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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My take on agencies

My take on agencies

A lot of people want to know what it would be like to work in Thailand. After having been here for 8 years I will tell you.

My first job paid was 38,000 a month plus a 2,000 baht travel allowance. That was 8 years ago with no experience. I was teaching IEP and working pretty hard. The salaries have gone down since then for the run of the mill agency jobs. Now I am not openly against agencies but the greed and corruption has become too much to bear.

Most agencies it appears are now grabbing the newbies and I call them “newbies” because they are not yet teachers from the TEFL courses on some island somewhere. 1500$ or something like that and a party in Phuket and Samui and three weeks later they have been offered a job somewhere – in some government school somewhere with some assistance from the agency. It depends on the agency.

Normally the newbies are only too happy to have a job and just say yes to everything and to be fair to them, that is what you have to do. Maybe those of us who have been around for a while have become jaded by the system. Waiing the boss can be pain – unless she returns the favour and wais me back. I will not wai anyone unless they reciprocate – and that means everyone from the boss all the way down to the cleaner. If the cleaner wais me I will wai her back.

For the last two years of so, I had the misfortune to be thrust back into agency jobs and sometimes it was fun and sometimes the kids would want to learn something, but the agencies and their management have become overbearing.

Last year I was on 38,000 for nine months of the year. Holy Christ how things have fallen? And having some self-inflated knobhead coming around barking orders the way he wanted it to be. Given I had 7 years’ experience and am a good teacher – my kids learn something – I am reluctant to take advice about how they think a lesson should be – planning It right down to the micro level.

As a new teacher you could expect 25-30,000 a month. That would be paid 9 months of the year. They will not get you a work permit, no matter what they say, unless it has been specifically mentioned and they do it the day you arrive - it will not happen. You will have to do visa runs to Laos normally. That will cost 6-7,000 baht and you will have to do that every three months maybe. You will then be on a tourist visa. That will be 60 days which can be extended at Chaeng Wattana for 1900 Baht for another 30 days. That might include a taxi there and back, four hours in a queue and some photographs etc. Keep some money for that. Going overstay basically means going to jail (if caught) unless you can pay the fine. It has happened to many. If you think Bangkok as a teacher is all about partying and going to the island every month, think again.

You will be expected to wai everyone including the dog (joke) You will be expected to be at school early, leave late and have a smile on your dial at all times. From the end of February to the middle of May there will be no work around and you will not be paid. You will then have to find money from somewhere else – savings, mummy and daddy back home, or possibly extra work which will be in very short supply because everyone will be looking for it.

Your accommodation will be about 5,000 a month in Bangkok for a decent apartment, 7,000 if you include bills. If you want something better you can find it of course. If you want something worse – you can get something down to about 2 or 2.5K but really not worth the hassle. That said many Thais live like that, no problem. No air-con, no hot water (which is a must in the winter). Morning traffic in Bangkok is murder. You need a way to travel and fast to get to school. Normally a taxi or motorbike (rented) not motorbike taxi.

Taxis are expensive (relatively) unless you share. Staying near schools is recommended but then you are stuck there.
Driving a motorbike is dangerous. Always have a full face helmet. Having an accident often means sorting it out on the side of the road, and paying money there and then. Unless you are so damaged they take you to hospital (another need for hospital insurance) where you can be in for big bucks. Do not drink and drive. It is not worth it. There are road blocks everywhere.

If you think you are going to the full moon party for the whole of April down the wonderful island of Samui, that might be a pipe dream unless you have saved money or money from back home. You may be eating a 5 baht bowl of noodles nursing a beer, trying to see it through the lean months.

Thought that might be useful, direct and honest.

Chuck, Bangkok


Goodbye you slave drivers!

Goodbye you slave drivers!

I've been offered a great job in China paying twice my current salary in Thailand (close to 100k per month). I've still got to work for a fair few months yet, but I can't wait to leave.

The agent I have here in Thailand is a slave driver who likes to get his staff in on weekends for free. This is simply to make him look good with the owners in my opinon. It's supposedly all about 'personal development', but that is total BS. He's taking a shed load of cash off each employee, of course.

