Monday, December 29, 2008

The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Teflers - #3

Yes, it's time for one from the old TeflTrade archive again, folks. Well, it is holiday time, and you can't really expect me to bother my addled Tefl-size brain with the task of creating fresh entertainment, can you. So just enjoy this one, the second time around.

I’ll begin this one with a quote, and rather a long one at that, as I’m not feeling too creative at the moment. Hopefully, this defining extract from the Wikipedia will serve as a little preliminary inspiration.

“Put First Things First. Here, Covey describes a framework for prioritizing work that is aimed at long-term goals, at the expense of tasks that appear to be urgent, but are in fact less important. Delegation is presented as an important part of time management. Successful delegation, according to Covey, focuses on results and benchmarks that are to be agreed in advance, rather than on prescribing detailed work plans.”

So, Mr Covey reckons that, does he? So, erm, … see that pile of homework that needs marking? You might think it’s urgent, but Covey reckons it can wait. So drop it, and go off to the pub to think about your long-term goals. Cancel tomorrow’s lesson-planning too, and just indulge in a spot of metaphysical dogme-esque pondering of your own future – perhaps outside the world of EFL?

Of course, if delegation is truly an important part of your time management, you’d best share out the homework with the students – yeah, peer-marking! Now it’s all looking a bit familiar, innit!? This guy was probably a teacher before he found a proper job to do.

Time-management? Obviously it’s essential to get a grip here, so always ensure you’ve got at least two pints in by the time the ‘last orders’ bell rings. Again, effective delegation should ensure that another student is around to pay for the beer – and to carry you home as well, should the need arise.

And don’t forget the other bit about focusing on ‘results and benchmarks that are to be agreed in advance’. No, I don’t think he had students scribbling on desks in mind. I reckon he was rather more into this: tell student A to give her work to student B, whom you have an agreement with to give a decent grade. This will also save you loads of unnecessary agro later on, and will ensure that your student evaluations are pretty good too (remember those long-term goals – to keep your job, no matter what).

And what’s this about casting the ‘detailed work-plans’ into the water? No more lesson-planning .. ever?! Mr Covey, I loves ya! So, if your DOS comes screaming for a lesson plan or two, even a weekly outline, just give him a slap round the face with the Covey book first. Then inform him that you’ve delegated that particular responsibility to the blonde Swiss student who arrived at your class this morning; and tell him that you’ve “discovered a framework for prioritizing work that is aimed at long-term goals”, and you’re off to consider the application of that very paradigm with the student in question at the Lamb and Flag.

It all sounds unmistakably mature and business-like to me.

First Published: Sunday, 11 June 2006


'Alex' left this comment on 12 Jun 06
You are wicked, Mr Sandy, wicked for taking the pee out of Mr Covey. Sensible business strategy and TEFL do good bed-fellows make. Then there is, of course, the plethora of sensible managers, something else that the TEFL field is famous your scribblings attest.

'Sandy' left this comment on 12 Jun 06
Ah yes, I'd never thought of that - applying Covey's ramblings to the murky management of EFL! Now you've got me all a-pondering, Alex...

'A visitor' left this comment on 12 Jun 06
I worked at a school like this! Seriously! It was weird. Having to get into a contract with the students about what their goals were that semester and what my goals were and resulting in mutually agreed benchmarks for the term.

Actually what happened was I passed out a questionnaire and a bunch of students returned them with the question "Aren´t you supposed to tell us our goals?" and we went back to the coursebook.

'nuff said.

'A visitor' left this comment on 13 Jun 06
Candida, you are SUCH A TART!!

How much do you charge for the full gubbins?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A 'Crap Job!' is (hopefully) just for Christmas!

Does this job qualify for ‘Stinker of the Year’ status? I reckon it does – just take a look and see what Santa is offering on today, courtesy of The English Language Centre in York.

Permanent position for Diploma Qualified teacher with minimum 5 years experience in a private language school based in the centre of York. Teaching multinational adult groups. Experience of teaching IELTS/Academic English an advantage.

Minimum: Degree + Diploma/MA Applied Linguistics + 5 years' experience.

Well, it looks OK initially – clearly a ‘professional’ position, needing proper qualifications and a fair deal of experience. So, what sort of salary are they offering for this peach of a Tefl position in the heart of Yorkshire?

From £18,000 + 5 weeks holiday in addition to bank holidays.

