John V

The importance of a syllabus to aid lesson planning

No experience, no certification, no degree? English teachers required?

Searching for adventure, a cultural experience and excitement, with a high salary to match? Then forget TEFL as a profession. Despite the hype and notwithstanding the alluring promises, there exist few sun drenched beaches, adventure, or earnings reflecting a pot of gold at the bottom of the proverbial TEFL rainbow, or conversely, anything remotely exotic or glamorous about working 9-to-5.

Is modal verb near Bangkok?

As the era of, 'have white face can travel' declines, tales of one year backpackers bumming their way through life, with their alcoholic and drug addicted partying stablemates is over. Moreover, in a continuing international recession, it's now rare to discover a genuine backpacker anywhere in Asia, as immigration departments clamp down on those whom they politely refer to as, 'undesirables.'

Consequently, here's the harsh truth; teaching isn't meant to provide a break from the monotony of unemployment, or an alternative to working in McDonald's. Likewise, performing an oil change doesn't make one an engineer, in the same way that speaking English isn't a teaching qualification.

Not being prepared remains a major contributing factor to beginner teacher burn-out with pressure and stress, therefore and with tongue in cheek, let's collectively dip our proverbial toes into the enticing newbie paddling pool of TEFL.

Stand and deliver: The TEFL life jacket

Having discovered there's more to TEFL than identifying what strength of suntan lotion you'll need to bring, let's delve into why the majority wanted to come in the first place and that's teach. Aside from man-management and public speaking, which combine the necessary learned skills; the biggest challenge requires the ability to construct lesson plans.

Among the plethora of available free ones often designed by the backpacking blog fraternity, the objective should always concentrate on developing a syllabus which provides an in-depth course. The advantage of a syllabus provides practice by design, including the necessary structure needed for lesson planning and you'll be doing plenty of that, even if a school offers a workbook.

Ordinarily, a syllabus provides a guide to what students can expect, yet additionally, your personal signpost to construct lesson plans based on a predetermined objective, just as in that workbook.

When holding up flash cards just ain't enough

Nearing the end of my TEFL career, or should that read ‘existence' (he said with a smile as the other serfs nodded in agreement), in a condensed series of forthcoming articles I'll lead the beginner through the necessary basic steps with the information needed to hold the head above water and achieve that competitive edge. Resume construction, lesson planning, class management, public speaking in the sink or swim waters of TEFL.

Let's begin by offering a free cultural syllabus, which you can adapt to your own requirements.

Build on the included lesson plan; substituting your own preference topics, as within lie the entire curriculum workbook based topics you'll need to do a lesson plan on. Despite the hype, no one in real life expects, nor is it necessary to explain advanced English grammar to those learning the basics of English. Stay concise, remain interesting and maintain professionalism.

The link to ‘free cultural syllabus'


Maybe a few fewer sweeping and mostly inaccurate generalization (As the era of, 'have white face can travel' declines) and a little more substance would improve the quaity of future blog posts. I think John might have something interesting to say if he can avoid the tempation to blast everyone from the younger generation in every other sentence.

I have to mostly agree with Denny, for most people teaching ESL InThailand (or other locations) for a year or two can be a great adventure but I would not reommend it as a career for the majority.

By Jack, On a break (20th April 2018)

Its amusing reading the ramblings of bitter, old TEFL washouts spew factually incorrect and incoherent nonsense, but I'm afraid such posts may mislead the dear naive readers of Ajarn, so allow me to set the record straight.

First of all, far from being in "continuing international recession", a simple Google search will indicate that the global economy is, in fact, in a state of continued, healthy growth. This is certainly evident in the education market in Thailand, with major international schools (such as Brighton College) opening on a regular basis. Furthermore, if this bitter writer were to venture anywhere outside of his miserable pit of despair, he would discover that Asia is (for better or worse) teeming with backpackers, the newest wave of the young masses seeking to live out their YOLO fantasies, hook up, party, and maybe even hit a temple or two.

Returning to the topic of TEFL, however, although teaching English in Thailand remains a pathetic excuse of a career, it is still a terrific opportunity for a wide-eyed recent university graduate to have their "adventure of a lifetime" before settling into the routine life of a boring office job somewhere in middle England or America. This writer, as most bitter farang tend to be, have completely forgotten the tingly thrill of one's first som tam, the joy of riding a scooter up windy mountain roads, and the surreal joy of being greeted with a chorus of "good morning teacher" from a gaggle of Thai kids in an upcountry school.

As far as proper lesson planning and teaching pedagogy are concerned, well, much is up to the school and its investment (or not) in quality resources and support for staff. Although the typical 20-something ESL teacher is not a trained educator and never will be, a good textbook with some youthful idealism will go a long way to avoid any catastrophes in the classroom. In any case, if I were a Thai student, I would much rather a fun, enthusiastic younger teacher (even if clueless) than a bitter, jaded expat yelling about the proper use of the present continuous.

Like or not loathe it, Thailand remains a great place for young graduates to gain incredible experiences and lasting memories while earning enough money to pay the rent. The only problem is when these young teachers fall in love with Thailand too hard, and make the misguided notion of thinking they can make a career out of TEFL in Thailand. Then, 20 years later, they end up much like this author.

