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.
It is not a surprise that Thai students score so low on English tests because they don't sense any urgency in learning English.
At the school I work at, they show more enthusiasm for learning Chinese than English. Also, because the Thai "English teachers" don't know how to speak English themselves and the kids learn from this bad example.
It's a shame that they don't consider things like attendance as part of their grade and they also cheat on their assignments and tests with no repercussions. As I was grading my students' finals, which are "supervised", I read the exact same answers on every test in a classroom. These were essay questions and there was the EXACT SAME RESPONSE. But say anything about anything and the school management will not like it.
It's really unfortunate that they don't take school seriously in general. Students are frequently out of class doing "activities". These are usually things like singing and dancing. These activities should be second priority to subjects that prepare them for real life, but it just simply isn't.
Hi guys, I've just finished an 18 month stint teaching in Thailand. I had tremendous trouble finding a decent job when I first arrived, in fact it was two months from the time of arriving in Thailand to my actual first day as a teacher. I thought I would write this piece to help those who are in the same position as I was. After having worked in a school with both farangs and thais, I had a lot better understanding of how things work by the end of my stint.
The reality is that most thai administration staff simply delete emails that are written in English, as they either can't understand them or can't be bothered to get someone to translate it to them. The best course of action is to make a list of the jobs you are interested in or schools/universities/language centres in your area, make a list of their addresses, dress decently and show something that resembles respect for Thai culture (a wai, greet the staff in Thai etc) and you are going to be ahead of the pack.
Emailing and phoning schools and agencies is a complete waste of your time, so don't do it. You will invariably get an interview or you will speak to a principal by having done the leg work, which is more than probably 60% of your competitors. The clincher for me was my demo lesson. I presented to a group of thai teachers (mock students, all ladies!) and just made it fun (sanook), inclusive and got everyone excited. If you don't think you can be fun, just base your demo lesson around a game, thais love games, they get excited, you'll be seen as a 'fun' teacher and you won't be forgotten once you walk out the door.
Finally, it's up to you to follow up. Thais are lovely, caring, kind-hearted people, but they can be extremely forgetful and lazy and if someone tells you they'll call you back, nine times out of ten they won't. It's up to you, you must follow up after your initial meeting, preferably again in person. In my time in Thailand I saw so many dead-beat teachers turn up for interviews under-prepared and then wonder why they didn't get the job. It's not rocket science. Be prepared, have a philosophy or style, make it fun and follow up. No one's going to hand you a job in Thailand, farangs are a dime a dozen, it's up to you to go out to a school, impress them and make them want to employ you.
I've always kept myself to myself. I've worked in a total of 5 schools. I've always completed contracts and I've stayed in some schools for more than a year. I've been in my current job for 4 years now, and it's by far the best job I have had. The reason? I'm left alone.
In previous jobs I noticed a trend - the better you are at your job, the more that's expected of you. Now, that's fine if there are rewards or you feel appreciated, but when the schools you work in keep giving jobs out to anyone, and you have to constantly clean up their mess, you soon learn to concentrate more on your job, and you stop worrying about trying to impress and do favours.
My school knows I'm always willing to help and do favours, but they also know that everyone has their responsibilities. My responsibility as a homeroom teacher is to take care of my kids before all else. It's what the parents pay for and it's what I signed up to do.
Teaching rates three decades ago seem near the same as today, which is shocking. I was first paid 100 Baht an hour in Bangkok so back then a hard working popular teacher could easily make 20K a month. That was standard bottom end and common. Many teachers made 30K, some 40K, some even more.
By chance my school closed, and while workmates scrambled to find work again, I said I would try to improve my image with a new necktie, better shirt, and importantly, overpriced Italian shoes. I asked for a thousand Baht an hour, and I got it. Two years later I was charging between 800-2,400 an hour depending on the students. Most importantly; I got results, kids learnt to use English, real working English language, and within just months.
