Ajarn Street

Do you have to attend school events?

Does your school require you to take part in out-of-hours activities?

One of the biggest complaints that foreign teachers have about their job in Thailand is being asked to participate in weekend school activities, often with no remuneration. It might be a sports day, a parade or some other student competition, but it can often mean a teacher giving up part of their precious weekend. So there are two questions I would like to ask teachers on this topic.

1) What is your school's / employer's attitude towards making teachers take part or be present at extra-curricular school activities? Are you expected to attend? Is it frowned upon if you don't?

2) What's YOUR opinion of being made to attend these events? Do you not mind because you consider it part of the job? Do you flatly refuse if it's in your own time? Do you agree to do X number of events per year and no more

It's usually part of the job with formal school jobs. If some teachers only want to work teaching hours, perhaps language schools or online teaching would be more suitable for them. 

- John Q

Teaching is not a 9 to 5 job ( 8 to 4.30 usually) You must expect to work outside the school opening hours. If not then you are a short term teacher who is only here for the beaches and women and have no interest in your students. Teaching is more than just standing up in front of a class for 55 minutes at a time. True teaching is a way of life.

- John

I quite enjoy the New Years dinners etc as it can often be a good chance to socialize with the staff (Thai and foreign) whom I might not normally have a chance to chat with socially at school.

- Brian

If you consider yourself a real educator and care about the responsibilities that come with a teaching position then one should be involved in the extracurricular activities schools have. 

Typically teachers are on a monthly salary and whether it's written in their contract or not, teachers are expected to help or plan with certain activities as are they in North America. The attitude of 'its not my job ' or let the Thai teachers do it is just childish and selfish and irresponsible. It wouldn't work in a Western school and doesn't or shouldn't work here. 

To flat out refuse to work or plan with the rest of the staff would end your employment in my school. Teachers need to take their responsibilities seriously and hopefully have fun in doing so. I've been on both sides of this, one as a teacher and one as a school owner. I have excellent staff who go above and beyond what we ask and more importantly we don't need to ask. That's my opinion. 

- Chris

The work conditions in my contract state that a certain number of weekends must be worked each year. Simple as that. My contract also says a number of teaching hours, I generally teach less than those specified but I do take work home and work more than the contracted hours. 

To be honest I look down on the people who clock in at 7:50 am and out at 4:00 pm (our official hours). I don't mind camps and competitions because I get to spend extra time with the students - not as a classroom teacher but as more a carer or adviser. 

I enjoy working with my students. The intrinsic rewards are more important than money. We do get looked after when possible, staying in nice accommodation when away and occasional lunches. 

- Nick

I would like to point out the obvious that all the extracurricular activities are what make a good school a great school. 

Sports and drama and all of the meets and competitions that schools and districts have are what kids look forward to. Think of how many schools here do not have organized activities. Where would you rather work or have your own children attend? Schools with or schools without these activities? 

They wouldn't happen without the hard work and cooperation of all the staff and their participation. It gets teachers out of the classroom and you will most definitely see different sides of your students. Cheer them on.. embrace it. 

- Chris

I am not required to attend most functions though I am invited. If there is something I am able to do for them, I am happy to do it. Generally we foreign teachers are more extra baggage than participants. I have attended some and skipped others. If they tell me I must attend, I do. 

- Roy

If I'm not getting paid for it, I'm not doing a thing for the school outside my regular contact teaching hours. There's no such as a free lunch from this teacher. 

- Steve

Seriously, how many holidays do you get for this Buddhist day and that Buddhist day. Count them up and see if you actually work at all. 

- Shayne

What is your purpose as a teacher if you are not participating in school activities? It's part of your job description. You want to become an essential part of your school community, not some stranger who just drifts in and out of the school whenever you have lessons to teach. 

- Lance

It's in my contract to do these extra-curricular activities if needed - with no extra pay.

- Marc

I'm paid extra and told well in advance. It's not ideal, but it's not often the school asks for this sort of thing. 

- Troy

Our contract states we may be asked to help and take part in extra-curriculars and we should participate in them as much as we can. 

