Stephen Louw

A cog in the wheel

The eternally pointless blame game

Have you ever inspected the inside of a mechanical watch? Those ones with gears and cogs. They are a thing of real beauty.

Vacheron Contantin currently claims to have the the most complex pocket watch available. Check it out!. When you look into a watch of this sort, you can't help but wonder why so many little gears are needed! With so many little parts (interestingly called 'complications'), is there a threat of poor reliability? Is it difficult to service? Are fewer parts not better?

During my idle moments when my brain is not yet at optimum capacity, I like to browse through the funny pictures posted on Lots of photographs of silly Americans and cute cats. Recently, I came across this peach:

The poster is trying to take the mechanical workings of a gears as a metaphor for how education works. It is amusingly flawed, but the metaphor is pretty useful.

Cogs in the educational wheel

The participants in a school's operation are called stakeholders. Parents, teachers and students are perhaps the key stakeholders. But there are a lot of other stakeholders too: the school principal, doctoral experts from a specialist university, government officers and ministers, the school staff, the students' peers, the vocal mothers' group, the old grandmother on the corner. Any (or all) of these contribute to, and can have a say in how things are run in a school.

More stakeholders means there is greater input and more resources available. But like a complex watch, the more stakeholders, the more things there are to go wrong.

In education, the greatest problem is the conflicting agenda of the different stakeholders. Teachers and parents want more money spent while finance and administration want more efficiency for what money there is available. And so on.

Perhaps the biggest problem with multiple stakeholders is the dilution of responsibility. When things go right, everything is fine, but when things go wrong, someone must be to blame. To my mind, this blame-game is problematic.

In struggling private schools, the scale of things allows it to be easily seen. Student numbers drop - the parents blame the school, the owner blames shoddy teaching, the teachers blame the lack of resources. Or something along those lines. If Superman were to land to save the day, which department would he fix?

When we get to the state school system, things are far more complex - like that fancy watch.

Fixing faulty cogs

At the ministry level, there is constantly a search for ways find fixes. Problems are identified and pulled apart, and interventions are created and put into force. And then nothing changes. For some reason teachers don't implement the change. Why a change in policy doesn't lead to changes in the classroom is then baffling. You can almost hear them saying 'Those teachers won't do as we tell them!'

But, again, it's more complex than that. The world of education is notoriously conservative.

Teachers look back on the halcyon days of their own education as the model for how things should be. Experienced teachers are given positions of power, and then say things like, 'We have been doing things this way for years and it works'.

Studies on teacher practice have identified a fascinating thing called the 'apprenticeship of observation' - teachers tend to teach the way they were taught. In a climate where the past directs the future, innovative government policies (for what they are) meet a brick wall of resistance. And perhaps rightly so - as teachers, we have pressing concerns of making and marking tests and dealing with difficult classes.

Can policy makers at a boardroom table say anything that will make our job at the coalface easier?

Doing what we can

Is there a solution? Like a good watch, things can only really work smoothly in the schooling system when everyone does their little part. Each cog has its function, moves at its own speed, and somehow contributes to the success of the whole.

As foreign English teachers, much as it pains me to say so, we really do have a very small part to play. But if you look closely at the inside of the watch, even the tiniest cogs play some important role - without them, the big cogs aren't going to do what they need to do. Unlike a watch, however, in education if something is broken, it can't simply be replaced.

Teachers moralizing about poor government policy is as destructive as school owners shouting about shoddy teachers. Instead, dealing with the broken cogs in a school requires patience from all the stakeholders.

While sharing views can be useful if it is done in the right spirit, our duties are usually clear: going back to that peachy poster, the responsibility of all the stakeholders (including the students') is to the students' learning: finger pointing achieves nothing except to self-justify an abdication of that responsibility.

Steve has been a teacher and teacher trainer for over 30 years, and is currently a lecturer on the Master’s in TESOL program at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi in Bangkok.



Jack, you put a lot of time and effort into your excellent insights in these blog comments sections. I don't suppose I could talk you into writing a monthly blog could I?

By Phil (, Samut Prakarn (11th August 2016)

Refreshingly honest , Elisha.

As teachers anywhere in the world, we might not be the best, but don't we wanna try our best? I know I do.