Oh dear, oh dear. What shite - 350 quid a week for teaching 30 hours of IELTS and Academic English! AND they’d like an MA as well! That’s about the same salary in York as you’d get for being a chef in a pub, or selling fitted kitchens (look here for more exciting opportunities in the area!).

Anyway, I gave the school a ring, to give them a chance to defend themselves, but they’re all away on their Christmas break now. Such a shame, really … I was in the mood for giving a good slagging off.

Anyway, come January you could ring 01904 672243 and speak to Nick Milner, the unfortunate Director of Studies. Or you might consider calling this snidey-looking little c*nt (see photo alongside), a certain Mr MacDermot, the owner of the school, and tell him what a shyster he is.

Either way - have a very merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Teflers [part 2]

Yes, the second of the seven habits of highly ineffective Teflers is “Begin with the End in Mind”. Nothing could be closer to the truth in true Tefl-land, of course, as every single EFL teacher who walks into a classroom has only the idea of walking out of it again in 90 minutes’ time uppermost in his or her mind.

This might not be exactly what Covey, the author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” was waffling on about, but we’re all into adapting resources to our own particular needs, are we not? In fact, Covey had some awful crap such as ‘personal mission statements’ and ‘setting long-term goals’ in mind, but these are so anathema to the average Tefler that they don’t even warrant a moment’s attention – do they!

So, it’s back to the classroom focus, and how we can apply “Begin with the End in Mind”. In my opinion, there are two ‘ends’ that need to be clearly addressed here. Let’s call them Objective A and Objective B, shall we? The first is, as already stated, the end of the lesson; and the other one is that floppy thing between a chap’s legs, often referred to obliquely in the phrase “getting one’s end away”.

However, even if you’re a female Tefler, you can still partake of the charade that is implied in Objective B, namely picking out the horniest students and luring them to your bed for a touch of Total Physical Response (NB: for Celta-belters, this is a teaching technique that was not mentioned in your course). After all, Tefl methodology is no discriminator of gender, especially concerning the extra-curricular type of approach (also known as ‘very personal tutoring’), so please read on, Brenda.

Right, let’s get back to basics, shall we? Having the end of the lesson in mind (Objective A) means that you can dispense with all that rubbish you ever learned about process teaching. No, the product is king here, and the product is achieved when you mumble something about the break coming up, and can somebody lend you a ciggie, please? If nobody rushes forward to squeeze a Marlboro between your frothing lips, you are a crap teacher – simple as that.

That means making them laugh in class, playing loads of games, and ensuring that everybody shouts at each other heartily and nobody really learns much at all. Talk to them about ‘generating classroom energy’ and ‘increasing their self-esteem’; tell them that ‘practise makes perfect’, as you launch into the 93rd role-play on buying a round of Kilkennies or ordering food at a restaurant; and remind them that all EFL teachers enjoy lots of beer and curry at the weekend.

All that nonsense should easily take you through to the end of the lesson, when you can put into practice (or ‘strategise’, as Americans like to say) the techniques necessary for the second goal, Objective B, to materialise. Networking with students in the break is, after all, an essential part of the modern EFL curriculum, as they are usually much richer than you, and you can sponge off them (see paragraph above). They’ll only be here for a few weeks anyway, and they’ll soon forget about that 20 quid you borrowed.

Most importantly, though, you can invite the attractive ones for a bit of extra-mural socializing at your local rub-a-dub-dub, and expose them to the seamy side of the UK drinking scene. Your students will likely be so astounded at the crude nature, the callous anti-intellectualism, and the repulsive countenances of your friends, that they’ll be tempted to consider you an enlightened guru and a sex-god at the same time.

By now you should be just one step away from achieving Objective B (see picture alongside). However, if you still need help from me, send me an e-mail with a bank order for 25 quid attached, and I’ll help you out.


Friday, December 12, 2008

The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Teflers

So, there I was in my local bookshop, which is very well stocked with western writings, when the thought hit me (yet again) – write a novel! Yeah! I could just fancy being the next Frank McCourt, or Virginia Woolf. Or anybody, really...

I mean, I could repackage all my blog entries, just rewrite them a bit, and - hey presto! - a best-seller! OK, I'll probably need to add something called a plot, develop a few more than two or three characters, improve the spelling loads, and add some cool, zany pictures (see alongside) to widen the appeal - but that's all! Then I could just publish the whole lot under a snappy title, something like "My Life as a Tefl Turd: Swimming amongst the Sewage". Catchy, eh? No, not the turds, I don’t mean them.

