Why do I have to stay at school?
Should a teacher be allowed to leave the school premises when they don't have lessons to teach?
Firstly, a teacher with a good question.
"I've just been offered a teaching job at a large Thai secondary school. I have a good feel for the place, the staff seem nice and the workload is a very comfortable 16 x 45-minute periods a week. However the school want me to remain on-site from Monday to Friday 8.30 am to about 4.30 pm. This doesn't sound very fair to me. I'm only making 35,000 baht a month and my downtime would perhaps give me the opportunity to go out and earn some extra money. Is this a reasonable demand on the part of the school when they are paying such a low salary? I don't even know the reasons why they want me there all the time"
Here are a selection of responses from experienced teachers in Thailand.
We clock in before 7.30 am and after 4 pm. It’s quite standard. - Martin
I think this is perfectly normal for a Thai school. - Sarah
No it's not, Sarah. Move to Saigon and work for an agency for 20 USD an hour and not only will you earn more, whilst living in a much cheaper city, you'll also only have to be there for your teaching hours. - Steve
That’s normal for Thailand but a pretty crappy deal overall. My advice is don’t take it. You're better off teaching kids online or going to a country that can offer you a better deal. You can also get an MA or a proper teaching certificate that will give you better options - Mark
I had a similar experience. The school also tried to get me involved with working on Saturdays and Sundays. The expectation is that they own you, body and soul seven days a week. I also found most of the Thai staff that were teaching English, at best, unwelcoming and unhelpful and, at worst, downright unpleasant. I lasted three months and left. - Dave
Perfectly reasonable of them to expect you to be at work for an 8-hour day. Outside of Bangkok, that's a decent starting salary, but if that's a salary in Bangkok then don't go anywhere near it. - Alex
Just tell them that you will remain within the town/city, but that sometimes you need to go outside of the school. That they can contact you on your mobile if they urgently need you. If they still say no, then just tell them that you're sorry but you will have to decline the position. They really won't want to start looking for a new teacher over such a small issue, especially when the term has already started.
Obviously they might be sticklers for rules and then you'd be out of a job, but if it's important to you, then you should stand up for yourself. Chances are that most of the Thai teachers go outside the school fairly regularly too (not all the time, but for family stuff, or to visit the bank or for lunch etc). Although you must of course ensure that you're always polite, calm and reasonable, that's the best way to get results, you don't want to ever force a confrontation or appear to be angry and "difficult" or "serious" - Brian
My school was very similar but fairly laid back in practice i.e they didn't care where you went at lunchtime, you could leave the premises in free periods and if your last class finished at three o clock you could leave at three. As long as you were there to do your job, they didn't care too much. Some schools vary by how strictly they enforce rules. But seriously, don't touch a 35K job in Bangkok. - Jey
If it's outside of the Bangkok metro area then it's decent for a starting salary. I'm at school from 7.30 to 16.30 so count your lucky stars mate. - Henry
In the UK, full-time teachers are expected to arrive an hour before the pupils and stay until at least an hour afterwards, any downtime is spent doing prep or marking. Anything not completed by about 6 pm is expected to be done at home as the building will be locked up at some point after that. Teaching in Thailand is a doddle - Angie
Not true Angie for any of the schools I've worked at in Scotland. However, most teachers do this voluntarily because of the workload. Last year I used to be done working by 9.00 pm because of the marking workload, so I'd take my work home and do it there. No longer do this now. - Jamie
As in any job, you are expected to turn up on time and leave on time. The time between classes is supposed to be used for preparations. If you are fully qualified then why not find a better paying job? - Charlie
Do they strictly enforce it is the real question. I know a school where they say 7.30-16.00 but if you need to go at 15.00, no one cares. - Timothy
Both schools I've worked at require you to work a full day. Sure you can slip outside for a long lunch, but both schools have had fingerprint scanners, so they know exactly who leaves early and who stays for the full day. Your attendance can come into play at bonus time, and for annual salary increase, if you plan on returning. - Michael
If it’s anything like the schools I’ve experienced, you will actually be able to do what you want. Sign in and out at the right times and don’t be late for any classes. In your free time, you can jump outside and work at a nearby language centre. Just not sure there are many language centres looking for class teachers during the day? Use your downtime to work on an online project? - Peter
The wheres and the whys are irrelevant. Don't like the contract then don't sign it. Go and work elsewhere. Simple. - Russ
It's awful but unfortunately standard practice here. It's one more reason why Thailand can’t get any great teachers to apply and stay. Then comes the peanut pay, visa, teachers license problems etc. - Jens
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NO WAY!!!! Listen, you have a contract and you are VERY valuable to the school. For a few years, I left whenever I wanted. Sure, at one school they asked me about leaving and I just laughed. Nobody ever did anything, and they still offered me another contract. Do the kids love you? Yes? Leave whenever you want and tell them you have a doctor's appointment every time. Don't let them boss you around, UNLESS UNLESS UNLESS you really want to stay there for a very, very long time. Then you should try to smile to everyone and sacrifice everything. lol.
Don't listen to all the jokers who love control. If parents see you at a mall? LOL. Tell them you are shopping for your kids!!! Nobody cares, nobody. So don't sit there all day and hate everything for 35,000 baht a month, or one gallon of gas in America. lol
By Bob, Thailand (11th March 2023)
You absolutely should remain at the school premises during those hours. You have accepted and signed a FULL-TIME contract with the school to be working FOR THE SCHOOL within those hours. No matter how low the salary was, it was totally up to you to accept it or reject it. Maybe you should be seeking a PART-TIME contract in the future?