Why do teachers moan so much? I'm not sure that they do; in fact, I found many teachers here to be surprisingly positive in the face of exploitation. Recently I had a Thai teacher moaning all week about having to pay a 15 Baht monthly fee for her salary to be deposited 'cos the school had changed banks. You could call her negative........or, you could say that she's 100% right. But in her words "They only do this 'cos they know people won't complain to their face". She's right. Sadly, many people (not just Thais) will pull shit on others if they can get away with it. That's why you'd say no.

Anyway, I digress. Progressives wanna debate the subject and conservatives don't. But what I've always found strange is, why do the foreign teachers not have to teach in the Thai style? I see the Thai style in government schools is very much 'rote learning'. Why are we not expected to do the same? Why is the onus on us to be the fun and young ones. The class has to be fun! Well, it has to be interesting. Sure. I 100% agree. You're told to respect the system as a guest but not to apply it in your class. Are you indirectly admitting that the system is flawed, but you can't/won't change the mentality for the local teachers?

To finish on a negative (or a realist) note; I once worked for a school with too many kids in the class. No, literally too many. They were breaking the law. Luckily for them they had someone from the ministry of education on the school's board of directors. Inspections were a lot simpler for this school. Pointing out they were breaking the law would be negative though, right? Gotta respect the system of double standards. The "Do as I say and not as I do" philosophy has been instilling morals into kids for years, ha ha ha. That's how kids learn., right?

The fundamentals of anything are its foundations. If you have cracks in these, how can anything work to its true potential?

By Samual, Bangkok (8th August 2016)

Most of the specific criticism here applies only to Thai educational establishments, Thailand being the lowest achiever in ASEAN where education is concerned. No other is so heavily mired by stubborn adherence to notions that authority, tradition and repression play a primary role in education. Knowledge and critical thinking skills are implicitly abandoned. There is poor discernment in, even the recognition of good from bad teachers. Using the quote "we've been doing things this way for years and it works"

Steve Louw generates the comment that studies show teachers teach the way they were taught. To which studies this refers, he doesn't make clear. Certainly most studies in Europe do not show this, - more likely
they deal with the way teachers are taught to teach, in teacher training - a very different thing from the way they were themselves taught in school.

However, Mr Louw is from South Africa, a country whose 1st language is traditionally Afrikaans, not English, which may explain the way he sees things.

Anecdotal observation of foreign teachers in provincial Thailand may well yield a finding of teachers whose only prior knowledge of education was from their own schooling (often many years ago). These have tended to be people who walked round to a local school to find a job, on the basis that they have a Thai wife and are native speakers (and thus less visa headaches from the school's point of view).

It is of course claimed that now only graduates are employed, though in practice, this is sloppily applied. I know of cases where agencies tell non graduates to lie to the school, one such person teaches in a very famous school. In that case, the person at least had teaching experience.

Many TEFL courses also fall short of the minimum number of hours required to qualify. However, the course owners often have personal links with schools, and in Thailand, personal links mean everything. One English teacher being inspected asked the inspector about his training - thinking he may learn more about the system. The Inspector replied that he had no training in education,- he got the job because he knew someone!!

By Elisha Watson , Thailand (7th August 2016)

For a school or any business to truly work well, everyone has to feel respected and appreciated. From the head honcho to the cleaners, they all have to feel they have a part to play and are contributing. Often foreign teachers don't feel this and feel they're only at the school because that's what the parents want. Make all staff, including the foreign teachers, feel welcome, valued and respected, and they will work harder and more happily. But this really is common sense.

The buck stops with the people in charge. These people are paid more and are usually employed based on their qualifications, skills and experience. The biggest skill a boss can have for me is compassion and empathy. Bosses can't simply demand and order. People don't respond well to this. Also, the boss has to be consistent. Either you're an asshole or you're not. There's nothing worse than having a boss who blows hot and cold. People don't like unpredictability. They like to know what to expect. At least with an asshole boss you know what to expect and what's expected of you.

I feel agencies will become obsolete. We live in an age where we have instant information at our finger tips - BUT, schools need to put trust in their teachers. Identify the good ones and utilize them. Don't chuck them all in the same pile because that will breed complacency. If you have a decent teacher, in everyday on time, accommodating and affable, put some trust in them. Give these teachers more responsibility. Have them help with recruitment. Make them feel valued. Once they prove to you they can do it, have them as a head teacher.

