Tuesday, 22 July 2014



We’ve all had those moments, when it’s time to go into a class, switch on your cheery, enthusiastic, A-Plus personality and do a two-hour lesson, but all you really want to do is go home, have a beer, and sink gratefully into bed.

These moments don’t necessarily reflect on a lack of professionalism or dedication on the teacher’s part. No, they are more likely to be the result of an overloaded teaching schedule, the knowledge that the class you’re about to teach is a bunch of unmotivated, unresponsive dead-heads, you’re coming down with flu, or it’s your best friend’s birthday party and you’ll miss most of it. Or possibly you’ve been asked to cover for an absent teacher with just two minutes’ notice, (and you know, you just know, that the reason he’s absent is that he’s gone to your best friend’s birthday party).

But there’s a class that’s paid for two hours of tuition, and you’re the lucky teacher who is expected to deliver it. So how do you go about it? You can’t stomp into the classroom with a haggard, disgruntled, “here we go again” expression on your face; that would spell doom for the lesson from the kick-off. You’ve got to summon up all your acting skills and deliver them convincingly and memorably, leaving the students with smiles on their faces and perhaps, just perhaps, better English than they had two short hours ago. Actors regularly face the same predicament that you are now facing. The audience is expecting a convincing performance even though you’ve delivered the same lines night after night ever since Sir Laurence Olivier first took to the stage. So, you have to think show biz, performance arts, improv, edutainment. Then go in there and do the Grammy award-winning performance of your life.

Now, in these circumstances, chances are you’ve done no lesson preparation at all, but that needn’t detract from your performance. No EFL trainer worthy of the name would agree with me, but lesson preparation isn’t the make-it or break-it key to a good lesson. All the preparation you need is a bit of experience, and a good memory. And a little arsenal of hand-outs, games, and bits and pieces in your bag. Whatever the students’ level, it’s a good bet that they need to brush up their telling- the-time skills. (It’s something we teach at elementary level, then never again bring up, and most of your students will have forgotten all they ever learnt about it.) So, from your bag you produce a cardboard clock and a handout of blank clock faces. There’s a good ten or so minutes’ lesson time taken care of. Also in your bag you have some food flash cards. Ergo, you have a vocabulary exercise for elementary levels, a countable/uncountable, “some/any” exercise for intermediate levels. Remember, flash cards are not just for flashing. You’ll get far more value from them if the students have them in their hands, passing them around and asking questions about them. “Have you got any lettuce? / Yes, we’ve got some.”

When you’re tired and would prefer to be anywhere but here in the classroom, you don’t want the students’ attention to be focused 100% on you. So, make sure most of your activities are student-centered rather than teacher-centred. Which means info exchanges, role plays, pair and group work, milling exercises, and perhaps a little bit of writing thrown in. And a song. And a competitive game. Hot Seat’s good value. So too is miming, charades, and Stop the Bus. You haven’t tried Stop the Bus yet? Here’s how to do it. Issue one slip of paper to groups of three or four students. They have to write seven words on a topic you’ve nominated. Jobs, forms of transport, food, sports without a ball, or articles of clothing, for example. It’s a race, and when a group has finished they don’t say “Finished!” but “Stop the Bus!” Don’t ask me why, but this little catch-phrase immeasurably adds to their enjoyment of the game. A little bit of silliness goes a long way in an EFL class.

If you go through the routine well, you could find yourself, mid-session, actually enjoying the lesson. And you might even get a text message from your best friend mid-lesson too, saying he’s put back the starting time of the party two hours because most of his mates are teaching.


EFL minus the B.S. is the best book I’ve ever written, and one of the best books I’ve ever read.  

Wednesday, 9 July 2014


Wouldn’t you know it, another famous name has been charged with pedophilia! This time it’s Rolf Harris. Yes, lovable old Rolf, children’s entertainer extraordinaire. Who could ever forget his classic “Jake the Peg” and “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport”? It has now been revealed that the 84-year-old  Harris has been sexually abusing girls aged from seven years upwards since the late 1960’s. Also implicated in the case was Jimmy Starr, another British singer and comedian.

Before Rolf was Jimmy Saville (Sorry – Sir Jimmy Saville) who, it was revealed after his death in 2011, had been abusing and raping his under-aged fans from the 1960’s on. The toll of Saville’s victims is 300 and counting.

