Expat

Teaching in Chiang Mai

Teaching in Thailand is no longer popular as it once was, the efflorescence has withered from too many unsatisfied passerbys. Only like the present, it is hanging on to the past with both arms but no hands.


My first attempt at teaching in Thailand occurred over a year ago after I had completed AUA Bangkok’s TESOL course. (I’m on their home page in the background looking very much like my grandma!)


The course was great, expensive and a month long vacation from reality as school often is. When I returned to Chiang Mai, I immediately searched on ajarn.com and local forums for work. I had my certificate from a reputable program, prior teaching experience and a brace of time. Or so I thought.

There are a lot of articles about teaching English in Thailand that should be filed under the Complaint Department and generic information that is one ply shy of an advertisement. Even though I tried not to listen to the sayers of nay, the reality is there are not a lot of good jobs here.


A good job is where you are given about 25 (at the most) contract hours and are paid 30,000 baht a month. Your school or employer pays and assists you in obtaining the correct visa and has some sort of mentoring and ongoing education program to help you develop.

Most of the teaching jobs are in Bangkok where the cost of living is a little higher but there are positions in remote areas as well. Anywhere in between like Chiang Mai, where I’m at, is coveted by foreigners so the good jobs are few and far between. So if you put yourself in the big city or if you are willing to move to some village town you increase your chances of finding a good job.

There are bilingual schools and international schools too but these schools will work you from sun up to sun down. If you don’t mind working over 40 hours a week then you have again, increased your chances.


International schools run on a similar schedule as western countries. Universities and language schools offer more flexibility. But not unlike “back home” there are great schools, not so great schools and schools you simply want to set fire to while you laugh maniacally.

It’s old school networking, internet research, patience, and luck.

If you’ve ever taught in your passport country, you know how demanding and political things can get in the irony filled bubble of education. Quagmire blizzard nightmare. So break off a snowy branch of culture and hold on cause you’ve got yourself a bone fide Choose Your Own Adventure situation.


But this post isn’t meant to discourage you. Because once I did find my job, I embraced it like a homecooked meal (and laughed the laugh of maniacs). Granted I’ve only been there for 6 months but you know when something is going to work or when you are already thinking of the next step on the treadmill.

Looking for the right position is like trying to find the perfect mate or date or weight. You have to think about what’s important to you. Often we jump and we don’t even know why we are jumping. And then we just get tired. The exercise was beneficial but we need to be economical in thought and action.

Freedom is important to me. Some folks like to be managed and I don’t so that is one of the reasons why I like teaching in Chiang Mai. I’m teaching at a school that fits the above good job criteria too. There are many resources and a structure to the program but I’m still allowed to be creative and breathe. Since it is a language school, evenings and weekend classes are the most popular.

Typically I get into work an hour before I teach to do my lesson planning. Unlike other teachers I don’t do any work at home. Home is a work-free zone because I made the mistake of taking work home when I was a first and second year teacher back in the States. As a result, I caught teacher burnout.


Spending a lot of time planning is typical behavior of most new teachers, but I know seasoned teachers who enjoy this. And then there are those who don’t do any, they are spontaneous and/or experienced enough to just walk in the room and make it happen. I’d be shocked if I didn’t see with my own eyes and ears that these teachers are good teachers too.

At my school, the youngest students are 13 years old and then the ages go up from there. I’ve had a 60 year old too. Thai students run the gamma gamma gamut. Don’t let the Thai’s respect for authority and teachers fool you into thinking teenagers will not be teenagers. But I love working with my students because they are creative and enthusiastic.

This is not to say that I didn’t love my Ecuadorian students (I wrote about the 7 types of ESL students and I must say they work for Thailand too). It’s just Thailand is my shadow, my imaginary friend. I think when you’re looking for another country to teach in it’s all about whether you feel like you’ve entered the Promise Land. If you feel like one of the lost tribes of Israel, then keep looking. Or end up feeling back at your days wondering how you managed to pretend that something meaningful was happening.

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5 thoughts on “Teaching in Chiang Mai

  1. Lani – I am wondering, have any of the schools you are familiar with started offering any sort of semblance of benefits to foreign employees yet? When I was teaching in the south years ago at a university, we just got the cash salary, a housing allowance, and some help with visas, but nothing else. Just wondering if things up in your corner had changed at all. Thanks for the great blog posts!

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  2. Hey Mr. T: Good question. Yeah, we get health insurance. And if you work on your professional development (attend meetings, observe teachers, etc), you are compensated $$$ after a year.

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