Wednesday, December 30, 2009

AN EXCITING CAREER OPTION!!

Well, my last posting for 2009 presents a real career opportunity for many Teflers stuck in the miserable rut of UK TEFL right now. It's actually a job that requires no degree or former experience, not even a mickey-mouse TEFL certificate, and it pays just as badly as a regular Tefl gig. Don't believe me? Just read on...

Civil Enforcement Officer / Parking Attendant
Employer: ENFORCEMENT SKILLS
Posted: 25 Nov 2009
Contact: Lindsay Joyce
Location: East Midlands - Leicestershire
Industry: Government - Local government
Contract: Contract
Hours: Full Time
Salary: up to £9 per hour (i.e., £360 per week, £18,720 p.a.)

An excellent opportunity has arisen for an on and off street Parking Attendant based in Leicestershire. You will be patrolling car parks and public roads, enforcing traffic regulation orders, issuing lawful penalty charges and maintaining car park equipment. Candidate must have experience of enforcement. Experience of difficult people and challenging situations.
A full driving license is essential for the role.

Essential skill set & responsibilities:
•You must be available to work flexible hours.
•Must be hard working and able to use own initiative.
•Must be vigilant and have excellent attention to detail.

For more information about this role please contact Lindsay Joyce on 020 3119 3356 or send your CV to lindsay.joyce@redsnappergroup.co.uk.

Yes, that's right - it's a parking attendant's job. And it pays better than many of the crappy EFL jobs that you can find on tefl.com these days. In fact, if you have 'experience of enforcement and dealing with difficult people and challenging situations' - as surely every UK Tefler has - you might as well apply for it, as you'll be better off doing that than swallowing the following morsels of misguided Tefl nonsense...

CRAP JOB 1. TEFL tutor - Anglophiles Academic Ltd

Experience - Entry level

We are looking for energetic, dynamic and organized teachers to teach 12 hours a week, who are willing to teach classes in their homes and who are enthusiastic in organising activities for young students. The role requires the teacher to plan informative and fun lessons, to teach four 3-hour English classes on weekday mornings to groups of 4 students, to supervise and hopefully get involved in leisure activities in the afternoons (such as ice-skating and bowling) and to accompany students on one excursion during the course.

Applicants should live locally as accommodation is not provided. Please apply by sending a brief email to matthew@anglophiles.com, attaching a current CV.

Qualifications - We require candidates to be degree qualified or to possess a relevant TEFL qualification and/or experience.

Compensation - We offer competitive fees between £366 and £510 per course (8 days work) depending on qualifications and experience. Our teachers have self-employed status.

Anglophiles Academic Ltd
140-144 Freston Road
London, W10 6TR
Telephone: 0207 603 1466
Matthew Kendrick, Director of Studies

So there you go - 366 quid a week for what looks like a whole lot of work! At least it seems to be tax-free though ... maybe. What about the next one, though - surely it can't be worse?

CRAP JOB 2: English Language Instructors - Berlitz Manchester

Berlitz Manchester is looking for enthusiastic, dynamic individuals to join our ever expanding team of teachers. We provide General English classes to multi-lingual groups, although there is increasing demand for BEC and IELTS tuition. The position would suit candidates with an interest in professional development.You will be responsible for planning and delivering learner centred lessons based on a communicative teaching approach.

Please apply by email providing full details of qualifications and previous experience.
Qualifications - CELTA essential; DELTA desirable

Minimum of one year's teaching experience.
£10 per hour minimum

This rate is subject to increase dependent on committment to the company and level of teaching qualification.

Ooh, wow - ten quid an hour! So that might get you ... 300 quid a week?! Less than the parking attendant's job!! Anyway, who in their right mind would EVER want to work for Berlitz, anyway?

CRAP JOB 3: EFL teacher required - London Meridian College

Long established and stable school, accredited to the British Council and Tier 4 approved, has two teaching positions available, one in Archway and one in Oxford Street. But please read and understand details of the salary offered before you apply. We do not wish to waste our time and yours if you are looking for a better salary

£19,000 per annum up to level 5
£21,500 per annum level 6 upwards and IELTS.

The annual salary is based upon a 45 hour week, 52 weeks per year, although teaching staff are entitled to 28 days paid holiday. The salary quoted is reduced pro rata for shorter periods worked.

Please apply with a cv to tomoko@meridiancollege.co.uk

Qualifications - CELTA or equivalent

So, the money's a bit better, but it's a 45-hour week! I hope that's not contact hours, but something tells me ... nah, CAN'T be!!

CRAP JOB 4: EFL Teacher - Belgravia college, London

Belgravia College is looking for a qualified, enthusiastic and
reliable English language teacher, preferably with experience of
teaching exam classes and Business English. Candidates must have
CELTA, hold a university degree and be a native speaker of
English.

Compensation £10.00. Please email your CV to kate.stanis@belgraviacollege.co.uk

Ooh, fuck me - another ten quid an hour job? 300 smackers a week? Stick it up yer arse, Kate! Let's move on, shall we...

CRAP JOB 5: English Language Teacher - Richard Language College, Bournemouth

RICHARD LANGUAGE COLLEGE requires QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED TEACHERS
to teach English to speakers of other languages

Teacher applications please send full CV to:

The College Administrator
Richard Language College
43-45 Wimborne Road
Bournemouth BH3 7AB
Tel: +44 (0) 1202 555932
Email: collegeadmin@rlc.co.uk

Qualifications: Degree or equivalent + TEFL Certificate.
QTS (Primary and/or Secondary) is acceptable for certain courses.

01.01.10 > up to £325/week full time

Oh, shit - this one's just as bad! Only 325 quid a week OR LESS! In other words, much less than the poor old placer of parking tickets earns!! Surely things can't get worse ... can they?!

CRAP JOB 6: EFL Teachers wanted - Williams College, London

Experience 1 year

DEGREE/CELTA QUALIFIED PART/FULL TIME EFL TEACHERS WANTED FOR A FRIENDLY ACCREDITED SCHOOL IN CENTRAL LONDON.

We welcome enthusiastic and friendly teachers who can see beyond the coursebook.

Compensation: CELTA qualified- from £10.30 per hour

Please send CV in WORD FORMAT to Anna Lal, Director of Studies, annalal@williamscollege.co.uk

No thanks, Anna. That looks like another 300-quid-a-week nightmare of a job. Maybe the prospect of dishing out parking tickets in sunny Leicester is becoming more attractive... But hang on - what's this?!

CRAP JOB 7: Senior Teacher / Internship Co-Ordinator - Kaplan International Colleges, Manchester

Experience: 5 years
Details: Minimum 15 hours contact teaching per week.
• This position has responsibility for ensuring the successful delivery of the GE programme to GE students in accordance with Kaplan Aspect’s standards by:
• Assisting the Director of Studies in the overall management of the Academic department.
• Monitoring and assisting GE students and helping them to derive the maximum benefit from their course.
• Working with the Academic Management team to ensure GE programmes are being taught to requirements and the course guidelines and syllabus are being adhered to.

