If you’ve been following me for the past year or so, you’ll know that I spent five months teaching in Thailand. What you might not know is the ins and outs of how I got this job, and what my experience with the company that I went to Thailand with, was like.
Before I really get into this post, I just want to make clear that I loved the school I was placed at. The staff were incredibly supportive, and I made some great friends for life while working there. I taught grades 3 and grade 6, and I adored every second of it. I was placed in a small Thai town named Kamphaengsaen, in the Nakhom Paton district, which is about a 2 hour bus journey from Bangkok. The town itself was great, with lots of fun activities to do at the university, plus cafes and restaurants, and it was a convenient location to visit other places on the weekends. This is one of the main things I am grateful for with regards to Echo; they placed me in an incredible school, and it’s somewhere that I’ll never forget.
I first stumbled across Echo English in December 2018, when I was bored and unhappy in the job that I was in, and was fresh out of completing my TEFL course. Echo English – Teach in Thailand is a company that was founded by a married couple who have experience working in Thai schools, and have lived in Bangkok together for many years now. A job appeared online, and I decided to look into it; what was great about Echo was that they offer short-term contracts, rather than just a full year contract. I thought this was great, because you didn’t have to stay somewhere for longer than five or six months if you didn’t like it, but you had the option to stay on longer if you did. Without much further thought, I applied.
Soon after, I got an interview with Kerry over Skype. She was lovely, and it didn’t really feel like an interview; she wanted to know more about me, and if I had any questions, rather than her telling me about the job itself. They offer jobs for the start of the Thai school year in April/May, and also halfway through the school year in October/November. I made it clear I wanted to go to Thailand in the October of 2019, rather than the April, because it would fit into my schedule so much better. This was all arranged, and not much really happened until August of last year.
The visa and general application process, as a whole, was okay... it was strange because I had never applied to work in Thailand before, so I did find it very confusing at times. I felt that Echo could have been more helpful with the application for the Non-B Visa that you need in order to get a work permit in Thailand; I wasn’t the only one who struggled. A lot of the other teachers on the Facebook page were confused, and some didn’t get their Non-B before arriving in Thailand. I think they did manage to figure it all out in the end, but it just meant they were on a tourist visa instead, and it was slightly more complicated for them. Most of the teachers in my cohort were coming from the UK, so at least we were able to talk amongst ourselves about our experiences when it came to trying to help others out… I still feel this should have been done more so by Echo, but as neither of the directors are from the UK, I can kind of understand why they may not have understood the whole process themselves.
When we got to Bangkok for the week long orientation, it was nice to meet the other teachers that I would be spending the next few months with. I had a conversation with a couple of them, asking about their experience with Echo so far, and their reservations were very similar to my own. They had been worried that Echo wasn’t a legit company, and that their interviews were so weird, and they didn’t feel like they were being interviewed. It was only really when I arrived at the hotel we were staying at, and met the other teachers, that I felt some sense of relief that this is a real company, and it wasn’t a complete scam!
The orientation was good, and I thought Echo did a very good job of organizing it. There were some Thai people who were part of the company, who helped with the Visa applications and the legal stuff, as well as giving us some Thai lessons. The other director of the company is from Thailand, and his main job was to teach us Thai lessons, and to help with any of the logistics of applying for Visas etc, which were helpful… but I felt that he lacked the professionalism that his co-director/wife had. There was even a point where he made an unacceptable joke towards one of the girls, who is Chinese/British, and that was the point where I knew he was someone I couldn’t respect. You can’t have a company where you employ people from all over the world, and make jokes about them. Not okay.
The other issue I had was that in the afternoons when he arrived, he brought their kids with him, and on more than one occasion they would be running around the room, and being incredibly distracting when we were trying to pay attention to some really important information that was being given to us. I think the first time they came in was fun, and I didn’t have much of an issue with them being there for the first 10 minutes or so… but after that it did get kind of annoying.
I remember thinking, before I arrived in Thailand, that there really wasn’t much information about this company online, that was up to date, and their Facebook page doesn’t show any reviews of the company itself. What I can say is that they are a legit company, however, I don’t think I’d go as far to say that I’d recommend them, especially considering that one of the directors, who was the main face of the company, no longer appears to be working with them. She went home to Australia in December 2019, and no one has heard from her since. At this time, I was worried about not getting my work permit before my Non-B expired, and she didn’t reply to any of my messages about it. I did manage to get my work permit sorted, but I appeared to be the only new teacher at my school who ever got a work permit at all… the other two teachers who were with me were on their tourist visas the entire time, and I don’t know why Echo thought this was okay, considering it’s illegal to work on a tourist visa.
This didn’t just happen in my school either. One of the girls I worked with, who later moved to a different school, told me that Echo actively suggested she doesn’t apply for a Non-B, and stay on a tourist visa for as long as possible. Shady? I think so. Although nothing bad ever happened to these other teachers, I know for a fact that it didn’t sit well with me and I was determined to get my work permit before my Non-B expired, which, thankfully, I did. I was lucky that my school were very pro-active, and managed to get it sorted for me by the end of the first week of January… my Non-B was to expire the following week.
And finally, I want to talk about pay. We all got paid 30,000THB, and the teachers at my school (myself included) all got paid in cash directly from the school. This was absolutely fine by me, because it meant that it was one less thing that I had to rely on Echo for. However, schools in Lopburi and Chinat were a different story. They got paid by Echo itself, and that meant the director travelling there to give them their monthly wages. However, at least two or three of the teachers in Lopbui and Chinat from my cohort have still not been paid for their final month of teaching, at the time of me writing this. Term ended in March 2020… we’re now in August 2020. I don’t know why this happened, and I don’t know the full details, but it’s definitely something to be aware of, and I sincerely hope that these teachers get the money that they are due.
If I was to recommend anything, it would be to talk to people you know who are teaching in the country you are interested in visiting, and see if you can get employed directly by the school. Not only might you get paid more than working through an agency, but you’ll know that it is legitimate, and you’ll be treated with respect. There is nothing wrong working with a teaching agency, but I guess you really do need to do as much research as possible, and let the company know that you aren’t going to be messed around with, which is unfortunate, because there are some companies out there that really do a great job! My overall thoughts on Echo are that they are an okay company to work with; they definitely help out a lot when you first arrive in Thailand, and support you with finding accommodation and place you at schools. However, they really do lack professionalism, and it was sometimes really difficult to get a response from them when you needed them the most.
So, here we are, at the end of this post! I hope it was insightful to what it’s like working with a teaching agency in Thailand. If you have any experience teaching abroad, let me know in the comments! Or, if you have any questions about teaching in Thailand, feel free to ask!