A Different World
School in Thailand is almost certainly a different experience than school the way you experienced it when you were a kid. It’s not necessarily better or worse, but it is different. If you’re going to travel across the world to come here and teach, you deserve a detailed account of what it will be like. This is that.
Doing It for the Kids
If your motivation to come teach in Phuket is to help, make a difference, etc… choose a different area. Maybe kids and parents in northern Thailand are different, but in Phuket kids aren’t eager to learn English. Most teachers I know have had zero or very few parents thank them. I hear you will be thanked and respected in South Korea though. This isn’t to discourage you, I still enjoyed teaching, but it wasn’t as rewarding as I had hoped.
Thailand Teaching Schedule
Varying jobs require varying amounts of time. Many blogs will tell you that teaching is only 3-4 hours a day. Those are contact hours, not hours worked. Most teachers spend time planning and preparing for their lessons everyday. Teachers spend time choosing:
- How to teach the lesson
- They copy worksheets
- They create a game to play
- Grading and accessing worksheets (varies by school)
Most schools run 7:45-3:45 and your classes will rarely be 3-4 hours in a row. Therefore, you will usually have to be present throughout the day. Some schools don’t mind if you leave when you have a few hours off in a row, others do.
Vacation / Time Off
As far as time off goes, you won’t be running off to Bali whenever you want. Or even taking a two weeks off when your family comes to visit. You can sometimes get a paid day off or unpaid day off but you can’t take off for a week whenever you want.
Don’t worry too much, you’ll have plenty of days off!
Thailand has lots of Thai holidays. Like the Western world they have government holidays like the King’s birthday, Constitution day, and several days off for the new year. You’ll likely have at least one day off a month. In December, my school has about eight days off.
The country is big on doing school activities together. Some, likes sports week, the English teachers will be involved in. Spoiler alert: It’s outside all week during one of the hottest times of the year… woo hoo!
But lots of school activities will not include the English teachers and will cause the cancellation of your classes. They cancel classes for things like:
- Scout retreats
- Kids cleaning the classes
- School haircut days
- Buddhism studies before a holidays
- Preparing for holiday festivities
- Play rehearsals
- Other school-wide or grade-wide activities
Many English teachers report that they work more partial weeks than they do full weeks.
The Typical Thai School Year
Semester one is usually: May through September. In October you’ll likely get the entire month off.
Semester two is usually: November through mid-March. You’ll then have the second half of March and all of April off.
Young vs Old Students
There seems to be a greater demand for English teachers for earlier grades, so there are more jobs for teaching younger kids.
This may be because some students may drop out to start work early or it may be that classes get smaller because older kids skip school more often to help with family businesses or maybe just to goof off. This pattern seems to be true of language schools too. There are tons of little kids being enrolled in after-school and weekend English classes.
In the application process, females have an advantage as many schools require their kindergarten teacher to be female. Young people have an advantage because schools prefer younger teachers over older ones.
If you want to get a job at a government school, they hire in March and October so be TESOL certified and sending in resumes early in March or October.
Teaching Older Students
If you want to teach high school students or business classes, you’ll have to make a diligent effort to do so.
- You can choose to apply to only high schools
- You can choose to apply to language schools and tell them you only want to teach a certain age bracket.
- You can contact only agencies that specialize in placing teachers in contract jobs to teach business employees English.
Obviously, the narrowed your preferences, the harder you’ll have to work in your job search.
Teaching Business English in Phuket
If you want to teach business English in Phuket you want to come in the low season. In the second half of the low season businesses take time to train their staff for the upcoming high season. Once high season starts the businesses get busy and no longer have time to have employees off attending classes.
Passing and Failing Kids
This is a point of significant culture difference. Not many kids fail in Thailand. Sometimes kids are held back, but it is rare. This means that sometimes in a class where most people speak basic English, one or two students will speak barely any.
A common occurrence is to switch kids to a different school. My school is a public, Thai government school (not a private or international) but it is one of the better, more intensive public English schools. The strongest students at the school have both science and math classes in English, in addition to their English class. That means that three of their six daily classes are taught in English.
When a student falls way, way behind the parents are strongly advised to transfer their child to a school where most kids are at their child’s level. This is common in Phuket. Different schools have intensity programs and so as kids get ahead of fall behind, it is very common to move them to a school that better fits their level.
Lesson Planning, Grading, Etc
Lesson planning varies quite a bit. Some schools demand teachers submit formal lesson plans and others don’t. You can hardly plan for kindergarten and they likely won’t expect you to. The more intensive and high-level the English program, the more likely they’ll ask for formal lesson plans.
As far as grading goes, the school will usually set an minimum expectation on how many assignments should be accessed and graded. It might be once a week per class and it might be once a month. They can be short, ten question worksheets or quizzes though.
More on Teaching…
For more on teaching, check out these guides: