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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Don't do your post-graduate studies outside of Thailand

In the past, a well-know organization recommended completing postgraduate studies in Thailand or in the Philippines. Teachers completed their post-graduate studies, got their licenses and everything was OK. At the end of 2021 everything changed for those who used the Filipino intermediary. Many teachers received their diplomas along with their CAVs (from Filipino Comission on Higher Education) and applied for licenses.

The response from a well-known organization was shocking: you must take the exam, but if you want to take the exam you should first present an equivalence of educational qualification from the Thai Ministry of Higher Education. Of course it takes several months to get this document and teachers didn't get it on time.

In conclusion, many teachers have neither been licensed nor given the opportunity to write the exam. Has anyone been held accountable for destroying the lives of dozens of teachers? Of course not.


My approach to parent complaints

My approach to parent complaints

I only take parent complaints seriously if they're easy to understand or the school explains them properly.

I wasted a whole lot of time trying to work out one complaint in the past. I got a text message one day from the boss and it said 'parents complained. Do more speaking'. I was thinking which class and how many parents. In my school we teach three different kinds of English class. One for conversation, one for general English, and one for grammar. I asked my boss which class and which lessons she was talking about but she was too feckless to answer.

My school is a private school so students pay more money if they want more English. If you pay the basic fee, you get general and grammar. If you pay more , you get more general English AND conversation. I wasn't annoyed with the complaint because it upset my ego, I was annoyed because I wanted to know what it was about.

In general English we do everything. We have a book and we follow it. Same for grammar. With conversation, we have a book, but the kids don't do any writing. It's just a reference. We do lots of acting and role plays. It's the kids favourite subject, and I admit, it is good fun. Something like grammar is pretty boring, but I've been given a book and been asked to teach it. They also remind us every year to finish every unit.

I finally worked out it was one set of parents who complained. They had paid the basic fee and complained about not much conversation practice in grammar class. I explained to the school how grammar classes work, but all they could say is 'do more conversation in grammar class'. I explained that if I do more conversation in 'grammar' class, other parents then might complain we aren't doing enough grammar. Also, we have to finish the books. Something I struggle to do.

I explained how putting words like 'grammar class' and 'conversation class' might just be buzzwords for them to sell courses, but to me they mean something. And maybe they should tell the parents that if they want more conversation, put their kid in the 'conversation class'. The school not only wanted me to magically include more conversation in grammar class, but to do so and finish their big grammar book.

In the end I don't think the school could actually give a shit. I think they just took pleasure in forwarding the complaint to me. They made no effort to speak to the parents to ask for clarification, and they certainly didn't come and speak to me and get my side. Just 'parents complain you fix'.

Now I've learnt that on the rare occasion I get a complaint, you just smile and nod. Then you never hear about it again. As a colleague said to me, it's probably more of a cultural thing. They tell you a completely vague and unclear complaint and they just expect you to smile, fix it and say more. But still, what's the point in forwarding complaints if you neither understand them nor care about them?

And before anyone wants to call me a basher or negative Nancy, no, I'm not. I take pride in my work and make a real effort. Something my students recognize and appreciate.


I don't worry about complaints

I don't worry about complaints

As long as the majority of the parents and students in my class are happy, I don't worry about complaints. There will always be parents or students who have something to complain about, so all you can do is take that complaint on board, and judge it on its merits.

I had a new girl join my class one time. After about a few months I was told the parents had complained. They told me the mother had complained that she comes home and doesn't speak English. That she's been learning English for a few months and nothing has improved.

Now, I'm the kind of teacher who likes to manage his class. You can't teach kids if you don't manage them at the beginning and show them how they're supposed to learn. This girl joined late from another school. It took a few weeks to get her adjusted, as she didn't know how to listen, sit still, not talk when I'm talking, etc. I teach kids what I expect of them from the beginning. And once you've mastered that, the kids will know how to conduct themselves well in class. And that means you've laid the foundations for a solid learning environment.

The worst kind of complainers are the ones who do it because they're insecure and need to assert themselves. Hell, I've even had farang bosses do this to me. I can only ascertain that they didn't like the fact that I knew how to teach already when I joined and didn't need them micro managing me or constantly asking for their help.

I had a pair of farang bosses actually call a meeting with me as they were very concerned about my teaching style. One of them had never actually seen me teach and was just taking the word of his partner in crime, who'd only seen me teach once, and even said it was a good lesson. I remember how they had clearly rehearsed the whole thing before. And there was me, pretending that I was taking them seriously, nodding and agreeing while they referred to one of my students as a "ghost student". Apparently that's a quiet student who doesn't participate. Only problem was they named a student who was the complete opposite of that.

As soon as they said it, I was so relieved (neither of them had any idea who was who or what they were like). It was just confirmation that these two clowns felt so threatened by a teacher who knew how to do his job, that they made up a load of BS so they could assert themselves to fill those huge insecurities in their lives. It was an utter embarrassment. Oh, and they were so worried about my teaching style that they never came to observe after.

So, lots of complaints will be valid. I think anyone who doesn't take themselves too seriously can decipher what's legit or not. Sometimes, unfortunately, you will get insecure idiots feeling the need to try and control you or tell you what to do just because they can. I think these people have really shown themselves during covid. It's just a shame there are weak and insecure idiots like this in education, too.


Observations on contracts, work permits and toxic staffrooms

If you are a 'fake' teacher and worrying about the number of temporary teaching certificates you can get, then the key is to decide before your employer applies for your license. Sometimes this is immediate, and sometimes you have to wait a few months. Nothing is worse than realizing the other teachers are super toxic right after you got another license. I think you only get 3 or 4, for a maximum of 8 years. As everyone knows, it’s good for two years, or whenever you leave, whichever comes first.

Contracts are probably OK with a government school and likely garbage for a private school (based on what I’ve heard). Sure, you can go to Bangkok and take a private school to court but it seems like a waste of time. The contract is the last thing on my mind. Extra work, horrible foreign teachers (insert 100 pages of laws broken), or simply just a bad environment should be figured out in about a week. Worse case, delay with the teaching license and non-B and leave after getting your first paycheck. Note: I wouldn’t continue to work in that province, however, if you burn a bridge this way.

I’ve seen foreign teachers hit kids and luckily I didn’t have a work permit yet, so an easy exit. School said that was probably the only time this particular teacher hit kids. Yeah, OK, I’m out of here. Avoid the gossip. That is impossible, sorry. Foreign teachers will try to get you fired and people will tell you. If you are from the UK or America, no school is firing you in this environment. Probation seems to only work with agencies, since they promise a fluent English speaker and the joker can’t even introduce himself without struggling. Easily fired, replaced, and usually a different problem. It took me three schools in a big city before I finally found a place that understood how to find good people. Best advice: Don’t worry about anything; enjoy your time with your kids, understand it’s a part-time experience, and move on. The worst losers are the 10-year veterans who hate absolutely everything but smile at the Thai teachers as they act like everything is great.


Low test scores are no surprise

Low test scores are no surprise

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.


Stay positive

Stay positive

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.

Steve B

Focus on your own job

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.


How to make money as a teacher

How to make money as a teacher

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.


The Thai teacher pay myth

The Thai teacher pay myth

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.


Delivering a good lesson

Delivering a good lesson

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.


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