Getting a job as a teacher
Fake Degree/No Degree/Ageism
Let's get this out of the way immediately. Fake degrees from Khao Sarn Road are no longer viable. You will need a sealed letter from the university or your embassy to authenticate it. You'll be found out. Unqualified teachers (no degree) can rarely get jobs in Thailand now. It is not impossible but you will not get the better jobs and the pay will not be great. If people like you then strings can be pulled. Visiting the local schools and asking for a job can and does happen. Take a Thai speaker with you. The retirement age for Thai and foreign teachers is 60. Once you have reached that age you will find it almost impossible to get a job. How do I know? Because I am 66 years old and I have submitted countless job applications without success. Increasingly adverts for teachers stipulate much younger than 60 with 45 and 50 not uncommon.
Basic paperwork needed
(NOTE: The rules are being more strictly applied now)
Your employer should process all the paperwork required. If the advert says they will help with the paperwork, it normally means you need to pay for it. Better employers will meet the cost. Some employers will start the process promptly. Some employers will delay the process because they want to see if you can really teach first. I found the whole process to be stressful. My problems with Thai employers always have stemmed from unduly lengthy processing. This was because the visa in my passport was about to run out, but the Thai administration couldn't or wouldn't do things in a timely manner. Bloody minded brinkmanship! Try to stay calm. I couldn't stay calm but you might succeed!
The best free website in Thailand is http://ajarn.com/recruitment/browse_jobs/index.html I have found nearly all my jobs through their jobs section. Put your CV on the resume section and when you see a job advertised that you like, just send the school your resume. The alternative is to get your paperwork (CV, copy of degree) together and go round all the government schools, colleges, universities and private language schools, leaving them a copy of your paperwork. Try to speak to someone while you are at their premises, and periodically return in person to remind them that you are still seeking a job. There is a lot of information about all the things you need to know when teaching in Thailand on the ajarn.com site. Visit the forum for advice. You can get the real opinions of fellow teachers and they will help you with the job interview stage onwards. The paperwork (work permits, visas) requirements are many but the website members will guide you through the minefield. It is a wonderful website. It achieves much more than I can here, because it is up to date.
Normal workload and expectations at Government schools
Normally - You will be expected to prepare detailed lesson plans for the full term. You will probably teach several different classes. Textbooks are normally selected by the Thai teachers, so talk to the Thai teachers who deal with your classes. Try to work together. Ask what chapters, and which aspects of each chapter, will be covered by them and which aspects by you. Usually you will be required to teach the conversational parts. You will need to get a list of the students' names, which will probably be in Thai. At the first lesson ask them to write their English nicknames beside their name. Some kids will not have one yet, so give them an appropriate nickname. Use this list to record their grades. Test them regularly and as soon as possible to get the students, and you, used to the process.
Otherwise – Some Thai teachers may prefer that you sail alone. You will need to prepare everything yourself. You may choose a textbook or prepare handouts to be handed to each student at the beginning of the lesson. A lecture to the students about keeping the handouts in a file or remembering to bring the textbook for the next lesson is a good idea but whatever you do or say students will still lose them or forget to bring them. I used to prepare a folder for each child and hand them out and get them back at the end of the lesson! Their test answers and grades were also included in the folder.
International schools offer the best salaries and working conditions but also demand the best people. If you are well qualified, they are your best bet.
Good schools are easily identifiable from their advert. It should cover all the information about salary, benefits, work permit, visa, health insurance, working hours, contract term and so on. They are reliable employers because you can be certain that you will be paid, and it will be on time.
Private Schools and Language Schools
Private schools and language schools can be fine, but they can be less reliable than the other options. The reliability aspects normally relate to visa processing and sometimes payment. You will need to negotiate the best deal you can. Be careful. Ask around before you commit.