• This position also has responsibility for ensuring the successful delivery of the OPUS, Internship and Paid Placement programmes in accordance with Kaplan Aspect’s standards by:
• Monitoring and assisting students and helping them to derive the maximum benefit from their course and placement.
• Being the primary point of contact for students requiring advice for any matter relating to work and/or placement needs and future plans and objectives.
• To take an active role in the development, promotion and quality cycle of work-related programmes both internally and in liaison with other Kaplan Aspect schools.
• To attend all UK-wide meetings as needed relating to work experience programmes.

Qualifications: DELTA or DipTESOL essential
First Degree Essential
Teacher Training Experience preferred
Interactive Whiteboard Experience preferred

Compensation
Salary £19,000 per annum

So, there you have it - from Kraplan, of course - a so-called 'management post' that demands a degree, post graduate teaching qualifications, and five years of experience. And it promises / threatens to send you all over the country to pursue their grubby aims of placing gullible foreigners in unpaid work. Can you beat that for fuggin' cheek!?

AND ... IT PAYS ABOUT THE SAME AS A PARKING ATTENDANT'S JOB IN LEICESTER.

Yes, that's right - IT PAYS ABOUT THE SAME AS A PARKING ATTENDANT'S JOB IN LEICESTER.

So, come and work in the UK Tefl scene -

IT PAYS ABOUT THE SAME AS A PARKING ATTENDANT'S JOB IN LEICESTER. IT PAYS ABOUT THE SAME AS A PARKING ATTENDANT'S JOB IN LEICESTER. IT PAYS ABOUT THE SAME AS A PARKING ATTENDANT'S JOB IN LEICESTER. IT PAYS ABOUT THE SAME AS A PARKING ATTENDANT'S JOB IN LEICESTER. IT PAYS ABOUT THE SAME AS A PARKING ATTENDANT'S JOB IN LEICESTER. IT PAYS ABOUT THE SAME AS A PARKING ATTENDANT'S JOB IN LEICESTER. IT PAYS ABOUT THE SAME AS A PARKING ATTENDANT'S JOB IN LEICESTER. IT PAYS ABOUT THE SAME AS A PARKING ATTENDANT'S JOB IN LEICESTER.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

The UK TEFL Blacklist - Can you possibly ignore it?!

Yes ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, straights and gays - here is my gift to you for Christmas! OK, it may well not be brand spanking shiny new, but it IS very useful indeed. And, although its presence may be better suited to Easter than Christmas, I don't think you'll object too much about the asynchronous nature of ...

In fact, it was about a year ago that the original TEFL Blacklist went into suspended animation, for reasons known only to its author, who had picked up the flagging reins of authorship from Yours Truly a couple of years before. Despite all my efforts to get in touch with him/her, the resulting silence has shed no further light on his/her whereabouts. In short, it's all very suspicious, and I just hope that Inspector Hammered of The Lard is basking in sunlight and freedom, and not languishing in the darkness of some filthy rotten jail in Caracas or downtown Kingston, Jamaica. Or Chipping Norton, indeed.

And remember, dear undervalued UK Tefler, it's there to serve you and your purposes, so make sure you supply the new Inspector, namely Inspector Drake of Section 6 (see piccy alongside), with all the stories of despicable Directors of Studies and bent bosses that you can muster. I'll be doing a bit of digging myself, on Dave's ESL Cafe for instance, but the blog will depend greatly on the activities of the distinguished Tefl community for its continued existence, its raison d'etre, and its capacity to scare the fuggin' daylights out of the enemy.

So, get to it!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What Price the Petition?

So, here's the next instalment in the Tefl petition saga. I present, with total impartiality - which is a very queer thing for me - two views from certain vested interests about the whole shenanigans.

Please give them a good scrutiny, and then let me know how YOU, dear downtrodden Tefler, feel about the prospect of losing your crappy job if you don't support the bosses in this. Erm, I mean ... make your own minds up, guys!

*******

The View from the Press

The government have gone demented and decided to subject international students to the kind of constant testing the school kids have to put up with. They have a bizarre obsession that the lower a student's level of English, the more likely they are to get a job and disappear into the black economy. They already demand that international students are level A2 (PET) before they are allowed into the country, and they want to not allow anyone in whose level of English isn't B1.

They are also planning to make it illegal for anyone from outside the EU to come in and study for A-levels or IB (degrees only). They also seem to be saying that if you are above Ielts 6 (C!) and you are studying English for some reason (say business English), you will have to take an exam at Masters level. English UK is right on this - the ministers have taken leave of their senses. It will smash a lot of schools and it will lose a lot of teaching jobs.

What they are wrong on, of course, is the wording on the petition which says Britain has the best educational system in the world. They are wrong here on two counts; first the UK doesn't come at the top of any world ranking of education anywhere - we're absolutely bog average for the EU according the European commission. They are also wrong to say that English UK and British Council accreditation has anything to do whatsoever with education.

The View from the Bosses

1. Should the minimum level of qualification that can be studied through the PBS be raised from NQF level 3? No, as this would raise the level of courses beyond the scope of most language schools, as well as stopping students taking A levels in independent schools.

2. Should the minimum level of English language qualification that can be studied in the UK through the PBS be raised from CEFR level A2? No, as this would mean that only students with an Intermediate level of English or above could come to the UK to study.

3. Should English language testing be introduced for all courses of NQF level 5 and below, including English language courses, and if so, through what mechanism? No, as this could force all students wishing to study in the UK to undertake tests in their own country before enrolling on a course, which would cause additional hardship, delay and expense, compared to studying in other countries.

4. Should access to vocational courses be restricted? No. Many students study vocational courses to help them with their careers. Why should this option be taken away from them? We believe this question may be because there are a lot of bogus colleges offering bogus vocational courses. The government should control these colleges through proper accreditation bodies, such as British Council/English UK .

5. Should we restrict the work rights attached to student visas? No. Students are permitted to work part-time, up to 20 hours per week at present. Taking away this opportunity to help them support themselves, when they have already paid high fees for their courses, will make it less attractive for students to come to the UK . This measure will not cure unemployment, as students only take part time temporary jobs.

6. Should we place limits on the progression of students on courses up the qualifications scale without their returning to their home countries? No. Making students return home would enormously damage progression into university courses, and make the whole education process far more expensive for them.

*******

So there you have it - two not-so-independent views from Britain's tacky Tefl Trade. And what about the views and opinions of the many thousands of humble classroom Teflers in the UK? What about that? Where is their analysis of the situation?

For starters, do you feel comfortable about giving your unconditional support to the efforts of EnglishUK (the sponsors of the petition), who have done so much to keep your wages and working conditions at Dickensian levels over the years? Or do you think there should be some element of quid pro quo here? What should EFL teachers in the UK be demanding as the price of their support?

Anyway, I'm waiting to hear from you. E-mail me on teflsandy@yahoo.ie, as always.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tier 4 of the PBS - A Tefler Writes...

I don't think that there is anybody alive in the tacky UK Tefl scene who is not aware of the current government's proposals to regulate foreign students' access to the marvel that is the British education system. Take a quick look here if you've been stoned for the past month or so and are still in the dark about this.