Most are done during school time and take no extra prep work. However certain competitions do take the extra time to train. We distribute the prep work for them among the foreign teachers and its up to the teacher how much time they want to spend training the student. We all usually end up training for something we enjoy though. If the extra-work requires teaching (like an English camp) on a weekend, I won't do it without a guarantee of compensation. 

Since our students don't have many opportunities for clubs and activities like I did in the States, I don't mind helping them for the few that they have. If the extracurriculars became excessive though, I would probably speak up. 

What I do get a bit irritated with, is being told to attend an event on a weekend the day beforehand. If they want me to attend, they should give earlier notice, but that is just one of the things I have learned to live with here.

- Caitlin

If you would like to send us your opinions and answers, please use the 'Post Your Comment' form at the bottom of the page and I will add your words to the main text


Many teachers may have their own families and need to take care of their own kids too. I think a school or any education academy should not expect teachers to do extra work that is unrelated to teaching.

It would be better if parents organized and participate personally in their kids own extra-curricular activities or pay extra for an extra-curricular teacher.

By WA, Asia (3rd February 2015)

If educators are to be held to a higher standard, they should get more of a reward than they do. Yes, teachers around the world are underpaid, but there is a lower limit before it becomes farcial, and that limit includes work which is unnecessary, or unreasonable for the rewards you get. Professionals get paid, not exploited.

Please don't kid yourself that the average foreign teacher in Thailand is seen as important by most students, Thai teachers, or administrators. If you truly think you are highly valued, essential, and respected as an educator,you are probably deluding yourself. Obviously, there are exceptions, but not too many, and the chances are that you are not such an exception.

By Joe, BKK (28th January 2015)

I think Chris and Lance have hit the nail right on the head. Educators are or should be held to a higher standard. What we do directly affects the lives and futures of our students. So we should be willing and able to give a reasonable amount of our time to that end. I understand that some schools might take advantage, but that should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, instead of opposing the idea of extracurricular activities in general. We're here to teach, to help minds grow. We're not clocking in at some corporation and churning out products. Just my personal view.

By Lidiya , Pattaya (27th January 2015)

There's always a give and take to this, and if the extra duties aren't in excess than I am more than happy to be involved. As was stated by others, it is part of the job back home. It also promotes a sense of truly being part of the school.

Having said that, job conditions, security, and lack of tenure and/or retirement here sort of tells us that we are NOT always considered real teachers. As such, I can certainly understand the frustration of being told to engage in extra hours duties.

In summation, yes they are fine but keep them few and far between. In my current school we do attend a few events, but nothing that I consider extraordinarily burdensome.

By Aaron, Bangkok (27th January 2015)

My enthusiasm for doing 'extra' work beyond the minimum of what I can get away with is determined by one factor alone: My perception of how much that extra effort of mine will be seen AND appreciated.

I work for a very appreciative employer and so my commitment to the school is absolute.

That said, I bloody hate being signed up for those daft weekend seminars and courses in Bangkok where enthusiastic amateur educators with cheesy gimmicks bounce around a stage for two days wasting everyone's time!

By Mark Newman, Thailand (27th January 2015)

I'm gonna keep it short, but I agree with those people who get told Friday afternoon there is an event Saturday or two hours before you go home they tell you there is an after school event. That is annoying to the umpteenth level no matter how many times I'm told it is just how things are here (I've been here for 18 months). Well, there is always room for improvement. Honestly, if it doesn't help the kids I'm not really interested and oftentimes won't go because I know with my school in particular it is simply another photo op. If, on the other hand, it is actually about my students then I will attend it.

By Ryan, Thailand (26th January 2015)

"before you start any discussion regarding this topic, ALSO PUT SOME WORDS ABOUT MOST THAI SCHOOLS INCOMPETENCE and not just be one sided like its the foreigners fault"

Whatever gives you the impression that the article is 'one-sided'? I asked an open question.

By Philip, Samut Prakarn (25th January 2015)

I don't mind doing this extra weekend stuff or any of this extra-curricular activities.

But let's face it, more than 70 % of this Thai schools are not well organized in terms of scheduling and giving early notice.

Tell me, being told on Friday afternoon, what would you feel that you have to come on Saturday? Have you got any families? How about your children?

Please Mr. Author?, before you start any discussion regarding this topic, ALSO PUT SOME WORDS ABOUT MOST THAI SCHOOLS INCOMPETENCE and not just be one sided like its the foreigners fault.