Once they have been appointed as head teacher, they can recruit new teachers. They can monitor and check on new teachers. Pay them more and maybe decrease their teaching load so they can concentrate on leading. But! Very important - make sure they're still teaching. The best way to lead is from experience and setting examples. "I might be your boss, but I do the same teaching as you. I know all the problems you have, and I'm here to support you".

Deadbeats and jobsworths need to be identified and culled. There are too many in schools nowadays. I believe most people are good. You treat them well and they will reciprocate that. The TEFL industry here needs a huge kick up the arse. We need to get away from thinking of education as a business. Education is not something that should be allowed to be bought or sold.

By Kyle, Bangkok (3rd August 2016)

Johny John: complain a lot.

Was this referring to the students or your approach used in your comments?

By Jack, In front of my computer (2nd August 2016)

I have noticed a disturbing trend on the last 1 or 2 years and that is new teachers with no experience but apparently young and good looking are being chosen above older teachers with a lot of experience. Trying to see both sides of the argument, no one likes a grumpy old sod. But one has to wonder why someone with no or little experience is chosen over and above someone with 10 years of experience. Last year I worked in 4 different schools and saw the brutal face of teaching in government schools with agencies. The agencies not wanting to make any waves, if there was any issue with any teacher for whatever reason would get rid of them. No matter how far they had to travel or the workload. I was teaching maths in a Government school in Pathum Thani and I was a solid hour away. All the kids had to say was “I do not understand” and that was it. Damn if they paid attention in the class, took out their books or wrote anything down. Then new younger teacher who were literally fresh off the boat and who I was helping - they were ok because they were female and apparently good looking. Thai education will never improve until 1. They stop being so sensitive 2. They start making an effort 3. They appreciate experience 4. Agencies role and power is curtailed 5. When teachers have a voice which they can exercise from time to time about problems.

I find Thai kids far too easy to give up, want multiple choice all the time, write little, and complain a lot. In the end it was easier just to take any job and try not give a sh**, and everyone was happy.

By Jonny John, Bangkok (31st July 2016)

Thanks, Jack.

I'll keep fighting the good fight. Doing the right thing keeps me sane in an immoral industry. I appreciate your candour, and I'll try to be more positive.

Let's kick them no contract, no sick pay, in it for the money agents out of teaching. I know of one I'd love to report, but I know too many good guys there ;)

"Having morals may often lose the battle, but it will never lose the war" (Me)

By Samual, Bangkok (29th July 2016)


Best of luck in changing the nature of the ESL industry, I hope you have better luck than the 10s or 100s of thousand other people who have come before you and tried.

By Jack, In front of my computer (29th July 2016)

Hey Stephen. Great article. Every cog is important in a workplace. We must respect everyone from the owner to the cleaners.

"The ESL industry offers low pay and high turnover, much like the fast food industry. Obviously employers want to hire the best teachers possible within their budgets but they are highly unlikely to lose any sleep when a foreign ESL teacher leaves. ESL teachers come and go at about the same rate as workers at a burger joint back home"

Ha ha. Absolutely brutal dude! I only taught TEFL for 6 months because I had to go home. Loved my time there. Ive also worked in fast food and people are fighting hard to get a higher minimum wage and rights. I completely support the fast food workers. Its a horrible industry that needs to be massively improved. Attitudes need to change with the fast food workers.

By Ricky, Kentucky, US (29th July 2016)

Hey Jack,

I take on board all points, and don't wish to attack anyone's replies. There are 2 sides to every story so we should listen to both. I love a good debate and don't speak without being able to back it up. I've got years of experience in Thai school's as the lowly 'fast food worker'. I'm very well qualified to speak on this.

As for the teacher/burger flipper analogy, shouldn't we be fighting to be better than that? Are good teachers really that replaceable? Like any job people get better with experience but they need to feel valued. I've seen good teachers leave and never be replaced properly. Sure, 'most' (being PC here) of the parents are just happy to see a white face, but shouldn't people who know better be doing or even trying more? After all, it's all about the kids. If I send my kid to a local school with a good teacher, I'd have no qualms paying an extra 100 Baht a month along with the other parents to retain this teacher's services. But I guess I care about who's teaching my kid and not what she/he looks like.

