7 ways to be an exceptionally mediocre TEFL teacher


Do you have what it takes to be a really bad TEFL teacher?  Time and time again TEFL teachers are referred to as backpacker layabouts with no dedication, and every school can relay a tale of a certain TEFLer who left them in the lurch and now wary of every other foreign teacher who comes along.  Follow this advice and you will most definitely succeed at being yet another mediocre TEFL teacher giving the rest a bad name.

  1. Firstly, start from the viewpoint that anyone can do the job.  Don’t worry about considering your English skills or if you are suited to working with children – anyone can be a TEFL teacher.  In fact, don’t even bother with any sort of certification, so many schools will be simply falling over themselves in desperation for you, there will be plenty of job offers and you will have your pick of the establishments across the length and breadth of your country of choice.  The world, and its children, are your oyster.
  2. On the subject of your country of choice, you should most definitely make your decision based on the number of beaches, the level of debauchery to be found in the nightlife and how easy it will be to hide away from the problems you have at home.  Don’t consider the culture, the food or the way of life that you will be invading – you won’t be throwing yourself in to deep anyway.
  3. But then again, you probably won’t be sticking around in one place too long anyway.  That’s what this TEFL malarkey is all about anyway, floating from country to country doing half-term stints at any school that will take you with no consideration of actually immersing yourself into the way of life or making any meaningful relationships.  Always have your eye on the next destination, the next place that you can use to impress the next travelers that you meet.
  4. Of course, don’t make friends with the locals.  You should only mix with other ex-pats and feed off their bitterness for the job, the country and the people.  Better still if you become that grumpy old man as quickly as possible, to blend in with the others and be better equipped to join in on the conversations about how this country needs to change x, y and z to make things better for you – the coveted and most highly-revered foreigner gracing your presence on this inferior country.
  5. When it comes to inside the classroom (where you will of course spend the bare minimum required amount of time), make sure you are uninspiring, and use the least amount of enthusiasm and energy possible.  Don’t take the time to get to know your students.  Dish out pointless worksheets that you will never look at, let alone mark.  Then again you could just sit at the front of the class and wait for the hour to be over – everyone in the room is more than aware that this is just a means to a paycheck at the end of the month, why waste anyone’s time any further by actually attempting to impart any knowledge?
  6. Don’t bother planning for your lessons, certainly not beyond a cursory glace at the next page in the workbook and most definitely not in the comfort of your own home.  Who needs a range of learning tools and stimuli anyway?  There are a few old flashcards in the bottom of that teacher’s desk – the one that never came back from the last long weekend – that you could probably use if you had to.
  7. Finally, when it’s your turn to disappear, don’t worry about informing your employer or the students.  Don’t concern yourself with grading those tests or planning for the first few weeks of your absence.  Just fly off, ready to grace your presence on the next unsuspecting country on your list.

So, do you think you’ve got what it takes?



Video LOLs – A Taste of Britain

This video parody from China has been doing the rounds in response to all the food stereotypes we portray in our cooking shows about the great nation – rice, spring rolls and sweet & sour come to mind – and so they decided to have a dig at our most cherished and revered cooking ingredient, the humble potato.

It did make me laugh, especially as it is pretty true.  And now I have a massive potato craving…

Do you have any foods from home that you miss?  Or if you are still on home turf, is there one thing you can’t live without?

In light of recent bombings in Hat Yai


Hat Yai, the city that I grew to love and called home for almost two years has once again been targeted with a series of bombs.

Luckily, no one was killed although some were injured.

While living in Hat Yai I developed a passion for life in the deep south of Thailand and would (and still do) get frustrated at it being written off as too dangerous to travel to.  Hat Yai is the gem of the south, with beautiful temples, bustling markets, fantastic shopping and a wonderful mix of Thai, Chinese and Malay cultures, including Buddhists and Muslims living and working side by side.

This hodgepodge of cultures results in an array of Chinese, Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist temples and grand mosques flanking the same streets.  You can hear the call to prayer while walking past a golden statue of the buddha.  You can dine on the spiciest southern curry Geang Som, some finger lickin’ good halal Gai Yang  (think KFC on flavour steroids) and some crispy won tons all picked up at the same food market.  And that is what makes Hat Yai unique, and special, and so worth adding to your travel plans.

Hat Yai is by and large a safe place for a foreigner to travel to or live.  There is a sizable expat community of teachers and oil industry workers, and Thais themselves flock from across the country to take advantage of the economy of the transport, commerce and tourism centre of the south.

Yes, there is an active insurgency taking place in the three provinces further south of Hat Yai – Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat – and the bag checks and scans when going to Tesco or the cinema remind you of that daily.  But the insurgency unfortunately goes on and we are all but blissfully unaware of it up in Hat Yai.  Such is the way of the media that to find out what is going on in the deep south you need to trawl the internet and make use of Google translate – it simply isn’t of interest to the global media aside from blanketing the entire deep south with a do not travel advisory notice.

When I heard that a series (the exact number is disputed from 2 to 5) of bombs went off across the city on Tuesday I was firstly worried for all the friends that I have still living there.  One of the bombs went off at the police station next door to immigration – what if one of them had to go for a visa check?

Once I’d established that everyone was OK, my feelings went from concern to upset and anger.  I was saddened that the city I have been defending so much and promoting as safe would be targeted in what is largely assumed is an over spill of the southern insurgency.  I was angry that this will no doubt have a negative effect on the number of people willing to go to this city, which had been rebuilding its tourist trade after being victim to a more deadly explosion in 2012.  I was also angry that yet again these attacks would be going unnoticed by the world media, and the daily plight of people living in the deep south would continue to be allowed to go on as long as we tell people not to go there and they keep themselves to themselves.

A lot of the facts are uncertain – how many bombs, who is responsible and why they did it are all being disputed in various sources across the internet.  I’m not going to get into it here but it does look like these most recent bombs weren’t aiming at killing scores of people but were more of a way of proving that despite strenuous security, Hat Yai isn’t untouchable.

And that’s right – Hat Yai isn’t untouchable.  But is any large city in any country around the world?

Please, don’t be put off from visiting Hat Yai.  It is an amazing place brimming with things to do and see and taste and experience.  t is an assault to the senses.  Yes it is busy and noisy, hot and sticky and at times confusing, but this is Thailand, the centre of south east Asia – what more would you expect?  And actually, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

If you’re adding Hat Yai to the top of your travel plans, check out this article by Sandy Dhaliwal, a fellow writer and teacher currently living in Hat Yai and loving it just as much as I do.

Next Stop Thailand

Fellow blogger and teacher abroad Joanne read my post on Yaowawit School (originally established in the wake of the 2004 tsunami) and was inspired to get in touch. She will be their new teacher this coming school year – AMAZING! I’m so glad I wrote that post now, here it is in case you missed it: https://cornishkylie.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/two-very-different-sides-of-one-coin/

Joanne's Journey

Thanks to WordPress blogger Cornish Kylie, I found out about a great school in Thailand in a small village called Kapong in the province of Phang Nga on Thailand’s west coast. It is where I am going next and I am thrilled about this opportunity to work on my teaching skills in a wonderful environment.

After reading Kylie’s post, I read everything else I could find about the school and contacted them to ask if it was too late to apply for next term which starts in mid-May. After several emails, an application form and two Skype interviews, I have been accepted and am arriving there on 8 May, instead of going to Chiangmai as previously planned.

Yaowawit school is part of a project founded by a German philanthropist following the 2004 tsunami. The Youtube video above tells you a little more about it.

The school is home for over…

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