However, just as I was absent-mindedly spending my first advance on a year's supply of Old Holborn and a Brighton & Hove Albion season ticket, an interesting volume caught my agitated eyes - a piece of well-polished prose for the uninspired businessman and graduate capitalist, entitled "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People".

"Wassat?" I hear you ask anxiously. Well, it’s one of those so-called ‘self-help’, kid-psychology books, published about 15 years ago, which "lists seven principles that, if established as habits, are supposed to help a person achieve ‘effectiveness’ by aligning him- or herself to what Covey [the author] calls ‘true north’; principles of a character ethic that, unlike values, he believes to be universal". Cool, eh? Especially that bit about values not being universal, whereas character is, apparently, as permanent as the water in the sea and the hair on my head. Shades of Macchiavelli here, no doubt...

'This is it', I thought, 'just what we downtrodden Teflers need' – a compass that gives ‘true north’; a guidebook for action in modern times, an arm in the struggle against unsympathetic, leather-tongued Directors of Studies and their grizzly, corrupt partners in the grimy Tefltrade, the heartless Principals and gutless owners of those dodgy language schools that make Teflers’ lives so disenchanted.

So, after a good deal of ponderous thought, and several bottles of Old Speckled Hen, here it is – the Sandy McManus version. I present, dear reader, for your further edification - The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Teflers.

Let’s start with Habit Number One, shall we? In the original, Covey states 'Be Pro-Active', and recommends an attitude of initiative-taking, comparing this to the less effective, but more common 'reactive' stance. However, we’re talking Tefl here, aren’t we, so we need to take these ever-so-slightly unsuitable materials and adapt them, skewing them a little more towards our own perversely particular aims and objectives.

So, here’s my original Rule Number One – Don’t Be Pro-Active!

After all, you don’t get paid any more, do you? So forget all that lesson planning, and go entirely dogme, taking your cue from the first poor sod of a student that turns up in your class and interrupts your peaceful Tao-like staring out of the window. Put his first ignorant utterance on the board, and when the next student arrives, you can ask him to correct it. (Taking this approach with the homework also works wonders, by the way, as you’ll never have to correct another piece of illegible student scribble again.)

When the rest of the class finally arrive, get them all to write the first thing that comes onto their heads on the board, and then they can all take turns in correcting each other’s garbled sentences. When you’ve got the grammatically-correct versions written up (this could take a good while – up to an hour or so), you can get them to do a couple of old-fashioned drills. And don’t let anybody ever say that you’re not eclectic in your choice of activities!

After that, it must be time for a break. Again, don’t lose sight of your objectives here – use that Pro-Active Passivity approach, and plan ahead. It’ll save you lots of graft in the future. Get the students to roll your ciggies for you, and invite them to add any substance they choose. Tell them there’s a prize for the most interesting spliff – a night with you in your local, for example (a long as they bring at least twenty quid along, of course). And spend the break networking with the students, breathing in the soft smoke of freedom and misapplied linguistics.

After the break, you should all be suitably interested in a giggle session – but don’t let’s forget our approach, eh? Switch on the cassette recorder, and get the lot down on tape. When they’re fed up with that, play it back as a sort of stream-of-(semi)consciousness dictation. Then pin the best version onto the wall, and all sit in a circle on the floor reciting it. All this lark should take up the rest of the lesson, and then you can all fall into the pub together and try and bag off with whoever takes your fancy.

Got that? Good. Let me know how it goes, eh?

Coming Next: Rule #2 - Begin with the End in Mind

First Published: Sunday, 30 April 2006

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tales of the Unexpected [revisited]

Continuing my countdown to resurrection (a shade premature for Easter, I know, but I've never been one to hang about unduly), here's one of my favourite stories from my dear, departed TeflTrade blog, first published several years back. I've included a few of the original comments too, but please feel free to add your own, either critical, positive, or just idiosyncratic.

Tales of the Unexpected

I went for the interview this morning – the one with the publishing outfit, for selling advertising space on a ‘charity’ magazine. I should have guessed it would turn out strange. I mean, have you ever heard of such a thing as a ‘charity magazine’?

I actually turned up early, as something in my bones told me this could well turn out to be special. I’d even put on my shiny green suit, the only one I really own (as opposed to merely possess), and had polished the shoes up to military standard.The tie even complemented the shirt (a pale sort of brickish-red on a pastellyyellow background – quite cool, I thought) and the teeth had been cleaned twice, in order to bring good luck, in accordance with ancient family tradition.