The Rajabhat universities tend to process your paperwork very quickly. When I worked there I had my visa and work permit within a fortnight. Amazingly quick. The workload and expectations are higher than government schools. You will be assigned a Thai counterpart to help you. Liaise carefully with your counterpart to ensure that you are fully aware of the tasks you are responsible for and the strict deadlines. You will be expected to teach several different courses and are required to prepare everything for each complete course. This covers tasks such as the complete course lesson plans (which also serve as the course outlines to be presented to the students at the first lesson), selecting and printing of the textbooks (including getting them printed at the print shops at the university) so that each student has a text book at the beginning of the course. The difference between the good and poor students is huge! You may need (and I certainly did!) to prepare additional material in order to cope with this problem. It arises because the textbook is too difficult for the poorer students so your choice of textbook is an important issue. Please ask the expatriate and Thai teachers for assistance in gauging the standard of English you will be confronting. Gauging the standard of the students comes with experience, but the first time you do it you don't have any, so don't be afraid to ask for help. Grading is an important issue. You will need to test them at the middle and end of each term. You need to choose a sensible grading structure. If you are too generous you might be required to reduce the number of A's you have given!
Agencies – The good, the bad and the ugly
Good luck! I don't mean to be controversial. I have never been shafted by an agency, but I have needed to be nimble and I have been lucky. My best job was with a British agency in Hat Yai. There are horror stories though, so you need to be cautious. New agencies spring up and bale out regularly though, so you take the plunge or not as you wish. I always asked to be paid daily or weekly at the beginning, but most are reluctant to do that, because they fear that you will not turn up regularly, so it works both ways. Find an expatriate bar frequented by teachers and ask around.
Thais will rarely pay your travelling or other costs so job hunting can be an expensive and time consuming exercise. Mostly you will not be hired unless you turn up, so get suited and booted and go for it! I have had mostly positive experiences so chin up and best foot forward. I once arrived for the interview at the stated time only to find that there were 19 others who had been told to come at the same time and on the same day! I left immediately, and sent the school an email condemning them concerning their disgusting behaviour and their contempt for foreign teachers. It made me feel better, but I did not get a reply. Shit happens but please do not let the bastards grind you down. Mostly you will be properly treated.
The salary for a government school and university is about ฿30K to ฿40K. International schools pay much more and will be in the range of ฿50K to ฿100K, depending on your qualifications and experience.
It is a legal requirement for government schools to provide health insurance once you have the work permit–at the time of writing the cost is ฿750 monthly from you and ฿750 monthly from the school.
Working as a teacher
I have been working as a teacher in Thailand for 11 years. In my experience many Thai teachers dislike foreigners and firmly believe that most of us are inferior. They think we are unprofessional, overpaid and over here just to extend our stay, to screw their women and get drunk. There are many glorious exceptions but the majority fit this description. Expatriate teachers are a rum lot too. Most are self centred and will think nothing of denigrating you and telling lies about you just to curry favour with the Thais. They think teaching is a popularity contest! Fortunately though, it is not absolutely vital to rub shoulders with your fellow teachers. You will be teaching at different times, you will be getting on with your own workload, you will be working alone, so you will follow your own agendas and rarely meet up normally. Thais and expatriates away from the working environment are better and I have had many positive experiences. I am even happily married to a Thai lady so it must be true. There is obviously a cultural divide in dealings with Thais in Thailand but only in the workplace does this cause a problem. Thais generally think foreigners are blunt and too rude and I have some sympathy with their viewpoint. Thai teachers and administration staff do not like being asked to take care of foreign teachers for this reason. The unfortunate Thai who is assigned to help with the visas and work permits for the foreigners absolutely hates having to do it. Consequently they put off doing things until the very last minute. This causes stress and frustration for the foreigner. The foreigner complains, the Thai person is upset and then the problems begin. Thais will then talk about the foreigner maliciously, often telling lies in order to put the boot firmly in. They group together and stop acknowledging your very existence. Your contract will not be renewed and you will get a bad reference.
My very personal golden rules when working in a Thai school are: