Lee Lepper

Are you a crappy teacher?

Time to take the self-evaluation test

Answer these questions honestly and find something out about yourself. More to the point, can you do anything about it?

1) Do you show movies to your class? If so what is your motivation for doing so? Is it to complement the material presented in class? Is it an occasional reward for your students for achievement or good behavior? Or is it so you can burn valuable time because it is easier for you to show a movie than actually teach something? If you show movies to your class and at the end of the "lesson" they have learned basically nothing.

2) Do you miss class often or for any excuse? If for example you must make an off campus appointment on a school day, do you schedule your appointment around your classes or do you use the appointment as an excuse to miss class? If you answer is yes to these questions chances are you really don't care too much about your your students.

3) Do you often play games in class that really have no/little value in terms of learning? Like showing the movie that burns time because you are too lazy to teach, playing games can be valuable or they can be an indication that you may be a crappy teacher.

4) Are you a "smart guy" that has "figured out" the system? Is your primary goal to keep your job while doing as little work as possible? Do you give away candy and treats to your students so they will like you? If a kid is struggling in class do you just give him more homework because you know that Thai parents equate lots of homework with good teaching?

5) Do you like to boast how good it feels to see your students learning when in fact you you know they are not learning much if anything at all from you? You figure by saying these things others you will deceive others into believing that you actually care if your students learn or not. Chances are you are not fooling anybody.

6) Do you yourself spend a lot of time playing video games shooting up bad guys in an apocalyptic future world or watching inane TV shows? Well everybody needs to relax and put the brain on hold but the amount of time you spend on non-creative activities such as these is related to how creatively your mind works in general and is also an indicator of your capacity for sloth. Lazy, non creative people generally aren't very good teachers. Chances are if you spend a significant amount of time watching TV and playing video games, you may be a crappy teacher.

7) Do you spend most of your time sitting or standing in class? (This is more directed to teachers working with kids rather than in corporate or language school situations). An enthusiastic teacher will be on his or her feet for the vast majority of time. If you stand and move around the class your students will focus more on you, that should be evident. If you spend more time on you lazy rump than up on your feet.........you might be....you guessed it.

8) Do you give lots of classwork to fill time? Most of the people reading this are teaching EFL. As an English teacher in a foreign county chances are your school has hired you so that students have a chance to interact with a native speaker to practice/acquire speaking and listening skills. Some classwork which underscores speaking and listening activities is appropriate(and of course it depends on curriculum dictated by course). BUT if you throw classwork at your students so you can sit down and relax, that's just a cop-out

9) Do you have control of your class? Sadly, even if you are giving it your all, if you can't control your classes, you are probably not effective as a teacher. Even if you have the luxury of an assistant who keeps order for you, if you can't control the class yourself, chances are your students are not focusing on what you are teaching. They are just responding to being disciplined. You need to be able to control your class. You may be trying, but if you can't control your class you are probably a crappy teacher.

10) Honestly, do you really care if your students learn or not? Is your job just a way to make a living? I guess it is possible, but in my estimation if you really don't like teaching and if it doesn't bother you when a class doesn't go as well as it could, you should get out of the game.

So now what? If you have evaluated yourself honestly and you have come to a conclusion that you are in fact a crappy teacher what can you do about it? Since most of these things actually have to do with personal motivation, probably not a lot. Laziness and indifference are character flaws and nothing short of a miracle can do anything to change that. If that is your problem my suggestion to you is pray for improvement, but don't hold your breath. If however, you have problems with class management, or finding ways to be more effective in class, you can go to the powerteachers website and learn how to become a Whole Brain teacher. This will solve your problems as long as an aversion to WORK is not your fundamental issue.

Happy Teaching (or gold bricking, whichever the case may be!)


Hit a raw nerve "teacher" Robert?

By lee, bangkok (17th November 2011)

Might not be the best teacher in the world, but certainly don't come over as an arrogant know it all prat with stereo types based on a small world of experiences, and certainly believe in putting my students happiness and experiences before the head teachers or nazi regime, if my students hate their grammer books that fine with me...

By Teacher Robert, Bangkok (15th July 2011)

So what makes the author such an expert? I agree with some of the things he says and a crappy teacher won't last long. The part about controlling the class is the one that really gets to me. A lot of it depends on the students and how they have been brought up as much as it does the teacher. I can have one class that is an absolute pleasure to teach and the very next one is like a living hell. If you have a solution to misbehaving students that will still make them interested and not resentful, i'd like to hear it.

By Joseph, Thailand (9th June 2011)

Whole Brain teaching to my understanding is being reconized as a potent teaching strategy because of test rising test scores amoung students in where it is being used in classrooms in The United States. However, many teachers worldwide are claiming they are seeing sucesses as well. I know I have seen amazing results. The science that it is based on is related to the physiology of the human brain so it would follow that it would be effective wherever humans are being taught. It is quite possible that techiniques could be adjusted to better adapt to various cultures.

