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