Ian McNamara

Ian McNamara's blog on Ajarn.com


Divine right

Can anyone realistically teach English?

Some people believe that every native English speaker is born with the ability to teach English. Unfortunately a high proportion of people with that belief appear to want to be teachers.


Graduation day 2

It's time to buy flowers again

Comparing a regular college graduation to the posh uni graduation I wrote about last year. As with all sequels it's the same but different.


A greatest hits compilation

Just filling space folks

Some extracts from previous week's columns, put together in my absence as I was too busy to write anything this week. Would have been better if they had actually taken good bits from the columns, mai pen rai.


We care a lot

Life in the fast lane revisited

An old one from last year, initially rejected on grounds on taste - dead kids don't go down well with the people in charge of the Nation Junior. Now finally sees the light of day rehashed


TV Times

In front of the idiot's lantern

Taking a bit of TV from my youth and seeing how it would work here in Thailand. Also doubles as a biting social commentary on the effects of TV on a nation's youth - especially if you have a few beers before reading.


The ajarnies

The alternative to the oscars

Having watched the Oscars and been suitable moved by Halle Berry's dress I decided it was high time for an awards ceremony for those unsung heroes of the education system i.e. the teachers. And so it came to pass that the inaugural Ajarnies came into being.


ISO 9002

The sure sign of quality

The old ISO column from a year ago reared it's head again this week. Partly due to the paper receiving a few requests to have it reprinted (honest) and partly due to the Education Editor taking the weekend off to go to the music festival in Pattaya.


Excuses, excuses

Loosely to do with education I suppose

Kids can learn a lot from their elders. Right from wrong. Good from bad. There is no God. Greed is good. The list goes on. Bullshitting is one art form that is also passed down through the generations. This week we have an example and also link it in a convoluted manner to something bordering on educational.


Life's been good to me

Living the vida loca

It's tough at the top but not as near as tough as it is where you are. As most people know being a 'dot.com' guy automatically ensure a life of luxury and riches beyond your wildest dreams. In response to this slightly exaggerated view I had several of my staff put together this week's column dispelling the myth.


Manic depression

Looking for jobs in the concrete jungle

There's been more comments recently about how hard it is to get a job. Part of the problem is the rather disinterested or negative attitude of some teachers who simply believe that it's their god given right to be able to land a dream teaching gig with minimal effort.


Dear diary

A column of two halves

Half of this column is about the government (Fight the Power) only because it's very hard to restrain myself from taking the piss when ideas such as combining a lottery with voting in a general election in an attempt to get the public to participate. The second half is a plug for the Diary pages on the website, thinly disguised as a defence of Jim's efforts which have come under attack from some do-gooders


The weakest link

Or are some commentators just being a tad hypocritical?

This pariah game show has had the blame for the decline of Thai social values in the last 20 years laid firmly at it's door - despite only appearing on TV screens a couple of weeks ago. Humiliation isn't part of the Thai way of doing things.


Still going nowhere

Still kicking the topic of teacher expectations around

A continuation of the previous weeks stuff. This time focusing on what and who the teacher can expect to be teaching and also the question of flithy lucre. What's in it for me?


Welcome to the heart of nowhere

Running a language school with no teachers

Running a school in an upcountry hamlet is not for the faint hearted. The main sticking point is how to attract teachers. Those already in Thailand are too savvy to leap at the "opportunity of a lifetime" however it's a different matter for those languishing abroad. A guide on how to use the internet to attract teachers to work in the back of beyond. Success guaranteed.


Teacher training

A more peculiar approach to discipline

Bizarre, but non painful, punishments were in the news and one particular teacher was in trouble. But at least she was thinking 'out of the box' ( and possibly out of her mind as well) A theory as to why no real changes in the field of teacher training take place.


A worrying thought

Bizarre Thai student behavior

A slightly deep, for me at least, look into the psyche of learning. I begin by disecting the misonomer (or is it) " No one can teach anyone anything" and end up with a kid sticking his finger in a plug socket.


Happy pills for buffaloes

A real mixed bag

Loads of wierd stuff happening in the news during the last week or so. Kids speaking out of turn in front of the PM. Good news only on the radio and TV by government order. A business partner of the PM ( according to the Far Eastern Economic Review ) hugging his poodle on the front pages of newspapers . . . .wierd stuff is going on in this column too.


More on lesson planning

Yes, we know it needs to be done

How to keep the inspectors happy. With thoughts turning to end of semester inspections a 'cut out, memorise n' shred' Plan B for all you chalkies in Thai schools.