Well, it all went downhill from thereon. I was escorted into a rather dark and smelly wood-panelled office, and introduced to some exceptionally seedy-looking middle-aged character with a double-barrelled name, probably something like Mr Streemly-Nasty. I can’t actually recall the moniker at all, as I was quite stunned by the exemplary specimen of upper-middle-class low-life before me. If anybody had ever been expelled from Public School for beating minors, stealing their pocket money, and then making them eat worms, then it was surely this greaseball of an item.

By his side sat an enchanting-looking Indian woman called Beena (Beano?). A greater contrast could not have been achieved – Beauty and the Beast, in the flesh. Or Dennis and Gnasher, perhaps.

What followed was a bizarre sort of presentation. At one stage I even thought I was being set up, a sort of Candid Camera, or a Jeremy Beadle experience. But no, these guys were serious. They told me all about the company, how it was a mould-breaker, a style-setter, and was about to change the world of publishing. Lots of figures were bandied about, always in hundreds of thousands, or millions. It was pure hard sell, in fact, like it was some sort of a timeshare ‘opportunity’ for an as yet unbuilt resort.

However, by the end of the sermon I was still none the wiser as to the magazine’s name, its content, or its target audience. So I asked. Stupid me – I should have realized that was ‘client-sensitive’ information, whatever that means. I even got scowled at for this apparent intrusion into the world of ‘corporate affairs’. Naughty boy!

Then they asked me what particular skills I could bring to the job. Now, I’d anticipated this, of course, and was about to reel off my skills at personal communication, getting on people’s good side, ability to remain sober, er, I mean focused, etc. But then I realized that they hadn’t actually told me anything about the job. There had been lots of guff about the company, the ‘mission’, the brave new world of the future, but not a single simple sentence about what the bloody job would involve.

So I said “What job?”. They looked puzzled. I pointed out the fact that they hadn’tactually referred to or described the position at all. Beena than sprang into life – had she forgotten her part on the spiel? Yet her short monologue was as vague, rambling and unfulfilling as a Bob Dylan epic.

However, by then I wasn’t listening anymore. I’d finally twigged that this so-called ‘charity mag’ was probably more of a wank-mag aimed at teenagers, or something equally unhealthy. Mr Streemly-Nasty was plainly the proprietor, and Miss Beano his latest ‘discovery’ - or something along those lines. I was thinking of a way out, and pronto.

My inattention had clearly rattled them. They groped at my CV and started to gently pull it apart – would I really be suitable for an office-based position? they mumbled.

Here was my chance, I thought. I summoned up all my courage, and spurted: well, if you didn’t like my CV, why did you invite me here for the interview – just to insult me? Their looks of incredulity encouraged me to push a little further –they were on the metaphorical ropes. I scowled and snorted, berated them for wasting my time … and scuttled out of the room like a startled beetle.

“Have a nice life” I heard the greaseball chuckle as I was halfway down the stairs. Nice life, indeed.

When I got home there was a message waiting for me on the answer-phone. A certain school was a bit short of a teacher next week – could I ‘step into the breach’ and help them out? Well, although I’d much rather be slipping out to the beach, I figured this had just got to be better than another ‘interview’ courtesy of the Job-Centre.

Better the devil you know, after all.

First Published: Friday, 14 October 2005


'A visitor' left this comment on 15 Oct 05
This is so well written Sandy - I especially enjoyed this part:
"(W)ell, if you didn’t like my CV, why did you invite me here for the interview – just to insult me? (...) I scowled and snorted, (and) berated them for wasting my time."
I'm all for standing up and walking out of an interview if they're full of crap. In Copenhagen I once attended a sales pitch with about fifteen others interested in doing some telemarketing (yes, I'm sorry, but I needed the money - I've still never done it, though). On the phone, I made a big thing about commission - I wouldn't work for it. He assured me there was only a flat rate, with no commission, just as it said in the job ad. The moment he then mentioned the commission at his presentation, and I asked a question to double-check, I stood up and walked out; there was no reason to stay. The man got really angry and he started shouting at me about my lack of etiquette for not staying until the end (possibly trying to stop some of the other suckers from doing the same). I just kept on walking.

'A visitor' left this comment on 16 Oct 05
Thanks for the kind words, David. I take it your experience was all in Danish, right? Why didn't you give the guy a blast of fine Old English expletives?!

