I worked for many schools in China.
Some schools declined to renew my contract, but no school in China dismissed me mid semester, i.e, after the probation period. Most schools gave me a recommendation letter. The last four schools invited me to renew my contract. The supervisor at my last school gave me a perfect ten on every item of my evaluation. By contrast, I have taught at five schools in Thailand and only one has let me finish the semester and given me a recommendation letter.
At the school here, the English academy director told me at the end of my probation period that I had failed my evaluation. I tried to meet with the principal to explain to her:
“There was no evaluation. The English academy director spent 5 minutes in the classroom with me. The Thai teachers usually left the classroom immediately after I arrived and mostly played with their phones the few times they stayed.
The education consultant you sent to observe one of my lessons stayed about 10 minutes, didn’t take any notes, and didn’t ask me any questions. Nobody studied my lesson plans [even though I paid an English translation major graduate student handsomely to translate them into Thai precisely so my Thai supervisors and Thai team teachers would understand what’s going on in my classroom], read my transcripts, watched my videos, saw my flashcards, looked at my vocabulary lists, etc.
No one who filed a report with you about my teaching or presented you with any details about my content, tools, or methods, because none of your staff observed any of my lessons.
I didn’t fail my evaluation because there wasn't an evaluation.
Furthermore, I have ten videos of my students practicing their conversation skills with me. In these videos, every student in every class is speaking every word of every sentence, sometimes very enthusiastically and always with excellent pronunciation. (The English academy director dismissed the video proof of my classroom activity and didn’t pick up paper copies of my lesson plans when I laid them on the table in front of her)”
But the principal refused to meet with me.
Chinese school officials just want foreign teachers to give students a good English lesson. But apparently there’s a lot of office politics in Thai schools.
I ran into this at other schools during my previous trips to Thailand, such as academic directors at two schools declaring I wasn’t qualified to teach math, even though one of them never set foot in my math classroom and neither of them looked at my math students’ notebooks.
Or the Thai English teacher whose English level was so low, she had to ask one of my students to explain my lesson to her in Thai because she didn’t understand anything I was saying or writing on the board.
So I recognized the problem and thought I was ready for it. But the trouble in previous schools always came from people who sat in the back of my classroom and aimed sniper fire at me, constantly interrupting my lesson and objecting to the way I was teaching.
This time, they hired me based strictly on my resume - no introduction video, no demonstration video, no interview. There was no dress code, there were no office hours, no one nitpicked about not signing in with red ink. They left me alone.
No one objected to my teaching strategy, no one tried to tweak me. I took that as a good sign. I took that as an indication they were happy with what I was doing in the classroom, that they saw no reason to intervene or get involved. So I was caught off guard. First by the English academy director’s accusations, then by the principal’s refusal to meet with me.
If I had known what was coming, I would have photographed the English academy director and others playing with their phones in my classroom. I would have asked her to provide details about my lessons to prove she knew what I was teaching and how I was teaching it, questions she was in no position to answer. I would have turned on my video camera and said, “Have a 5 minute dialog with me or tell me a one paragraph story. Speak to me in complete and correct sentences with standard pronunciation.”
I suppose I could have even threatened to stand outside the gate and pass out a flyer inviting parents to observe one my lessons, then observe one of her lessons, then said, “And we’ll see which one of us gets evaluated.”
Although even issuing all those challenges would not have guaranteed she would have shut down the charade. She was convinced she had the advantage. She was a manager and I was a worker; she had tenure and I was on probation; she’s Thai and I’m foreign; she presumably had a relationship with the principal and I hardly knew the principal.
So I’m out of here. I doubt I’ll find a school in Thailand that will pay for my apartment deposit, my first month’s rent, and my visa expenses even if they want a native speaker with experience teaching Thai students. So I would be facing the same financial risk at a new school in Thailand.
So I’ll probably return to China, where the salaries are much higher and the rent is free, or America, where the economy is doing much better and the Bureau of Labor Statistics claims 7,000,000 jobs are waiting for me (even though my driver license expired while I was in China).
I’ll have to call my travel agent this week to give him a decision. But I’m pretty sure teaching English in Thailand is no longer an option for me.
An interviewer once asked me, “What do you like about Thailand?” I responded, “What’s to not like about Thailand?”
But this time, it might well be bye bye Thailand.