Funniest moment was him sending a message from his latest model iPhone to everyone in our Facebook group about 'being happy with what you have and that money and possessions aren't everything' or suchlike. This was probably aimed mainly at the enslaved Pinoy teachers (on around 15k a month before tax) and he typed it from his five million baht Range Rover lol (I got the message just as I passed his car in the car park). I bet he never thought about the irony involved right there.

Now he's on thin ice as there are only four native English speaking teachers left out of an original twenty or so. The staff-room now looks like a downtown Manila coffee shop. The Thais love all that bowing and scraping and the fact that they never say 'no' and will work for peanuts.

Decent native English speaking teachers with any self- respect left should be planning their escapes from this place asap. I've decided that Thailand is a lovely place for a holiday, but a crappy one to work in.

Yep. Greedy agents (most of whom will soon be gone from the Thai education industry) and an education system behind the times (with too much grovelling involved nowadays) has done for many of us, it seems.

Nigel


TEFL jobs dying a slow death?

TEFL jobs dying a slow death?

English teaching jobs at a TEFL level are dying a slow death in Thailand. I still have friends who work for a couple of my former agencies and they said it's getting harder and harder to find teachers. A mix of not having teachers available on tourist visas and the massive emergence of online work. What have the school and agencies done to prepare? Absolutely nothing.

My friend suggested to his boss that they pay more money or offer any form of benefits. He said his boss became so indignant at the suggestion. This kinda mentality of, "I've been earning this amount of profit every month and I will not lose a single satang".

There are teachers leaving and other teachers quitting the extra work to go online. One loyal teacher left after three years to go online. He told another friend he would have continued the weekend work as an extra, but when he quit, they didn't even say thanks. His attitude was, 'f*** you, then". Now they're threatening teachers who don't want to do their extra work. The threats are empty and the teachers know it. It's pathetic.

Teaching is great if you can find that balance of a good job (one where you're left alone and not squeezed to to keep doing more simply because you're good and reliable). Add to that online work, and you can easily be pulling in at least 70k a month with your weekends free. I've found that balance and I'm happy for now. But I keep looking at the jobs. And I know the power is with me now. Same as it is with any teacher worth their salt.

My advice for any agency owners; pay up or pack up. Your time is up. And I for one will be glad to see the back of you.

Craig


Everyone will pass!

Everyone will pass!

Until the standards in education are raised, students will never get ahead and the their standard of English will not improve. A lot of it stems from the “mai pen rai” attitude.

I’ve been teaching here a little over twenty years and have heard students say they don’t care if they fail because they know they will still pass. 50 is passing and even if they score lower, they still get a 50 to pass.

I am teaching grade two in IEP and my students do better in speaking and understanding English than the high school students in the bilingual program. I try to make them speak English in class and at lunch time. Have to keep reminding them, but they are doing better. They are only to speak Thai when having a Thai subject.

It is difficult at times because the Thai teachers and the directors do not speak English and this is a bilingual school.

Roy


I am just dust on the shoes

I teach English at a private primary school just outside Khon Kaen and I feel like the dust on the shoes of Thai education. This was well illustrated by an incident which occurred last Thursday.

After handing out worksheets to the pupils I asked the regular form teacher if she would explain in Thai that I planned to circulate around the classroom and try get each student to read with me, She flatly refused shouting NO!! in a strident voice and proceeded to flounce out of the classroom. She would not behave like that in front of her Thai colleagues.

Unlike my other colleagues I do not have my own classroom. I am routinely referred to as 'the farang' by a senior teacher. It took a major effort not to tell them to take this job and shove it. At times I feel I am just pissing in the wind here.

