Over the last few weeks I’ve seen a number of teachers sharing the hours they work.
Having seen the cost of living for an international school teacher here on Ajarn.com the other day, a Twitter user replied that these international school teachers often have to go big on the hours they put in. It got me thinking about my experiences here in Thailand in terms of the hours in the classroom (and staff room) and thinking how much is too much.
I’ve worked at a government school, private classes, online and at two language centers during my TEFL journey so have a fair range of experiences. Obviously I lack the university and international school side of things but I know some people who have done these jobs and perhaps others can fill in any missing gaps in the comments section…
15 – 30 hours a week teaching
In my personal experience I’ve worked between 15-30 hours a week whilst here in Thailand.
When I was teaching online I averaged around 20 hours a week. This sometimes felt like way too long as doing one on one classes can drag. Being sat in front of a computer for three hours straight teaching isn’t fun, especially when the pay isn’t always great.
The Thai high school I worked at gave me 18 hours of teaching over three levels. This really meant I was doing the same lessons six times a week. It was a little boring but helped with planning. I didn’t feel overworked at all though.
My first language school job was 30 hours a week teaching. This was too much, especially as they only gave around 10 days a year annual leave on top of public holidays. I felt burnt out after around a year or so and made the decision to look for something with lower teaching hours.
I then worked for a company who did business English seminars for a few months. It was a really interesting experience as I often shared the teaching with others. There would be a team of two to four teachers per day and we would split the workload so the actual teaching was maximum three hours. Unfortunately, the work dried up but this was my favorite position in terms of workload at around 15 hours a week.
Currently I’m on about 21 hours a week which includes teaching a few of the same classes twice a week. It feels about right and I wouldn’t be keen to do more hours than this now having experienced it.
Outside the classroom
Every job requires planning and admin. My initial government school job actually insisted that I stayed on premises for eight hours a day which really dragged things out. However, the language schools I’ve worked in are much more flexible and I can arrive for class 30 minutes early and leave when finished. The planning I did for online teaching didn’t feel too bad as I could do it from home and, as I mainly offered conversation classes, was minimal. For the business role we often just stayed together for half an hour after work and planned the next day or the following week so it didn’t feel too onerous.
Also some of my jobs have insisted I do activities like shows and performances which have added extra hours to my day. Some of these I’ve enjoyed but others have been a drag. I feel like these extra activities are far more common in traditional schools rather than language centers.
Working hours and performance
I think every teacher has had a day where they feel overworked and their performance in the classroom has suffered. If it happens every so often then that’s to be expected. If it’s a constant experience then it may be due to being overworked.
I read stories of some teachers working near 12-hour days constantly and that can’t be good for you. Some people thrive on that kind of pressure but I’d say it’s not the norm.
My longest working days are about eight hours but that includes lunch and other breaks. After this I’m pretty shattered, despite this only being two of the five days I work. I’m not sure how I used to do six hours teaching every day in my previous language center job, it just doesn’t seem sustainable anymore.
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