell you.

My first job paid was 38,000 a month plus a 2,000 baht travel allowance. That was 8 years ago with no experience. I was teaching IEP and working pretty hard. The salaries have gone down since then for the run of the mill agency jobs. Now I am not openly against agencies but the greed and corruption has become too much to bear.

Most agencies it appears are now grabbing the newbies and I call them “newbies” because they are not yet teachers from the TEFL courses on some island somewhere. 1500$ or something like that and a party in Phuket and Samui and three weeks later they have been offered a job somewhere – in some government school somewhere with some assistance from the agency. It depends on the agency.

Normally the newbies are only too happy to have a job and just say yes to everything and to be fair to them, that is what you have to do. Maybe those of us who have been around for a while have become jaded by the system. Waiing the boss can be pain – unless she returns the favour and wais me back. I will not wai anyone unless they reciprocate – and that means everyone from the boss all the way down to the cleaner. If the cleaner wais me I will wai her back.

For the last two years of so, I had the misfortune to be thrust back into agency jobs and sometimes it was fun and sometimes the kids would want to learn something, but the agencies and their management have become overbearing.

Last year I was on 38,000 for nine months of the year. Holy Christ how things have fallen? And having some self-inflated knobhead coming around barking orders the way he wanted it to be. Given I had 7 years’ experience and am a good teacher – my kids learn something – I am reluctant to take advice about how they think a lesson should be – planning It right down to the micro level.

As a new teacher you could expect 25-30,000 a month. That would be paid 9 months of the year. They will not get you a work permit, no matter what they say, unless it has been specifically mentioned and they do it the day you arrive - it will not happen. You will have to do visa runs to Laos normally. That will cost 6-7,000 baht and you will have to do that every three months maybe. You will then be on a tourist visa. That will be 60 days which can be extended at Chaeng Wattana for 1900 Baht for another 30 days. That might include a taxi there and back, four hours in a queue and some photographs etc. Keep some money for that. Going overstay basically means going to jail (if caught) unless you can pay the fine. It has happened to many. If you think Bangkok as a teacher is all about partying and going to the island every month, think again.

You will be expected to wai everyone including the dog (joke) You will be expected to be at school early, leave late and have a smile on your dial at all times. From the end of February to the middle of May there will be no work around and you will not be paid. You will then have to find money from somewhere else – savings, mummy and daddy back home, or possibly extra work which will be in very short supply because everyone will be looking for it.

Your accommodation will be about 5,000 a month in Bangkok for a decent apartment, 7,000 if you include bills. If you want something better you can find it of course. If you want something worse – you can get something down to about 2 or 2.5K but really not worth the hassle. That said many Thais live like that, no problem. No air-con, no hot water (which is a must in the winter). Morning traffic in Bangkok is murder. You need a way to travel and fast to get to school. Normally a taxi or motorbike (rented) not motorbike taxi.

Taxis are expensive (relatively) unless you share. Staying near schools is recommended but then you are stuck there.
Driving a motorbike is dangerous. Always have a full face helmet. Having an accident often means sorting it out on the side of the road, and paying money there and then. Unless you are so damaged they take you to hospital (another need for hospital insurance) where you can be in for big bucks. Do not drink and drive. It is not worth it. There are road blocks everywhere.

If you think you are going to the full moon party for the whole of April down the wonderful island of Samui, that might be a pipe dream unless you have saved money or money from back home. You may be eating a 5 baht bowl of noodles nursing a beer, trying to see it through the lean months.

Thought that might be useful, direct and honest.

Chuck, Bangkok

Goodbye you slave drivers!

I've been offered a great job in China paying twice my current salary in Thailand (close to 100k per month). I've still got to work for a fair few months yet, but I can't wait to leave.

The agent I have here in Thailand is a slave driver who likes to get his staff in on weekends for free. This is simply to make him look good with the owners in my opinon. It's supposedly all about 'personal development', but that is total BS. He's taking a shed load of cash off each employee, of course.

Funniest moment was him sending a message from his latest model iPhone to everyone in our Facebook group about 'being happy with what you have and that money and possessions aren't everything' or suchlike. This was probably aimed mainly at the enslaved Pinoy teachers (on around 15k a month before tax) and he typed it from his five million baht Range Rover lol (I got the message just as I passed his car in the car park). I bet he never thought about the irony involved right there.

Now he's on thin ice as there are only four native English speaking teachers left out of an original twenty or so. The staff-room now looks like a downtown Manila coffee shop. The Thais love all that bowing and scraping and the fact that they never say 'no' and will work for peanuts.

Decent native English speaking teachers with any self- respect left should be planning their escapes from this place asap. I've decided that Thailand is a lovely place for a holiday, but a crappy one to work in.

Yep. Greedy agents (most of whom will soon be gone from the Thai education industry) and an education system behind the times (with too much grovelling involved nowadays) has done for many of us, it seems.


TEFL jobs dying a slow death?

English teaching jobs at a TEFL level are dying a slow death in Thailand. I still have friends who work for a couple of my former agencies and they said it's getting harder and harder to find teachers. A mix of not having teachers available on tourist visas and the massive emergence of online work. What have the school and agencies done to prepare? Absolutely nothing.

My friend suggested to his boss that they pay more money or offer any form of benefits. He said his boss became so indignant at the suggestion. This kinda mentality of, "I've been earning this amount of profit every month and I will not lose a single satang".

There are teachers leaving and other teachers quitting the extra work to go online. One loyal teacher left after three years to go online. He told another friend he would have continued the weekend work as an extra, but when he quit, they didn't even say thanks. His attitude was, 'f*** you, then". Now they're threatening teachers who don't want to do their extra work. The threats are empty and the teachers know it. It's pathetic.

Teaching is great if you can find that balance of a good job (one where you're left alone and not squeezed to to keep doing more simply because you're good and reliable). Add to that online work, and you can easily be pulling in at least 70k a month with your weekends free. I've found that balance and I'm happy for now. But I keep looking at the jobs. And I know the power is with me now. Same as it is with any teacher worth their salt.

My advice for any agency owners; pay up or pack up. Your time is up. And I for one will be glad to see the back of you.


Everyone will pass!

Until the standards in education are raised, students will never get ahead and the their standard of English will not improve. A lot of it stems from the “mai pen rai” attitude.

I’ve been teaching here a little over twenty years and have heard students say they don’t care if they fail because they know they will still pass. 50 is passing and even if they score lower, they still get a 50 to pass.

I am teaching grade two in IEP and my students do better in speaking and understanding English than the high school students in the bilingual program. I try to make them speak English in class and at lunch time. Have to keep reminding them, but they are doing better. They are only to speak Thai when having a Thai subject.

It is difficult at times because the Thai teachers and the directors do not speak English and this is a bilingual school.


I am just dust on the shoes

I teach English at a private primary school just outside Khon Kaen and I feel like the dust on the shoes of Thai education. This was well illustrated by an incident which occurred last Thursday.

After handing out worksheets to the pupils I asked the regular form teacher if she would explain in Thai that I planned to circulate around the classroom and try get each student to read with me, She flatly refused shouting NO!! in a strident voice and proceeded to flounce out of the classroom. She would not behave like that in front of her Thai colleagues.

Unlike my other colleagues I do not have my own classroom. I am routinely referred to as 'the farang' by a senior teacher. It took a major effort not to tell them to take this job and shove it. At times I feel I am just pissing in the wind here.


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