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'


While I’m in the mood and before I get fed up, here’s some information I bring to your self-created bubbles.

Isn’t it the truth that there was an era of white face equals employment in Thailand? When being a Caucasian and NES mattered more than qualifications? You weren’t here for that, or you were still at school in the west yourself? That’s only a decade ago, before the majority of backpackers and alcoholics outlived the credit card boom and went home. The continuing purge of the jetsam and flotsam continues to this day: ‘Good guys in, bad guys out’ - Pol. Lt. Gen. Nathathorn Prousoontorn.

Those who worked here previously will have met them in every staffroom in Thailand, because it’s from the backpacking ranks that the so-called ‘teachers’ largely came from. Those who couldn’t even put a 40 minute lesson plan together, but held up flashcards and made funny faces. You think I’m joking? It’s not just Thailand either; China and Hong Kong had their own clean up and deported tens of thousands of fakes over the past few years, including those with criminal records and drug users.

These aren’t generalizations, it’s not even news anymore. You people didn’t know all this? Arguably, ‘a fun, enthusiastic younger teacher even if clueless’ is where foreigners got the babysitter reputation from and a salary to match.

There is a very definite pattern here and it’s the ones who criticise the most often have the least to say and that occurs right across the blogs and almost invariably from the same people.

As a passtime I write articles, amongst others educational ones. I wrote the introduction for my company to help those new to China. I offer a complete free syllabus available to those just starting out, with suggestions on how to prepare an Asian resume.

Before criticising, think! What is it that you do?!


By John V, Thailand (11th June 2018)

The blog reminds me of the forum that ajarn used to have, the one that closed down as it turned into a bunch of fruitcakes in perpetual argument, at which I’m sure the Thai administrators looking in wondered what kind of majority oddballs fate had washed up on its shores!

As the era of ‘have white face can travel declines …’ for the borderline dyslexic means in the days before a white face was all that was needed.
If people need google to prove their point, not only did they miss out on an education, but show their millennial age.

The ‘bitter writer’ is anything but. Moving onto China after a stint in Thailand, this writer returned and bought a house on the proceeds while you so-called TEFL experts were still arguing over Thai salaries and TEFL certificates.

Isn’t it strange where life washes us up, intentionally or not. After a lifetime of travel to some bizarre places, I now sit, relax and listen to the millennial twitter like commentaries of a new generation trying to change the world and blaming everyone else for it. Many of you will claim the old cliché, ‘you don’t know me’, but yes I do. I’ve met you and thousands like you in various countries. The lost and bewildered wandering around the world on a shoestring budget with your (often fake) degree in the humanities looking for the nearest MacDonalds.

Your managerial experience is what? Where did you hone your leadership qualities? What personal skills did you bring with you? Yes, you in the bar, or smoking your joint, or having a ‘right-on’ cultural experience, I’m talking to you.

Many of you people make me laugh, but in other ways it’s sad that what should be a thriving blog is spoiled by anonymous gibberish. You people who continually criticise the writings of others, when did you ever write anything of value yourselves?

Whilst in China I met Filipinos on five times what any of you here make and that’s because they were teachers, not the typical majority ‘just passin’ through’ losers in Thailand. Now tell me, why would anyone want to write regularly for the majority here, because I can assure you, that’s not only my opinion as one of the bloggers here.

By John V, Thailand (10th June 2018)

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 (30th March 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 (28th March 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 (22nd March 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 (22nd March 2018)

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