Teaching English in Thailand – What has it been like so far?

Teaching English in Thailand – What has it been like so far?

Over three months ago, I quit my job, sold most of my stuff, said good-bye to family and friends, and boarded a plane with my boyfriend to go and teach English in Thailand. It is now July and I have been working as an English teacher since the 4th of June.

It has been a crazy ride filled with up’s and down’s (luckily majority of them have been up’s) and this is how I did it and am still doing it.


Before leaving South Africa

If we were going to make this huge decision then I was going to try to ensure that I researched everything I could research. I didn’t want any surprises when I landed in Thailand. Of course, this is unavoidable as there are bound to be things that you won’t consider, but these are some of the items I ticked off the list before boarding that plane.

  • TEFL Course: finding the right TEFL course can be difficult as there are just so many out there. I looked at quite a few and finally decided on International TEFL Academy. They had a good reputation and after speaking to one of their consultants it ultimately came down to the positive feeling I had towards them.
  • Blogs: I followed so many blogs when we were planning our move. So many people out there are blogging about teaching English. They may not always be based in Thailand, but it will give you a different perspective on the whole teaching thing. I even followed travellers who hadn’t taught, but were living in Thailand. Follow as many blogs as possible and absorb their knowledge. Here are some of our favorites.
  • Important documents: Make sure you have certified copies of all the documents you need when applying for teaching jobs. Here’s a list of documents that you will likely need.

Online vs. Onsite TEFL Course

Many TEFL companies offer online as well as onsite, which was the case for International TEFL Academy. We could do an online course, at a much lower cost or we could travel across the world and study to be English teachers onsite.

Even though the onsite course is much more expensive we decided to go this route. We wanted to rather be learning in a classroom setting than studying at home. We also wanted to start adapting to the country, meet fellow English teachers and become used to the idea of being away from South Africa.

We did the onsite course that was split between Cambodia and Thailand, the perfect combination. A real plus was that as part of our course we got to go to Angkor Wat. Ticked that one off the bucket list.

The actual TEFL course is information overload and is quite difficult. I felt completely out of my comfort zone, but just remember it is only for four weeks and then you can truly start living the life that you want. So put your head down and get on with the studying.

Getting an English Teaching job

The best piece of advice I could have received was find a place in Thailand that you really want to live in and then find a teaching job. You don’t want to be stuck in some tiny village in the middle of Thailand, because you chose the first job that came along.

We decided on Chiang Mai and the day after we graduated we hopped on a bus.

I received a list of top schools in Chiang Mai that I should contact and on the Monday I put on my best teaching outfit and starting hitting the payment. No agencies and no websites.

This worked out perfectly for me as a week later I had a job, however there are the options of job search websites like Ajarn.com as well as agencies. Read my article of all the items you should take with you and how you must look the part.

Teacher Cynthia’s job

So I was incredibly lucky and managed to find a job very quickly after arriving in Chiang Mai.

I went to the school to fill in an application form (as I had done many times the previous week). Most of the time they will just take your application and tell you someone will contact you. However on this occasion there was a bit more interest.

They told me that there was a Kindergarten position available. I had a five-minute interview and left. That afternoon they phoned me, told me I was hired and I would be starting the next day (WHAT?).

The thought of teaching the next day scared me to death, however I did observe other English teachers for three days and then I was on my own, which turns out isn’t too bad. They provide you with a textbook and you pretty much follow that and throw in some games.

The details

  • Level: I teach Kindergarten (KG2 and KG3)
  • Type of school: I work at a private school and I am required to be at school from 7:20am to 4pm (with a 90-minute lunch break).
  • Lessons: I teach 20 periods (50 minutes each) a week, so that means a lot of down time.

My 20 periods a week are also a combination of 12 language periods, active boards (the students will watch an educational video and learn some vocabulary) and nursery time (never lasts the full time, just spend some time with the nursery kids reading and playing games so that they get used to a Farang {Thai word for westerner} teacher).

Some of that free time will be taken up marking books, but otherwise it is a pretty easy job.

  • Probation period: my school has a 3-month probation period, however mine was up after a month and the process has started for my work permit so it all depends on the school and you.
  • Salary and benefits: I earn a salary of 35 000 baht* a month. In addition, I also receive 3000 baht housing allowance and medical insurance (these only kicked in after my probation period). (*I do have a bachelor’s degree and I am a native English speaker).

After a month and a half I seem to have the hang of this teaching English job, however the adventure continues. 

Are you currently teaching in Thailand or planning to? Leave your comments and questions below.