Ajarn Street

Oh, one more thing - you're fired!

One teacher's account of being popular with students and getting fired

This is one of many stories about the way some Thai schools operate.

I was sent to a school by an agency. The school was desperate for a teacher because the previous teacher was fired five weeks into the semester. When I arrived, a teacher met me at the gate and took me to my desk. He said, "put your book-bag on your desk and come with me, you have students waiting on you." On the way to the class, I thought of an old lesson plan to teach. The class went well. After the class I went back to the office.

Fun students

I was accepted and got along with all the teachers. Of course there were some Thai teachers that I thought had a bad attitude, but I got along with them and did my job. I was told several times that the students liked my teaching and had fun in my class. I always had some students that wouldn't or didn't show up for class, but for the most part, the students were wonderful and I enjoyed working there. I never had problems with any students. They all were well behaved and that made my job much easier.

During the semester, all the foreign teachers were taken to the tax office to get our tax numbers. We asked constantly about getting work permits, and were told they would be coming. We continued to do our job well. Late in the semester, the lady that takes care of the foreign teachers gave me a work permit application and asked for some pictures to go with it. I filled it out, gave her the pictures, and never heard about it again. Every time I would ask about it, I was given an excuse as to why it was taking so long.

The Thai teachers were continually asking me to edit their work, which I gladly did. My director was great and I enjoyed my job. There were never any arguments and everyone seemed to get along well together, even the ones I thought had a bad attitude.

At the end of the semester, the director called a meeting, but no foreign teachers were allowed. We all thought this was strange. The meeting lasted 3 hours and after the meeting we all noticed all the Thai teachers acting differently towards us. But, we all continued to be at school doing our end of semester work.

'Was' a good teacher?

My director called us all in for a meeting. I was told that I was a wonderful teacher. Was? This word made me think something was wrong, so I listened. She continued to tell us that the co-teachers and the students are surveyed about our performance and I had failed my student survey and some of the students couldn't understand me. I told her, "some of the students? 

Of course there will always be some that do not understand. That is why we teach ESL. I think that is reasonable considering they have never been taught by a native speaker. They have only been taught by a Thai teacher that cannot speak English or even a coherent sentence in English. I think the students did well." I ask, "what are my percentages?"

She told me, "You have 73%" I said, "So, 73% liked me and learned?" She said, "Yes." I thought that percentage was reasonable. She went on to the other teachers and told them their percentages, which were basically the same. 

So, to make a long story short, at the end of the meeting two out of three of us were "let go" as the director called it. In spite of the fact, that none of us were ever spoken to, warned, reprimanded, counseled, and we did our jobs to the very best of our ability. We never had any problems of any kind.

Popularity contest?

I found out later after talking with other teachers, that there were two teachers that didn't like us and they were both on the "committee" The director couldn't go against the committee because she would lose face. The director told my wife, whom she liked, "Ralph had a hard time climbing the stairs because of his handicap. I didn't want to let him go." Even though I never complained and most people never know I am handicapped. You certainly can not tell by the way I walk.

So, it boils down to the fact that the student's survey had nothing to do with being "let go." I believe I was "let go" because two Thai teachers didn't like me, I am handicapped, and I am sixty one years old. In retrospect, it doesn't matter how good a teacher one is as long as you kiss the Thai teachers asses, are not handicapped, and are young - then you can work.

The schools know how to skirt the system. By not providing us with a work permit, we have no right to file a claim against them for termination without cause. Needless to say, I was shocked. I have taught in Thailand a long time and I know how the system works in the ESL community. Or I thought I did. This was a first though.

Ralph Sasser


Par for the course for Thai Government Schools. Only if you are popular in the staff room will you last very long. Thai teachers are a strange breed, so proud and full of hubris but really know very little about anything. They need to be flattered and made to feel important. The longest I lasted in a Thai school was three years. Being fired from one is normal. All the foreign teachers I ever met were eventually fired including me.

By Rory, Loei (24th July 2023)

100% agreement. Never, ever trust Thai teachers. This privileged caste attracts the worst, most phony type of people. People who are small, mean and constantly jealous (with a few exceptions). They smile at you and behind your back they talk back and work to your detriment.

For many months (or even years) everything can be OK, peaceful, and in the end someone will still stab you in the back.

By George, United Kingdom (13th July 2023)

Due to my own experiences of having taught at 53 schools and language centres in Thailand over the past 19.5 years (4 as a head teacher), I'd be prepared to swear upon the heads of my children - that this is a typical story of a foreign teacher losing his teaching position.

Yes, Ralph. I'm sorry to hear this, however you're just one of the lastest, as there have been thousands before you. It is the culture, it pans out this way, year after year. That's it's the unwritten rite of native teachers to be able to get a foreign teacher out - if they don't like him or her.

(Also, I'm sorry to say this but having a disability, even a slight one can be a disadvantage, because many Thai people believe - that this is a sign to others that you have done something wrong in a past life.)

