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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Be wary of 'can you start on Monday?'

Be wary of 'can you start on Monday?'

I remember being a 16 year old in Scotland looking for work during the summer. I walked past a building site and asked if they needed any labourers. The guy looked me up and down and asked me if I was reliable...... I got the job.

"Can you start on Monday?" is what I'd expect someone looking for a labourer or kitchen hand to say. There are zero qualifications needed and you can't really do much damage. If you're crap, you're out on your ear by the end of the day, but there's no real risk taken by the employer.

"Can you start on Monday?" isn't something you should be hearing from a school, or any place, where your job is to take care of 'children'. If you have someone start off so quickly without doing at least some basic checks, you're putting those children's safety at risk. If my Thai wife knew that we were sending our daughter to a school who weren't doing a police-check on their teachers, our daughter would be pulled out quicker than you can say, "gross negligence". Yes, we can afford to send our kid to a good school, but that still doesn't make it okay or justifiable for others to be doing this.

If schools here don't mind employing any Tom, Dick or Harry who applies, that's up to them. I won't actively protest it. But dear God, don't celebrate it. It's up to schools how to run and manage themselves, but if you're employing random people without due diligence, you are putting children's safety and well-being at risk. That's a fact.

Celebrating (please note that this word has more than more definition) someone's right to put a child at risk because, "that's how they do it" isn't being open-minded and adaptable. It's actually looking down your nose at the local culture. Or to articulate it better, "it's the soft bigotry of low expectation".


Teaching license waivers

Teaching license waivers

Dear Ajarns, I made the mistake of working for an agency after many years of avoiding them. As they moved me from school to school I did not realise they were burning up my waivers as they did so.

An international school contacted me about a position that had opened up (I was on file with them) and I jumped at the chance. Whilst processing my work permit for the new job, the Thai MoE said I had been at three schools in a year and they were refusing me a permit. I (and my two children) were dismissed without compensation the same week and before the end of the month.

Does this mean I can never teach in a school again, or is there a time period which must pass before I can try again and hopefully get my license then?

Sincerely yours.

Ajarn D.

Beware of salaries and vacation time

After a decade spent teaching in Thailand, I've decided to call it a day. The fact is that in almost every position I've held (and it must be at least half a dozen) I've been mislead over vacation time and salary. It's just so easy here, in fact almost accepted, that employers can be economical with the truth about these matters.

I've started jobs where I've been promised eight weeks of vacation (even in a written contract) and got far fewer weeks than that. I've even quit jobs to start at other schools offering a higher salary, only to find that suddenly 45,000 a month has become 35,000 a month.

Peter Davis

Older teachers can still lead the way!

Older teachers can still lead the way!

Preventing ageism is more about taking the lead and applying standards that are right for everyone in your community. Here's an example of equal opportunity standards applied to jobs in the USA; this was taken from an ESL job announcement for the Providence Public Library in Providence, Rhode Island, USA:

Equal Opportunity
In order to provide equal employment and advancement opportunities to all individuals, employment decisions at the Providence Public Library are based on merit, qualifications, and abilities. PPL is committed to a policy of non-discrimination and equal opportunity for all employees and qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth), sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, familial status, national origin, ancestry, age (40 and above), disability, veteran status, military service, application for military service, genetic information, receipt of free medical care, or any other characteristic protected under applicable law. PPL will make reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with known disabilities, in accordance with applicable law.

No discrimination against people age 40 and above! should have this standard, because ageism in Thailand is mired in the culture or in Thai society. Someone has to take the lead to prevent ageism in Thailand! For years,, and other ESL job websites have carried ads promoting or supporting ageism. It's time for to have better standards. Lead the way!

Teachers in their 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond can be wiser and have more experience. Very importantly, the older and wiser you are, the more likely you are to have genuine compassion for students... especially important with all the possible roadblocks students can encounter, learning a second language!

Michael Heaney, Providence, RI, USA

Pathetic reply to letter accusing of being supporting ageism

I was appalled at your reply that Ajarn would do a disservice to young teachers by refusing job ads that openly declare ageist policies in hiring. I'm sure you are really worried about these young teachers (like an employer will decide to hire no one and leave the opening vacant because you did not post their ageist add??) For me it is just proof that Ajarn is a corporate entity interested in the bottom line: profits, above any kind of support for basic human rights. Disgraceful answer! This is why the 20th and 21st century unbridled capitalism that puts profits above all else has got to go! The employers also, while understanding full well that a 50-year-old teacher with 30 years of experience will be better for the students learning than a 25-year-old, still will hire the 25-year-old because we live in a society where youth and attractiveness sell; another strong indictment of this outrageous corrupt capitalism that reduces us all to the common denominator of how many dollars our 'image' is worth.

Lawrence Schultz

Enough trash talk belittling Filipino teachers!

Enough trash talk belittling Filipino teachers!

Enough trash talk belittling Filipino English teachers teaching in Thailand or somewhere else for that matter.

The fact is: teaching English does not only entail having the native accent or using impeccable English grammar but also dedicating oneself to the "ins and outs" of the teaching-learning process ensuring that every aspect falls perfectly into a unified framework. Teaching is tedious and more often than not, the best teachers are only the most patient and dedicated ones.

They are the ones who devote long hours in preparing and organizing their daily lessons with wholehearted care and dedication; they are those who are the most approachable, caring and friendly to their students. Sad to say, the native speakers fall short in these aspects whilst the Filipino teachers show the highest regard for these characteristics despite the strong discrimination they experience everywhere they work.

English may not be the Filipinos' native language but they definitely are competitive with the native speakers whether the native speakers accept it or not.