This wonderful system apparently embraces the UK's abysmal EFL scene, and certain EFL organisations in the UK (English UK, for example) are up in arms over what they see as a restriction on their invoilable right to have their cake AND eat it - i.e., to 'regulate' their own industry and exclude teachers' pay and conditions from the equation at the same time. Hence this petition on the government's number10.gov.uk website.

Anyway, there are many opinions about these proposals, but for starters take a look below at what one particular EFL teacher (a.k.a Agent C) in the UK thinks about the whole idea. I'll add some notes of my own at the end, and follow up with the opinion of certain vested interests from the mighty powerhouse that is the UK's Tefl Trade in a later posting. However, you'd do well to start with the bullshit below...

English Language Teaching in the UK - Please sign the petition

The UK Government is on the threshold of destroying one of its strongest export industries, the English language teaching sector, worth billions of pounds annually to the UK in visible and invisible exports.

Tier 4 of The PBS, launched in April, brought sweeping changes to the international education sector. The governments aim was to rid the UK of bogus colleges, which were not just a security threat but also a blot on the UK's unassailable reputation in education. This work has not been completed.

A further aim was to streamline the issuing of study visas. Some changes were welcome, others serve only to turn bona fide students away from the UK. The government now aims to further restrict international students from studying in the UK. That will devastate this vibrant and highly professional industry, leading to mass redundancies in language schools, secondary schools, colleges & universities, with huge losses to the economy and Treasury.

The English language is a crown Jewel - let's protect and nurture it!

Tefl.com, albeit one of the better recruiters in the world of TEFL, recently backed a petition to condemn the government’s changes to the international education sector – Tier 4 of the PBS (see text above). I was alarmed and quite shocked when I read this and immediately responded to Telf.com – who have as yet not replied– voicing my incredulity as to why they would not support this Act.

Alarmist statements such as ‘The UK Government is on the threshold of destroying one of its strongest export industries’ do nothing to resolve the current plethora of below par EFL schools in the UK. These schools – many already named and shamed on this and other blogs – abuse the system, they take anyone who pays, they underpay their teachers and they often flagrantly break the law. Add to that the potential terrorist threat, which is admittedly low, I can see no reason to oppose the proposals. In fact, I think we should support the government's efforts, irrespective of why they plan to change the law.

Agent C, London

Well, thanks very much for that bold statement of your opinion on the subject, Agent C. I'd be very interested to know whether there are any other Teflers out there who share Agent C's disregard for the petition - use the comment facility below ... if you're bothered.

My own view on the matter is, of course, quite idiosyncratic. If this legislation actually serves to get rid of the many hundreds of UK visa factories and sweat shops passing themselves off as 'language schools', then I'm very much in favour of it. And let them thump those poncey cunts with Celtas who think they can teach, too. Yeah, they should all be given the push, along with their crappy 'schools', and made to go back to working at Tescos or TKMaxx. 'S right, innit!

Clearly, though, the best thing will be the absence of students from those countries whose citizens typically disappear into the black economy the day after they arrive in the UK. Here I'm thinking of those those hordes of awful Chinese 'students' who smell like old vegetables and clean their wonky yellow teeth with little sticks of wood. Is that why their breath always smells so bad too?

In fact, come to think of it, I rather think the British Government needs to introduce some some sort of hygiene requirement on the Chinkies if they want a visa - that they learn how to use tooth-paste and soap before they enter the UK. I'll be writing to my MP to inform her of my proposals - I'm sure she'll be impressed by my grasp of the intricacies of the delicate interface between international diplomacy and domestic labour requirements!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Alice in Wonderland EFL Coffee Shop

Curses! Dammit! Just when I thought I had completed a masterfully irresistible lampoon of a certain well-known and contemporary Tefl guru, what goes and bloody happens? I lose the bloody thing. So come on - who stole my memory stick? I mean, all those hours of hard graft I'd put in at work when I was supposed to be teaching, and some little scrote goes and swipes it ... There's no justice in the world, is there?

Or whatever. So here's what has to be then - one from the archives (again) of my former Tefl Trade blog (RIP, PBUH)). In fact, it's not at all offensive, just designed to give you a giggle or two. Anyway, don't send your application to ME, please, but to the evil madman mentioned below - Dr Kim, the Fu Man Chu of EFL!! (And just where IS Dr Kim these days? His e-mail address has expired, so has he too??)

*******

The Alice in Wonderland Coffee Shop, Amsterdam

Due to the departure of a difficult staff member, Amsterdam's unique Alice in Wonderland Coffee Shop is looking to fill the following position:-

Part-Time EFL Instructor/Bar Attendant.

Come and join our international team of instructor-servers in our thematic interactive interior!

Originally opened in 1972 by an American hippie-refugee, our coffee-shop sells the finest marijuana and hashish, and has been ranked as the #1 smoke shop by various US student travel guides.

Due to rising demand, in 2005 we began offering short-term English language study in tutorial settings to overseas students.

We offer a 20-hour workload, plus free accommodation in our adjacent guesthouse.
  • Application requirements:-
  • RSA Diploma (or CELTA will do)
  • A customer-friendly attitude
  • Must be a smoker
  • Theatrical training (but no prima-donnas)
  • Knowledge of various rock bands from 1965 to 1974
The job is suitable for all genders; male, female or mixed/doubtful.

The job duties will include the following:-
  • Teaching English in tutorial settings, and designing ways to implicitly promote world knowledge of progressive rock music
  • The applicant must be willing (and able) to maintain the psychology and appearance of Alice 24/7; in the coffee shop, in the guest house, and in the street, as our teachers actively promote our products and services throughout the city.
  • Two days per month are designated 'Alice-free' days.
As this is a challenging position, two people may share the job (but not the same person). However, both will be responsible for ensuring that Alice attire is worn at all times. Any violation of this rule will result in the immediate dismissal of both parties.

Short-listed applicants will be invited to Amsterdam to provide a teaching demonstration while under the influence of our famous 'SuperSkunk'. This is in order to test the applicant's endurance and suitability for the post.

The Alice in Wonderland Coffee Shop is a fun but challenging working environment. Even some of our most well-adjusted employees have lost their minds.

We actively participate in Dr Kim Min Su's avant garde research into the effects of bong-smoking and language acquisition, via our integrated 'Ganja, Grammar and Giggles' course.

For more information about the above post, please contact our representative for international hiring, the visionary Dr Kim Min Su, at the address below.

Kim_min_su@hotmail.com

*******

So, there you go - don't say I never try to be positive on this blog! It's nice to be able to 'turn somebody on' to something good once in a while, innit, eh?!

Meanwhile, here's a picture I found on the web of the Course Co-ordinator for the above 'Ganja, Grammar and Giggles' course. I can't recall his name - and neither can he!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The TEFL World vs Bruce

Hey, who is that pudgy tourist alongside? Could it possibly be ... Bruce Veldhuisen, of Tefl International? Yeah, for it IS he! In fact, Bruce has asked me to allow him to set the record straight regarding people who make false allegations on internet forums - not the sort of thing that I would ever consider, by the way. After all, I've got this dirty great blog to make all the accusations that I want, ain't I?!