This is a fairly new appraoch and I am sure it will continue to evolve. However the basics will remain largely the same, I believe, for quite some time. When steel shafts were introduced to the game of golf Ben Hogan though hard work and observation discovered "swing plane." He then developed a set of fundamentals that would enable a player to swing on plane. These fundamentals absolutely work and produce stupendous results. However Hogan's approach to timing resulted in a rise of the number of lower back pain sufferers that hadnt been seen since the days of Vlad the Impaler.

So, timing has been reassed and as a result of changing that it was necassary to change other fundamentals. Thus a more modern swing has evolved. It is much less stressful on the body and seems to produce results that are just as consistent thus is better. However the modern swing is still "on plane"-this can not be changed unless the laws of physics change. Likewise the discovery that learning takes places much more effectively when both parts of the brain are engaged will remain constant, however better/more appropropriate techniques may in the future be developed.

By leelepper, bangkok (3rd June 2011)

“Every day more evidence is pouring in that in terms of rising standardized test scores as well as in controlled laboratory experiments that a classroom environment which foments connections between left brain and right brain activity is superior to one which relies solely on right brain activity (Accelerated Learning is a very related methodology).”

Is this evidence coming from individualistic and lower power distance cultures such as the USA, Canada and the UK? If so, how do we know if these results will be transferred to collectivist and high power distance cultures such as Thailand?

On the other hand, “between left brain and right brain activity is superior to one which relies solely on right brain activity” would seem to be arguing that good teaching produces better results than bad teaching. Not exactly a ground breaking idea.

By Jack, Around abouts (1st June 2011)

Thank you Anthony. I taught at one of the worst schools in the US, and one colleague had an interesting way of teaching that kept him going 25 years so that he could collect his pension. He had his students look up dictionary words week after week, day in and day out. He used the same lists for 25 years. This was how he survived teaching in a horrible school. I didn't go the distance though I was a creative, award-winning teacher. He kept plugging away with those dictionaries, and he's the one who walked away with a pension, not me. Crappy or not, every teacher finds his own style, but more importantly, as you have pointed out, the name of the game is ... staying in the game. I may need to rethink my mohawk now, too.

By Guy, bkk (30th May 2011)

Phil / ajarn.com - "Just a reminder that we welcome comments and disagreements about any ajarn article or blog. But pure insults will not be posted"

By philip, (29th May 2011)

At the end of the day we all have different approaches to teaching, depending on the the students or how we feel on the day. There is no 100% right or wrong way to teach. It comes down to many factors such as, how you feel on the day, the students schedules and the weather ( if you are in a non-aircon room ). From what I have read so far most of the comments have come from other teachers who want to do their best for the students but at the end of the day if you can not keep your fellow Thai co-teachers happy you are screwed. That is the bottom-line. I have had many of my former students ask me why I am not teaching them anymore and all I can do is say sorry but the school decided not to continue my contract. Plus I maybe should have not continued to keep my mohawk haircut after sports day. I thought it looked quite dashing!!

By Anthony, Uttaradit (29th May 2011)

Guy, I googled "Combat school methodology" and to my astonishment nothing came up. Please take time to detail your experiences and successes in these two "ghetto schools" in the form of an article so we can all benefit and I can sing your praises. Waiting but not holding my breath.

Lee Lepper

By philip, (29th May 2011)

Lee, your words: "Compared to these guys I suck. I posses neither the talent or the dedication to work and be successful in such situations and I really really admire teachers that do- whether or not they have discovered WBT." Lee, I taught at two of the worst ghetto high schools in the United States and was extremely successful at both, so you must admire me, right? Perhaps you should be singing the praises of MY combat-school-proven methodology to augment YOUR professionalism. In any event, a professional finds his or her own style, and I'm glad that WBT works for you. Everyone else isn't crappy though if they don't choose to hit your web site.

By Guy, bkk (29th May 2011)

to the lone gunman - yes reading is a creative activity, your mind creates a picture as you read - this is not my observation but an established fact.

to johnny wadd and el crappo - i didn't say showing movies was a waste of time. It depends on the goals of the lesson and if you are using the movie in a productive way. Showing movies can make for a great lesson.

To By Guy- You figured out one major reason I why I write these blogs. You must be a "smart guy." A PROFESSIONAL is always open to exploring ways to augment his performance. You sir are not my colleague.

Congrats to The-man for knowing what you are and admit to being part of the problem - why don't you sign you name next time?

By leelepper@yahoo.com, bangkok (29th May 2011)

I don't really see what relevance video games/TV shows have to being a bad teacher. Is reading a 'creative' past time? Not really. But I doubt the guy who wrote this would say 'oh, that guy reads a lot, he must be a lazy teacher.'

