Why I've had enough of teaching in Thailand
It may work out for others - just not for me
It's not so much that I've had enough of Thailand, it's just teaching really. A bit of background info before I start.
I moved to Bangkok at the tender, yet dangerous age of 22, I'm now 26. I dropped out at the end of my second year of an electrical engineering apprenticeship in York, UK. Yes, I know that was a bad decision.
I work full-time (Monday to Friday) at a school in central Bangkok and have an extra job on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings between 6pm and 8pm. The salary from the school is 43,000 baht a month and the other work brings between 9,000 - 12,000 baht a month depending on how many Tuesdays and Thursdays fall within the month.
The money is good seeing as I just came over here and completed a 4-week TESOL course and jumped straight into the classroom. Anyway, time to give teaching in Thailand some well deserved abuse..
The daily grind
Starting work at 7.30am until 5.00pm everyday and doing 24 periods a week is a millimeter short of being shafted in the ring-piece by a 12 incher. Some would say it's 10 inches deep already. (please don't visualize that) So usually I have five lessons a day, with some days waiting up to three hours just to scan my thumb on the scan-in/out machine at 5.00 pm so I can go home. It drives me insane.
I'd say a good 90% of teachers at my school are women over the age of 50 and in addition, they have worked there 20 years or more. So nobody is open to change.
They bitch and gossip more than Alan Sugar and Piers Morgan on Twitter, which is saying something. I would say a solid 100% of the time it's about me or the other foreign teachers getting paid double their salary, or how we get away with stuff, or why the English staff get a bigger budget on special days, or why we have little or no respect, or why we are trying to improve things (read that as 'interfering')
Need I go on? It just makes the daily grind of going to work much more dreadful. The fact is I have looked for other schools to work at but it's always been difficult to find a job with a big enough difference to merit pursuing a long-term career in teaching.
How I made my decision
When I moved to Thailand to try out teaching, I moved here with my best mate. We planned the whole thing together. However, he saw the light after eight months as a bit player in the teaching panto and decided more money could be earned elsewhere, while still maintaining a life in Thailand. He helped me make my decision.
So I decided to put together my savings and basically invest £10,000 in myself. I booked myself on to numerous courses, all of which are held in the UK and also a three-week course in Denmark to give myself a career in renewable energy (wind turbines to be precise).
This kind of work is done on a rotation system ranging from two weeks on / two weeks off or three weeks to one week or five to two, etc
The money is a decent sum too. The sector I want to work in is turbine blade repair, which on average brings in £2,000 a week. Doing this will allow me to live here and work away from Thailand in a job that is far more up my street.
The desire is dead
Unfortunately blade repair is a seasonal job running from April to November. This leaves me with two options; firstly, pack up and do one back to England or secondly, drag myself to the end of the school year (a decent bonus from school comes with that too).
I have decided to drag myself through to the year's end but my desire, effort and personality at school are all near non-existent. I don't let it show in the classroom, or at least I don't think I do, but knowing the end is so near is making everyday feel like a year.
Thanks for reading.
By the way. I'm not dissing teaching in Thailand at all. It didn't work for me under my circumstances but many of my friends here have carved out a very successful teaching career and still really enjoy it.
It just hasn't worked for me.
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I absolutely relate to your story. I came and taught for 2 years, got tired of the long hours, Thai teacher politics, etc. Started working online (pre-covid) during those two years to build up my reputation and clients, and by the time I quit teaching in 2020 I could work online full time without all the school hassles. All the best with your journey ahead.
By Ex-Kru Im, Thailand (19th November 2021)
Sat in my Thai classroom now smirking to myself after this. After a year of teaching and despite being in a 'prestigious' int. school, I can relate to all of this.
It's mentally tiring having to sit there and listen to Thai teachers blatantly bitching about you and your peers. They don't serm to realise that despite not being completely fluent in the language, it's not hard to tell when people are laughing 'at' you.
I'm gonna keep an open mind and try teach in another country and hope it's just a mindset only Thai teachers share.
By Kyle, Thailand, Rangsit (18th December 2018)
I graduated high school and am taking a gap year. Thinking about doing the 3 month 120 hour TEFL course in Thailand and "teaching" rural preschool ages for the 3 months. Mostly for the experience and because I love kids and Thailand. Is it worth it?
By Wyntr, Canada (30th November 2017)
It's good to read you have finally seen the light and now you can have a proper job.
Said it before that teaching here is fine for a year or so or when you are not far away from an age where your pension starts kicking or come with a bag of money and teach three hours per day and have a laugh.
So have a career back home, build up some pension, pay off that appartment/house
A while ago there was a story here of a Brit who wasn't happy earning 50k in Thailand and moved to China and saves 50k usd per year...so don't waste your time here!
Whatever you do , you decide...just don't get stuck here!
By Dave, Chiang mai (25th November 2017)
Great read Eddie. I'm gonna be honest and admit I love reading and hearing these stories of foreign teachers here seeing the light and moving on. I loved visiting my old language center last month and seeing that the only teachers left there are the older guys who are getting the pick of the work. All the younger guys left to work online but the older guys seem to be fearful of online. Doesn't matter anyway cos they're getting their reward now and they couldn't be happier. You can actually see them genuinely happy.
My old agency called me out of the blue 2 years after I left. It was no secret we didn't like each other but we were civilized when I worked there. I didn't even have their number on my phone but recognized my old boss's voice straight away. The cheeky little snake had called to ask how I was doing.
Agency "How are you? It's Ben from (name of agency).
