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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A teacher's regrets

Now that I have resigned from my job and quit teaching, I look back on my regrets.

I wish I had created more opportunities for my students to develop their confidence in speaking English outside the comfort of our classroom. I was taken aback when one of the mothers expressed frustration over her child's English-speaking ability. Why did her child respond to me as if English wasn't a problem but replied to her mom with just a simple word? My students weren't afraid to ask questions, share ideas, and answer questions in the classroom, but this wasn't the case outside of it. The reasons could be overlooked learning goals, lack of confidence, uncertainty, and other factors. I wish I could have done better.

I wish I had been more organized in planning and implementing practical learning activities, made more time for students who needed extra help, and explored art, music, and other areas. I was advised to teach through exploration, yet I was still expected to produce worksheets and completed workbooks. Were there more effective ways to plan?

I wish I had challenged the notion against play. I am a strong advocate of play among children, as it facilitates significant learning. Play helps children resolve issues, provides comfort, and fosters a love for learning. My students' playtime was cut short because I was told, "Children miss out if they play; they should practice writing." I wish I had argued my case better.


Let us remember the fallen teachers

Let us remember the fallen teachers

Before 2019, Filipino teachers wishing to obtain a teaching license had two choices: study in Thailand or study in Philippine universities. Thai teachers themselves brought small cards with the addresses of the two organizations to the teachers. Everything looked 100% legit. Importantly, on-site classes with representatives of Philippine universities were held in Bangkok.

In 2019, something broke down between Thais and Filipinos. Suddenly it appeared that the Very Important Organization doesn't accept documents from Filipino universities. It demands "equivalence of educational qualification" from the Thai Ministry of Higher Education. This situation affected all teachers (more than 200) who obtained their diplomas in 2019, 2020, 2021 and beyond.

Now, after two years, all teachers have received information that their diplomas don't meet the requirements, because the postgraduate studies were not registered in Thailand.

So someone earned 60,000+ baht for the Diploma in Teacher Education; the teachers were left with worthless diplomas and the Very Important Organization washed its hands, even though it had been accepting diplomas from Filipinos for years.

So let us remember the fallen teachers.

No one can be trusted in Thailand.

Jessica, Norway

Be loud and be proud

Be loud and be proud

One reason that Thais should study English is to make their family proud. Your parents and grandparents will be proud of you if you can speak English. Your younger brothers and sisters will look up to you. Everyone you meet for the rest of your life will have more respect for you if you can speak English. Your teachers, your friends, the monks, people at the market, people at the bank, taxi drivers, farmers, everyone in your village will respect you. And you will be proud of yourself for learning a difficult language. If you can speak English everyone will think you are an educated person.


Take whatever job comes first

In the "Teachers in Thailand" groups I'm part of, there's a consensus not to settle for anything below 40K when it comes to salary. While I agree with this sentiment, putting it into practice is no walk in the park. Back in my college days in America, a friend made a compelling argument about landing your first job after graduation. His advice was simple yet profound: "Take whatever comes first, then be selective." This philosophy resonates deeply, especially in the realm of TEFL jobs, and particularly if you're applying from abroad.

But what if the job turns out to be a dud? Well, so what? Why fuss too much? Most jobs come with a 60-day probationary period, not so much for you to prove yourself to the school, but for the school to showcase its merits to you. If things don't pan out during this time, you're free to move on swiftly. Just ensure you're wise about it and secure another job before bidding adieu to your current one.


Good to see schools getting more organised

Good to see schools getting more organised

I've just returned to Thailand for my second teaching stint after a five-year hiatus back in my homeland. I am back working at the same school in Chonburi Province (the school always told me that the door was open for my return) and I'm pleased to see how much more organised the school is compared to when I last worked here. Teaching schedules have been handed out in a timely manner, the admin department have done a sterling job with arranging work permits and sorting out the health insurance. It's all gone towards creating a much less stressful environment. A few other teachers I socialize with are all saying the same things about the respective schools they work at. Is the Thailand education system finally getting its act together?


You won't compete with the social media platforms

The best educator in the world is unable to compete against Facebook and the other social media platforms that students love. Don't even think about it and therefore start by removing the cause to eliminate the competition, which remains standard practice elsewhere. Banning mobile phones in the classroom initially produces effects similar to being taken off life support, yet generates immediate positive results. The usual suggested ground rules of clapping your hands for silence and expecting positive results based on the belief that 16 year old testosterone fuelled teens hooked on Facebook will suddenly behave as responsible mature adults is about as naively optimistic as it gets.