Actually, I quite like Bruce, as he reminds me of myself a wee bit - more maverick than shyster, I would say (others might disagree, I know). So, it's over to you Bruce. I take it the cheque's in the post and won't get lost? I mean, I can TRUST you, can't I?!

*******

I am a very bad man. I know it because I read all about it on the internet. And yesterday was the day when the TEFL world could give me my come come-uppance. When I would finally be put in my place.

It all started five years ago when I made a very bad decision. I became partners with two, um, 'gentlemen'. After a few months they took the money and ran, leaving me looking rather foolish. If things had just finished there, that would probably be the end of the story. But these fine 'gentlemen' couldn’t stop. One of them tried to register the name of my TEFL course, TEFL International, and even sat straight faced, in a meeting with the Ministry of Education, and claimed he was the founder of the organization, not me.

Then I made a very big mistake. I went to the police and filed criminal charges against these … 'gentlemen'.

BTW, have you ever heard of a little website called teflwatch? It’s gone now, but for over a year these same gentlemen and a few of their friends accused me of every dastardly deed in the book. It started when someone named Paul accused me of not paying him his salary. Now the fact that Paul had never worked for me and that he was, in fact, the best friend of RH (one of the 'gentlemen') did not seem to in any way reduce his credibility. Then 'RH', 'Fair', and 'Freedom Fighter' began piling on. Accusing me of literally hundreds of unsubstantiated crimes against TEFL and TEFL kind! My wife. My kids. Nothing was safe. Every few months I would receive an Email claiming that the attacks would stop if the criminal charges were dropped.

The discussion went on for over a year and included over 110 pages of posts. And, amazingly, every other website that discussed TEFL quoted the discussion extensively. It was now on dozens of sites. In no uncertain terms, I was a pariah. One blogger said I was one of the three people he would never want to meet—and he worked in Japan were I have never even been! You can still find quotes from teflwatch, quotes about how bad I am, on many websites.

But the 18th of November was a very big day. Why? Because it was they day that anyone could come in and discredit me. They had one full day—eight hours—and they could present virtually anything negative about me in court. Certainly they could produce quite a bit. After all they accused me of at least 20 illegal activities in 111 pages of attacks. THOUSANDS of posts.

So there I was, in court, ready to take my medicine. I had already been shopping for orange jump suits and trash collecting equipment ("The TRS3000, the ultimate in trash collecting hardware, with graphite tongs for easy gripping"), ready to accept an appropriate punishment. After all, these guys seemed so SURE I was a bad guy. I had read so many things about me I was starting to believe it myself! And if you can’t believe someone hiding behind a fake name on the internet, who CAN you trust?

Sitting in the courtroom, I noticed the three people in the front. One seemed embarrassed. The other seemed angry, and the third seemed bemused. It was the judge who was angry because Fair, RH and the gang had failed to show up to court. His attorney was quite embarrassed and my attorney thought the whole thing was pretty funny. Fair's lawyer begged for a postponement, but the judge would have none of it, The opportunity for the TEFL world to put me in my place had been wasted.

Could it POSSIBLY be that the whole thing was just a load of total rubbish?? No, because guys who post under false names on the internet can always be trusted. Riiiiight...

Now the charges I filed are still pending. RH has disappeared and the police are still seeking him for questioning. There is a warrant out for the arrest of Fair. But I have a feeling that this will never make it to those websites out there, nor will the fact that they had no case against me and that, in reality, these few “gentlemen” just made the whole thing up. I am certain it will not be read by the thousands of people who are already certain that I am a very bad man.

Or will Sandy prove me wrong?

*******

What, me? When have I ever been able to prove anything?! I just spread nasty rumours and hope that the shit sticks! But in this case, I'm happy to put the record straight - or at least, unbend it a little bit. Now let's wait for the comments to accrue underneath, shall we?

BTW, if you have no idea about Bruce and his 'notorious' Tefl empire, have a read of the link below...

http://www.stickmanweekly.com/StickMarkII/BruceVeldhuisenLordOfTEFL.htm

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

November Poll Results - It's a Walkover!

Those of you who can remember things as long back as last month might be itching to see the results of the Tefl Tradesman's November Poll. I am, of course, and as ever, more than happy to oblige, especially when I can gloat over the findings, which are as follows:

NOVEMBER POLL: Whose interests do the British Council and English UK serve via their accreditation processes?

The choices were three, and the results, garnered from a wide selection of almost 50 EFL professionals in the UK, denote a clear victory to the realist camp. An overwhelming majority of above 80% adhere to the established view that BC and English UK are just a bunch of cunts who rip off Britain's hard-working EFL teachers! Look, it says so here...

They look after just the employers, and screw the teachers.
39 (82%)
They serve the interests of both the teachers and the employers in roughly equal measure.
7 (14%)
They look after the teachers and ignore the employers.
1 (2%)

In pie-chart form, I am happy to present the findings as such...

As you can see, that little slice of orangey-red represents the seven retards who somehow believe that the BC and English UK display an equitable approach to both employers and employees. Who are these mad fuckers? Which planet do they live on?!

More interesting is that slim slither of yellow (how appropriate!), which is the result of just ONE Tefler believing that the function of the two baddies in question is to advance teachers' interests. This vote was achieved, apparently, by English UK's Mark Rendell delivering a particular oral service to a drunken Tefler in the toilets at the Slug and Lettuce, Notting Hill. But don't quote me on that, will you...

Right, now we've got that little item sorted, who's got any ideas for a December Poll?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Here Come the Cavalry - UK Borders!

Well, I guess this should be the final posting in the 'November is Accreditation Month' series of articles, in which I have attempted to reveal just how the British Council and English UK conspire together, through their skewed and corrupt 'accreditation systems', to undermine the status and living-standards of Britain's EFL teachers.

Fortunately this posting will attempt to offer a glimmer of hope, in the form of the Home Office's UK Border Agency. Yes, these boys from the Immigration Corp might just be the cavalry, lining up on the crest of the hill, and ready to swoop down on the notorious EFL employers, of which there are more than just a handful in the UK.

But let's recap first, and remind ourselves of a little context. When I asked both BC and English UK what I should do if I believed that I, working as an EFL teacher in one of their accredited schools, was being deceived and ripped off regarding working hours and payments, etc, their response was essentiually dismissive. Put simply, despite being the two main agencies of 'accreditation' in the UK, they were not interested in knowing about cases in which the very schools and institutions that they were accrediting were breaking the law.

Shall I write that again? No, I'll let them do it for you - for I have the very quotations here...

British Council: "Where there are serious concerns regarding legal and statutory requirements, the appropriate authorities or government bodies should be contacted". (Fiona Pape)

English UK: "In cases where an employee is concerned that his employer is not meeting its legal obligations we would recommend firstly, discussing any grievances with the employer and secondly, if the complaint is not resolved satisfactorily, approaching the relevant legislative body for assistance." (Mark Rendell)

In short, Fuck Off and sort it out yourself - we ain't ever gonna help you!!