As for the Thai education system, it's horrible. Just horrible. You wouldn't be able to find me a brush big enough to paint that headline. I absolutely stand by that comment. Saying it's anything less is simply an injustice. I'm sure there are 'many' good educators out there but they have their hands tied. I don't blame them I blame the system. Going back to Thai bashing - nope. I'm talking purely about the system. I neither used a modifier nor did I use the term 'Thais' so please stop nibbling away at that one.

As for the comment about my director and me not speaking Thai, I speak Thai well enough. When someone points at a stack of messy papers and shouts, it's pretty obvious what they're saying. The poster board changed colour the next day so I also put together 1+1 on that one too. The director is well within her rights to have things changed, just don't disrupt my class to do it. If you act tactless, you can't blame people when they call you tactless.

Banging my head on a wall: I'm not trying to change the system here. God knows that blood will have to be spilled for that, and it's not gonna be mine. What I can do is make sure my fellow teachers know what's what. Don't take jobs with no contracts. That's a big no no. That already tells you that the school or agency are running an 'illegal' operation and they're so brazen as to not even pretend they don't. Don't accept jobs with no sick pay. That's disgraceful that you'd have someone work with kids and not pay them when sick. You know how likely you are to become sick working with kids? Get your work permit done ASAP. Don't be fobbed off with excuses. Keep pushing. Remind them everyday "work permit???" Even fast food workers have these rights and they're expendable (apparently) Foreign teachers need to stick together and stop being brainwashed into thinking that asking for fairness and decency is having a negative attitude. If you keep fighting to be positive (submissive), you're enabling your school or agency's abhorrent behaviour. Don't do that. You don't help anyone but the greedy owner's and bosses who are not only stealing from you, but also the kids.

My philosophy in life is very simple; 'be nice to those who are nice to you, and ignore the ones who aren't'. When I meet someone for the first time, I assume they're good. They start speaking and I actually listen. I remember what they say and initially judge them on this. So, they said kind words and they're alright by me. Now come their actions. At the end of the day, I judge people by their actions. See, 'a lot' of (Thai and foreign) people are so unaware of the words that come out of their mouthes, so when they start lying and contradicting themselves, they don't realise that I'm generally avoiding them because of this. But then you get the smarter more conniving ones, who's livelihood depends on not being detected. They don't like it when you ignore them. They know you know but neither of you are willing to say it. Me personally, if i was a lying scumbag, I'd prefer to just be ignored by people who see through me, but then again, I don't have an ego or any complexes. And I'm not a lying scumbag.

Anywho, we have to accept the system. I accept it and just concentrate on my kids and the staff who are nice to me. I'm certainly not the best teacher in the world, but I lead by example. I work diligently and with integrity. In the class I do my job and I go home with a clear conscience. Kids are very smart. They have a young survival instinct which can enable them to judge well. They pick up bad vibes and spot insincerity.

My last bit of advice for new teachers - you can't change the system but you can adapt within it. Do your best but don't 'celebrate' the system. Simply try your hardest but don't go down that road of deceit and lies to get ahead. There's not much room above where you are now and it's a lonely place there. I've seen teachers fuck each other over to get that few extra thousand baht a month and BS title. Don't be that loathed teacher who'd sell you out within a heartbeat. Be a decent person within the system. If you can't beat them, smile and ignore them.

I've worked for 4 schools in total and have 4 excellent references. I've had one great principal and a pretty decent director now. When I see idiots swanning around school, I mock them. It's funny. I love making fun of things. If we didn't laugh, we'd cry, right? I guess I'm just not good at playing the game. It's really not in my nature to tolerate this kind of behaviour. Maybe that's why I have so much time for kids - they're honest. But, you asked so I'll answer; where's it got me? Well, if you judge life on career development and money, I'm comfortable. If you were to judge me on how I've conducted myself in life, I'd say I'm rich. I sleep like a baby and have no enemies.

Negative thinking is all about context. Are you trying to make your school better for yourself & others or are you trying to make it better for only you?

By Samual , Bangkok (28th July 2016)


I realize this is not a discussion forum and we should focus on the article and not attack another person’s post, but let me share a few thoughts.

