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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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.
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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