Put your heart into it, make the time real, alive, fun, and personalize all of it, rewrite lessons as you go, adjusting to the moment. Just going through the standard steps of each lesson achieves little, compared to living real life activity. Playing games, laughing, competing, arranging and understanding stuff together, eating, cleaning up, behaving with emotion, it's all language development. When the students ask for more and tell thier parents they 'want to study', you will be appreciated and paid accordingly.
The shoes may have helped, probably helped me more than anything, but once it's working, it's so rewarding. Teaching is a great profession and although it may not appear easy; it can pay well. I used to teach just four days a week, but I worked hard and enjoyed it. My income back then was about 100K, sometimes quite a bit more. Choose your company carefully, many expats only ever get to know the lower working classes. There's a lot more to Thailand than streetside food sellers and taxi riders. Discover the normal working classes and beyond, it becomes much more interesting and lucrative.
This view that Thai teachers are poorly paid isn't quite true. Yes, new or junior teachers start with a lower salary but once they become government contracted, they then have a career for life, with annual increases, options for low-interest loans, extra funds for work-related trips, and extra work. Many teachers with ten or more years of teaching have cars, houses and other businesses on the side, including some who rent out snack bar spaces outside the schools, own shops or accommodation that is rented to the NES teachers. Some are as crooked as some police officers, the sooner they are retired, the sooner a cleaner more student-focused group of teachers will prevail.
With pretty much ten years of teaching under my belt I know how to sort out a decent lesson. Moreover, I would be throughly embarrassed standing in front of students not having made the best attempt I am capable of to deliver content. Here are my issues
1) Each school is different. Even if you teach an identical course it will vastly differ from one school to the next assuming your operating above bog standard schools.
2) I knew after X months I wanted to change schools. Primary reason was money but aggro not far behind.
3) Every year admins would get clever ideas to place me here or there to stop gaps. Usually, I'd be on my way out anyway but who wants to write a year's lessons only to be yanked here and there always without pay increase.
4) I have enough subject knowledge to carry the lesson and by the time I've crafted the PowerPoint it's all pretty much in my head.
5) I really detest learning objectives and crap like SWBAT. Lol, really? SWBAT?? Funny because they've had this **** for years but still never glommed on. But now, super teacher students WILL be able to recite the fourth conditional backward. Even in the best Thai classrooms it's Thai EFL and there are limits.
6) I'm learning and growing. Despite teaching the same thing I'm looking for fresh ways especially with technology to deliver content.
7) I've spent waaay too much time in this job already. Despite having a sound knowledge of my course content I still spend huge amounts of time with my head in the job. Before everyone else says me too - no, I've only known one teacher in nearly ten years that beats me for hours dedicated.
8) I put some detail into course outlines.
I find most teachers simply can't be bothered with any of it. A teacher you've already identified as unimpressive will have no lesson plans, course outlines or any direction. That's clear indication of a fraud.
I left Thailand for the UK a few years ago to try and get on the career ladder with a "real job". Yeah at the beginning it was ok, seeing friends, family etc. But reverse culture shock hit 100 x worse.
Trying to settle back into the "normality" in a corporate office job with a load of people who've never left and either couldn't comprehend my experiences or didn't care since their lives revolved around working all week, getting drunk at the weekend, watching football and the occasional holiday to Benidorm. Boredom set in fast as I daydreamed about whizzing through the jungle on a motorbike while looking out the office window at the grey, rainy street wondering where life went wrong. I couldn't hack the monotony of life in the UK and after a year, I packed up and came back to Asia. The UK isn't for everyone and it sure wasn't for me. Reverse culture shock bites hard, especially in somewhere as dreary and dull as the UK. Many returning expats I knew had similar problems and ended up leaving again within a year or two.
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
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.
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"
Agent "I don't want you contacting the school without us because we would lose our commission"
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"
Agent: "we will hold 3,000 baht every month from your salary and give it to you at the end of your contract"
Agent: "so we know you will complete your contract and not leave early because of the working conditions"
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.
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"
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.
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