Proof? I was in Thailand last year for a teacher training course. There were 12 of us: six native speakers from New Zealand, Canada, UK, USA and Australia, five from Asia (Philippines., China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia) and one from Germany. You know what's funny though? Half of the class had to redo their research assignments and/or failed teaching demos (native speakers and other Asians) except their Filipino counterparts who passed all assignments and demos with flying colors.

How did it happen? I understood that the other Asians failed because it's not their native language after all. But the native speakers? I thought it's their language structure we're talking about. I was tongue-tied to realize that they've got no idea about their own grammar structure & language system especially when it comes to grammar analysis, lexis analysis and functions analysis. The shocking revelation of all: they cannot teach grammar! Why? Where is the "native speaker superiority syndrome" they are boasting about discriminating against the non-native speakers particularly the Filipinos?

And they had the gall to discriminate against me during class forums, group work and assignment writing. They didn't subscribe to any of my views during group forums and class inputs, but most of the time I was right when the trainers checked the group work. But who cares, I just worked on my own, wrote my own research and nailed all my research work and teaching demos (TPs) with high pass marks!. And their grades? Forget about them! Then they came to me in the end for some assistance in rewriting their research assignments. Duuuhhh! Brainless bullies!

What about class demos? One thing is certain: they're in awe whenever they saw me in action!

Need I say more?
Final Grade:
native speakers: Pass
Filipino: High Pass

Post Script: To my fellow English lecturers/teachers in Thailand. Go to the Middle East. They have high regard for Filipino teachers and they pay triple the Thailand salary.

A proud Filipino English lecturer

It's all about selling yourself

This is in response to June's letter ('It can be tough to find teaching work', Postbox 23rd September 2019)

You need to lead with your success stories: what results you've gained for others. Blow your potential customers away with the successes you've achieved.

From what you've said, the old stereotypes are kicking in and people immediately think that you can't do what you claim to do, so you need to have them convinced before they get that far.

Try and get video testimonials from your students/students' parents. That way, you can have these on your website, or wherever, to pre-sell yourself and convince them that you're the teacher they need long before any prejudices the viewer may have kick-in.

Do a video sales letter-type of thing where you start with a presentation and your voice-over, that way they can hear you talking before they see you. Show your testimonials, your results, your achievements, and that way you may have them convinced before you segue into a head-and-shoulders video shot...

"Hey, bet this wasn't what you were expecting, right? [Laugh]

Ha, ha, I know, I get this ALL the time. Right up to the point when I deliver and, well... I've already shown you some of the results that students have achieved from working with me.

Here are a few more...

This is where video testimonials, preferably with you in them, as well (like a thumbnail with you in the corner chatting with your student) - that way they can't be discounted. Note: add them here before they get a chance to exit the video, you can go into your background for those still watching.

This is just a small sample from those who I've helped, though...

A little background... I was born in SE Asia, but I grew up in... and I've taught in ... and I've helped achieve unparalled successes...
etc." And take it from there. Remove their objections BEFORE they get to the point where their prejudices engage. It won't work with everyone, but it might improve your success rate.


Korea's TEFL industry isn't great either

I've lived most of my adult life in Korea (I was born here but grew up in the U.S.) and it's still interesting to hear about the vast array of experiences in the Land of Smiles. Many here say they "moved on" to better pay and conditions in Korea, and that might be true but the ESL industry in Korea is also saturated at the moment, with employers being as picky as ever about teachers. And yes, ageism is DEFINITELY prevalent in Korea unless you have an advanced degree like a master's or higher. I do feel sorry for those in the LOS who have basically have no choice but to stay in Thailand because of ageism or other factors. That's true in Korea to a certain extent but Thailand seems to have far more farang than Korea.

Anonymous, Seoul, Korea

It can be tough to find teaching work

It can be tough to find teaching work

I'm a South Asian who grew up in Japan and worked/lived in the San Francisco Bay area for a long time. I have been trying to get an online ESL teaching job. I have a BA, a TEFL certificate, and 10 years of experience teaching ESL but I have been rejected outright after they see my CV (no idea why). I think my name gives it away that I'm Southeast Asian. I feel like I'm a good teacher and most importantly, I'm willing to grow and learn. This doesn't seem to matter. I pass the credentials but after doing the demo (they see my face) and then it feels like they're already rejected me.

I feel like I have to work harder than my white counterparts to get a job in this field. I practice a lot, have props, TPR, watch videos on how to teach young learners but once they see me, it's like I'm doomed.

Maybe I'm overthinking. But I know that discrimination is real in Asia. I grew up in Japan so I know. For us folks, we have to work harder and have above average skills, CV, education to get a job in this field. Even that is not enough because you can't do much about the color of your skin. I have even tried to look "whiter" by covering up my face in foundation and have contemplated about dying my hair brown or blonde (my hair is black).

What's going for me is that I'm pretty attractive (not boasting) so I think that helps. If you are good looking, blonde, young, the Asian recruiters will be knocking at your door.

In any case, I haven't given up yet. I'm still trying to get a job online teaching English.


40K is more than enough in Thailand

40K is more than enough in Thailand

I lived in Thailand for a year so I have an understanding about the real costs of living. I still find those figures saying that you can only live the 'Thai way', with 40K/month. I have since retired in Finland and I make about 50K/month and I can say my life is pretty decent. Now, if I moved back to Thailand with the same income, I cannot see how I'd be forced to live the 'Thai way' If this is enough for life in Finland, where pretty much everything is vastly more expensive, how can I not do it with same standards in Thailand?

I did a test back when I was living in Isaan. I was easily able to live on about 8,500 baht / month (rent, about 5,000 was paid from that) so I lived on the remaining 3,500 baht. Ok, it wasn't a "nice" life and I wasn't able to go out drinking, but managed easily with food and even some beer. Of course Isaan is different to Bangkok but still...

Dee, Finland

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