[No time to finish now - summat's just come up. I'll continue tomorrow]

Friday, November 27, 2009

BC Explain the Party Line

Regarding that letter from the allegedly angry Tefler, I put the same points to Fiona Pape (looks quite horny from the piccy alongside), of the British Council's Accreditation Unit. From the reply below, it would appear that Ms Pape is rather fond of merely explaining the process again and delivering bland officialese - which makes her a prime candidate for BC management, I s'pose. I have placed my comments at the end of Fiona's piece - which could be a very nice place to be!

*******

The BC accreditation unit manages the Accreditation UK, quality assurance, scheme for ELT providers in the UK and we do this in partnership with the UK ’s ELT professional association, English UK (www.englishuk.com). We are now an approved accrediting body on the BIA list.

For future, I’d be grateful if you could please direct any enquiries relating to accreditation and or the UK ELT sector to Elizabeth McLaren, Assistant Manager of Accreditation Services (Elizabeth.mclaren@britishcouncil.org), and Tony Jones, the new Manager of English Language Quality Services from 3 September (tony.jones1@britishcouncil.org). I am of course also happy to respond to any further emails on this thread.

Further to our earlier exchange (and I attach our earlier exchange of emails for my colleagues info), let me respond to address the issue of inspections which you raised, copied here below:

"If, as you state, you 'therefore expect all providers accredited under the Scheme to be aware of and comply with all existing and new requirements', how do you verify that they are indeed doing so?

I ask because, at a recent BC visit to the school where I work, little if any attention was directed towards eliciting the views and opinions of the teaching staff, which struck us all as a bizarre state of affairs. In short, we were all rather disappointed that, instead of feeling that 'our moment had come', it came and went without our noticing!"

Regarding inspections generally, our inspectors look for evidence during the inspection from several sources. We call it a triangulation of evidence which includes:

1) observation of the provision in action: inspectors observe classes but also admin and student welfare systems,

2) interviews - inspectors interview admin and management staff and organise focus groups with both teachers and students

3) documentation - inspectors look at a very wide range of documents both before and during the inspection.

These are all listed in a separate section of the handbook, split into different stages, and are cross-referenced as well with the criteria so that you can see where inspectors look for evidence.

In this way, inspectors are able to cross-check evidence to corroborate findings or highlight weaknesses and to arrive at an impartial and objective judgement of the provision. This ensures a robust system which will hold up under appeal. The voice of the teacher is very important but clearly cannot be the only source of evidence.

Our inspectors are all very experienced senior ELT professionals and most have been inspectors for many years. They aim to be unobtrusive. Please be assured that they are very good at what they do.

As I’ve said in previous email, all providers are expected to comply with all legal and statutory requirements in the UK . They submit an annual declaration each year to the accreditation unit where they confirm their compliance. During inspections providers must demonstrate that they comply with legal and statutory requirements under the criterion M1. This criterion is explained in much greater detail in our handbook which you are able to download free from the accreditation website www.britishcouncil.org/accreditation. The criterion covers a lot of ground and inspectors spot check for evidence for this criterion.

Please note that the Accreditation UK scheme is a voluntary scheme for UK providers and, while the governance bodies of the scheme can withdraw accreditation, we have no authority to force providers to comply. Where there are serious concerns regarding legal and statutory requirements, the appropriate authorities or government bodies should be contacted. The section on M1 lists many websites for relevant authorities including those which are employment related. They may provide a useful resource for you regarding your questions to the EL Gazette.

I hope this helps answer your questions. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch again in future.

All the best,

Fiona Pape

Regional English Manager for Near East and North Africa
British Council +212 (0)37 08 36
fiona.pape@britishcouncil.org.ma

*******

Well, what can we say about Ms Pape's measured response? Firstly I must say that I find her patronising tone rather offensive - "Please be assured that they are very good at what they do." In other words, please shut up and go away, as you don't know what you're whinging about. And to think that some people think that I'm offensive!? WTF!!

As a teacher I also find her statement that "The voice of the teacher is very important but clearly cannot be the only source of evidence" equally patronising - even misleading. The point made in the original letter was that teachers' views, and the matter of their salaries and working conditions, are entirely ignored - a matter that she also chose to completely ignore!

The other dodgy point is that the BC accreditation scheme is seen to be 'self-policing' when it comes to compliance with the law, as the accredited schools merely need to "submit an annual declaration each year to the accreditation unit where they confirm their compliance [with existing legislation]." That's hardly reassuring, is it? I mean, what if they relied on the teachers merely submitting a declaration that they did indeed possess the qualifications they claimed? Would that be seen as a satisfactory situation by the schools - and BC?

Even worse, I notice that the buck is passed once again when it's a matter of suspected malpractice by an employer - "Where there are serious concerns regarding legal and statutory requirements, the appropriate authorities or government bodies should be contacted". So, it's another case of 'don't bother us, we don't want to know, we're probably too busy'. It really gives the message that BC care very little when it comes to ensuring that legal requirements are adhered to. In other words, as long as they get the accreditation fee, the legal niceties of accreditation can go hang.

More importantly, a colleague of Sandy McManus has rightly pointed out that if the same questions were put to the UK Borders Agency (regarding their approved Tier 4 sponsors' compliance with employment law), their response would be quite different and much more robust.

And that's a point I'll be turning to next.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

EL Gazette - they DO know the law!

OK, I know that the EL Gazette play no part in the accreditation of EFL schools in the UK, but, in contrast to the British Council and English UK, they do know the law relating to the employment of teachers and the recognition of their rights. See here below the extremely comprehensive letter they sent in response to a query from a certain reader known as 'James Kilkenny' (ahem!), and contrast it with the response sent to the same letter by the craven bastards at English UK (previous posting).

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In brief, what we have to distinguish is between the working hour and the teaching hour. It is perfectly legal, in most of the EU including the UK, to pay only for teaching hours and require to teachers to do other working hours, and this happens in both the state and private sectors. There are two things to remember, however.

a) Since September 2006 it has been illegal to include an amount for holiday pay in ANY hourly wage. This applies everywhere in the EU. The amount for holiday pay must be paid separately usually when you go on holiday. In the UK this works out at approximately 8 per cent of whatever you have earned so far this tax year.

b) Teaching hours are not the basis for calculating the working week or ensuring that the total remuneration meets minimum wage legislation - ALL working hours must be included for that. Non teaching hours don’t have to be paid separately but they do count towards minimum wage.

What is a working hour? Put simply, it is any hour when you are at your employers disposal. It specifically includes any meetings or training sessions. Any socialising you have to do for your employer – like your evening stints. Also any travelling time you have to undertake for your employer – except the normal journey to and from work. Any break of less than 20 minutes – like the break between classes – are also included. A break of twenty minutes or more, when you have time to nip out for a quick coffee and a fag, would be calculated as a rest period, which does not count as working time in the UK, though it does in some other EU countries. Unless you are required to do preparation and marking at your employer's premises, this does not necessarily count as a working hour, but does need to be paid at at least minimum wage– I will explain that a little later on.

If a working hour doesn’t have to be paid, why is it important?

First, all the working hours you do added together must not exceed 48 on average. Preparation and marking done at home are not included in this. Everywhere in the EU except the UK it is illegal to make anybody work more than 48 hours a week. In the UK, employers can ask employees to sign a waiver; however, it is illegal to put any employee under pressure to do so.

