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Better qualifications can lead to better jobs

Better qualifications can lead to better jobs

In response to 'qualifications won't turn your fortunes around' (Postbox 25th March 2022), I'm halfway in agreement. While it is true that getting better qualified does not automatically lead to higher salaries, there are indeed good options here for those who look for them.

I can only speak for myself, but I left back in 2016 to get experience teaching back home. I was able to work at a public school in the States, and later at an international school in Asia. During such time, I added onto my qualifications with a graduate degree in my content area and in curriculum and instruction. I was then able to come back to Thailand in 2021 to work teaching in my content area. The salary is in line with what I have made with my previous two jobs, which affords me a nice life if I may say so.

The jobs *are* out there. Admittedly, it's not a guarantee but to suggest that there aren't jobs here to support a decent life is simply silly. Now admittedly, I don't teach ESOL (though I did for much of my career) but the experience doing so has helped me with my students, who are varied levels of ELLs. I would say that if you are experienced in teaching your content area, there are jobs to be had. I think many teachers who stick it out here and improve their skills and qualifications find themselves in better jobs. For those considering upgrading their qualifications, while it is true that it is no guarantee of a massive upgrade there are jobs to be had.


Qualifications won't turn your fortunes around

Teaching in Thailand is a joke. Most of the things pulling you here can be found in other South East Asian countries. For what many of these so-called 'international' schools are offering, in terms of salary, a non-degree holder could likely achieve in countries such as Vietnam.

Many schools in Thailand simply don't respect foreign teachers (of any nationality) and contracts are meaningless and frequently dishonoured. You don't even want to try bothering with these 30-40k jobs, especially in Bangkok. If you choose to, consider that they may not pay for your holidays and likely don't provide any meaningful health insurance. In addition, I have found that you often need to budget for materials, if you wish to make your classes interesting/ enjoyable.

After arriving with no degree and no experience, 8 years ago, I now earn about 100 pounds a month more than I did then. This is having gained a BA in TESOL and an M.Ed. Take it with a shovel of salt when people claim that gaining education qualifications will turn your fortunes around in Thailand. The reality for myself, and many other teachers I know, is that you put in a shift at school (hybrid learning and clown world goof rules) and then have to go home and do 2-3 hours of online teaching or you're living hand to mouth. Have a good read through the letters on Ajarn, to get a feel for the situation, and just look at the qualifications the job ads are demanding in return for what they're offering. In short, do your research before coming here. I'm on my way out.


The 'unwanted' senior teacher role

The 'unwanted' senior teacher role

"A difficult school to work in is only made all the more so with chancers" - the chancers are only allowed to exist because of the schools and agencies employ them.

I worked for a language centre at the beginning for two years. No help from anyone. I was left to work it out for myself. I taught everything from young kids to IETLS. I loved the job and the learning curve, but I needed a job with more social hours.

I got a nice little job at a kindergarten school. 8-4pm and weekends completely off. I went to the interview with a nice shirt and tie. I had a copy of my degree and CELTA, and a CV with 2 years of experience teaching children and adults. I got the job and started off on 35k a month (this was over 10 years ago and they're still paying the same). I noticed very quickly that this school would employ anyone. Experience or not, degree or not, teaching cert or not, and even smart attire or not. That's right, some people rocked up to the school wearing shorts and t-shirts and were given jobs there and then.

After my first year, the school employed three young British girls. They were like 20/21. They had no experience and no qualifications at all. They were here to travel and party. I don't blame them for taking the job. Someone basically offered them a working holiday and they took it. But it made me realize the importance of worrying about your own work, your own class and your own business.

Anyway, about one week into the summer camp I get a phone call. My boss from the agency sounds very worried and tells me the school has complained. Now, I know full well the complaints aren't about me, so I play it dumb and ask, "oh, what have I done wrong? What did the school say about ME? She sounds even more worried and tells me, "Oh, not you, Liam. The school really like you and say you're doing a wonderful job". Again, I know where she's heading with this but I continue to play dumb. Like if the complaints aren't about me, why are you calling ME?

She goes on to tell me that the new girls aren't really teaching. They're just letting the kids play with toys and showing cartoons. This woman is so feckless and bad at her job, that she doesn't have the decency to just say exactly what she wants. She wants me to say it for her like it's my idea. I knew what she was doing so I had some fun with it. I told her that's terrible and it's hard to find good teachers. I knew she had their numbers but I offered to text her their phone numbers so she could speak directly to them.

At this point I can hear the despair in her voice. She's getting annoyed with me and losing face because I'm not allowing her to take advantage of me. She finally tells me that I've been at the school for a year. I'm a great teacher who the school likes. I thank her for her kind words but I continue to be confused as to why she's calling me. She tells me that I'm a "senior teacher" now. And as a 'senior teacher', It's my job to take new teachers under my wing, show them how to teach and be responsible. I tell her that I'm not a senior teacher. I'm no one's boss and this is the first I'm hearing of this.

She continues with, "no, you ARE a senior teacher. You get paid more than they do". This is the point where I snapped and got really pissed off with her. I kept my cool but I was very stern and articulate in explaining my position. I told her that I get 1k a month more than they do. The reason I get a measly 1k more a month is cos I did a year already. Nowhere in my contract does it say I'm a senior teacher and responsible for anyone else. In fact, it's the same contract as my first one, just with 36k a month as opposed to 35k.

I tell her that I started off just a year ago with the same salary. Me, with a degree, CELTA and 2 years experience. I told her that if she wants me to be a "senior teacher" - she can discuss it with me in person and we can talk about more money. That's even if I would want the position anyway. She tells me she's disappointed with my attitude. Again, this really pisses me off, so I tell her that I have a great attitude. I come to work and do my job well. And seeing as these three girls aren't doing that, they're the ones with the bad attitude so call them and tell them this.

I'm the kind of teacher who will always help his fellow teacher. Fellow anything depending on the job. I know what it's like to be new in a job. But at the end of the day, you have to ask for help. This agency I worked for thought that not only could they employ anyone without doing their due diligence, but that the good teachers there would do their job for them also.


Farang, Farang, Farang

Farang, Farang, Farang

I came to Thailand 5 years ago, found a job at a private school in Nonthaburi and I've been working at this school ever since. I can't really compare it with other schools, but from what I heard from other foreign teachers, our school isn't all that bad. Some local teachers seem to be friendly and polite. However, on many occasions, I've heard Thai teachers referring to me and other foreign teachers as "farang" at school, in front of everybody, including the students. But we teach our students to say "teacher'.

I understand if someone calls me farang in the street, outside the school, that they don't mean to be rude. It's just what Thais call us. But it's not appropriate to use this word at school, in front of everybody, including the foreign teachers. I'm a fully qualified teacher by the way. Five years at the school and still a farang. I'm just sick and tired of the attitude/lack of manners. Dear colleagues, do you have the same experience at your schools? Is it the time for me to find another school? I just want to work at the school where people acknowledge you and give a little respect.


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

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Air your views

Air your views

Got something to say on the topic of teaching, working or living in Thailand? The Ajarn Postbox is the place. Send us your letters!

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