Richard McCully

My thoughts on gate duty

It’s not a punishment. It’s not going to kill you.

The end of November saw a topic discussed on the Ajarn Facebook page which prompted TEFL teachers in Thailand to take up keyboard arms against a Thai teacher who had commented on an article. I’m of course talking about the scandal – Gate Duty...Gate. 

A Thai teacher posted the following...

I am a Thai teacher and I have to do gate duty once a week for two reasons. Firstly, we check that students have come to school in the correct uniform and shoes, etc. Secondly, we greet the students warmly and welcome them to school. If Thai teachers can do this once a week, then why can't foreign teachers do the same? - Kanjani, Tak (29th November 2018)

What was this teacher thinking? 

Obviously this teacher doesn’t know that foreigners have watertight contracts which show they only need to be at school from 8.00 am and not a minute earlier. Foreign teachers have to put up with hanging around, watching Netflix, until 4pm everyday, so why should they have to come in a little bit early some days on top of this? 

Gate duty isn’t specifically mentioned in our working contracts. We also know that people around the world only perform 'the exact duties as laid out in their contracts' as mentioned by many astute TEFL teachers in the Facebook replies section.  People never stay late, arrive early or go above and beyond expectations at work. That only happens in places like New York and London and we all left those places to avoid this 'working more than I need to' malarkey.  

Some TEFL teachers are employed by agencies. We know these morally upstanding companies would never agree to teachers doing gate duty without informing said teachers first, right? If my agency didn’t mention it in the interview or in the job description, why should I be expected to do it? 

As one teacher pointed out - 'Thai staff get pensions and cut price loans and until foreign teachers get the same rights they shouldn’t be expected to give up half an hour a week to say hello and speak English with their students upon arrival to school. They expect us to do something nice for free? Crazy Thai logic.' 

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Where do you stand on gate duty? - Do you approach those extra responsibilities with commendable gusto? 

I’m not the fashion police

Sure you need to wear school uniform to school. The problem is us TEFL teachers don’t know what that uniform is. How can we be expected to do gate duty combined with school uniform inspection until we’ve been taught how high socks need to be pulled up and which hairstyles are not allowed? Perhaps send us on a week-long training course in Phuket and then we’ll happily perform gate duty until we need a refresher course the following term.

Our shirts were never tucked during most of our schooldays and look at us - we all got degrees! These Thai kids are about to have to stand outside in the sun for 30 minutes for assembly, why should I make things worse by shouting at them for minor uniform infractions?  

The students don’t care

I spoke to Bell from class 4/2 and she said,  “I just say good morning to the foreign teacher on gate duty as then I know the Thai teacher won’t shout at me for wearing slightly pink socks. It’s not important that they’re there as most of them seem to just leave after a few months anyway.” 

Ploy from 6/1 had similar views, “I’ve been up since 4.00 am and I’m doing 39 exams a week for GAT/PAT so the last thing I need is someone trying to speak English with me and asking what I ate for breakfast that day. The foreign teachers at my school can’t even wai properly, it’s a joke.”

However, Big from class 5/3 had stronger views in support of foreign teachers,  “Following the recent yellow-vest protests in France, I feel TEFL teachers in Thailand should unite and protest against the travesty of them doing 30 minutes gate duty a week.” 

I think we can see that foreigners being on gate duty brings no benefits. 

The valet

It sounds that some ultra-unfortunate TEFLers even have to open car doors and carry bags for students. That actually is a joke.  However it seems that with some schools paying salaries of just 15-20,000 a month, it is cheaper to have a few teachers stationed at the gates than actual trained security guards or valets to do the job.

In all seriousness…

It’s 30 minutes a week for most teachers. It’s not a punishment. It’s not going to kill you and it could help you get a pay increase by showing that you care. 

Thai students actually really appreciate having foreigners there. Moaning about it makes you look a bit pathetic. 

If you have to open car doors and carry bags then yes that’s not on. You would be right to complain about that.  