If it is your personal opion that these activities are a waste of time, then you are perfectly entitled to think that way. However, to claim that someone who doesn't share your interests must be incompetent at their job is going a bit far, I think. What exactly IS an appropriate hobby for a teacher? Playing the clarinet? Drinking? Modern Art?

Video Games are not my only interest but I do enjoy playing them. I don't do any of the other things on the list but I am concerned that my penchant for games has damned me to a life of crapness. But I am sure you are marketing something that can help me out.

By apocalyptic lone gunman, Bangkok (28th May 2011)

Nothing wrong with showing Mr Bean, kids love him. However there is one big snag. Mr Bean doesn't talk, oops! So a follow up could involve a classroom game centred around what Mr Bean was actually doing during the movie. Mr Bean was walking etc, Mr Bean fell over, Mr Bean drove his mini etc. Plenty of ways to actually get some real learning out of something like that. If you put your mind to it.

By johnny wadd, U.K (28th May 2011)

Just got ToyStory 3 on dvd ... cant wait to show it too the students. If I show the same DVD four times during the semaster, I know the kids will learn some english. well the agency that hired me said, 'bring yer own materials' when i asked them for stuff to do.

By El Crappo Supremo, LOS (27th May 2011)

Honestly, I do not give a sh@t if my kids learn something or not, I get paid to kill 200 minutes a day (4 periods) so hey I am happy as long as i get my Baht..... Dont blame it on me, blame it on the system. It is impossible to teach a classroom full of 60 kids and 99% dont wanna learn English. So yeah, I do show movies, I do sit around - and I am a crappy teacher. So what? I live for the islands ;-)

By the_main_man, BKK (27th May 2011)

The author's first point - that showing movies is basically 'not teaching' and a waste of time - is ludicrous. Another point - that the teacher must be the complete focus of the students' attention - is also ludicrous. My hope is to be the coach in the room, not the star player. But in Thailand where insecure thai teachers crow 99% of the class time through a bullhorn, many Western teachers have accepted this as 'good teaching,' as well. Pity them. But the point of the article is to market 'Whole Brain Teaching,' so I understand the author's premise that every teacher is a failed teacher unless he follows this methodology. I didn't click the link ... so 'no sale,' and that must make me a 'crappy teacher' (which, by the way, is a completely UNPROFESSIONAL way to evaluate teaching colleagues".

By Guy, bkk (26th May 2011)

In response to the question that asked me to rate myself as a teacher - I have seen videos of teachers using WBT in inner city schools in America and being successful under these most dire of circumstances. Compared to these guys I suck. I posses neither the talent or the dedication to work and be successful in such situations and I really really admire teachers that do- whether or not they have discovered WBT.

I do not feel I am intrinsically a special teacher, however I do feel that I am using the most most superior strategy available to teachers and it is making me the best teacher that I can be. I have seen the proverbial sou's ear turned into the silk purse and am sold. Whole Brain Teaching is based on the most current research into brain activity in relationship to learning.

Every day more evidence is pouring in that in terms of rising standardized test scores as well as in controlled laboratory experiments that a classroom environment which foments connections between left brain and right brain activity is superior to one which relies solely on right brain activity (Accelerated Learning is a very related methodology).

Dismiss it if you want, but if you do by all means do more than just criticize and share with us what works better. I for one would really appreciate hearing from you. It is important to realize that Whole Brain Teaching is extremely adaptable and can augment strategies that you have found or find to be successful, It doesn't mean getting rid of good teaching techniques rather it builds on them. It is highly adaptable to standard TEFL methodology and the classroom management ideas are a true holy grail for any teacher.

It seems my article has hit a few raw nerves here and there. Good, that was exactly the reason I wrote it in the first place - to hit nerves and make people think about what they are doing, myself included. I have had bad days when I couldn't motivate to do my best and have engaged in some of the crappy teacher behaviors on the crappy teacher check list. When I do it bothers me, and it should bother you too when you do. If it doesn't bother you then you really are a crappy teacher.

Lee Lepper

By philip, (26th May 2011)

Lee, how would you rate yourself as a teacher?

By Alan, Bangkok (25th May 2011)

I am actually wondering what is the benefit of someone who just re-hashes old news. And are you seriously suggesting that 'Whole Brain Teaching' is the TEFL teachers prayers being answered?

By Steve, Bangkok (25th May 2011)

Talking about stating the obvious. You sound like a guy who thinks he knows it all...

By Bart, Holland (24th May 2011)

Do you write a moderately good article only to consign it to the bin at the end with a reference to a particular methodology? If so you might be......

Do you think you are a gift to the practice of teaching and speak down to others who don't share your own ideology? If so you might be.......

