What is it Like Teaching English in Thailand?

If you are looking to teach English abroad, you love Thai food, friendly people, and temples, Thailand should be on your radar.

My experience teaching in Thailand was truly wonderful and indelible and yours will be too!

I taught in two places in Thailand: Chaiyaphum and Mahachai. In this post, I will be talking about my experience teaching in Mahachai, Samut Sakhon.

So, what is it like teaching English in Thailand? Find out about my experience teaching in Thailand below.

Lunar New Year celebration

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Teaching English abroad can be difficult at times, but at the end of your time in Thailand, it is then that you will realize how much of an impact it made on both yourself and the students.

You can take an online TEFL course or an in-person one; they are both the same.

Go through ITA!

There are numerous TEFL courses out there to choose from so just make sure you choose the one that is right for you and fits your needs. Also, make sure that it is an accredited TEFL certification program before sending any payment.

However, you can also get your TEFL abroad through a program and that would probably be even better.

Once you take your TEFL course, you will realize that you can go to many countries, even if you don’t have a degree.

Thailand is one of those countries where you don’t need a degree, although it will help. You also don’t have to be a native English speaker to teach in Thailand. Native English speakers usually get paid more than non-natives so always make sure to do your own research before accepting a job, especially a job abroad.

If you love kids and you’re looking to travel and immerse yourself in a culture, then teaching and living abroad is for you.

Want to get your TEFL? Find out more information here.

Disclaimer: In this post, I will share my experience teaching in Thailand. Everyone has a different experience.

Is Teaching English Abroad Difficult?

Yes and no. It depends on the different factors that come with teaching abroad. You will have to go into it with an open mind and you will be all set. You will have a different experience than your friend and especially in different countries.

Read about my comparison of Being an English teacher in Thailand VS Korea.

Teaching English in Thailand Requirements

If you’re looking to teach ESL in Thailand, you will have to get a few documents together in order to obtain your visa. Your school should help you with all the proper steps and documents that you have to bring with you to Thailand.

To teach English in Thailand, you can either be a native English speaker or a non-native speaker. If you are a non-native English speaker, you have to prove your English fluency.

Here are some of the other requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in any field
  • Valid passport for 6 months after you leave Thailand
  • At least 4-6 passport photos
  • TEFL certification
  • Sealed college/university transcripts
  • International resume
  • Clean background check

The English-speaking countries include:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • the UK
  • the US

If you’re wondering how to get a teaching job in Thailand, these are some great websites to consider:

You can simply search your way through Google and you are bound to find something.

Read more about How to Teach English in Thailand.

Loi Krathong Festival

Top Places to Teach English in Thailand

In the bigger cities, parents pay to get their children in classes that are taught by foreign English teachers.

Now, are they the best places to teach English in Thailand? That all depends on what you want to get out of your experience. Some people want to really immerse themselves and be in a rural town.

If you’re like me and you want to immerse yourself while also being comfortable, you can settle for a town that’s neighboring a big city such as Bangkok or Chiang Mai. It is important to make sure that you will be comfortable where you go since you will be living there for at least one year.

Is Teaching in Thailand a Good Experience?

For me personally, I would say absolutely. If you are looking to broaden your horizons and put more experience on your resume, then that answer is also yes.

To me, every experience is an experience, whether it was good or bad.

Every person also has their own experience, no matter what country.

Read about my teaching experience in South Korea here.

Tips/Things to Know About Teaching English in Thailand

  • Piercings/tattoos might not be accepted
  • You will most likely have to wear clothes that cover your shoulders/knees
  • You have to wai other teachers
  • You might not be taken seriously
  • Class sizes can sometimes be 40+ students
  • Don’t stress (mai pen lai)

At my school and many others, you have to hide your tattoos and take out your piercings during school hours.

Even though it is HOT in Thailand, you will be expected to keep your shoulders and knees covered. That goes for both men and women. You are expected to dress decently and appropriately. I would wear a skirt with a blouse or sometimes just a long dress.

In Thailand, when you greet someone, you are supposed to wai them, especially if they are older than you. It is a sign of respect. To wai someone, you just hold your hands with your palms touching in front of your chest and your fingertips touching your nose and then you slightly bow. It is similar to how westerners wave at each other.

