Mark Newman

Be the worst teacher you can be

A guide to making life difficult for you and everyone else

There are too many articles being written on how to be a good English language teacher in Thailand. There are numerous blogs around the internet and on this website all devoted to how to get by and be a better employee. I've penned a few of them myself. There's simply not enough information on how to be a crap teacher and just coast by. There's almost nothing on how easily you can do things that can get you fired or at least lose you the respect of everyone around you.

This article aims to put things right. What follows is a nice and easy to follow guide that includes some of the things you should do to make life difficult for yourself and everyone around you.

General Behavior And Office Politics:

Alright, let's go... and we'll start with the money! One of the most important things you should do is let everyone know how much you earn... especially the Filipinos you work with. Rub their noses in it. You are paid more than they are and this is the measure by which you should be judged.

Another cool thing you can do is - when you're waiting to check in first thing in the morning, push through all the other teachers who just seem to be loitering. There's no way you should have to wait an eternity for these idiots to finish their mindless morning chats. You've got important stuff ahead of you so don't be held up by the lazy ones who insist on starting each day with a friendly chinwag.

If the printer isn't working or the internet is down, the office staff want to know about it... but only from you. Always make a big deal out of things when they go wrong. The admin bods will take your concerns a lot more seriously if you march in there and start complaining loudly. If you can, single out an individual to lay the entire blame on. You'll certainly get their attention and the printer will be fixed in no time and you'll be back on Facebook by the time you get back upstairs to your desk.

If you wake up with a hangover don't bother going in. It'll be OK. Your school can usually guess when you won't show up and make plans accordingly. Also, there's always a bunch of your colleagues who will fill in for you at short notice and be happy to do so. If it makes you feel better, send someone a text or an instant message that you won't be coming in. Leave it as close as possible to the start of the first lesson you are supposed to be teaching.

Talk about drinking. Thais love to hear stories about people who drink a lot. Describe in detail what you do when you get drunk. You'll be the center of attention and your non-drinking colleagues will be impressed. Actually - talk about anything that's on your mind. Never miss an opportunity to let everyone know how much better your country is compared to Thailand. The people you work with are fascinated by what you reckon so let it all out!

The textbooks you are using are awful and you should let everyone know. And remind them at every opportunity because sometimes people forget. Additionally, you should tell everyone that you could easily write better books than the ones you have been instructed to teach from. (Don't actually do this, though. Just let everyone know that you could if you wanted to.)

In The Classroom:

Here are a few tips for when you are actually teaching... First - make sure that you do all the talking. Letting the students have a go just slows things down and anyway they're rubbish at it. Don't forget that when you are talking, always face the blackboard/whiteboard, etc. You should never be looking at your students. And don't forget to use 'fillers' like "you know", "I mean", "okay", "so", "actually", "basically", and "right", etc.

After you start teaching in Thailand it soon becomes clear that the students are all stupid and won't fail the tests anyway so STOP TRYING! Let's face it; your heart's never been in your work and all this is just an excuse to see a bit of Asia before you go back to the real world. Don't get stressed out by trying to do what you have been paid for. It's just daft.

If your students are getting out of control, try shouting. This really gets their attention and always works a treat. The louder the better, too. Oh, and if you remember, mix in some swear words as well. Thai teachers shout at their students and you should too. Everyone loses their temper occasionally, and the best time to do this is in your classroom in front of an audience.

Correct your students on every little thing they do wrong. It's the only way they are going to learn, right? The more you stop your classes to correct their mistakes the more they'll learn and they'll thank you for it, too. Thai kids love being corrected and it shows that you know more than they do.

Lesson plans are all fine and dandy but the reality is that you can wing your way through your classes a whole lot better without them. Lesson plans really are for nerds and crawly-bum-licks! Don't forget - you know best on how to teach. Don't listen to anyone else and their half-baked ideas.