Similarly, asking the school to intervene in discipline issues is a wasted endeavour as they haven't a clue either and it's why they hired a foreigner, in the forlorn hope that if all else fails you'll substitute the missing entertainment link.


A class points system worked for me!

A class points system worked for me!

In ESL classes, there’s often this mix of teaching and fun, where teachers can end up being more like entertainers. I tried to find a balance between keeping things light and making sure that the students actually learned something. I’d joke around but also correct grammar and pronunciation gently, and throw in some of their native language here and there to show it’s okay to mess up.

But when I got a new job and moved to another school, things were different. I got fed up with students chatting while I was talking and treating class like hangout time. So, I decided to get serious. I made it crystal clear what the rules were: no talking when someone else is speaking, no phones, do your work when you’re supposed to, and don’t be late. I laid down consequences too – lose class points for breaking a rule. I put the rules up on the board and had everyone read them out loud together. Then one of the better English speakers translated them into Thai.

Once that was done, we got into the lesson. And you know what? It worked. Most of the behavior problems disappeared. Some classes needed more reminders, but overall, things got way better.


Be prepared for a much slower life

I moved from Bangkok to teach up-country but I wasn't ready for how chill village life would be. Moving to a village means everything slows down, which isn't all bad. Coming from the city, it was nice not always feeling like I had to rush somewhere or do something. But, slowing down can sometimes get a bit dull.

Living in a village doesn't offer as many hobby options as living back in Canada did. There, I could go rock climbing, hit up the library, catch a movie, shop at the mall, play paintball outdoors, watch volleyball, hang out at the city square, or take guitar lessons – endless possibilities! Now, even a walk after 8 pm is a no-go thanks to the dark and the mean stray dogs. In the village, it's either stay home and read or hit the local watering holes for a drink. That's where you'll find the town's quirky characters, like the part-time police officer and mechanic who's also the town drunk.

Living in a village means embracing the slow life, for better or for worse.


Learning Thai requires effort

Learning Thai requires effort

I'm not judging or criticizing those who choose not to learn Thai or listen. I totally get where they're coming from. Thai is a tough language and don't buy into the nonsense about its simple grammar making it easy. Especially for older folks, learning a new and tricky language can feel like a nightmare. And for many, it's just not necessary if they can get by in English and plan to move elsewhere in Asia soon. But what really bothers me are the folks who pretend they've tried to learn Thai but can't make progress. They act like I'm some kind of miracle worker when I speak Thai fluently, but I always tell them I'm not a linguist and I don't have some special talent – I just put in the effort... and I listened. It's so frustrating when I hear English speakers repeat a Thai word I've said to them, but they say it with a monotone English accent!


Downsides of a foreign teachers union in Thailand

While the notion of a teachers union in Thailand might seem like a no-brainer, let's consider why it might not be the best move:

Firstly there's the possibility of a cultural clash. Thailand's got its own vibe, and adding a foreign teachers union into the mix could stir up some serious cultural turbulence. Setting up and running a union means wading through a swamp of paperwork and bureaucracy. In a foreign land like Thailand, where rules might seem like they're written in invisible ink, it could turn into a real headache.

A union could create rifts between foreign teachers and locals or school administrators. Nobody wants to see a friendly game of tug-of-war turn into an all-out war. Trying to fix things might just break them further. Demands and disputes could end up doing more harm than good, leaving teachers in a sticky situation.

Foreign teachers come from all corners of the globe with different needs and wants. Trying to cram everyone into the same group might leave some feeling left out in the cold. Thai laws might not play nice with the idea of a foreign-led union. Trying to dance around legal hurdles could lead to a game of legal limbo that nobody wants to play.

Maybe there's a better way. Instead of going down the traditional union route, maybe it's time to think outside the box and explore other options like advocacy groups or informal networks. Bottom line? Before jumping on the union bandwagon, it's worth taking a step back and considering whether it's the right move for everyone involved. Sometimes the best intentions can lead down a bumpy road, and it's better to tread carefully than to rush in blindly.


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