Secondly, all the working hours count towards minimum wage, as does preparation and marking time, even if done at home (see below) Take the total amount of money you get for teaching hours, divide it by your total number of working hours plus preparation time and if it is under the hourly rate for minimum wage, then your employer is breaking the law.

Preparation and marking time. Prep and marking, which is normally included in the teaching hour payment, should be a contractual obligation, specifically mentioned in your contract. If it isn’t, you are perfectly within your rights not to do it. If it is, the expected amount of time should be specified – but all too often schools do not include this. If there is nothing in the contract, the trick is to look at the norm for the job, which means looking at the state sector. In most of the EU, the state sector contracts specify 20 minutes for preparation and marking, for every hour taught (yes I know that is not necessarily enough, but that’s the way it is). So unless your contract specifies otherwise use 20 minutes preparation for every hour taught as the standard for calculation. So, every teaching hour is in fact an hour (or 50 minutes plus 10 minutes break which has to be paid anyway) plus 20 minutes preparation time (80 minutes). Method schools such as Berlitz or Callan, may get away with not taking this into account for wages, if they specify in their contract that they do not expect any preparation or marking, but every other school will basically have to take it into account.

Let’s look at an example. As of October 1 2007 the UK minimum wage has been £5.52. Let’s take a teacher doing a 50 minute teaching hour with a ten minute break between classes. They have to be paid minimum wage for the entire hour + a third for the 20 minutes preparation time. The minimum wage they can legally be paid for their teaching hours is thus £7.36. It is thus perfectly legal for a school to pay a teacher say £7.50 a teaching hour, as some of the non-accredited schools do. However they aren’t entitled to anything more from the teacher than to turn up and teach - – £7.50 is 2.5 per cent above minimum wage – which means they can only require a teacher to do another one and half minutes work for every hour they teach before they are breaking the minimum wage act!

Finally what to do if you think your employer is breaking the law. Even if you think they are doing this by mistake, and many of them are, join a Union BEFORE you raise the subject with them. If the whole thing turns nasty and you end up losing your job, the Union won’t protect you if you weren’t a member before the dispute broke out.

To be honest, my advice to every teacher working in the private sector, is to join a Union – the UCU is the best one in the UK. This is not because I think most employers are mean, horrid and out to get the teacher – many year round language schools in the UK are barely breaking even. It is just because ever since the British Council accreditation scheme stopped even looking at terms and conditions as part of accreditation, a Union is the only possible protection a teacher has. There are a small number of unscrupulous employers who basically work on the principle that they know they are breaking the law, but they also know the teachers haven’t got the money to sue them. Sad but true.

Please let me know if there is anything you don’t understand. I’ve spent so long studying this now that what seems obvious to me can seem impenetrable to anyone else.

*******

So, there you have it, and from a reliable and concerned source. If you feel that your employer is turning you over, join a union such as the UCU first, as you can't expect either the British Council of English UK to waste their breath on a mere Tefler such as you.

Next up is the British Council's response to the same letter. But don't hold your breath, eh?!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Who's Screwing You at English UK?!

A couple of years ago I sent a letter to the EL Gazette, claiming to be a miffed EFL Teacher who had a grievance with his employer. The apparent gripe centred around the old chestnut of 'unpaid work' that EFL teachers are expected to put in at even the best of schools (there are some of those in the UK, aren't there?).

I've no intention of boring you to death with the whole letter, but the main idea centred around a common practice at many shifty private EFL schools, i.e., paying their staff an hourly rate for teaching, then adding other non-teaching tasks and refusing to pay for them, claiming that the remuneration is included in the hourly teaching rate. The key paragraphs were these:

"...my contract states that I am obliged to work one evening a month to either supervise students or provide entertainment for them, on or off the school premises. No extra payment is given for this, the argument being that my hourly rate covers the extra three hours per month I am expected to give to my employer."

"However, in your article you state that under existing employment laws, 'every hour worked has to be paid'. So, is my employer breaking the law by insisting that my extra three hours a month are 'already paid'?"

"On a related note, you also state in the article that, according to the law, any hour .spent at the employer's disposal' is to be paid for. In that case, what about all the preparation, marking, and test creating that I do at home? The old argument usually repeats the mantra about the hourly rate covering all the time spent preparing classes and marking the students' work, etcetera; but again, this would appear to be illegal, according to UK employment law."

The reply that I received from the EL Gazette was exemplary and detailed - and I'll post it on this blog later this month. However, when I sent the letter to English UK for comment, pointing out that it appeared to indicate illegal practices at one of their member schools, the reply could not have been more different. In fact, a certain lickspittle by the name of Mark Rendell (see picture above) could only just about manage, after a month or so, to find some time to dismiss the whole idea. His exact and condescending words were these...

Dear James,

Thank you for your email and comments regarding the recent article in the EL Gazette. I do apologize for not getting back to you earlier; I was away on vacation and last week we had our annual StudyWorld event. It is a requirement of accreditation and in turn membership of English UK that members comply with all relevant legal and regulatory legislation. In cases where an employee is concerned that his employer is not meeting its legal obligations we would recommend firstly, discussing any grievances with the employer and secondly, if the complaint is not resolved satisfactorily, approaching the relevant legislative body for assistance.

Kind regards,

Mark Rendell
Deputy Chief Executive
English UK

Well, that was extremely helpful of Mr Rendell, don't you think?! In other words, if you have a problem with your employer, if you think he's screwing you over AND breaking the law, don't bother us at all - 'cos we don't care! Incredible as it may seem, English UK is happy to admit to having no interest in knowing when their own member-schools are deliberately disregarding the law! That obviously says a lot about their bad attitude towards EFL teachers in the UK.

Which is to be expected, I suppose. After all, the toady Mark Rendell has had a glorious career at none other than EF, that well-known Woolworths of the Whiteboard World. But, even more appropriately, English UK is, according to its own website:

English UK - the world's leading language teaching association.

Now, don't you find it just a little strange that 'the world's leading language association' doesn't give a toss about the teachers that work in the UK Tefl industry? Or am I being a shade too naive - cynical even?

In fact, what they really care about, of course, is making more and more money for their members - the language school owners. From their website, again, it states the following:

English UK has five main aims:
  • Quality assurance, especially through the Accreditation UK Scheme, which we run in partnership with the British Council.
  • Professional development, consultancy and research.
  • Representation and lobbying both in the UK and internationally.
  • Marketing and promotion, especially in new and developing markets.
  • Business services and business development.
Our main roles are to promote quality and to represent our members´ interests.

Not a word about looking after the teachers, though, eh? You might have thought, foolish Tefler, that 'quality assurance' had some correlation with EFL teachers' terms and conditions - but English UK have other ideas. Of course, there is no parallel between the interests of the members of English UK and the EFL teachers they employ - none at all, is there! That's probably why they employ former EF tossers to do their grubby little work for them.

So, three cheers for English UK!!

UPDATE: Only now, two weeks later, do I remember sending Mark Rendell this reply. Needless to say, he didn't respond!

