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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Fool me now, lose me later.

During this pandemic, the sad fact is that there are fewer teachers available in-country to fill the many vacancies on offer. The agencies and schools think we are desperate to work, to earn a decent living for ourselves and support our families. We are indeed - but being educators we are hopefully also full of knowledge and understanding. Instead of offering decent conditions and salaries, they lower the barrier, offering poor money and conditions, accept unskilled, incorrect visa applicants and generally mug those with correct paperwork and skills, waiting for the day when the market becomes flooded with backpacking applications.

Just look at what is on offer? Let me warn you while you pat yourselves on the back for recruiting us. We are not going to become loyal to you. We bunker down pretending to be happy and content, sending out resumes daily and we are picking and choosing carefully and will feel no regret on walking out in the middle of the term, normally the day after payday to pastures new.

Sure! we are unhappy to struggle to make ends meet until the occasion arises and sure we are unhappy when department heads can do a bit of paperwork and use agencies, uncaring that teachers they have may be very good, but the agencies give us treats, just because you thought you were clever enough not to pay insurance or rent allowance. I pity the students who have to contend with repeating the same lesson format every term because the teacher that was doing them proud has been forced to move on.

Middle of Thailand

Who does teaching in Thailand suit most?

Who does teaching in Thailand suit most?

Teaching English in Thailand is a good match for some people at some stages of life and maybe not a good match for the same or different people at different stages in life.

If someone is teaching English to mostly fund travel and live abroad for a few years, Thailand can be a great place for many reasons. So for younger individuals who want to gain some experience and do something “exciting” before setting down to a career, or for someone experiencing a mid-life crisis and wants to try something completely different, or for someone semi-retired and wanting to live in Thailand, teaching English in LOS might be a good choice if one is ok with the culture and ways of doing things in Thai schools.

Also for those who are looking for a fairly stress-free life and are not too worried about material possessions or career advancement, teaching English in Thailand long-term might be a viable option.

On the other hand, if someone is a professional and life-long English teacher, who wants to have a career (as opposed to a job) and support a family and so on, teaching in Thailand probably is not the best long-term path to achieving these goals. Because teaching English in Thailand helps some people achieve their personal objectives, that doesn’t imply it is a good choice for other individuals who have very different goals and/or at different stages in life.

I taught English in Thailand for a while. It was good at the time, but I realized that it was not the right long-term plan for me, so I moved on to attack other professional opportunities. I never regretted the choice to teach English in Thailand or the later choice to move on to other things. It was a good choice at a particular stage of my life but it would not be a good choice for where I am now, but who knows, I might return to teaching English in Thailand at some future stage of life when the goals will again be different than they are now.

Thinking in terms of teaching in Thailand in plain good or bad terms is probably a little too simplistic to be useful.


Conversations with agents

Conversations with agents

These are actual quotes from real telephone conversations that I have had recently with teacher placement agencies..

Agent: "we cannot tell you where the school is until after you sign the contract"
me: why?
Agent "I don't want you contacting the school without us because we would lose our commission"

Next agent.

me: "is the school in a remote location?"
Agent: "It depends on what you mean by a remote location?"
me: "is the location accessible by plane, train, bus, taxi. tuk-tuk or elephant?
Agent: "we will meet you at the bus station and take you there"
me: "about how far is it from the bus station to the town?"
Agent: "we will stop about half-way and buy you lunch"
me: "so it is not near the small town bus station?"
Agent: "they don't have a 7 eleven if that is what you want"

Next agent.

Agent: "we will hold 3,000 baht every month from your salary and give it to you at the end of your contract"
me: "why?"
Agent: "so we know you will complete your contract and not leave early because of the working conditions"

Next agent.

Contact person: You will start at 7:15am for gate duty, teach 26 hours per week, remain on campus until 4.30pm when gate duty ends. You have to do one Saturday afternoon per month, and a once a week English club after school. We will give you 24,000 baht and we help you with the paperwork for a non-immigrant B visa - and we give 50% for accident insurance.
me: Thank you, good bye.

Next agent.

me: "can you tell me the age group of the students, your job ad does not say"
Agent: "we will pay you a bonus to sign a contract"
me: "okay, but what age group would l be teaching?"
Agent: "some of the classrooms have air-con, others have fans and the school provides a western lunch"
me: "great, what age group are the students?"
Agent: "it varies"

Next agent

Contact person; "Can you come in for an interview?"
Me: "yes, I can"
Contact person: "be prepared to teach a 50-minute class to students as a demonstration. Also bring us ten lesson plans and three positive references. Please, be on time because we have many other teachers demonstrating that week"
Me: "sure, my rate is 500 baht an hour"

Well, I can continue - although not now. Personally, I have twenty years teaching experience with excellent references and credentials. It is my desire to continue to teach in Thailand for the students. I try and ignore the nonsense but it just seems to be getting sillier and sillier.