A belated Xmas edition

Seasons greetings to you all

It wouldn't be the same without the Primary school Nativity Play. Due to unknown deadlines this wasn't completed in time for last week's column. Better late than never.


JC's hypothetical adventures in Thailand

A festive twist

As first seen last Easter (April 18). What's Xmas for if it's not for repeats. Repeats of movies, repeats of news, repeats of columns etc


More than words

Full marks for initiative but unfortunately zero for range of vocabulary

A treatise on the problems of learners not being able to find a suitable word amongst the millions that make up the English language and also a little word quiz for any of you with time on their hands


I'll have a P please Bob

Slowly but surely gameshows are creeping into education

Making learning more fun by combining games shows & education. A few sugrestions for the future.


Waiting for the great leap forward

The Thai masterplan

Every week there are still stories about all things educational are going to change real soon now. A few comparisons with some notes about Victorian schooldays I found on the web. ( As you've guessed it's not easy thinking of stuff to write about every week.)


Graduation day

More from the cultural sensitivity files

An excuse for parents to shower their offspring with cuddly teddy bears and for the graduates to tart themselves up beyond all recognition . . . or is it? ( Actually it is and that's the idea behind this weeks ramblings)


Board surfing

Thoughts on a discussion forum

The ajarn.com board is pretty inane 80% of the time but how well does it compare to other TEFL boards. The results of an in-depth survey, as objective and relevent as a 30 minute session clicking on 'google'.com links can be.


More Dwight and Goodwill to all men

Over the previous few months I’ve been accused of many things

The star of last week's LIBeL is still hounding me - a few more insightful questions from Dwight in NYC. Plus re-training hookers - Goodwill Bangkok, a charity based in, not surprisingly, Bangkok - offers free training courses for girls looking for a way out of the bar scene.


Recent correspondence

Dipping into the mailbag

I receive all sorts of emails from all over the world. The praise and the criticism I can accept - but the inane crap that some people write can be enough to drive you crazy. This week's column is a study of inanity.


Contractual obligations

Always read the small print

A not particularly accurate overview of the contracts offered to teachers in Thailand. Taken with a pinch of salt it might give you some ideas of what to expect.


Negative expectations

And their role in language learning

My turn as an agony aunt for the masses. Compassion is just one of my many virtues.


Caught by the privates

The perils of freelance teaching

From the thrill of the chase and actually getting your first private student to the cancellations there's never a dull moment when your trapped in a living room with an 8 year old and her Chinese granny.


The web's hidden treasures

TEFL resources on the net

There are some great TEFL sites & homepages out there -however some people still insist on try too hard. This week a look at the TEFL research resources on the web.


Ajarns of high couture

Introducing this week's guest columnist

A guest column - the vast majority of which wasn't written by myself. All about the cultural differences Thai ajarns face upon going to and then returning from a western country to study


Out and proud

Whatever will Mom and Dad say?

Why do TEFL teachers have a bit of a dodgy image? Not only with their 'real' teacher counterparts but with society as a whole. I explore what it's like to come out and tell the world ( or a packed bar at least ) that your proud to be a TEFL teacher.


Sunday morning rant

Knocked out in thirty minutes

Too long, too bitter, twisted, cynical and sarcastic to be included in a paper that has a few dozen Thai readers - so the newspaper version was edited quite a lot.


The be all and end all

padding out your resume

'Teach', 'English',' Language' those magic words in cursive writing will work wonders for your job prospects. Were all TEFL courses created equally?


More MBA fun

What is the degree daddy of them all?

Devaluation by degrees. In Thailand if you want any position higher than 'Assistant Photocoping Supervisor' then you now need an MBA. And the only thing that trumps an MBA is an 'International MBA' even if it was taken at the local agricultural college


English by newspaper

Not quite rejection proof

Previously rejected on the grounds of dubious choice of material was watered down & published. Make up your own mind.


I'll have an A please Ajarn Bob

When Thai parents rule the roost

Another reference that will be oblivious to anyone who didn't grow up watching Blockbusters on ITV. What to expect when the exam grades of overfed kids don't reach parents' expectations. Someone has to take the blame


Peak performance

Keeping the teacher's pecker up

An insight into educational viagra (otherwise known as lesson plans) an idiots guide to keeping your boss & students satisfied by your performance under pressure.


My way or the Thai way

There's one born every minute

A bit about how to sell language courses ( or anything else for that matter) to Thais


Eazy English

All the latest from Thailand's TEFL world

Quite a bit of sarcasm, cynicism and childish finger pointing this week - just for a change. Dodgy exams at a well known private uni, dodgy textbooks in schools and dodgy English in an American bank - so it's understandable that the emails of complaint centred on the botanical classification of the humble stringbean, isnt it?