The ESL industry offers low pay and high turnover, much like the fast food industry. Obviously employers want to hire the best teachers possible within their budgets but they are highly unlikely to lose any sleep when a foreign ESL teacher leaves. ESL teachers come and go at about the same rate as workers at a burger joint back home.

Thailand is a hierarchical, collectivist society influenced by Theravada Buddhist values with a very different political system (I won’t go into to detail over this last point for obvious reasons).

These are given, you are not going to change these factors and you either accept them or spend your time here banging your head against a wall.

Also in your comments, as seen in most critics of Thais and the Thai educational system, you did not use any modifiers such as some, most, often. or occasionally. You used a broad brush to paint everyone of a single nation the same color.

Our nationality and national culture have a big influence on who we are, but it does not define us. Each of us (Including Thais) are individuals as well as a part of a national culture and educational system and within the country and industry one is bound to encounter people with a wide variety of personalities, motivations, work habits, level of intelligence and so on.

You claimed you could not understand your boss as she was speaking Thai (Speaking Thai in Thailand does not seem strange to me) but then you went on to give us “your” translation of what she said. As you do not understand the language, what was your translation based upon? What she said or your stereotypical negative opinion of Thais?

You are entitled to your opinions, and if having a negative view of the industry within the country helps you to succeed, than keep these views. If you thinking having an understanding of your position in the organization and your limited expectations, which was the main point of Stephen’s article, while keeping a more positive attitude towards the administrators, fellow-teachers and student you work with, then maybe you would want to reconsider.

It is not about who is “right” but about what approach helps us achieve our own personal and professional goals.

In my 20 plus years working in foreign environments in a variety of industries (and extensive research on the academic studies on this issue), I find taking a less judgmental and more nuanced view of the people I work with works well for me as it does for the majority. But this approach may not work for you, but you might want to give it a try and see what happens?

By Jack, In front of my computer (28th July 2016)

Tim, we don't get many teachers move to Slovakia.
Would you consider doing a great escape for us?

By Philip, Samut Prakarn (28th July 2016)

I've worked in a few countries and now in Slovakia. The TEFL industry here is pretty poor also, but they have proper laws protecting teachers from unscrupulous schools.

There's no real perfect school. There's always one bad apple. My school at the moment we have it pretty good. I came from the bottom up so know how it is for new teachers and teachers with problems. It's a lot better here than it was in Thailand.

I really enjoyed my time in Thailand but the school life does wear you down. I made many friends and we seemed to have many of the same stories. Docked salaries, tax evasion, employing teachers without work permits etc. To be honest, it all seemed very dodgy. Not a place you can take yourself seriously unless you're suitably qualified. It felt lawless and that scared me.

I hate whining teachers who bitch and moan. If you've signed a contract then stick by it, but there certainly were many times teachers had a genuine grievance and were simply dismissed as being negative. I didn't like that. The school could basically do what they liked and if you didn't like it you were being negative. If you really didn't like it you were told to leave or were dismissed.

A lot of teachers moaned but I left. I'd advise anyone else to do the same. Instead of complaining about moaning teachers, ask why they're moaning. We simply dismiss them as negative without asking why. Similar to the war on drugs. We condemn people as bad in society for taking drugs yet we don't ask why they take drugs. I guess it's not convenient to know the answer to that.

By Tim Merchant , Slovakia (28th July 2016)

Jack - yes, people complain about their bosses all over the world. Why should ESL be any different? I know the system here perfectly well, so I can make fun of it. As for your 'foreign bosses' comment; come again? We hold foreign bosses to a higher standard here. When they behave even more abhorrently than some of the local ones, it's even more disappointing and infuriating.

So, why is it that ESL teachers seem to moan a lot? If things are good, there's nothing to moan about, right? Well, it's usually down to 'hypocrisy'. Every country and culture despises hypocrisy, but in a non-confrontational culture like Thailand's, you can get away with it a hell of a lot more. You then begin to believe you can do no wrong. You're omnipotent. This will just breed contempt and people will slag you off behind your back.

