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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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.


Beware of reverse culture shock

Beware of reverse culture shock

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.


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

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