Laura Thomas

I actually don't mind gate duty

A chance to connect with both parents and students.

In numerous schools across Thailand, both Thai and foreign teachers share the responsibility of greeting parents and students at the school gate. 

Depending on the school's size, this duty may involve two or more teachers rotating shifts daily. While many Thai teachers faithfully perform gate duty, some are less consistent. Conversely, most foreign teachers diligently fulfill this obligation, typically arriving before 7:00 a.m. and concluding by 8:00 a.m., coinciding with the flag ceremony. Thai teachers typically greet in Thai, while foreign teachers often initiate conversations in English.

Initially, when I was assigned gate duty a couple of years ago, I felt apprehensive. It was unfamiliar territory, as in my home country, such formal greetings weren't customary. Greetings between students and teachers happened naturally. However, adhering to the school's policies, I soon discovered the merits of gate duty. Firstly, it provided students with additional opportunities to practice personal information and greetings, skills they hadn't fully mastered. For instance, some confidently responded "I am fine, thank you" when asked their age or jumped ahead with "My name is..." before completing a greeting.

Moreover, gate duty facilitated interactions with parents, keeping them informed about their children's education. It also helped me memorize students' names and understand them better outside the classroom. Additionally, it fostered camaraderie with Thai teachers and enabled me to learn their language.

In a particular case, an English teacher in Udon Thani's international school embraced gate duty willingly. Although foreign teachers weren't obliged to participate, he occasionally joined to engage with parents and students.

During my time at an international school in Chiang Mai, gate duty was compulsory. I assisted young children with their belongings and even conducted temperature checks. Interestingly, among the three foreign teachers, I was the sole consistent participant. Eventually, observing the lack of enforcement, I ceased attending, unchallenged by the school administration.

At my current school, gate duty poses no inconvenience. I'm only required to spend ten minutes at the gate. Discussing this with peers from English teaching circles, few admitted to never performing gate duty, primarily delegated to Thai teachers. Directors rarely enforced it, with many teachers doing it just once a week.

Through first hand experience, regardless of the duration, I've come to value gate duty as an opportunity to connect with Thai colleagues, parents, and students, while also providing additional English practice for my students. So, have you reconsidered the notion that gate duty is a superfluous task when teaching English in Thailand?


Wherever I've worked all foreign teachers hated doing gate duty, you might get the odd do-gooder like Laura Thomas, who doesnt mind it. Its hot out there and we were expected to stand out there for at least 30 minutes. I never once spoke to any parents and didnt talk much to the Thai teachers. No, I havent reconsidered my loathing for being forced to do it, especially since schools in the Western countries would never bother with this boring, senseless activity.

By Craig, Nonthaburi (31st March 2024)

Yes, Kiko. That's been my experience of gate duty at the numerous schools I've taught at in Bangkok. It is at best - a necessary evil.

By Richard Constable, Bang Na (20th March 2024)

Gate duty at my school starts at 7 a.m., but most foreigners show up about 20 minutes later. Then we have to stand there till 8 a.m. Even at that time it can be quite hot and it's for sure no fun standing there that long time. There are no parents who want to talk to us foreigners, most of them can't speak enough English. As for the students, most of them are quite shy and just say hello. And often have to reminded to do so by the Thai teachers. I wouldn't ask the students any personal questions unless they are my students and I know they can answer.

By Kiko, Kamphaeng (20th March 2024)

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