'A visitor' left this comment on 17 Oct 05
HoHoHo. yes life outside tefl. I almost became an insurance salesman in Sunderland when it looked as if things were going downhill. I also 'walked'.

'A visitor' left this comment on 17 Oct 05
Selling insurance in Sunderland?! I assume it wasn't health insurance, was it - more like 'protection', or the like? Well, I s'pose most people need it round those parts.
But it could've been worse - it could've been Hartlepool, after all.

'A visitor' left this comment on 17 Oct 05
I think that sometimes it feels right to vent, and at other times the best option is just to move on as fast as possible, without wasting any more time or energy. And yes, it was all in Danish. But I certainly understood it correctly.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sandy's Christmas Story

I found this story on one of my (very) old floppies just yesterday - one of my first attempts at writing a spot of humour, from the time when I was a student in Hull. Well, there wasn't much else to do in Hull back then. Still the same now, I reckon.

A Rough Night in Holderness Terrace

A tale of Christmas misery and desperation in darkest East Yorkshire.

It was a dark and very stormy December night. The one who would walk backwards was doing so with prodigious and uninhibited abandon. All human life appeared to be in suspense, whilst the lamp-posts dipped and bowed as if under the command of some mad Wind God.

Meanwhile, Peregrine Tapster was lying on the polished parquet flooring of his council house, apparently asleep. Only his wife, Doris, could tell that he was, in fact, totally pissed. Indeed, he had been in the same state for several days now, and her increasing frustration at his apparent inability to remain sober for periods of longer than ten minutes had become all too evident.

"Why can't tha be like me and pack it in after t'ninth bottle of Old Thumper?" she demanded with a shriek. Peregrine gave a vague grunt of recognition, and then returned to chewing on his fresh vomit. They had lost all affection for each other long ago, and the days when their shared interests of dwarf-throwing and lawnmower-racing had brought them together seemed to have been lost in the sweating armpit of a coarse, swaggering Old Father Time.

Suddenly there was a loud banging at the front door. Doris opened it warily, expecting to find one of her husband's grossly inebriated friends there; but no, it was a stranger. In fact, it was our old friend, the one who would walk backwards.

"‘Aye up lass," he inquired in his native Humberside tongue, his proper English being somewhat ropey, "has tha gor owt fer a nasty rowter?". Doris, whose grasp of the lingo was rather minimal, even at the best of times, was at first confused. However, realising that this was certainly not the Vernons pools collector after a Christmas tip, she slammed the door squarely in his face.

Returning to the living room, she noticed her beloved groping bewilderedly with the ancient record player, in a feeble attempt to play his favourite Showaddywaddy album. Taking careful aim, she directed a swift, glancing blow at his temple and sent him crashing pathetically against the trophies cabinet. Down around Peregrine fell the fruits of his wife's lifetime: Miss Macclesfield, 1971; Glamorous Granny (runner-up), Whitley Bay campsite, 1987; Best Ferret Fighter (North-East England division), 1989; and many, many more.

The crude, ironic symbolism of the cluttered scene before her was not entirely lost on Doris. Peregrine had indeed brought her life tumbling down, to such a painful degree that she fully realised that she had no option but to ditch the miserable bugger, pronto. So, sweeping up her most treasured belongings - a six-pack of Tennent's Extra Strong, a carton of Mates condoms, two faded David Essex posters and a handful of yellowing British Gas shares - she crashed the door behind her and thus sealed off her past for ever. As she stepped over the rancid remains of Brenda, the neighbours' cat, who had mysteriously died some weeks previous after dining off a portion of Peregrine's vomit, she made hurried mental plans for her new and blooming future.

However, whilst she was tacking into the ferocious wind that habitually blew the entire length of Holderness Terrace on even the most agreeable of a Summer evening, an unfortunate circumstance befell her. Being a little blinded on her starboard side due to one of Peregrine's misplaced occasional lovebites, she failed to observe the imminent approach of the one who would walk backwards. All too soon her fate had been irrevocably sealed.

For better or worse, no observers were present. Apparently she was found the following morning, Chistmas Eve, a mutilated cocktail of lagered flesh and rubber. The local newspaper merely reported that she had died "in unknown circumstances".

Peregrine Tapster, oblivious to the whole affair, would sit by the kitchen fridge in that melancholy way typical of drunkards, still anxiously awaiting his wife's return from the video rental shop. In fact, only the cruel, perishing wind would ever be able to tell us the real story, for it was, indeed, a very dark and stormy night.

The moral of the story is: Never go out in a gale!