Making your mark
How to 'get along' with your school
We have discussed the lead up to the job, so now let's talk a bit about what a teacher can do at work to merit a passing grade or better with his or her students, colleagues and the administration.
All too often teachers in Thailand think once their in, they can relax, but the first few months on the job are when the real work starts. Here are some pointers:
First, make a good initial impression. You have three main audiences to win over, and none of them are going to be pleased by the same thing, so this can be a bit tricky. Still, it is far from difficult to accomplish.
Here are some pointers with each constituent group, starting with the least important and moving towards the most important:
I list the administration as least important, even though I am personally an administrator, because I know I do not make probation or employment decisions based on how I feel about a teacher.
Of course, I only hire teachers I think I'll like, but after that, how I feel about them is far less important. What matters more is what the students think, what their Thai colleagues think, and what their foreign teacher colleagues think about them
Thus, pleasing administration is really about pleasing students and other teachers.
All you really need to actively do to make the administration happy at most Thai schools is be on time, dress appropriately, show up for your classes within a minute or two of the bell, and teach what you are supposed to teach. This is not really all that hard, except perhaps the latter which sometimes remains a mystery at Thai schools!
One other suggestion - try not to cut out of the office every day as early as possible. Make yourself visible, hang around a bit, and ask administrators if there is anything you can help with. Go to a few voluntary school functions! These small things will leave a lasting impression and move your career forward quickly in Thailand.
Next most important to keep happy are your Thai and foreign colleagues.
For the Thais, much of what I spoke about relating to keeping the administration is also true for Thai colleagues. They want to see a timely, well-dressed foreign teacher. But, they expect a bit more.
Make sure your lessons are prepared and that you don't spend too much time shuffling papers or blatantly killing periods with useless activities like word finds for example. Try to ask Thai teachers for feedback - they appreciate being consulted. And smile and be polite to them when you see them.
Offer to pay for their noodles now and them too, remember they usually make 1/3rd of what you do! The gesture will be appreciated, as will some fruit for those you work closely with at New Year's time!
For your foreign teaching colleagues, much of the same is true. More specifically, though, be supportive of them in their work.
Ask their opinion of what to do in problem situations, offer to give them a hand if they are preparing an activity for class, and just be there for them. Not in their face - we all need distance - but be ready to lend a hand or share some ideas when appropriate.
Students are your key audience. If students are happy, teachers and administrators will also be happy.
To keep students happy, keep your lessons active and varied, treat them with respect, and give them positive feedback on your work. Sure, there are other things, but I find the most popular teachers do these things most often.
Students don't mind being given homework, for example, unless you are going to be yet another foreign teacher who never marks it.
Develop a relationship of respect with your students, learn their names, and treat them as human beings. Don't shout at them, make fun of, or berate them. Remember you have no idea what they went through the period before you got to class or the day before at home, and they are children, so take it easy and be understanding and nurturing.
None of this is rocket science. I just wanted to remind people that just landing a job does not mean you have to quit being conscientious, polite and professional. That is a daily part of the job from start to finish that far too many foreign teachers leave at the doorstep after they take a job.
The result is often a very poor impression of foreigners, and an early exit from that great job you were so excited about just weeks or months before.
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All pretty sound advice. I've a pretty low threshold for bullshit and its not sat well with my farang counterparts. Notice I did not use the word colleague or teacher. I left a job over some office politics at a good school. Agency was no help, they are quite happy with drunks, creepers - the zombies.
If you are a competent, educated person looking to do the job - watch your back. Ninety percent of teachers are here for all the wrong reasons and cannot even be troubled to perform to minimum standards for which they are paid.
There are many teachers quite willing to offload their responsibilities on you.
Work for the students and administration. They sign your check but you will make enemies.
By Lou Mak, Bangkok (22nd October 2015)
You're right it's not rocket science, but I am still surprised by some of the shenanigans so called foreign teachers pull. I'm not perfect but I do inspire to at least set a good example for the rest of us in the trenches.
By Rocco , Trang (22nd October 2015)