If the kids are rowdy and loud, do not be alarmed. Although it may be frustrating, you will have to try and do your job as best as you can. The students get so many new teachers, sometimes throughout the year. It is difficult to gain their trust and respect but once you do, they will change completely.

And speaking of the kids, you might get 40 students per class, or 20. Again, it all depends on your school. At both of the schools that I taught at in Thailand, each student had a number and would be called by that number. You might also have to use a microphone so your voice doesn’t get raspy. But hey, it’s still fun.

Don’t worry too much about doing a perfect job, just do as best as you can. Other teachers know it’s difficult and your boss will know it’s difficult. You just have to take a deep breath and try your best while also showing authority.

Thailand is a super relaxed country, just go with the flow.

Mai pen lai is like saying no problem or no worries in English. You will hear that a bit. Just don’t get it tattooed on you as I did.

The students painted this!!!

Questions to Ask During Your Interview

  • Health insurance
  • Pay
  • Housing
  • Students/class size
  • Working hours vs teaching hours
  • Contract length
  • Thai teacher help
  • If the curriculum/lesson plans are provided
  • Holidays
  • Dress code

You will want to make a list of questions to ask your employer before signing a contract and moving to an unfamiliar country. Most of these questions are for teaching jobs in other countries and as you become a more seasoned English teacher, you will add more questions to your list.

Although hospitals and healthcare in Thailand are considerably less expensive than in the US, you should always make sure you have some type of health insurance plan. Why pay out of pocket if you don’t have to?

Most teachers in Thailand can find a job that pays USD 1,000 per month. If you have more experience, then that may increase.

Usually, housing is not provided in Thailand but it doesn’t hurt to ask. You might even be able to ask for assistance with housing from your coordinator.

As mentioned above, dealing with a class size of 40 plus can be difficult for some (most) people.

Working hours will be the hours that you have to be at the school and teaching hours will be how many hours per week you will teach.

Typically, schools will want you to sign with them for at least one year. It is because there is a huge turnover of English teachers in Thailand and other countries so it is difficult for the kids to

You will want to ask this one because it can save a lot of time and frustration, especially if you have tons of kids. The school that I taught at in Chaiyaphum was more stressful than in Mahachai. In Chaiyaphum, sometimes I would have to leave the room and get a Thai teacher just to have them sit in the back of the class. The students have to show them respect and therefore you can teach your lesson in peace. Even if the Thai teacher comes in once in a while or can be called at any time during the school day, I’d say that’s a plus.

Personally, I do not like planning lessons so I always try to find a job where the lesson plans are provided and I just have to make it fun. I also find it less stressful when you have the lesson plans and curriculum provided as opposed to creating your own, especially when you are a new teacher.

Thailand has numerous holidays and you will most likely have them off which gives you more of an opportunity to travel or book a tour. You will have a few long weekends to book a getaway.

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As mentioned above, you will need to have your shoulders and knees covered while teaching (and also at the temples too). Some schools might also ask that you wear dress shoes too.

Always make sure you ask about the dress code for your school so you can be prepared for your year abroad!

Depending on your size, it can be difficult to find clothes in Thailand and Asia. Another thing to note is that if you have a larger shoe size, it will be difficult to find shoes that fit. I was allowed to wear sneakers because of my back problems.

Don’t hesitate to ask your boss questions during or after the interview about anything- even if you interview online!

What is it Like to Live in Thailand?

If you admire Thai food, you will have the time of your life. It’s affordable, fresh, and tasty.

My experience with teaching and living in Thailand was memorable and amusing. Despite the fact that I would walk out of my apartment and start profusely sweating, I really loved the country and teaching there.

Everyone in my city and basically everyone that I met during my time in Thailand was helpful, sweet, and welcoming so that made my experience that much better. Not to mention the fact that I got to eat fresh papaya salad at least once a day. WHO wouldn’t love that?!

But don’t forget, each teaching abroad experience is different for everyone. You will never know unless you try, right?

What is it Like Teaching English in Thailand?

My Experience

For my first teach abroad experience, I taught in Chaiyaphum, Thailand. After that contract was completed, I was on to the next: Mahachai, Samut Sakhon

Chaiyaphum is about 5 hours northeast of Bangkok and Samut Sakhon is located about an hour west of Bangkok.

The Workday

At Samut Sakhon Burana School, our first class of the day started at 8:30 am and the last class ended at 4 pm.

Even so, we had to be at school by 7:50 am for the morning announcements.

