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Surviving as a New Foreign English Teacher in Thailand

Updated on May 21, 2020
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul is a retired American expat living in Thailand. Besides being an English teacher and translator, Paul likes languages and most sports.

A Class of my English Students in Thailand


Teaching English in Thailand

Over the past ten years, there has been an increased emphasis on teaching English in Thailand schools. This has come about due to English becoming a lingua franca and truly a global language. More importantly, it is related to the economic, social, and educational factors of Thailand's position in ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations.)

Since around 2005, both government and private schools in Thailand have been hiring a lot of foreign English teachers to aid in the training of an English speaking workforce. These foreigners who are both native English language speakers and non-native second language English speakers have been called EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers. I think it would be better to classify them as teachers of global English.

During my almost seven years of EFL teaching in Thailand, I have seen a lot of foreign English teachers quit or be fired after a short teaching experience in schools. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to offer tips on how to survive as a new foreign EFL teacher in Thailand.

Author as an EFL Teacher at Saint Joseph Bangna School

Picture taken in my office of Saint Joseph Bangna school in 2009
Picture taken in my office of Saint Joseph Bangna school in 2009 | Source

Tips on Surviving as a New EFL Teacher

Judging from my personal experiences and those of others, my tips for surviving will be related to teaching preparation, classroom management, passing a probationary period, and surviving after passing a probationary period.

EFL Teaching Preparation

If you have never taught English before in a school classroom, it would be best to take a short teacher preparation course. No, you don't need teacher certification for Thailand, but you must know how to function in front of a class of young students. Most of the inexperienced foreign teachers in Thailand complete a short four to six week TEFL or Teaching English as a Foreign Language course online or in Thailand before setting foot in their first classroom. In this short course taught by experienced teachers, student teachers learn classroom management, how to write lesson plans, gather audio-visual class materials, write tests, teach grammar, play educational games, and evaluate students. If you happen to have experience teaching EFL, you can get a job as I did at many schools without a TEFL certificate.

Classroom Management

Classroom management in Thailand classrooms is very important because classes of 50-60 students are not out of the normal. Although principles of classroom management picked up in your TEFL course will come in handy, it will still be necessary for you as a teacher to learn a few words and phrases in Thai for better classroom management. This is necessary because the listening comprehension of most Thai students is not very good. Therefore, you will have to know how to say in the students' native language, "Be quiet, Stand up, Sit down, Come here," and other useful classroom expressions. Some of these useful expressions are attached to a table below.

Useful Classroom Expressions in English and Thai

Be quiet
Poot see
Kian see
Aan see
Come here
Maa tee nee
Open your book
Boot nangsu
Close your book
Bit nangsu
Give the teacher
Hai khru
Arai na khrap (kha)
Tee nai
What's your name?
Chuu arai?
Last name
Five more minutes
Eek ha natee
very good
Dee mok

Khrap is a final particle used by a male and Kha is used by a female. You also should use the particle na before krap and ka for politeness. For example, Chu arai na krap? Another example is, Arai na ka? This means please repeat or what did you say

A Sixth Grade EFL Class

A sixth grade class of EFL students at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand
A sixth grade class of EFL students at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand | Source

Passing a Probationary Period

Most new foreign teachers in Thailand schools must pass a probationary period before they are accepted as regular teachers. In my case, I was on probation for three months after starting teaching at a private Catholic all-girls school. During a new teacher's probationary period, the school administration will be paying special attention to the following points:

1. Attendance and Punctuality

New teachers are expected to arrive at school by a certain time each morning and usually remain on campus until a set time in the afternoon. When I worked at Saint Joseph Bangna in the Bangkok area, I had to be signed into school by 7:40 a,m and remain there until 4:30 p.m. on all regular school days.

Teachers are expected to be on time for all classes and not leave the classroom early. They are also expected to be on time for all meetings and activities held by the school. A lot of the new teachers whom I knew who were consistently late to school and class never passed their probation.

2. Dress and Personal Grooming

In many schools, all male teachers must wear dress pants, and a dress shirt and tie with no tattoos showing. Dress shoes must also be worn. As to personal grooming, teachers are expected to be cleanly shaven or to have a neat beard or mustache. Deodorant must also be used so there is no noticeable body odor.