If you think the kids haven't understood anything, move on quickly. If they didn't get it the first time, there's no earthly reason to think that doing the whole thing over again is going to have a different ending. You have a lot of teaching to get through. If the students can't learn it that's hardly your fault, right?

Here's a tip that will save you a few headaches; only play to the crowd that is paying attention. Focus all your time and energy on the few people at the front who want to learn. All the other kids are badduns and won't make any use of English in the future. Best to let them snooze at their desks at the back of the class.

Finally - get romantically involved with your students. Nothing bad can ever happen when you cross this line and get involved with a sexy student. Thai girls are very discreet and pragmatic and they handle rejection well. So when you've moved on to the next one they'll be cool about it and just let things fade into a happy memory. Get out there and enjoy yourself.

In Conclusion:

In the end, don't forget that you're a part of an industry that can't recognize or reward its best employees and blithely ignores ongoing systematic, catastrophic failures. Nobody is going to give you a pat on the back for making an effort so why would you?

Be rude, be selfish and act on impulse. Things will always work out fine for you when you do!


Even thought this is meant to be tongue in cheek it's so sums up a lot of foreigners in this industry. But then again you knew that when writing it!

By dave, The Land Of Som Tam (15th August 2022)

How dare you?!?! If you don't like it, you get the hell out of someone else's country. Just kidding. I wanted to try and be the sanctimonious and self-loathing farang to see how it feels. This is how you laugh and cry at the same time.

Getting ahead in the teaching game can be very difficult. You stay another year at your school, get paid a little more, maybe some more holiday, but that's about it. The longer you stay the more useless teachers you see come and go. You have that mixed feeling of knowing you're worth more in your school, but also how you are now the go-to-guy whenever there's a problem with people like '23-year-old James from Leeds' who loves getting leathered and indulging with the local ladies. He didn't go to uni, but he's wicked good at installing Sky satellite dishes. He thinks he got the job simply because he's special and handsome and finds it hard to cope with any criticism or requests to do work. The break from the honeymoon period has been hard on James. So bad he's thinking of getting a new job! He threatens this in his head everyday.

For every good teacher, I'd say there are 3 bad ones. The bad ones are usually allowed to coast along until the school finally get their revenge and don't renew their contract. Some like James from Leeds live from paycheck to paycheck so know they actually need their job. They'll come to work on time and not complain for the last few weeks. All the things anyone should be doing in their job anyway. This way the school might think James has turned a corner. At the very least for James, he has his "I've been treated unfairly" card for when the school wanna let him go. He can tell his friends and missus who quit her job when she met him how he arrived on time, taught his lessons and was loved by everyone at the school. Except for one person who had it in for him for 'no reason'. Life's so unfair for James.

Rinse and repeat in many schools. The good teachers watch the bad teachers come and go and wonder why nothing is changing. Often quoting Einstein's definition of insanity.

By Liam, Ratchaburi (20th April 2017)

Mark, your sarcasm is remarkable, always hits the spot 555555. After three years teaching I am still amazed by the audacity of these young uns who think teaching is a sideline to their holiday. I have tried so hard to explain that the education of their children is an investment for the parents, not to be played with yet 'what the hell does an old hand like me know'. Always good to read your articles. I believe you are in Bangkok? Sorry to hear about the street food stalls closing. Happy Easter and songkran.

By Shireen fillbrook, Phangnga (18th April 2017)

Very funny but sadly quite common behaviour for many teachers

By Linda, Hatyai (18th April 2017)

I understand the joke but I have met these Teachers and they actually believe they are good at teaching. I worked with an Irishman who believed us when we told him in Thailand you do not have to come to work when it is raining. He had been working in the school for over 9 months already.

I will admit to taking 13 years to realize it is the Thai way or the highway but now the road is long and straight. Hmmm, what country should i go to next?

By T Mark, Chantaburi (18th April 2017)

That's priceless Mark! Absolutely brilliant. I could add a few recommendations on staffroom chat, but perhaps there's a PG rating of the blog :)

By Steve, Bangkok (18th April 2017)

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