By the way, this was written for a smile, not out of bitterness or anger.


Teachers that make me angry

Teachers that make me angry

One thing that I find very annoying is listening to teachers who no matter what is expected of them, keep failing to use their common sense and preparing things in advance. When The Thai head of the department asks why, their answer is because they haven't been told or shown, even when they state they have years of experience. Not only that but here are other teachers in the staff room willing and happy to show or help them. And then there are 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, wait until the last week to offer up grades that really don't reflect the student true abilities.


Time to move on?

Time to move on?

Regarding Jasmine's letter (Little hope for a teacher in lockdown, 14th July 2021) It is time to move - no matter what. If your employer (the agency you mention) is looking through your social media posts and threatening you with legal action, then it really is time to move on. Think about it, they don't value you and you're not even being paid. You can always find a situation where you're at least valued a bit - and of course paid. This may well be in another country. Personally, I don't feel that Thailand has anything to offer as far as work or a future is concerned.


Handling the pandemic

I have been teaching English in Thailand since 1994 and I have now been out of work for four months due to the pandemic. My elderly mother lives alone near Liverpool. Getting home to visit her and also attend an important family wedding is just not possible due to the large expense, quarantine arrangements, vaccinations, difficulties in getting back into Thailand and last but not least, leaving my wife for just how long?
I am sure Thailand will get it right eventually and even all us expats will get vaccinated. In the meantime, we all have to deal with the stress of living in the current situation just as best as we can.


Little hope for a teacher in lockdown

Little hope for a teacher in lockdown

I am in Phuket and I love living here. I adore the lovely school I work at and I genuinely feel blessed every day when I can work. The problem is that schools are closed again - for the 4th time - despite Phuket opening to the world with the Sandbox scheme. It is becoming impossible to survive as a teacher. I don’t want to go home but if I have to because of the lack of work, it will be the ultimate defeat and one I will not cope at all well with. I want to stay here.

Online teaching is not an option sadly. I am a kindergarten teacher and working for an agency at a government school. Many families do not have a wifi connection or a suitable laptop for this to be a possibility. The agency refuse to pay teacher salaries during lockdown, despite me having worked loyally for them for two years. This is particularly frustrating as the school is valiantly paying all their own workers, caretakers, teachers, cooks and Burmese builders - and the other agency supplying teachers to our school are also paying their teachers during this lockdown period.

I have also had my social media posts copied and sent to me by post by the agency - with a threat that anything I say is potentially libellous. This is despite never mentioning the agency by name or directly referencing them. I have simply pointed out it is a depressing time and one with little hope. I have therefore had to change my name and profile and picture on social media and even writing this post is a worry for me. I hope things will get better. It feels like a long road sometimes and one filled with much worry.


Times have changed

In my two decades of living in Thailand, I have experienced some occasional prejudice, but no openly hostile racism. This has changed, from what I can see. The Covid virus has legitimised more aggressive hating on foreigners. Society has somehow allowed this to creep into acceptable behaviour. Part of this may come from deflection of the nation's inability to get control of the pandemic effectively and looking silly on the world stage; the other part may always have been there, under the surface, waiting for an excuse!


Be cautious around teacher agencies

Be cautious around teacher agencies

Be cautious of Thai teaching agencies because they are notorious for not doing the correct paperwork, supporting teachers, and doing as they please just to secure the contract at client schools. If possible, look for direct hire options with a school as you will not have as many problems or face as many salary deductions. If you relocate to Nakhon Nowhere, you will be at their mercy. Thai agencies prey on new teachers and their lack of knowledge about how things work over here. Speak to as many teachers as possible at the school/agency and get a feel for whats in store.


Smarten up!

When it comes to male teacher attire, it's gotta be a crisp shirt, smart pants and smart polished shoes. That is not a lot to ask. You see so many ajarns out and about and some look bloody disgraceful. Decent clothes are worth spending a bit extra on because they look good. Bargain supermarket brands are not the way to go. Never understood why so many teachers get this basic thing so wrong - as if it's a deliberate attempt to say "pay me shit so l dress like shit"


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