Dear Mark,
Thanks very much for your reply. Am I to assume that, by your own admission, English UK is not interested in knowing if its own member-schools are flouting the law? Quite frankly, I am astounded by this admission, which clearly says volumes about your attitude towards EFL teachers.
Perhaps you would like to elaborate upon your statement?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The British Council Inspectorate - Exposed!!


Fancy getting yourself a nice cushy job as a British Council Inspector? Well, if so, read on. You'll find the selection process probably isn't as tough as you might have thought - in fact you may even be over-qualified! This little document here - the BC Inspector Job Description - should tell you all you need to know about accepting the BC shilling.

For example, to join the noble ranks of the BC Inspectorate, you need little more than a degree (or a similar qualification) and at least a diploma in ELT/TESOL. Which is hardly asking the Earth, is it? Many of the teachers that they'll be ignoring during the inspection will probably be better-qualified than them, so it's probably not wise to publicise this too widely, eh?

But even then, if you only have that well-pawed CELTA from IH in 1979, you still might be able to make the grade, as “If an applicant meets the selection criteria in other respects, they may submit a rationale for the consideration of their application in the absence of the stated formal qualifications.” In other words, I guess they're rather 'flexible' here, i.e., willing to take on any Tom, Dick or Harriet, as long as they have the nerve to steadfastly ignore EFL's most valuable resource - its teachers

In fact, dear EFL teacher, if you read the entire Terms and Conditions of Service - Accreditation UK Inspector document, you'll probably be a little surprised to learn that the words 'teacher' and teaching' are mentioned ONLY ONCE each. In the first case, it mentions that you may apply if you have experience of “teacher/trainer training”, and in the second it states that you should have “At least 10 years ELT experience including teaching”.

However, one of the qualities on the 'desirable' list could be key, I feel – 'the ability to deliver difficult messages effectively and professionally' Yes, that could be very useful when it comes to telling teachers that their terms and conditions are universally ignored by the BC, as they are not considered worthy of consideration. Let me write that again - EFL Teachers' salaries and terms and conditions of employment at the schools the Inspectors visit warrant no mention at all. Did you get that?

Anyway, talking of remuneration, just how well paid ARE the BC's Inspectors? By all appearances they are hardly underpaid, unlike the unfortunate little Teflers whose schools they will be evaluating. For example, the standard day rate for an Inspector comes in at £230.00 per day, and if, God forbid, the overburdened inspector finds himself working late, he can claim another £26.80 for a late dinner. Those lunchtime sandwiches can be expensive, too, at £7.25 each – smoked salmon, I suppose?

Travel and accommodation costs are also reimbursed, with a London hotel notching up £90.00 in claimables, and mileage is paid at 40 pence per mile. No fees were mentioned for a night-time companion, although you might try to find a Chinese take-away at the local pole-dancing establishment and claim her for your late dinner.

It actually gets better, though. Should our overworked BC inspector have to make a presentation of his findings, he can claim another £160.00 for his efforts, whereas the onerous task of actually writing up the report releases a further £230.00 into the poor soul's bank account. Tough, eh? That's more than a week's wages for most EFL teachers.

But the gravy train doesn't reach the terminus there - oh no! There are also such cash-generating items as Training Days, which earn our impoverished Inspector another £100.00 for the annual Inspector Conference, and the annual Autumn Training Day Event, which collars him a further £50.00 per day. Contrast all that with the training days for IELTS examiners – teachers who actually earn their money – which are always UNPAID and usually COMPULSORY!

Of course, we EFL teachers would not begrudge the BC inspectors the occasional bringing together of snout and trough, would we - if they were actually looking out for our welfare. Yet the sad truth is that the British Council (and even more so English UK) couldn't give a toss for the teachers, which is why they pay no attention at all to their salary, terms, and conditions.

I'm sure I'm not the only EFL teacher who finds that disgustingly arrogant, immoral, and conceited. It's really about time this changed, and the push for a new approach needs to begin now. I'm not asking for a revolution, for a wall to collapse, but I am looking for a spot of reform - i.e., recognition to be made of the need for EFL Teachers' salaries and their terms and conditions of employment to be brought into the scheme and given due consideration.

I'll be bringing you more news of this 'movement' at a later date. Meanwhile, I'll be contacting BC and English UK to ask them how they feel about all this. I look forward to receiving their replies - as I'm sure you do, too! I'm sure they'll be completely open about their position here - as revealed by the picture alongside, which exposes one of the cunning disguises that BC Inspectors resort to in order to avoid the accusatory gaze of the EFL teachers they so willingly ignore! Shame on them all!!

BTW, more info about the BC's Accreditation Scheme and the criteria for its Inspectors can be found via the links below.

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/4916688/Job-description-person-specification-Accreditation-UK-Inspector-Job-aim

http://www.britishcouncil.org/hy/accreditation-inspector-tacos.pdf

http://www.britishcouncil.org/TH/accreditation-inspector-job-description.pdf

http://www.britishcouncil.org/home/accreditation-news-february-2006-photos.htm



Sunday, November 1, 2009

NOVEMBER is ACCREDITATION MONTH on the TEFL TRADESMAN!

Yes, yes, YES!! This month I shall be bringing you a whole range of exciting information about the UK's EFL school accreditation process, kindly presided over by the British Council and English UK. As you probably know, these two organisations represent the greedy bastards known as employers, and really enjoy their task of shafting EFL's most important resource - the humble EFL teacher. Oh, and there's also a poll on the right (or rather, there will be when I get round to it), so you can make your own opinion known - interactive or what, eh?!

First off though is a recent submission from Agent D, currently doing battle with the Tefl bastards in London. This below is what he had to say the other day about his attempts to understand Britain's whacky Tefl Trade...

I am finding it hard to take this Tefl thing seriously at present. It seems that organisations expect teachers to be highly conscientious, always open to self improvement, and prepared to read up on or attend the gut-wrenchingly dull methodology seminars/literature (often apparently created by people on the autistic spectrum), while most companies /schools for are just in it for cash - and the British Council has no intention of including teachers' conditions in its protracted accreditation process.

I put this last point to a woman on the English UK stall at the language show today. She said she had no reply to my question. It was worth going to though, for the free pencils and high contingency of young females present.

Fair point, Agent D. I'm glad to see that your priorities were spot on too - I guess the young lady at the English UK looked a bit of a go-er, eh? And let's face it - wouldn't a good shag be a fuck sight better than a job in EFL right now!?!

Anyway, before I get a little too carried away with matters that are really not at all connected to Tefl, let me open Accreditation Month on the Tefl Tradesman with a posting of mine from a couple of years or so back. I mean, if I can't pillage my own back catalogue of rantings, what's the bloody point of hanging on to all this stuff?

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English UK - They Don't Care, You Don't Matter

Or should that be ‘you don’t care, they don’t matter’? We’ll come back to that later, anyway, if I can remember to.

Actually, I’m presuming you’ve all heard of English UK, the Cosa Nostra of the British EFL scene? They ensure that EFL teachers get low wages and minimal job security through being an employers’ cartel, basically, although they themselves wouldn’t put things quite so bluntly.

