Teaching English in Thailand can be really challenging. Of course, you can Google things up, check youtubers to gain useful and practical advice around the topic. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to 7 basic questions that every ESL teacher who has been accepted to work in Thailand, should ask himself before he grabs the jobs.
Here they are:
1. Are you prepared to commit for a whole year?
Unlike teaching English in many other countries, there are different requirements in Thailand for both you and for the school.
A good idea is to test the waters before you go. For example, you could spend a month teaching in other places with less cultural differences like in Europe before committing to a whole year. English learning summer camps are held all over Europe and are an excellent way to explore the TEFL lifestyle on a short term basis.
2. Do I need a certificate?
Probably yes! It is highly recommended that you have a university degree and possibly a TEFL certificate. This will create so many opportunities for you. If you are not among TEFL certified teachers don’t worry! It is possible to do the TEFL test after you arrive in Thailand. It will take less than a month and it may be of great benefit to you. Have in mind that many employers still want to see one.
If two teachers go for a job interview; both have degrees and one has the TEFL certificate as well – guess who will land that job. Having a TEFL certificate can do you no harm at all!
3. How many hours will I be required to teach each week?
Well, you know why this is something you should ask. You don’t want to be tricked by employers and end up working 12-hour shifts for little money. You should make sure you get absolutely concrete answer to this question as teaching hours have the habit of increasing quite rapidly in Thai schools. Anything around 20 hours a week or less is doable. Some Thai schools still expect their western teachers to teach 28 hours or more, however, that is far too many hours.
4. Does the school have other western teachers and can I meet them?
Most schools in Thailand will have several western teachers already working there. If this is the case, it should be easy for new teachers to meet a few of the regular ones and ask some basic questions.
If the school doesn’t allow this, it’s usually a huge warning sign that things may not be as well regulated as they should be with the foreign staff. It may also mean that this particular school is one to avoid.
5. What types of teaching materials does the school have and use?
Thai schools often have extremely limited teaching materials. That means the school may not have assigned textbooks for each class, supplemental materials may be non-existent and, if they allow you a look in the school library, you may discover the English section barely exists.
It’s a good idea to find this out before you accept a job. That way you can spend some time preparing your own materials and scouring the internet for supplemental information you can print out and photocopy.
Some schools will reimburse you for the cost of teaching materials, while other may not. Be sure to find that out as well if you’ll need to provide all your own teaching materials. After all if you can’t afford to buy a few textbooks, you’ll need to spend longer doing online research and you won’t be paid for those hours.
6. Will my accommodation be provided?
This is one of the most important things you should ask when accepting a teaching job in Thailand. I’m sorry to disappoint you and tell you that provided accommodation for teachers is extremely unlikely. Nonetheless, in certain cases, you may negotiate this with your employer. Also, if accommodation is offered, make sure you check out the place before you agree to live there.
7. Is appearance important?
You wouldn’t believe how much. That doesn’t mean you have to look like a model on the runway but a teacher in Thailand should look smart. And that means a necktie, a long-sleeved shirt and a pair of trousers that cover your ankles. Nothing will make a Thai lose respect for you quicker than if you walk into the classroom looking like you’ve been mugged on the way to work. Remember also that it doesn’t end with the clothes. Apart from appearance, it also includes manners – cigarette smoke and body odor are both absolutely unacceptable.