By Danny, Bangkok (20th April 2018)

As a firm believer that you receive from teaching what you personally put into it; having experienced the flotsam and jetsam washed up on its shores, I don’t entirely blame the Thais for their negative view of foreigners either.

Personally, I don’t view punctuality, professionalism and appearance as a performance and I’ve worked in two Thai schools and never done gate duty, requested to, or would agree to.

Perhaps I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid the privately run treadmills and consequently I agree others will have adverse experiences; therefore it’s not a point I’d argue. Until I went to a Chinese government school (six years), where qualifications and classroom performance reflected in salaries, I never realized Thailand was a financial existence. Nevertheless, I put in 100% in anywhere I teach and stay away from the politics. It is not for foreigners to alter an education system with all its cultural intricacies, yet what I’ve found is that knowledge, enthusiasm and classroom performance will always outdo attempting to fit our square subjective selves into the round cultural hole we weren’t designed for.

Once upon a time we all stepped off the plane filled with idealism and that it’s become jaded reflects an equal mixture of foreign culture and our own perception of what education should be. Over the years I developed my own resume, syllabus, learned how to manage 60+ class sizes … All aspects I wish others had mentioned without the painstaking trial and error of having to learn myself. All this leads to advice for new teachers, the ‘how to’ which is the missing link, minus the glamour and a distinct absence of the usual flash cards and workbooks that provide the reason for the despair often found in experience.

Those waiting for great revelations will remain disappointed, yet if only one person takes knowledge or gets food for thought from my experience it will have served its purpose. Additionally and occasionally, the odd satirical piece is where this will all lead to.

By John V, Thailand (20th April 2018)

"As the era of, 'have white face can travel' declines..."

Is this really true? If anything I've seen the opposite. There are numerous NGOs and 'charity' organizations willing to take on able bodies whities to do monkey impersonations all over the world including Thailand. There are more kids willing to do just that than ever before.

If anything - young adults are determined to extend their time off from 'real life' for longer and longer. Demand for teaching English and cleaning an elephant's arse has never been more in demand!

I get that not being prepared in the classroom makes life difficult. That's especially true of government schools where work materials are simply not fit for purpose if indeed they are even available.

But let's be clear... in Thailand (at government schools) the emphasis on 'teaching' isn't just to provide a formal education.

It's also about gate duty, showing up on time, being well-liked and "looking the part" of a foreign English teacher. Let's not get too bogged down with the 'substance' of teaching. 'Style' is also a vital factor which will determine your success and also whether or not you'll end up burned out.

The author has produced a well written first article but it's unclear who it's aimed at. On the one hand, there's the promise of helpful articles in the future... on the other hand, he's happy to confess that his career hasn't been much more than an "existence" which he's assuming that many people will nod their collective heads in agreement with.

But the more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to think that actually, teachers like John V are exactly the kind of people who should be giving us ideas on how to keep things fresh and interesting in the classroom.

Keep 'em coming, John. I'm looking forward to seeing where all this leads to.

By Mark Newman, A. MUANG (20th April 2018)

Post your comment

Comments are moderated and will not appear instantly.

Featured Jobs

Varee Chiangmai International School

฿45,000+ / month

Chiang Mai

Hello English

฿32,000+ / month


StartSmart Education

฿31,000+ / month

Nakhon Pathom

Sine Education Service  Co., Ltd..

฿35,000+ / month


Interkids Bilingual School

฿50,000+ / month


MediaKids Academy Thailand

฿28,000+ / month


Featured Teachers

  • Dr. Brian


    British, 62 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • rosemarie


    Filipino, 40 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • Ishfaaq


    South African, 31 years old. Currently living in South Africa

  • Kenneth


    American, 33 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Daniel


    Dutch, 37 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Alice


    Filipino, 45 years old. Currently living in Thailand


No TEFL required.

Top TEFL job placement provider with competitive benefits and an unforgettable experience.

To be internationally recognized as the leader in quality English language training.

We get you a job! Options for school placements all over Thailand

Brokers for ajarn health insurance and for all your Thailand insurance needs.

Competitive teacher packages with benefits and bonus incentives

First bilingual school in Phuket. Vacancies for kindergarten, primary and secondary teachers.

Progressive English program school near Bangkok employing NES and Filipino teachers

Premier language school with many branches and corporate training.

The Hot Spot

Contributions welcome

Contributions welcome

If you like visiting and reading the content, why not get involved yourself and keep us up to date?

Air your views

Air your views

Got something to say on the topic of teaching, working or living in Thailand? The Ajarn Postbox is the place. Send us your letters!

Teacher mistakes

Teacher mistakes

What are the most common mistakes that teachers make when they are about to embark on a teaching career in Thailand? We've got them all covered.

Can you hear me OK?

Can you hear me OK?

In today's modern world, the on-line interview is becoming more and more popular. How do you prepare for it?

Renting an apartment?

Renting an apartment?

Before you go pounding the streets, check out our guide and know what to look out for.

The dreaded demo

The dreaded demo

Many schools ask for demo lessons before they hire. What should you the teacher be aware of?

Will I find work in Thailand?

Will I find work in Thailand?

It's one of the most common questions we get e-mailed to us. So find out exactly where you stand.