Opinions are absolutely subjective. Saying I have a negative attitude towards Thais was never mentioned. I have a 'realistic ' attitude towards the 'education system', and I simply laugh and make fun at it. Call it satire. I don't take it too seriously because I have half-a-brain and see it for what it is. Until the day myself or any of my (foreign) colleagues get invited to a meeting with the directors, etc, to give our ideas and feedback, is the day I'll feel some genuine respect for them. (They'd also have to try our ideas as well. Heaven knows we had to do theirs) Until then, I shall take myself and 'my' job seriously, and not let ego-driven megalomaniacs disrupt my teaching.

You wanna come into my class and offer genuine help and tips? Great. You wanna come to my class posturing - get out. I'm not here to boost your ego or help with your complexes.

I now work in a school where my director rarely comes to see me. She doesn't claim to be an expert on teaching, but of course, she's still the director so gets bored sometimes and barks inane orders. She very rarely bothers me so I can handle it. I'm left to my own devices. She pays sick pay and gives 12 month contracts. She's upfront and doesn't move the goal posts. When she does move the goal posts she's apologetic and tries to compensate fairly. She's far from perfect, but she's sincere. That' all I really want from anyone; 'sincerity'. We live in a universal culture where BS compliments are revered and the truth is taboo. I'll never apologise for being honest.

If you give me a contract and I sign it -that's fair. I'm supposed to start work at 8? Okay, see you then. Oh, you want me to come in half-an-hour earlier once a week. Could you please mention these things at the beginning? Call me OCD, but I like everything upfront and honest. You forgot? Okay, you get the benefit of the doubt. Oh, another thing you forgot. And another? You can see now why I might be a little pissed. Okay, so you owe me one, right? No? Cannot? That doesn't seem very fair at all. I seem to be bending over backwards for you, and you can't even get my work permit sorted. Okay, I'll bottle this up inside and things will never change or get any better (for me). Brilliant! "To the submissive, do not go the rewards"

To end on a high ('cos if it ain't positive - it's negative) I remember a new American girl in Thailand. She was young, very naive but super enthusiastic. Loved her job and never complained. Well, about 3 months in she had a problem at immigration. She was supposed to be gone just for the morning, but there were issues and she ended up being there all day. All was fine, she was fine, school understood and life went on. Then it came to payday. She had been docked a day's salary for her day at immigration (which she of course paid for her own taxi with no support or knowledge of the system). She was so upset. "Why?" She asked me. "Well, they certainly lack empathy in schools sometimes. You either take it on the chin or you complain" I told her that if she wished to complain that I'd back her up. They'd never tried a stunt like that on me, and I feel they are exploiting you.

In the end, she got her money back, and I was told never to interfere again. I went out on a limb to help someone I didn't know very well because there's right and wrong. That was simply wrong. How's that for positive?

“Your conscience is the measure of the honesty of your selfishness.
Listen to it carefully.”
― Richard Bach

By Samual, Bangkok (28th July 2016)


Another thoughtful and well written piece, although I am not sure a fine tuned watch is actually the best analogy for a well-run organization. Most management experts would advocate a more organic structure where different parts are allowed some freedom to experiment within a range and it is not always optimal for organisation growth and innovation to follow a mechanistic organizational structure, but if your basic message was to advocate teachers to work within the system and not try to always be the monkey wrench I would agree this is good advice.


Anyone who has read for any length of time or spent any time in a typical ESL teacher’s lounge has read and heard hundreds of other foreigners complain about their Thai (and sometimes foreign) bosses. Although from my experience complaining about one’s boss is a common topic of conversation in every occupation and location I have ever worked in through many countries and industries, but one has to admit ESL teachers in Thailand have a reputation for being especially fond of using their free time to engage in moaning and complaining about their bosses and the “system”.

Opinions are subjective and I am not going to claim you are wrong, but I would ask if this extremely negative attitude towards Thais and all school administrators has helped you advance your career? Has this extremely negative viewpoint led to any changes in the system or improved the performance of the school administrators you have worked with?

Do you expect this attitude to help you succeed in the future?

By Jack, At home (27th July 2016)

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. I think that applies from the very top down.

TEFL teachers roles here are the least significant in an ego-driven hierarchical based structure. Principals and directors know all. It's not often you'll see one designate a job based purely on the fact "well, that's not my field of expertise". No, no, no. They know all and will only delegate when they can't be bothered.