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I do find Asian parents and Asian employers in general do tend to considerably take advantage of us and make use of us junior teachers time which should be better used in teaching related work.
Perhaps it would be more appropriate and cost effective if they employ part time greeters or an admin staff to do the gate duty. Also, teachers should not be blamed if their Asian children behaved badly in class. It is the parents responsibility to discipline their children if their children behaved badly in class.

By wpass, In another part of South East Asia (22nd December 2018)

seems its all about Netflix ! Gate duty is fake nonsense. Has no purpose at all, Only the Newbie teachers on here are saying " Ah I love its no problem blah blah blah "

By sam, Bangkok (21st December 2018)

What is everyone moaning about? I do gate duty once a week 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon. No extra time spent. Just always come in a bit early instead of at the last moment every day. It makes you look much better.

Same thing with the thing about Netflix. What are you even doing if you spend all day watching Netflix? These people are the same people complaining that the school system is crap, not realizing that they are a big part of the problem!

People complaining about a country's rules, which is a country that they themselves decided to live in...what are you even doing here? If everything is worse here than in another country....well, Bangkok has 2 airports...Use them!

By Jonathan, Trat (19th December 2018)

Thai teachers have quite low professionalism beyond the face value....

Gate duty is easy.

Me? I look for who pays the best and the best environment to work in.

Go with the flow...

By 6Years, Thailand (18th December 2018)

I have to say that the foreign teachers who are complaining about having to do gate duty or spending extra time with your students, then I honestly shouldn't be Teachers well not in Thailand. In that part of the reason for "Gate Duty" is so the parents of your students can also see who is teaching their kids. Also don't forget it's these parents pay your salary. And with some schools have a say on what they want to see us foreign teachers doing.And if its gate duty then we should do it. Because its also a great opportunity for us as foreigners to get to know the parents. So stop complaining about the little things. OK?

By Jody, Ubon Ratchatani (16th December 2018)

It isn't that I would have to get to the school 30 minutes earlier than usual, or for the fact that I'd be ignored by most of the students apart from my own in a tried and trusted tradition, while everyone of the former waied the Thai teachers. Nor that if I relate my salary to the amount of hours I teach and divide it by my rate at the language center - I'm already being short changed for teaching at the school.

It is, the possibility of having to stand out in the direct heat of the sun for 30 odd minutes, because after a period of time I start to melt. Then at least one fly will end up doing some landing practice in my ear-hole - it is just not the way to begin the day.

By Richard, Bangkok (13th December 2018)

I suspect given the option, most teachers would prefer to not do gate duty, but if required, make the best of it. Or change jobs to a place it is not required if it is a major issue for an individual.

By Jack, About (10th December 2018)

I don't agree with us teachers being forced to hang around (and most if the time wasting our time) at the door or gate to greet or wait for the students arrival. It should be the students responsibility to go to straight to the classroom themselves or the parents responsibility to bring the (younger) students to the classroom.

By wpass, In another part of South East Asia (9th December 2018)

They expect us to do something nice for free? Crazy Thai logic.'

are you in the right job

are you even in the right country

why are you here exactly

why don't you just go home if your lot is so bad

By dominc, bangkok (8th December 2018)

Foreign teachers have to put up with hanging around, watching Netflix, until 4pm everyday,

attitudes like this make me cringe

I find there is not enough hours in the day to get student related work done
am I missing something here
am I wrong in thinking a teacher's job is never done

I work with Netflix fans too and see at first hard the caliber of their work and the short comings in their attitudes toward students and Thailand in general
the education system here needs an uplift
getting rid of these Netflixers would be a good place to start

By dominc, bangkok (8th December 2018)

At my school, and I wont say exactly which one it is for reasons...We are required to stand at the front gate in the morning from 7:30 to 9:00am THEN again in the afternoon from 3:30 to 4:30pm once a week, that's two and a half hours expected gate duty and theres more...but I'd rock the boat and lose my job or worse.

By Kman, Kanchanaburi (7th December 2018)

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