How would I know? Because except for the names and one or two changes, this could have been my story, not only in one school, yet in half a dozen!

What is more, I'm sorry about the fact that Mark Newman choose to doubt you. Mark, there's nothing like kicking a man when he's down., and you would surely lose your pension!

Finally, don't let this put you off teaching in Thailand, if you have enjoyed teaching here. Whereas, do what I have done and just see it as one of the negatives, as these are greatly out numbered by the positives.

By Richard, Bang Na (12th March 2022)

I’m sorry this happened to you, Ralph. Shame on the knee-jerk reactions, which are all presumptuous at best. You weren’t there. You don’t know. And we all know there’s lot that doesn’t make sense to foreigners in Thailand. I’m in a good place now, but I’ve had to work in schools that favored young teachers, and was once physically assaulted by another foreigner who was much younger than me and had no reason whatsoever, except for a creeping mob mentality among some (clique). The school did absolutely nothing about it, so I finished the semester and quit.

By T. Mike, Bangkok (12th March 2022)

Two things... I very much doubt that this account is more than 50% accurate and, instead, some assumptions and wishful thinking have substituted its way into this tale of woe.
Secondly, it's remarkable how many unqualified and unskilled people teaching English in Thailand are resolutely convinced that they're doing a great job and that their level of popularity is so astronomically high!
The most telling part of this whole self assessment is the line about not being understood by the students and I'll bet my teacher's pension that this is the reason that this person was let go.

By Mark Newman, Close by. (12th March 2022)


first you need to speak some Thai and know very well Thai Teachers then you will never see any problems. I really can say I have a free hand! So, stop crying around learn Thai and Teach English!!

By Tedesco Michele, Thailand (18th September 2015)

I pity Ralph. I had a similar experience recently. I have taught in a Thai govt high school for 3 1/2 years. I was told that recently that there were some complaints against me. They were the same as what were lodged against me 3 years ago. Yet I survived these 3 1/2 years. The school decided to let me go after the 2nd term. But my agency took me out straight away. I found out later that some other teachers in other departments do not like me so much and they made those complaints to the Deputy Director. SO I was out. Now I am hunting for teaching jobs daily.

I really pity all foreign teachers. We all have to keep quiet even if a false accusation was thrown at us. We even have to thank these Thai teachers for making false accusations. Amazing Thailand!!

By Robert Yong, Pathum Thani (29th November 2010)

absolutely true.
the foreigner basically has no say and no rights when the contract ends to even receive a written performance review or to see the forementioned 'surveys.
this woeful tale may be conveyed to you by the new 'head' of the language department that does not have the requisite capability of conversing in advanced english properly...possibly you might not ever be told directly by the school that there is no position...just a note saying 'sorry, no need you. hope soon to see."
yes, a note left for you by the one individual that has requested your assistance with pronounciation, sentence structure, proper usage of words , etc throughout the year.
Just sing 'sawasdee...sawasdee. hello to you, hello to you' and know that you have made a positive difference in everyone you have come across.
sometimes we are just too polite.

By fred astaire, upcountry (1st April 2010)

Yes, apparently this is all too common...I don't know if it's a 'Thai' thing or a 'Thai teacher's thing' but my experiences are so similar after a year of teaching here. What do I do when a class plays up so badly I have no choice but to consult the immediate supervisor, only to be told that the students say I talk too fast? In Thailand you have to have a thick skin if you want to teach English. There are some excellent Thai teachers here but some seriously petty ones as well like the one who makes a passing comment (on the outside balcony)to the students in my classroom while I am drilling an English lesson. And while there are some excellent and very likeable directors there are some horrors like the one who delivered to all four foreign teachers in my school an assessment that had 17 uncomplimentary points to make about us 'farang' with absolute zero positive comments and a final comment of 'not worthy of hiring'. To someone who has visited Thailand nearly a dozen times, has shown respect and given respect back this attitude is a kick in the guts. To any teacher about to embark on a teaching exoerience here be warned..expect a few barbs along the way.

By Terry, Khon Kaen (8th March 2010)

Hi my friend...
First of all I must tell you, welcome to the club. Why I said this:

I have no idea how long you have been teaching in Thailand, but what happened to you is a standart in Thailand.

Thai teachers will be always nice to you.. Smile to you.. And kill you from your behind.

Yes, unfortunately this is how Thai people do. They will tell you good things about your work, how you were great, blah blah.. But when the day comes, they will show you the door without thinking the good things you have done. This is something you can not learn in that useless TEFL courses and other courses. I don't know why why Thai schools love to hire new teachers every year.

Another thing is, we are nothing in this country. In my school, there is no teaching going on at all. Me and my farang teachers are only ones who are teaching at all. But when we do something even small, it is abig deal big problem oh farang did this, farang did that... they never see what their teacher do -sorry CANT do-, it is always you...

So, my friend....welcome to the club

By BARIS, Thailand (19th February 2010)

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