3. Following School Regulations

New teachers are usually given a copy of school regulations. These regulations will address the use of alcohol and drunkenness on campus, designated smoking areas, mandatory morning assemblies, and teachers' appropriate relationships with students.

4. Getting Along with Teaching Colleagues and Students

During a probationary period, the school administration will be watching how the new teacher gets along with teaching colleagues and students. The teaching colleagues include both foreign and Thai teachers. I know of two teachers who were immediately terminated for using offensive language with Thai teachers.

If a teacher is kind and likes students, he or she will be liked by students and have no problem getting along. If students dislike a teacher or complain that the teacher is using harsh punishment, the new instructor will most probably not pass probation.

5. Teaching Observation

Although most new teachers must pass a teaching demonstration before starting to teach, teachers on probation will be observed at least twice. During these observations, new teachers will be evaluated on how well they follow their lesson plans in teaching a new lesson and practicing what has been learned in the lesson.

6. Moral Character

In many schools, and especially in private schools, the moral character of the new teacher is watched carefully. If a teacher is a pedophile, alcoholic, on drugs, or generally uses foul language with students, he or she has no hope of passing a probationary period.

Working with a Teaching Colleague


Performing with Teaching Colleagues

Performing with foreign teachers at a school assembly
Performing with foreign teachers at a school assembly | Source

Teaching English in Thailand

Surviving After Passing Probation

The new teacher who has successfully passed a probationary period must now be cognizant of certain things he or she must do to keep a teaching position. Based on experience teaching in Thailand, here are four tips for surviving after passing probation.

1. Go with the Flow and Don't Make Waves

This is so true for most jobs but especially important when you are teaching in Thailand. You will see a lot of things in school different from the West which you probably will not like. These include a lack of clear communication with teachers, poor planning, teaching qualifications, and evaluation of students. Instead of venting your anger openly on the Internet and becoming public enemy number one among teaching colleagues for a long time, accept what you can not change.

2. Find a Mentor

Any new teacher needs a mentor to see him or her through the early stages of teaching. This mentor can advise how to make lesson plans, construct tests, handle student discipline, and assist with other academic and social matters.

3. Do Everything the School Tells You to Do

The wise teacher who wants to keep his or her job will do everything the school demands of teachers. This probably will include taking educational training courses, sitting for educational tests, and completing Thai culture and awareness courses.

4. Know Your Rights According to the Thai Labor Law

Finally, if you don't want to be terminated by a school with no compensation for an unjust reason, know your rights as a teacher according to the Thai Labor Law. According to the Thai Labor Law, if a school terminates a teacher unjustly, the teacher is entitled to severance pay given according to the number of years the teacher has worked at the school.

Hopefully, the hints given in this hub will help the new foreign English teacher survive in a Thailand school classroom. Just remember that education in Thailand schools is different from that of Western schools.

Thai Employment Law for Foreigners

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Paul Richard Kuehn


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    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Au fait, Thanks for your great comments on this article. I certainly hope this hub is useful to anyone thinking of teaching in Thailand. Thanks for voting this article up, pinning and sharing it!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      I would expect this article to be greatly helpful to anyone considering teaching ESL in Thailand, and anyone who is in the process of getting started.

      Voted up, UI, and pinned to my 'Employment and Unemployment' board, and sharing with HP followers. This could be a big help to people looking for work who may not have considered this vocation. Excellently written as always.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I am very pleased that you like this hub and find it interesting. Yes, all of my EFL teaching has been a great experience!

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Yes, Thelma, teaching English in Thailand was more challenging than teaching it in Taiwan. I appreciate you voting this hub up and sharing it on HP and your FB account.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great experience. It is really fun to be with children and learn their culture. Thanks for sharing :-)

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      5 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      Great hub Paul. It must be very challenging to teach English in Thailand. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and shared in HP and my fb account.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Yes, learning a new culture is overwhelming and certainly frustrating at times. There are so many differences from American culture. When I retired from teaching English in Thailand one year ago, I was earning the equivalent of $2,000 per month which goes farther in Thailand than in the States. I'm very pleased you liked this hub.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      I know there is money to be made as an esl teacher abroad, but learning a new culture seems quite overwhelming.

      Great read.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      I know there is money to be made as an esl teacher abroad, but learning a new culture seems quite overwhelming.

      Great read.


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