David


25 teacher mistakes / rules to teach by

25 teacher mistakes / rules to teach by

1. Take the job seriously, each and every day. Teaching is serious business. You are charged to mind and educate minors. You see Thai teachers screwing around? You're at the wrong school - or the right one.
2. Wear professional clothing. A button down collar shirt at the very least.
3. Don't show up a few minutes before class or worse, late.
4. Don't show deference especially to admin and head teachers. Even cleaning staff you should be polite to.
5. Don't turn on the air-conditioning before 8 am unless it's expressly allowed.
6. Never do anything to Thai staff that would allow them to lose face.
7. Don't play games in class unless they are connected directly to a learning objective and lesson plan.
8. Plan. Plan. Plan.
9. Try not to give your lesson plans to the school if at all possible.
10. Don't give lazy teachers anything. You'll never get anything in return except headaches and more work. Sideline them fast.
11. If you work really hard in your first year, you still don't get to be head teacher.
12. Figure out fast where the pay scale tops at.
13. Never work more than 20 hours a week.
14. Never do more than three courses.
15. Don't work in a school that does not have functioning LCD and audio in all its rooms.
16. Remember all your kids names. Every single one.
17. Never drink more than five drinks the night before work. 0-2 is preferable.
18. Get a good night's sleep and never look like you've been out all night when you step in the office or in class.
19. Tell the students your door is always open - and mean it.
20. Learn what the TCT is and does. Become an authority on it as well as your visa type.
21. Don't stop caring. If you run into trouble, care more.
22. If it's not working for you, get out. You're not fooling anyone.
23. Never do anything, ANYTHING, creepy towards the students. Never make off color comments or mention the Royal family or politics.
24. Don't bring sandwiches to work. That's just gay.
25. Love your students.

Finally, learn wtf you are doing in a classroom immediately. Learn about the four skills, pronunciation and yes grammar. Learn how to properly run skills assessments and how to write a lesson plan.

James


You can live in Bangkok on 30K a month - but I wouldn't

It always cracks me up just how heated these debates get on what a person can or cannot live on in Bangkok (or Thailand in general). And of course people frequently have these same arguments when it comes to what a “livable wage” is in their own countries as well.

For example I constantly get into heated arguments with my sister over her insistence that it is not even in the realm of possibility that she could ever afford to move back here to California - where she was born and raised by the way. This despite the fact that millions of people manage to live here just fine while making even less money than she does.

In any case, naturally you CAN live in Bangkok on 30K a month. After all, there are currently millions of people doing just that. For a foreigner living in Bangkok however I think the real question is; is 30k enough to live in the manner to which you have become accustomed back in your own country? And I think the answer to this question for most people would be a resounding “NO”.

Living the same as you do back home of course means that you live in an apartment or house that is just as nice and just as large as what you had back home (and in as nice an area). It also means having your own car, or at least a motorcycle, and being able to pursue all the same hobbies and other interests that you enjoyed back home. For me personally this would mean making an absolute bare minimum of about 60,000 baht a month, which is about what you would earn per month working a 40-hour a week minimum wage job here in California.

And of course, since I have spent pretty much my entire adult life living on the coast, this means I would need to live on the coast in Thailand as well and unfortunately properties in coastal areas in Thailand are extremely overpriced relative to the Thai economy. In fact, condos in Patong or Kata Beach in Phuket cost nearly as much per square meter as they do right here in idyllic San Luis Obispo, California. When my girlfriend and I were living in Phuket we actually got by fine on 60k a month but we were also not able to put anything aside for emergencies. And we certainly did not have enough money to travel around Asia much or to buy any luxury items.

The bottom line is, if I were forced to move to Bangkok with only 30k a month to live on I could definitely make it work. But I would never in a million years CHOOSE to move to Bangkok with only that much money to live on.

Ken


15,000 baht a month is degrading

15,000 baht a month is degrading

I am so thankful for ajarn.com that I was able to get a job the very first time I came here in Thailand and I am still using it until now to find a much better career. I am just so disappointed to see posts that are only offering 15,000 baht for Filipinos. Why? Is it because we are Filipinos and we only deserve this kind of amount?

We are also living in this world, we buy food, rent apartments and pay bills and we even send money back to our loved ones. How far do you think 15,000 goes?

I am not disappointed with the ajarn website but I am disappointed with the job ads from whoever posts them. We are here in Thailand because we want to earn a living and we want to have a better lives compared to our lives back home.

Some Filipinos would rather grab at these small salaries than to have no work at all. But do you think they are reasonable enough? If schools can't offer higher than 15,000 then don't hire a Filipino, they shouldn't offer such low amounts. It's just so degrading for me.

Loy


Teachers standards are dropping at my school

Teachers standards are dropping at my school

I'd like to share my observations of the teachers whom I'm tasked with observing.

Firstly, I don't employ teachers. I have nothing to do with the recruiting process (thank god) and I merely have to observe them when scheduled or when the teachers get complaints (it's happening a lot more now).

