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BANGKOK 22 April 2019 09:04
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Ijustwannateach

How To Keep A Tefl Job

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We've been discussing on a number of threads how to GET a TEFL job in Thailand, and on those threads the issue of qualifications comes up a lot. I'd like to examine what's required to KEEP a TEFL job in Thailand, and see how those qualifications really seem to help (or not).

VITAL POINTS:

1. Not offending the students or their parents is one of the pre-eminent qualities of a person who will manage to keep a TEFL job in Thailand, especially in a school where the kids are middle class or richer. Depending on the management style of the school, this may involve simple common sense, or completely unacceptable bootlicking and grade-fudging. It's particularly humiliating when you're forced by your supervisor to eliminate a long-standing punishment that the worst brat in the class has refused to give in to for weeks, and then you're blamed for "causing trouble." It can also grate to be told you MUST pass an 8th grade algebra student who can't even multiply single digits.

2. Not offending your management/supervisors/school owners is always a good idea, too. You're not irreplaceable, after all, especially if they've never bothered getting you a work permit.

3. Not offending your coworkers, who must put up with your sorry self every day, is yet another good idea. There's bound to be friction between people who have to work for many long hours together in an alien environment (or with aliens, if they're Thai) but there can be friendship too- try for the latter! In fact, few people are ever fired for not getting along with their coworkers- but they probably should be.

4. Not missing classes unnecessarily (or in some schools, even necessarily).

5. Dressing appropriately (whatever the school defines as appropriate).

6. Not being overly inflexible about last minute changes to everything- tests, curricula, schedules, meetings, trips, everything.

7. Writing grade reports, lesson plans, curriculum outlines, course syllabi, and anything else that's supposed to go into a binder and collect dust.

8. Complying with the director's whim about anything, even if he/she has no clue at all.

9. Remembering (wink, wink) that no Thai students ever fail.

10. Teaching English material at least semi-competently- including basic grammar and vocabulary, with verb tenses including the basic aspects of the past, present, and future.

11. Most important of all- be able to accept any unreasonable changes to your contract with no notice, even if it's not what you signed up for.

IMPORTANT:

1. Knowing what color pen to write with at various times

2. Being able to fill a class for long enough with something the students don't completely hate.

3. Teaching more detail on English grammar, including the perfect tenses, conditionals, and subjunctive mood.

4. Understanding what Thais are saying between the lines when they are giving you advice.

NOT SO IMPORTANT:

1. Professionalism, western style

2. Improvement in students' English

3. Improvement in teachers' abilities

4. Academic honesty by students

I have never once had a discussion with a Thai English teacher about teaching techniques or lesson material- they point me to the classroom and I go. As long as, or maybe since, all the students pass, no one cares what/if they are learning. And as long as there aren't any "problems" caused by your rubbing someone important the wrong way, and you show up at the times you're paid for, you've more or less done your job.

Granted, this is a cynical estimation and certainly does not STOP a teacher from doing his best to be professional- but this is the way of it, to the best of my observation, in the vast majority of schools which employ TEFL teachers.

Given that, I'd say that in Thailand, proper political savvy and keeping cool are at least as valuable, if not more, than any actual knowledge, training, or experience in TEFL. Having the qualification helps you GET the job- but there is much, much more to KEEPING the job.

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I often see people advising that it's best to avoid "office politics" especially when female ajarns at universities are involved. What exactly do people mean when they say this? Just general back-biting or is there something specific to watch out for?

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More characteristically good stuff from IJWT. I must say, I miss you on ajarn.com, 'Steven', but happy that you post so much in this forum.

In response to nomade, yes "office politics" are best avoided if you are a farang teacher, it's just not worth getting uptight about personalities and problems. There tends to be more female ajarns than male ajarns at many universities (particularly in language departments for some reason) and they are there (usually) for life and so into empire-building and one-upmanship over each other. So just smile and stay out of the way for an easy life.

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Matayom and prathom schools also have an abundance of females, usually middle aged, who are bored with teaching the same thing every year and are prone to gossip. Don't make opinionated statements, esp. negative comments, about coworkers. Lie and say they are all "nice." When the lady walks in with a stunning dress (which they often do) don't just say it's a nice dress, say she looks very good in it. "Sweet mouth" is a better reputation than "black heart."

Steven, excellent, as always. Lots of what you wrote might be considered common sense, even in the West, but it's not obvious until you've been here a while. Likewise, I've worked with almost 40 Thai English teachers now, and we don't discuss lesson plans, methodology, educational philosophy. Not even much about how to evaluate (except at the end of the term, and then it changes with every interpretation). It really doesn't seem to matter much. E.g., once I asked how I should substitute for an absent English teacher. The man next to me said, "just ask the class leader where they are in their text and workbook, and go from there."

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Thanks for this rundown, Steven.

The absence of any meaningful discussion of technique or philosophy is another reason why there are a surfeit of bad farang teachers here. There's no way to weed them out, it seems.