Hate it!

By By Honest, BKK (25th January 2015)

Had one Thai head of the school once try and rope a few of us foreign teachers into helping him do his PhD!!! What a bloomin cheek if I may say so Timothy!

By dave, London (25th January 2015)

Even before I posted this article, I would have predicted that teachers would fall into three groups.

a) Those who never mind doing extra-curricular activities and see it as simply part of the job.
b) Those who are willing to give up their time now and again provided that the school doesn't try it on too often.
c) Those who categorically refuse to work unless they are compensated.

It's good to see all three groups alive and well.

By Philip, Samut Prakarn (25th January 2015)

I have a problem with getting the notice the day before or on the day it is scheduled. I live on campus and really don't mind doing things to keep busy. It usually includes free food and a party afterwards.
But it will never impress the owners or the new unqualified director/principal that only cares about his image. So do it for yourself because basically no one else with will care.

By Clone, Issan (25th January 2015)

Extra activities are all part and parcel of being a teacher. If I am given enough notice then I have no problem at all with doing them. Education continues outside of the classroom and it can be nice to interact with the students when the school organises something like a sports day or school fair. Never had the experience of being told to come in on a weekend at short notice, but if I did, it would annoy me for sure.

By Seb, up a khlong (25th January 2015)

I'm sure my comments will be unpopular, but before I begin, please understand; I am not actually lazy, nor am I some sort of major unionist left winger type. Most of the extra activities I am made to do are compensated for, and if they are not, I will sometimes do them if they are not too inconvenient. If they are inconvenient, I will do them only if I think there is a danger of becoming dangerously unpopular with the management if I don't.

Someone said that they looked down on people who only do the office hours. Did it occur to you that they might have other commitments, e.g. their own kids? Or do you honestly believe that a teacher should abandon his or her familial life. or personal life, because of some activity which more than likely has no other purpose than to create busy work? What a saint.

In fact, it seems at least a few of these contributors suffer from wannabe-martyr syndrome. I've seen it many times; teachers who work far too hard for the salary (or the respect) that they get, mostly because they get off on giving the appearance of being holier than thou, in respect of the other teachers. Ironically, they get really nothing more in terms of reward than the laziest teachers in the staff room, and don't they complain about that!

I don't normally speak well of senior Thai teachers, but it's quite likely that, if you search for them at these events, they are either absent or not actively doing very much; that's because they know how much of a waste of time these things are. They are the smart ones...

I am sure by now some people are thinking badly of me, and saying that I am a disgrace a a teacher and should be thinking of the kiddos. Well, the students know that these activities are usually a waste of their time as well. If you ever bother to talk to them, or have a real rapport with them, you would know that most, at least if they are from a government school, are tired, and these events interfere with their extra classes (which is where they do most of their real studying). They would much rather not bother with these things (obviously, there are exceptions, but the majority of students seem to express these viewpoints). I sympathize; I can only hope that they eventually will show some backbone and rebel against these annoying events (actually, this has happened before, albeit in a quiet way, and the schedule was therefore quietly changed; bravo, students!).

Someone else asked where they would prefer to send their kids; a school with such extra-curricular activities or those without. Well, it depends a lot on what these activities are and how they are managed. If the activities are the usual badly planned time-wasting, face-gaining, trophy-winning, or nationalistic things I see in most schools, where only a small percentage of the students are engaged or care, I would be both cruel and an idiot for wanting to subject my kid to it. I would prefer to plan his extra-curricular activities myself, as they might then have some sort of educational point, and might actually be fun...

By Joe, BKK (25th January 2015)

These sorts of things can be a real pain especially if you've actually got a life. Firstly...

1. Don't hang around in the staffroom too much on your off periods this gives them ample opportunity to ash this and that blah blah.

2. Secondly never volunteer for stuff as you'll get known for it, and they'll come a knocking every time.

3. Mr John summer camp... Mr John weekend class???? Nope sorry got other teaching commitments on those days.

4. Let the noobs take the flack. If you have new foreign teachers in your school they are more likely to get targeted.

5. If in doubt about things check the fine print in your contract.

Remember, give em an inch and some might take a mile.

By dave, London (24th January 2015)

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