Me "Hey Ben. I'm great. Got a great job at a school near the MRT. Pays well with many benefits and I wonderful colleagues...................(I went on for a couple of minutes)
Ben "Good, good. The kids at the school miss you"
Me "The kids I taught will have moved to P1 now. They miss me?"
Ben "Sure, sure. Thai staff miss you too"
Me "Of course they miss me. I was one of the very few good teachers who came and did their job.
Ben "If you need a job. You have any friends who need a job?"
Me "My friends all have jobs. Many work online full time. They actually make more money working part time than your full time job pays (I was exaggerating but I just wanted to rub salt it)
Ben "But if you know anyone looking for work. Easy work. Nice kids......."
Me "No, I won't be doing that. But you take care now. Buh bye"
I remember when leaving the agency. Said goodbye to all the teachers. Didn't say a bad work about the agency. Just that I had found a better job. A teacher who had worked there for 7 years knew why I was leaving. He said that the agency sucked and they didn't care when good teachers left. He said "They don't care because they can always find someone else to replace you".
Oh how that tired, and now trite old saying is becoming less and less true. House of cards on Netflix might be over. But house of cards; agencies special, is very much on. Someone pass me some popcorn.
By Seamus, Nonthaburi (22nd November 2017)
@john tefl may not work for everyone, but with proper qualifications and experience I believe one can have many options and offers, even setting up your own school in the future.
Nationality should never define one's ability to use and teach English. That's my messageto my students. I am a nnes myself and i have proven time and again, thru IELTS that I have the same abilities like the NES.
If we allow such discrimination to occur in schools, what message are we trying to get across? Wouldn't we want to be hired based on our skills and qualifications? Not based on looks and passport.
By Cha, Trang (19th November 2017)
Good that you've seen sense at a young age. TEFL is a dead end job everywhere, even more so in Thailand where it's harder to save money for your escape. Online work will replace most jobs, but even wages in that will be driven down by a multitude of teflers with nowhere else to go.
By John , Bangkok (18th November 2017)
I fully agree with him about schools over populated with women Thai Teachers, yes they bitch and moan about foreigners. As of this October I have called it off to Teaching for time being at least and saved up enough money for Teaching for past eight years in Thai Schools. Not to judge anybody's Teaching but must state that Fillipana Teachers is another group who have colonized the Teaching World by accepting lower salaries and bitching and moaning, they are corrupting the market for other qualified Teachers and more and more Thai Administrators are hiring Fillipana Teachers and getting rid of other foreign Teachers. Goodbye to Teaching World for a while. Would look for other alternatives during my one year of retirement starting end of this month.
By Sanjiv Bhatia, Ayutthaya (16th November 2017)
As a long term teacher in Thailand for the most part I enjoy teaching the students. But it is all the incredible BS that can go on outside the classroom that can get to you. I have worked both directly for schools and for an agency to. And in both cases there have been times that I've been treated in the most unprofessional and disrespectful way both by management and fellow teachers. Also before coming to Thailand to teach I never had experience this type of treatment in my over 20 years of working in my home country. So with this type of treatment it is no wonder there is such a high turn over rate of foreign teachers here on top of the low pay to. Anyhow I am looking to start my own business here next year and get out of teaching, as enough is enough.
By Thomas, Thailand (16th November 2017)
Although I love Trang, quiet and cheap place to live in, career progression isn't here. I'd love to go elsewhere, including around TH, but maybe a more stimulating and supportive admin may do the trick?
This country seems to be living in the age where she thinks she's the only one who can offer English teaching jobs. Guess what? There's better and more competition out there.
I can't wait until Mar 2018 when my contract ends and jump off to everything better. Hey! One year experience counts too.
By Cha, Trang (16th November 2017)
I hear you. 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 too.
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 aimed mainly at the enslaved Pinoy teachers imo (on around 15k a month before tax) and he typed it from his 5 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 20 or so. The staff room now looks lke a Manilla 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.
By Nigel, Bangkok (15th November 2017)
It's good that you saw the light early on, I've been here since May 2017 and by July, I saw the light and have started to look elsewhere. Working for Thai public schools with an EP is a total joke. Furthermore, I've taken the IELTS to certify my English ability. I plan to honor the contract until Mar 2018 but any compelling offers at this point and I will go. The EP Head here feels she's superior, at what? An alleged 600+ Toeic score. The Thai teachers are poorly trained and we are only here for a body count, just to tell students that you are paying this farang teacher X amount of money. Just a show of face.
Just an advice, I think you should get back to earning your degree. It won't take long then do anything that you want
By Cha, Trang (15th November 2017)
A good read. And at 26, you're still very young so have lots of opportunities ahead. Also good to be looking at getting qualifications in high-paying jobs in a niche market. Gotta try something.
I'm afraid 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, 'fuck 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 one 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.
By craig, Bangkok (13th November 2017)
Eddie, your story reminds me of the song, "you can't soar like an eagle, when you hang out with turkeys." Heaven forbid you come up with an idea on how to improve your student's achievement. People simply biding time until retirement is so characteristic of any public agency. You are doing the honorable thing by completing the contract, but it's not like they honor them, anyway. Just minimize your risk of not getting paid. The biggest red flag should have been the hours...9.5 per day? Crazy. Even with 24 classes, you are finishing the day with three hours of stupidity. I always calculate my day from the time I leave till the time I get home, or have a cold one in my hand. It has really prevented me from working for peanuts. Good luck with the Condor Cuisinarts. Save some money and come back and enjoy.
By Mark, CNX (12th November 2017)
Best of luck with whatever comes next, sometimes we have to have the guts to quit the path we are on in order to start moving in a new diretion.
Being young, I suspect it will work out all right although it might take a little time.
By Jack, Around (11th November 2017)