One day a week, each of the five foreign teachers at my school had to do gate duty. My gate duty was on Wednesdays.

For gate duty, you will just have to stand near the entrance of the school and wave at all of the students as they entered through the gate. They will Wai you or wave to you upon entering. There will be Thai teachers near the gate too.

My Schedule

I’d usually have three classes back-to-back for three hours starting right at 8:30, then I’d have a two-block break and then three more classes.

During that two-hour break, I would usually go get lunch in the school cafeteria.

I’d get som tam (papaya salad), eggs and some veggies, and a bag of fruit.

In the lunch room, there was a teacher’s room with AC which was nice. After eating, sometimes I’d walk around the school or to the local 7/11 to get a snack or stop at the ATM outside the convenience store.

The Workload

The students didn’t have any homework and I taught right out of the books and had the answer keys so it really wasn’t too bad. The only thing that I had to grade was the midterms/finals and even then those were easy. That also came with an answer key and I just had to mark the right and wrong ones.

The Other Teachers

There were five foreign teachers at Samut Sakhon Burana. The five of us teachers were me, Christina, Teddy, Robert, and the headteacher, Craig.

One is from the UK and the rest are from the US.

We also had a school coordinator. The coordinator is responsible for relaying messages to and from the Thai teachers to the English teachers. She would tell us if classes were canceled, if there was an event going on, etc.

The Kids

The kids that I taught were around 10 to 13 years old and were adorable and they will melt your heart.

In each class, I had around 40 students per class. I taught 12 classes two times a week.

💕

Overall

Being an ESL teacher in Thailand can have its pros and cons. But hey, doesn’t every job?? Teaching in Thailand has more pros than cons which makes it worth it to me!

Pros
  • Teaching in Mahachai was never dull. My students were humorous and clever. Although not fully dedicated to learning English, they have since had a special place in my heart.
  • I loved when my students would see me and come up and talk to me. It made me so proud and optimistic. They would always try to talk to us and it was truly a great feeling that they felt so comfortable.
  • We had school pets! I forget the cat’s name.
  • There are a TON of national holidays
Cons
  • Having so many students was tough for me because I like building rapport with my students. Calling students by a number and not being capable of helping all of them was difficult.
  • The students were sometimes way too loud and it was difficult to control the classroom.
Other

If you secure a job in your home country then you can apply for your visa in your country and then process your work permit in Thailand.

If you get a job while you are in Thailand, you will first enter the country on a tourist visa and then you will have to switch it to a Non-Immigrant B Visa. To do this, you will have to either go to the local immigration office or to a neighboring country.

I had to go to Laos to obtain mine and that was a fun one-day adventure. It can be a long and tiring process, but it will be very much worth it. Even though I got kicked in the ribs. LOL.

For my school, I had to leave school early to go to Bangkok, and then take a bus from Bangkok to Mukdahan.

Then from Mukdahan you go to Savannakhet. You will meet other foreigners that are doing the same thing.

And how could I forget the time when we were told that there was a snake at our school. These guys had to come and remove it.

The students had a lot of activities at school that overruled their daily classes, especially their English classes.

During the times when they’d have activities, the foreign teachers didn’t have to do anything. Sometimes we’d go watch them or participate in the activities and it was entertaining. They had “science days,” “sports days,” singing contests, and many other cute activities.

Teaching in Mahachai at Samut Sakhon Burana School made me understand how teachers love their job. It isn’t about the money, but it is the way you feel when you start to build relationships with your students.

I woke up every single day and loved my job (even when they’d take my phone and take thousands of selfies). I honestly wish I could’ve stayed in Mahachai for a longer time, but Covid and life had other plans for me.

Looking back, I couldn’t imagine leaving Thailand after teaching in Chaiyaphum. I was able to experience another school and meet some amazing humans as an ESL teacher. Although teaching in Mahachai and Chaiyaphum were two different adventures, they were both wonderful.

When I tell you time flew by when I was there, I am not exaggerating. That is how you know you truly love your job. Teaching abroad in Thailand will forever hold a spot in my heart.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi it looks like you had a great time! Was just wondering if you had a lot of time to travel around Thailand?

    1. Yes! Since I was so close to Bangkok it was fairly easy hopping on a van to go to Bangkok and then from there you can really get anywhere. My Thai friends would sometimes take us places too.

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