The best known child-abuser on the celebrity list of pedophiles is Gary Glitter, of course. After his conviction for possession of child-porn images in Britain in 1997, went on an eleven-year spree of child molestation in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The EFL profession attracts more of its fair share of pedophiles. Why is that exactly?  Put yourself in a pedophile’s shoes for a moment, (as stomach-turning as that may be). You have already notched up a couple of child-sex convictions in England, Canada, Germany, wherever. Your name now appears on your country’s Sex Offenders’ Register.  So…  where to next? Asia – yes, why not? There’s a long tradition of child-sex in countries like Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia. Law enforcement is notoriously lax. Might as well get a piece of the action there. And once you’ve arrived, how better to meet young people than in an English language school?  The obvious choice for any self-respecting pedophile.  So off you go. Your record doesn’t bar you from entry to the Asian country of your choice. Your English is ok, and schools are crying out for teachers. You don’t choose any of the top schools of course – places like The British Council do embarrassing background checks. No, a small school should suit you fine. Maybe the pay’s nothing to write home about, but you aren’t here for the money, are you? No, what you’re here for is the chance to grope a 12-year-old’s body, and perhaps… just perhaps…

Like it or not, that is the reality of the situation in a number of English language schools in Asia. Just look at the shameful facts and figures on the internet.

John Mark Carr, a 41-year-old American, was teaching English at the Bangkok Christian College when he was arrested for child-sex offences. He’d previously taught at I&S Language School in Seoul, and in Taiwan, Costa Rica and Honduras. On the plane going back from Thailand, Carr confessed to the police accompanying him that he had killed the 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey; a charge later disproved. 

Christopher Paul Neil, a 32-year-old Canadian, was arrested in Thailand for under-age sex. He had previously taught English in Kwanju, S Korea, and was currently working at a school in Bangkok. He boasted of his sexual exploits on the internet, complete with a head-shoulders photo of himself with the face obscured by a computer-generated swirl. German police managed to unravel the swirl to reveal his true likeness, and to eventually lead to tracking him down in Thailand.

Sean McGowan, a 45-year-old Brit, was teaching English in Bangkok when he was repatriated to Britain on charges of raping an 8-year-old Thai girl.

Peter William Smith, a 48-year-old Australian teaching in Jakarta was arrested and convicted of engaging in sex with more than 50 boys.

Alan Smith, a 53-year-old Brit, used fake references to get a job as EFL teacher at Nongyai Temple School, just north of Bangkok. He was arrested in 2007 for child-sex offences.

Ian Bower, a 42-year-old UK national, was teaching English in Cambodia when he was arrested for child-sex offences with two boys aged 12 and 14.

Mark Joseph McDowell, American, taught as ESL Professor at Daejeon University, S Korea, and  at  BCM Academy in Seoul, and also ran the EFL resource website Mark’s ESL Wide World AKA marksesl.com. He was arrested in Korea for child molestation.

Earl R. Bonds, a 42-year-old American, was arrested in Phuket, Thailand for child-sex. He had been teaching English in Bangkok, and took regular trips to Phuket to satisfy his taste for Thai minors.

John Wrenshall, a 62-year-old Canadian, taught at AUA Language Center in Bangkok for ten years. The director of AUA described him as “so polite and quiet”. Unbeknown to AUA, their polite, quiet teacher had spent his after-school hours setting up an internet website for pedophiles, “Boy Love and Chat”, and was charging foreigners $400 per introduction.

Karl Joseph Kraus, an Australian, was arrested in Thailand for raping four young sisters whom he had been giving private English lessons to in his home. He was 92 years old at the time of his arrest, thereby setting the record as oldest convicted pedophile.

Michael James Dodd, a 61-year-old American, was teaching in Phnom Penh when he was convicted of having sex with a 14-year-old Cambodian girl. He’d previously been jailed for a similar offence in Northern Mariana Islands.

Dennis Gale Catron, a 60-year-old American, had been teaching at various educational institutes and colleges in Thailand until his arrest on child-sex charges.

Gregory James Miller, a 48-year-old American, worked as an English teacher at Garden International School, Rayong , Thailand for eight years,  before he was arrested  and charged with sexually assaulting five boys under the age of 15.

The above list, I’m sure, is just the tip of the iceberg. It shows only the cases that appear on the internet, and doesn’t, of course, include the pedophile EFL teachers who have gone (and still go) undetected.

Those pedophiles who are convicted and jailed abroad, find that unlike Western prisons, pedophiles are not cosseted away in special “safe” units. They are thrown in with the murderers, rapists, thieves and what-have-you detritus of the criminal world, and consequently have to bear the brunt of their actions at the hands of their fellow inmates. It’s a tough old world, innit?


EFL minus the B.S. is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle form.  CUSTOMER REVIEW: “Excellent book. As a former EFL teacher, ten years in Vietnam and Indonesia, this book is spot on in giving the basic lay down of teaching overseas. The book is a quick read and should be read by every EFL teacher. Definitely a good read while on your flight to whatever country you are going to teach.” – J.D.