Pretty shocking, really.

Does this apply mostly to govt schools, I take it? With private language or EP schools, I had assumed there would be tighter controls on teachers: class observation, discussion of lesson plans, etc.

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Paully, thanks! I'm a big fan of yours, too. It *is* too bad that ajarn's gone the way it has, and I hope that they'll come to their senses eventually. This place is nice, too, and they keep off the worst of the trolls.

PB, thanks to you too- and I agree, that all my points are good practice no matter where you work. The emphasis on it (above performance of the job), however, is the alien thing to me here- though maybe I've just been lucky in where I've worked before.

Merlin, I'd like to say things are better in EP programs, but sadly, they're not. I've seen conditions at almost every level of school in the kingdom, except for the BIG International schools (with a capital I) and it's same-same everywhere. There's NOwhere that works by Western standards among the Thai schools. Some things are good and some things are bad, but that's how it seems to be...

:o

"Steven"

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Merlin, I'd like to say things are better in EP programs, but sadly, they're not. I've seen conditions at almost every level of school in the kingdom, except for the BIG International schools (with a capital I) and it's same-same everywhere. There's NOwhere that works by Western standards among the Thai schools. Some things are good and some things are bad, but that's how it seems to be...

:D

"Steven"

Well, maybe that's just as well for those of us insecure newbie teachers who would prefer not have some head honcho breathing down our necks all the time. Less stress all around. Mai ben rai and all that...

In this sense Thailand is probably one of the best places for an inexperienced teacher to cut his teeth. Obviously the downside comes later, when large numbers of these teachers literally have no idea how to teach and there is no means to evaluate or improve their skills.

Actually reminds me of the situation in most universities in the West when I was there and more or less persists even now: teaching ability is secondary. That goes for TAs and professors both. Teaching Assistants have the most contact with the students and do in fact teach solo in most cases and yet they have no training and almost no system of oversight. One is simply thrown into the class and let the chips fall where they may. That's because TA positions are considered to be primarily a means of graduate funding rather than full blown teaching jobs. A question of priorities. Professors are in the same situation as they are rarely hired for their teaching ability. As long as they publish in good journals, they can be absolute disasters in the lecture hall. So maybe the Thais aren't as out of step as we think. :o

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I'd like to examine what's required to KEEP a TEFL job in Thailand, and see how those qualifications really seem to help (or not).

If you show up that should be enough in most cases.

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...

Granted, this is a cynical estimation and certainly does not STOP a teacher from doing his best to be professional- but this is the way of it, to the best of my observation, in the vast majority of schools which employ TEFL teachers.

A BIT OFF TOPIC -

IJWT , about your 'observation' , how long have you taught, how long in the LoS,what subject(s), and are you currently active in teaching?

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Phormio, well, now, that would be telling, wouldn't it?

:D:o

Seriously, though, I've taught TEFL in Asia for nearly 10 years now; a few of those in Thailand. I've also taught other subjects in various Thai EP programs (mainly in maths and sciences) here for a few years (overlapping with the TEFL here), including the subject in which I have a degree (which is not actually English). I was a TA in college for my subject (tip of the hat to Merlin, above- your analysis of the teaching ability of professors is spot on!) and a computer programmer/trainer for quite some time before, but was never a formal salaried teacher/professor of my subject in my home country (the U.S.A). Sorry for not being more specific about identifying information but my anonymity allows my posting here (on any other topic) to be as honest and truthful as possible. I am currently employed as a teacher in my subject at a public school EP program, and I have many friends working for various other programs (so I have a wide basis for comparison of jobs).

"Steven"

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^ Your name's Fred and you're a trolley boy at Waitrose, ain't that right IJWT? You can't fool me :o

Me, I'm a butcher in Bolton :D

Sorry off topic (I'll edit myself if you chaps want me to?).

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Phormio, well, now, that would be telling, wouldn't it?

:D  :o

...Sorry for not being more specific about identifying information but my anonymity allows my posting here (on any other topic) to be as honest and truthful as possible...

"Steven"

Wouldn't have it any other way.

:D

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You bumped that up just in time. Just yesterday, I was getting serious and professional about teaching English and Math in Thailand, and I got very frustrated (tempted to walk out and not come back). But then I told the boss at 4:30 today, calmly and with a Thai smile, "We're not serious. We don't really teach. Students don't learn. Their grades don't matter. They copy and cheat anyway. The school doesn't plan ahead. We are seldom informed properly. Class sizes are impossibly large. Nobody cares about teaching. If you want a White clown again next year, I'm available half time. I learned how to play this game. You know I will do my best but it's just make believe. Thanks, boss."

I'd like to say I'm the best farang they ever had, but they claim I'm the first. I spoiled 'em already - the director thinks he can get some agency in Bangkok to send a dozen just as good as me, to come way out to the province, with a phone call.

Bring in the crowns.

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