The standard of teaching has dramatically dropped at my school. Not just the teaching, but the quality of the teachers to come to work everyday, show up on time, not be doing something stupid at work, etc. My agency seems to be having great difficulty even employing the most basic teachers. They just seem to be employing anyone with a degree or anyone who can stay here longer than three months. And the results are getting my agency into hot water.

I've observed first hand how bad these teachers are. They should not be allowed to be anywhere near a classroom. We still have great teachers who've been at my school for years or who are new, it's just we are getting a lot more bad and throw-away teachers. It's painful watching some of these people teach and me having to observe them. Unless my feedback is good, my bosses don't wanna know. They just bury their heads in the sand or try to blame me. Again, I don't employ or supervise anyone. I've been given the task of doing observations simply because of how long I've been at my school and my experience.

I'm becoming fearful for where it's all going. I can't win. If I give them bad grades, I get told to to basically threaten them (not my job) and to 'guide' them. I'll help however I can, but the teachers have to want help. They have to want to better themselves. When they get a good grade, the agency pretends like there was never a problem until it comes back. There are complaints every single day.

Who'd want to be entrusted with finding teachers now? It must be impossible. I don't want to observe anymore. I feel I'm being used as someone who can take away some of the blame from the agency. When I took the role, I specifically explained how I will give them feedback but the agency have to address that feedback. I just want to be the messenger. No good deed and all that.

Dave


Filipino teachers need to get tougher

Filipino teachers need to get tougher

I work with about nine Filipino teachers. I'm one of only three native- English speakers left at my school. The school I work for only employ those with degrees or post grads in subjects related to education (for WP reasons), which is probably why we have so many Filipinos. not many natives with B.Eds or PGCEs/M.Eds would work here.

I only work here due to practical reasons at the moment (location due to wife's job), but we're off (probably back to the UK) when this contract ends.

On the whole, Filipinos are lovely people. Quite religious in many ways and always polite and helpful. However, they do speak their own language most of the time in the staff-room. Nothing wrong with that, but I've heard arguments saying that Filipinos who teach English abroad only speak English when at school. That is complete nonsense. They also speak a lot of Thai to their students too. I know of one 'English' teacher at my school who speaks Thai about 90% of the time to her pupils.

We make exams for each other (the school will not allow a teacher to make his own tests) and I don't get to see them until the exam day. Exams get 'passed' before the exam date by a Filipino boss. The last lot I got back were full of grammatical errors. To the point where I had to give the pupils a mark as the questions made no sense (sometimes more than one answer could be correct or the question made no sense at all). Of course, English is not their first language, so to expect them to get it 'right' all of the time is wrong. Even native-speakers make errors, of course. However, my experience is that they make a lot of errors.

They are also their own worst enemy (in my experience, which is fairly narrow if i'm being honest). The Filipinos at my school are overly obedient and never question management. To the point that they end up working evenings and weekends for free. The Thai management see this and now expect the same from westerners. Obviously, this is harder to implement. Not due to 'white privilege' or other such nonsense, but due to coming from cultures where employees have rights and will, if pushed, make their feelings known and move on to a different employer. We may be 'in Rome', but we won't be taken advantage of as easily.

This is why you will see more and more Filipinos and an ever decreasing number of native speakers of English in Thailand. China is now offering twice the salary and many of those jobs also offer free accommodation. The Thais either cannot (or will not) compete with this. Thai management love the bowing and scraping. In their eyes, Westerners are not very good at this and some are not afraid to 'answer back'. I've never seen a Filipino question a management decision. I've seen one agree to working three Saturdays in a row for free! They asked me too, and you can guess my response.

This has now caused me a few issues and I'm seen as a 'trouble maker' for refusing to work for free on Saturdays and Sundays, which is not part of contract. If, like me, the Filipinos stood up for themselves then perhaps I wouldn't be seen as 'the odd one out'. Of course, they whine constantly in the staff room about being taken advantage of, but never say or do anything to stop it! They had the chance when I spoke up, but they just put their heads down.

As I, said, I think they're all lovely hard-working people, but I just wish they would stand up for themselves a little more, because the Thais and at times, western agents, can (and do) take advantage of their good nature.

Joe, Bangkok


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