Besides your teaching hours, I am sure there are more teacher-related responsibilities at your school that you might be helping with. Lesson planning, collaboration with teachers, other duties, etc.
Also from the legal point of view:
- if you get out and get into the accident, would your school insurance cover it?
- if you are out and there is an inspection (yes it happens) from the Labor Office (work permits) or Immigration Office (visas) that would be a big problem for the school,
- public image - if you are out, let's say in the shopping mall, and parents see you there within your working hours, that just doesn't look good at all.
- you have mentioned something about making extra money with some other jobs - this is so wrong in many ways as I assume this work would be illegal and you don't have a work permit to perform that particular extra work.
These are just some of the many reasons you should remain at school.
Next time don't agree to commit to anything you are not happy with!
By Greg, Thailand (10th March 2023)
I have zero respect for all teachers that don't keep a proper schedule. If a teacher is in after 730 and out ASAP I know exactly the type of teacher s/he is. These people, even the mindset have no place in primary, secondary schools.
In what job in your country are you allowed to leave when your work is 'completed' and get paid the full day? None. That's not to say that salaried employees can't take off to go to dentist or amphor or like that.
Truth is most of these people never had a real job and this to them is a legitimate issue.
Need work? Not busy? Lessons done for the year? Done? Make them better. Are all your exams completed? Good. Are you helping with extracurricular activities? I thought so.
Invite students to your office for help and tutoring.
If nothing else READ. Websites and articles on professional development.
To the OP. Your first year. Nothing to learn and done for the day. You'll never be any sort of a teacher with that attitude. 35k is fine money for first year teachers. Your hours are cake. Use it to learn your craft or go back to working in Starbucks or Tesco.
By Jim Beam, The Big Smoke (24th November 2019)
I think that anyone concerned or asking about this issue has a right to do so. There are two main points to consider: (1) Are you a teacher that lesson plans? (2) Are you a teacher that uses the "cookie cutter" premade teacher says, class then repeats rote memory "lesson plans."
If you are a teacher that actually does data dives and builds lessons then it is in your best interest ,and in the schools, to use the whole day to get those done or polish them up.
If you are just working off a PP slide with no real data driven assessment or the like, then no, you should be able to leave or at the very least have some set office hours.
That's my opinion. If you are making 35K and lesson planning all day; then get the hell out. If you are just a say this, say that "teacher" but can't leave when you want or are being watched like a hawk then get the hell out.
I am currently working at the latter and we are not allowed to leave and are making pennies, so I am looking to get out!
By AlexBeGone, Udon Thani (13th November 2019)
I think that most foreign teachers taking for granted. If you are hired to be a teacher for a fixed salary per month then I suppose you are employed fulltime. This mean that you are a full time employee like at any other place of work. Just because you have down time doesn't mean it's your time. You are paid a fixed salary every month to be at work Monday to Friday from start to finish. If you need to be elsewhere just ask but don't take the piss. In my personal experience, I am free to roam around as I please as long as I am where I am supposed to be when needed. Besides, we have loads of holidays, some get paid others don't but it is still a lot of your own down time not taking into consideration all the public holidays Thailand has come up with. So that's my take on the matter. Stay put because you get paid to be there, busy or not. And a genuine teacher does not have down time with 16 to 20 classes a week, lesson plans, lesson plan reviews and adjustments ad well as grading and planning differentiated lessons... I can go on all day long but that's not necessary as I have already stated my point.
By Joe, Nakhonsawan (9th November 2019)
It seems that many schools in Thailand follow the pattern of asking you not to leave the premises in between lessons, even if you have huge free periods such as 3 hours or more during the day. They say you should use it for planning. However, I find that the environment is not always the best for planning and I like to organise my own time and planning when it suits me. There is an irrational, feudal style loyalty model of being where the boss wants you, regardless, yet as some state above, it is flouted in more round about ways and, yes - if you want to get away with it, never be confrontational (opposite of union style). Whoever says go to Vietnam and sample a better mode is right, don't need all the extra 'padding' and really it's about obedience and qualities which aren't ideally suited to teaching or lecturing as a profession.
By elisha, Bangkok (6th November 2019)
If this is your best offer, take it, if you have a better offer, don't. (I know I am stating the obvious).
I doubt the school will negotiate the point, as if they let you go where you want when you want, they will not be able to ever enforce this rule and it is doubtful you are so special the school will create for itself so many headaches to retain you. On the other hand, rules are often not applied so strictly here in LOS, so an occasional early exit or late entrance might be possible every now and then. But one can usually read a book, play on the phone, prep for an online class, study Thai or another foreign language, or do other personal stuff while on the school's premises. Sure, going home early and coming in late occasionally are nice perks but for the most part, where would you go in the middle of day? Is this really a big deal or are you just looking to find an issue to whine and complain about to ensure your good standing in the whiny ESL teachers club?
By Jack, Left of over there (4th November 2019)
If this is your first ever teaching job, then take your licks and do it for a term and find something better for the next school year in May. 35k is not a good salary in BKK but is acceptable if you have no experience....but only for a year at most.
By Bart, Bangkok (4th November 2019)