Glory days

Inspired by The Boss

Written a couple of months ago when listening to my Bruce Springsteen MP3 - 12 albums ( but no 'Born to Run' - on a CD for 100 Baht ) All about reinventing the past, how BKK transforms people - it's pretty deep stuff


Mr T and the kids

(Dis) credit where it's due

To fill you in on the background, the PM is probably about to lose his job for failing disclose his assets - his main defence seems to be his secretary screwed up, he is also the Education Minister. The italic portions are taken from a Bangkok Post report.


The English language

Death by TV presenter

Channel surfing on a Saturday night. Banal VJ's exist in Thailand too. Not one of the better attempts but it's not easy thinking of borderline educational stuff every week


Scatterlings of Africa

Investigative journalism at its very best

A true life tale of a school controlled by the Sud Efrikan mafia or something similar.


Young Americans

Close encounters of the British-American kind

Imagine being trapped in a lift with Freddie Kruger, double your fear and you'll know what it's like to be on the skytrain with a loud yank.


The end of innocence

Comparing and contrasting cultural diversity

Comparing the ritual that is know as " Welcome Freshy time " by students in Thailand and "Freshers' week" by those in the UK.


EQ = IQ for idiots?

What does the system all mean?

The average Thai student isn't going to make much of an impression on the IQ scale. I know uni students who boast about their 104 IQ because it's better than average. I hate to tell them most dolphin's IQs are higher. Not hard to see why E.Q. is so popular here.


The evolution of e-learning in Thailand

At last a column with some substance

I'll sometimes throw in the odd 'substance heavy' column if I can't think of anything mildly humourous to say.


Back to school

Shoes are polished and uniforms are in pristine condition

It's the first day back after the summer holidays, uniforms are donned and the ritual countdown to the first class of the new school year begins . . . begin


The international course bandwagon rolls on

Are Thai MBA courses worth the money?

I'm friends with the ( Thai)Head of English at a Thai college which has just started an MBA program - it's a waste of money and she feels sorry for her students. That's what gave me the idea for this offering.


School daze

A trip down memory lane

For some reason I decided to see if my old school's had websites. Delight turned to disappointment when I discovered that their contents were less than riveting.


Sweet grandchild of mine

The incredible journey and how it all unfolded

A semi biographical tale of the journey from supermarket shelf stacker to respected teacher


Those were the days

Why I chose Thailand of all places

Stuck for something to write so a bit about myself - most of it true, figure out the embellishments for yourself


In the beginning was the word

You know how Thais just love their gadgets

"How to get Thais reading something other than the manual for their new Nokia?" A rhetorical question answered by taking the humble book hi-tech.


Blasphemous rumors

JC's travels in Thailand

As part of the Easter celebrations - what if Jesus, one of the first teacher trainers, had visited Thailand?


Born under a bad sign

Teachers are trained to watch for signs. There are many different signs the

Teachers' warning signs - ignore them at your peril. Cynical and negative - so no change there.


Holiday in Cambodia

Travels in a far-off and less-travelled Asian country

Not originally intended as a LIBeL column. Too long, only 90% finished. Badly edited - still full of errors - when it appeared in the paper.


Language school stereotypes

Those terrors of the staff-room

With apologies to Stan, who knows it's nothing personal. A few of the characters you're guaranteed to meet in a BKK language school.


Bitchin, fussing and cussing

Let's all have a good moan why don't we

Complaints from language school teachers. You've heard 'em all before I'm sure.


An inspector calls

OK folks, stand by your beds

when ministry of Ed. dignitaries visit schools - strange things start happening i.e. classes are taught properly!


Whinging Thai teachers & cheering practice.

Returning to the topic of ISO numbers for a moment

Making the best use of those valuable school days - by cancelling classes in order to standardise students cheering ISO style.


Summer camps

Heading out into the great wide open

A users guide to what to expect when 130 pre-teens hit an out of season 3 star hotel.


ISO rules OK

What a school needs to do to get that treasured number

This seems to be the most popular column so far because many people have mentioned that they identify with it's sentiment.


Choice tests

The sheer joy of multiple choice

Over reliance in Thailand. All roads lead to a,b,c or d. When speaking to Thai students it's often best to give them a choice of 4 responses to each comment you make.


Dress code

Entering into the dangerous world of fashion

Easy to do, been done before but this was my take on the theme


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