I met a friend of a friend the other day who said to me that TEFL in Thailand was dead.
He’d been in the same 37,000 baht a month job for seven years and said there was nothing out there to improve his lot. He thought the only option was to go and qualify as a teacher in his home country and come back to Thailand but he didn’t fancy anything that serious. He liked his simple working routine but not the remuneration and conditions that came with it.
Strangely, this conversation wasn’t a one-off. I’ve had it numerous times with many TEFL teachers in Thailand.
So many people complain about conditions, wages and opportunities but do nothing to address these things. Some TEFL teachers seem to think this isn’t an industry or a “real” job so other aspects such as annual reviews and training aren’t relevant. It’s led me to believe that there are a lot of unambitious TEFL teachers out there who do the bare minimum and still complain.
We’ve probably all felt at some time in our life that we’re 'coasting'. The feeling of doing the bare minimum and not really improving or developing. For some people it feels good whilst others hate it. The problem is here in TEFL Thailand it’s possible to coast for a long time and not do anything about it.
After three years in my previous job I felt myself coasting. I wasn’t improving or developing and discussed this with many colleagues there. Interestingly, despite agreeing with me, none of them have left their jobs almost two years later. These teachers still complain about the same things and it makes me laugh and also feel rather sad for them. The problem is they feel the extra work or training to get a better position isn’t worth it.
I hear the argument that wages in Thailand have remained the same for years. 20 years ago it was possible to make 35,000 baht a month in a government school and it’s the same today. The problem is a number of TEFL teachers have seemingly accepted this and stayed in that job whilst doing nothing but complain.
TEFL jobs in Thailand can pay over 100,000 baht a month if you get the right positions and perhaps do a bit of work on the side. 35,000 certainly isn’t the ceiling. Those stuck at 35K a month and complaining about it are obviously unambitious, they’re happy with what they have and don’t feel like putting the effort in to make more. If they aren’t unambitious then they’re certainly lazy. As you’ll see below it’s really simple to go to 50,000 baht a month with just a little extra training.
This isn’t just an issue for those on 35,000 baht a month. It’s easy to coast on any salary. Many TEFL jobs pay around 50,000 baht a month and many of my friends have gotten to that level and think they’ve succeeded. If you’re making over 100,000 baht a month then you’re doing well but if you’re making 50 -80,000 baht a month you can certainly make more.
Of course, in most situations, the extra money will come with higher training requirements and more responsibilities but unfortunately so many people are here for the easy life. They can see that extra 10,000 pay rise but think “nah, can’t be bothered with that extra work”.
I’ll do it next year..
A key argument from many people I’ve met is there aren’t accessible courses they can do to improve or develop. I’m left astonished by the number of times people haven’t heard of well-known TEFL training courses which would make a big difference for them. For most of these you can do them part-time and don’t need to leave Thailand – no excuses not do them unless you don’t care about improving yourself.
CELTA, DELTA, TRINITY and DIP TESOL are just some of the options available. These days you can even do online TEFL degrees or online master degrees backed by international universities. The problem is so many people I’ve spoken to either give up on these courses or just put them off.
I’m telling you now, if you get a CELTA there are lots of jobs paying over 50,000 baht a month you can walk into. No experience needed, no fooling around, these jobs are out there.
On Ajarn.com these jobs exist, just take a look. If you’re in a 35,000 baht job, just go do a CELTA and the 60,000 baht fee will be paid off after four months in your new job. It should be a no-brainer to do a CELTA if you plan to be here for the medium-long term working in TEFL but it seems a lot of people can’t be bothered or don’t want to put the effort in.
If you want to be in TEFL and maximize your opportunities (and salary) then an MA in teaching, a DELTA or TRINITY DIP will see you get some of the most prized TEFL jobs around the world.
Another argument is that some teachers say these training courses are too serious and they don’t want to do more training. There are certainly people doing the bare minimum to be here and are so unambitious that they don’t want to improve as teachers.
I’ve also heard many TEFL teachers saying they will go home and get qualified as a teacher in their home country and come back to work at an international school. I don't know of one person who’s actually followed through on it. Becoming an international school teacher is just a pipe dream discussed on a Friday night at Cheap Charlie's for many TEFL teachers.
No promotions or responsibility
I understand if people don’t want to work in management, it’s certainly not for everyone. The problem is that if you don’t want to change schools or get a new qualification then promotion is realistically your only way to develop and earn more.
A job I used to have paid the assistant managers an extra 5,000 baht a month more than teachers. For the extra responsibility it wasn’t a great deal. However, after around a year there was a high chance of becoming a branch manager making around an extra 35,000 baht a month compared to a teacher. The issue was so many teachers were short-sighted and only looked at the negative of extra responsibility for only 5,000 baht extra a month.
I understand some people just want to be a teacher and detest the idea of working for a “corporate machine” but it’s a viable way to improve your quality of life here. The lack of ambition to develop or put in extra work from some TEFL teachers is pretty poor.
Something for nothing
Throughout several TEFL jobs in Thailand it seems some teachers expect something for nothing. They feel that by merely doing what is expected of them they should be rewarded or automatically shoved up the career ladder. TEFL is like any job - people who put in effort will get something back and those who do the minimum or wait for something to fall into their laps won’t get anything.
In some cases people have argued that poor pay means they don’t feel under any obligation to go the extra mile. It’s a shame that people have this negative view which will certainly impact them in the long run.
You certainly shouldn't be expected to do many hours of unpaid work but a little here and there can make a difference. The problem is some TEFL teachers seem so bitter towards their employers that they’ll be out the door as soon as possible after class.
When it’s OK to be unambitious
I understand why some people are unambitious. If you’re here for a couple of years or doing a bit of part time TEFL work to make some spare cash, you don’t care too much if your salary goes up or if you can get a promotion. Also, if you’re already well off and TEFLing as purely something to do then no worries, enjoy the lazy teacher lifestyle.
I know one TEFL teacher here who worked as a stockbroker in London and rocks up to work without a care in the world to his 55,000 baht a month job. He likes the work, gets his work permit and visas sorted and works around 30 hours a week. On days off he’s either in his condo in Phuket or dropping 7,000 baht playing at one of the most exclusive golf clubs in Bangkok. He’s the type of person who has already had success and is happy being unambitious here in Thailand. Fair play to him.
If you are genuinely happy with your job and salary then that’s a good reason not to push further. However, I doubt there are many people out there who wouldn’t fancy an extra few baht in their back pockets and a chance to develop themselves.
Checklist for change
If you’ve been coasting for a few years and want to improve your lot, I’d recommend the following as real actionable points you can do to show ambition.
Complete a training course. It could be a CELTA / DELTA or another course linked to teaching. Make sure it’s internationally recognized and discuss with your employer if they can help you with funding.
Speak with your manager to see if there is anything you can do on top of your current role. This could be project work, materials writing or mentoring. All of these would be excellent skills to learn and practice which will make you a better teacher and give you further opportunities in the future.
Always keep looking out for opportunities. Sure you might not find something straight away but there are lots of interesting jobs advertised throughout the year. Also speak to other teachers you know who’ve changed jobs to get their advice.
Get on LinkedIn. There are lots of teacher recruiters looking for part time staff.
Seriously consider online teaching. It could make you an extra 400-750 baht an hour.
If you enjoyed this blog, check out my website - Life in a New Country
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