The director: I remember my old director would make her monthly appearances. She'd burst into my classroom unannounced, the kids would get on their knees with the Thai teacher while I'd just be standing in dismay. "Bla, bla bla!" (She was speaking Thai and I had no idea what was being said". Actually, not literally translated but it was something like this "I'm very important! I like to assert myself over others to fill a huge gap in my life. I won't be too rude to the farang teacher because he may bite back. (typical bully) Remember, everyone, I'm very important!". She added nothing; in fact, she hindered progress with every second she was there simply to boost her ego.

The Principal; She also added very little, but was very good at barking at the kids. She'd sit in her office doing nothing while the cleaning staff brought her some tea on their knees. Another blocked cog.

The head English teacher: Well, she didn't teach so much as act as a liaison. She didn't get her job through integrity and wanting change - she got it through brown nosing, smiling and kowtowing. She'd bring the director's/principal's wacky and 'I got too much time on my hands and need to feel important' ideas to us foreigners. They'd be pure dog shit, but our head teacher would be selling them as if they were perfectly pertinent. We'd listen and smile along, and some poor sods would even incorporate them into their lessons because they didn't know any better. The head teacher added nothing to the teaching English aspect, but acted as a great supporter of the school (and its money) and ambassador of her agency.

The TEFL teachers: most were good. Just wanted to get on with their jobs. Knew their roles and concentrated on doing their jobs while having to deal with the other's egos. The old smile and be polite. When someone has a big ego, it's easy to know how to massage it. Not me, though. It's just not in my nature.

Anywho, there was a very good study done in the US on motivation at work. They (people who do this kind of thing) did an experiment in your bog standard everyday office. Everything was normal at first, and then the company started giving treats to the staff. Snacks, free lunches, etc. Workload increased. They then started, slowly but surely, taking these treats away. So, what happened then? Workload decreased, right? NO! It actually increased more than ever. Huh? The staff thought they had been underperforming so started to work harder. It wasn't based on the fact that they wanted the snacks back - they actually felt bad they'd been letting their company down!

Well, would you look at that! The company gave them a few snacks and lunches, and the employees paid them back tenfold. See - people are mostly good. You treat them with respect, dignity and honesty, and they'll feel an urge to return that favor. You treat them like expendable assets, with no sick pay, pay rises or a real chance to develop themselves, they'll just stagnate. Some regress and then feel disdain upon their bosses. All you have to do sometimes is give a little. But do it with honesty and sincerity, people can usually smell BS from a mile away.

"The hypocrisy of some is that we like to think of ourselves as sophisticated and evolved, but we're still also driven by primal urges like greed and power" Michael Leunig

By Samuel , Bangkok (26th July 2016)

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฿65,000+ / month

Chiang Rai

Pre-Kindergarten Homeroom Teacher

฿50,000+ / month


NES English Language Teachers

฿600+ / hour


Featured Teachers

  • Jason

    American, 52 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Cecil

    French, 41 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Barry

    Australian, 59 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Renaud

    French, 54 years old. Currently living in France

  • Julian

    Filipino, 43 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • Mark

    Filipino, 30 years old. Currently living in Philippines

The Hot Spot

Teacher mistakes

Teacher mistakes

What are the most common mistakes that teachers make when they are about to embark on a teaching career in Thailand? We've got them all covered.

The dreaded demo

The dreaded demo

Many schools ask for demo lessons before they hire. What should you the teacher be aware of?

Need Thailand insurance?

Need Thailand insurance?

Have a question about health or travel insurance in Thailand? Ricky Batten from Pacific Prime is Ajarn's resident expert.

The Region Guides

The Region Guides

Fancy working in Thailand but not in Bangkok? Our region guides are written by teachers who actually live and work in the provinces.

Air your views

Air your views

Got something to say on the topic of teaching, working or living in Thailand? The Ajarn Postbox is the place. Send us your letters!

Contributions welcome

Contributions welcome

If you like visiting and reading the content, why not get involved yourself and keep us up to date?

The cost of living

The cost of living

How much money does a teacher need to earn in order to survive in Thailand? We analyze the facts.

Will I find work in Thailand?

Will I find work in Thailand?

It's one of the most common questions we get e-mailed to us. So find out exactly where you stand.