All I really get from this article is that if I follow a particular methodology then I will be a "good" teacher, otherwise I will be a crappy one. Is there not a new fad every year or is it just me.

- Work at it; try to get better every year, study and learn new methods, but don't be a slave to any.
- Be an advocate for your students but don't be a crusader.
- Work the system to mitigate its damage, don't fight it head on you will lose and your students will lose with you.
- Play fun games as a reward for performance when deserved and when you can find the time in your syllabus, wrap a lesson in the game if you can, but they are kids let them have fun on occasion.
- Don't be too serious about stuff, it is bad for your health and does the kids no good. If you hate teaching, stop. If you like it, keep the effort up but don't beat yourself up; the kids will pick up on it when it is forced.

By Kru Khee, BKK (24th May 2011)

I love this article, I identified strongly with point 4 - playing the system - which underpins all the other points on the list except 6.
Meritocracy is dead in Thailand and directness can be counter-productive so after a while you realize that you may as well pander to the parents and pull every nepotistic punch available instead of working yourself into an early grave.
To this end, point 5 was especially apt; if you play the system you’ll inevitably need to develop the mind-set of an investigative journalist to pre-empt or deflect criticism especially from your western colleagues.

By John, Bangkok, Thailand (24th May 2011)

Lee, all of these things your pointed out (except probably #6...and no I don't do either of those things) are very perceptive. I've seen many of these items happening throughout my time here in LOS. Worse yet, I've heard other teachers even TELLING people they've done them and not batting an eye.

Nothing makes me more irked than seeing other teachers here who want to collect the money each month, but really don't deliver on their end of things. Worst of all, these 'crappy teachers' just seem to bounce around the country once their contract doesnt get renewed. When asked about their work history, they always blame someone or something else for their misfortune. Sad but true.

Kudos to Lee for many of his previous blogs which offer tips and ideas. For those of us who take what we do seriously, your blogs always make for a good read.

By Matt, (24th May 2011)

Can I add a few things to the list?
- Do you treat teenage students as your friends giving them liqueur, beer, drugs and cigarettes after school to get them to like you? Sadly, I've seen this!
- Do you threaten your students with physical violence if they refuse to listen to your instructions? Sadly, I've seen this!
- Do you yell at your students to the point of losing your voice? Sadly, I've seen this quite a bit!
- Do you fail to prepare for your classes and 'wing it' because you think it's a waste of time?
- Do you intimidate and confuse your students because you talk so fastly that they can't keep up?

By Lisa Young, Nonthaburi (24th May 2011)

That was pure class! I have done some of the things you have mentioned and I feel ashamed for saying so. On the other hand it does sometimes come down to what materials you are given and instructions from the school what they want from the time spent with you. We all have bad days but hopefully they are outweighed by the good.

By Anthony, Uttaradit (24th May 2011)

Writer has a very good point. However, I hardly see any remedies if someone really is a bad teacher teacher according to the survey questions. Apart from just referring to a murky website and another novel (?) approach, I'd appreciate some hands-on tips from the writer himself.

By Hippolyte, Bangkok (23rd May 2011)

"If you stand and move around the class your students will focus more on you, that should be evident"

Totally agree with that. The difference in a class when you stand up and move around compared to when you sit down is always noticeable, however, I remember when I used to teach almost 40 contact hours a week at a language school and sometimes you would sit down for fear of collapsing with exhaustion.

By philip, (23rd May 2011)

Post your comment

Comments are moderated and will not appear instantly.

Featured Jobs

English Conversation Teachers

฿35,000+ / month


NES Kindergarten Homeroom Teacher

฿50,000+ / month


Early Year Teachers

฿35,000+ / month

Chon Buri

Kindergarten Teachers

฿45,000+ / month


English, Science and Math Teachers

฿42,300+ / month


English Conversation Teachers

฿35,000+ / month


Featured Teachers

  • Qamar

    Pakistani, 36 years old. Currently living in Qatar

  • Monteza

    Filipino, 23 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • Patricia

    South African, 51 years old. Currently living in South Africa

  • Kervin

    Filipino, 31 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • Lea

    Filipino, 31 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • Joey

    Filipino, 27 years old. Currently living in Philippines

The Hot Spot

Need Thailand insurance?

Need Thailand insurance?

Have a question about health or travel insurance in Thailand? Ricky Batten from Pacific Prime is Ajarn's resident expert.

The cost of living

The cost of living

How much money does a teacher need to earn in order to survive in Thailand? We analyze the facts.

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.

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!

The Region Guides

The Region Guides

Fancy working in Thailand but not in Bangkok? Our region guides are written by teachers who actually live and work in the provinces.

Contributions welcome

Contributions welcome

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

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.

The dreaded demo

The dreaded demo

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