Quite how they do put things is evident in this month’s issue of the EL Gazette, where they have responded at length to a reasonable enough request from a disgruntled Tefler (just how many of those are there in the UK, I wonder?). The teacher asked English UK just what they were prepared to do to resolve the parlous situation that British EFL teachers find themselves in regarding pay, conditions, low morale, etc. He ends his letter with the entirely practical question ‘are you part of the solution or part of the problem?’, which I seem to recall from the 1960s as a radical yippie slogan.

Of course, he could have saved himself the wasted ink and the stamp, not to mention the effort of writing in the first place. The replies, from Sue Bromby and Michael Wills, the two joint chairs of English UK, were Mandelson-like in their blandness and refusal to be committal in any way. In essence, they ain’t gonna do nuthin’, but the manner in which they put this across is a real triumph of marketing-speak.

Mr Wills makes the cringe-inducing statement that ”the guarantee of quality (presumably the British Council kitemark) costs the industry a lot”. That may be so, but who ends up paying for it? And what sort of guarantee is BC accreditation, anyway? In my experience, most schools just pay lip-service to the BC, especially when it’s inspection time. Otherwise, it’s back to normal – charge as much as you can, and offer the minimum, thus fleecing both the customers and the teachers.

What’s worse, he offers this glimpse of Teflerian logic: “the UK is probably the most expensive EFL destination in the world” – which is why the pay’s crap, apparently. So, should we all shoot off to third-world countries to get a better salary? Yes, Mr Wills, Britain is an expensive place to live in; that’s precisely why the teachers need a proper salary!

Sue Bromby offers a bit more window-dressing, but makes the outstandingly disingenuous comment that more trade unions in the private EFL sector would help to resolve things. Yes, Sue – have you ever tried to get unions recognized at a private EFL outfit? The boss would just laugh, very loudly, right in your face, and then show you the door.

Amazingly, she also states that what English UK can do to push things along a bit is “to continue to promote the accredited British ELT sector as the best in the world”. Pure marketing bollocks, in other words – more spit’n’polish, more glossy brochures, but nothing of any real substance.

Like I said, they don’t care – and neither do you, probably. It’s just a job, after all. Only the likes of Michael Wills, Sue Bromby, and other similar-minded snake-oil salesmen can look forward to making a well-paid career out of it. And they’re well away from the classroom now, aren’t they?

First published: 11 February 2006

PS: The suggestion that the 'letter' from that 'disgruntled Tefler' was in fact an e-mail from no less a person than a certain Sandy McManus himself is entirely without foundation - just like SM's teaching style!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sandy's Guide to TEFL Mythodology - #2: The Silent Way

It's often been stated that 'The Silent Way' originated in the early 1970s and was the brainchild of the late Caleb Gattegno (see pic alongside). However, the little-known truth is that the method was actually invented some years before by a severely hungover EFL teacher in Spain called Stan Cruddy. This blog-entry is therefore a rather belated attempt to put the record straight, and to restore Stan to the position he so richly deserves in the esteemed annals of the proud history of Tefl methodology.

'Needs must', as they say, and never was this more true on that fateful day in December 1971 when Stan, finding himself incapacitated in class one morning due to an unexpectedly high intake of alcohol and illicit combustible substances the night before, was unable to communicate with his normally chatty class of belligerent young school-children. Being an articulate and resourceful EFL teacher, Stan's solution to this problem was simple and immediate - to teach the class using a system of mime and gestures that he had been prototyping on similar occasions of momentary lapses of faculty co-ordination.

Thus was born 'The Silent Way', a crafty teaching technique that he later passed on to Gattegno in exchange for a fortnight's holiday in Thailand with a wide assortment of lady-boys. Although Gattegno revised and refined Stan's original ground-breaking contribution to pedagogical practice, the main tenets of the approach remain broadly similar, and can be summarised as follows.

Firstly, the main premise is that learning is facilitated if the learner discovers rather than remembers or repeats. This 'discovery-learning' approach actually favours the time-pressed EFL teacher, as in many cases he does not even have to know that he's supposed to be teaching. Moreover, if the teacher attempts to model certain vocabulary items and phrases too often, the class might well realise that he is incapable of normal speech, which would have catastrophic consequences for both the teacher and his bank balance.

Of course, the use of the word "silent" is very significant here, as The Silent Way is based on the premise that the teacher should be as silent as possible in the classroom in order to encourage the learner to produce as much language as possible. This of course saves the teacher from having to breathe a mouth full of whisky fumes over his students, and also means that he can economise on toothpaste - a very tangible benefit these days, given the dogshit wages on offer at many private EFL schools. He can also laugh at their pathetic attempts to produce the English language.

Referring back to the presentation of language, in the Silent Way the structural patterns of the target language are presented by the teacher and the grammar "rules" of the language are learnt inductively by the learners. Stan was extremely perceptive here in realising that future EFL teachers would have virtually no knowledge of the grammar system of their own language, and would therefore have to relinquish the reins of power and oblige the learners to sort things out for themselves.

Stan was also one of the first teachers to stumble on the idea of using Cuisenaire rods - small coloured blocks of varying sizes originally intended for the teaching of mathematics - in the EFL classroom. This discovery came about almost by accident, as Stan found the rods in a colleague's drawer one day and figured they could come in very useful for throwing at rowdy students.

Some time later, when he had sobered up, he realised their potential for being used in the classroom to illustrate meaning. This is perhaps best shown by an example. Let us say that the teacher has introduced the idea of pronouns as in "Give me a green rod". The class will then use this structure until it is clearly assimilated, using, in addition, all the other colours. One member of the class would now like to ask another to pass a rod to a third student but she does not know the word "her", only that it cannot be "me". At this point the teacher would intervene and supply the new item: "Give her the green rod" and the learners will continue until the next new item is needed (probably "him").

Quite why a learner would want to say 'give me the green rod' has never been fully explained, and unfortunately both Gattegno and Stan are now dead, the latter having perished in a fire at a Chinese brothel in 1990, so we shall never understand the apparent wisdom behind the technique. However, Stan was well known for making frequent cryptic references to his 'rod', and the picture alongside - the last surviving one of Stan taken at a teachers' conference in 1989, as he demonstrated his revolutionary "butt-naked" method of teaching EFL - appears to bear out his insistence on using his 'rod' as a teaching tool.

Although the minimalist role of the 'Silent Way' teacher has led some critics to describe its teachers as 'aloof', Stan wrote of a real need for the EFL teacher to just "give them some some vocab, then get out of the way". In fact, Stan was very keen on getting out of the way, often for weeks at a time, as his DoS sought him out amongst the bars and 'cantinas' of downtown Barcelona.

As with other methods and approaches, however, aspects of Silent Way can now be observed in many lessons in the modern classroom. In the 1980s and early 90s, for example, it became fashionable in some quarters to argue that excessive "teacher talking time" was something to be discouraged. As Stan often had severe problems in being understood by his students, and not merely because of his strong regional accent, he alone felt the urgency to put minimal TTT at the forefront of his unique teaching methodology.

Lastly, the problem-solving feature of Silent Way may well prove to be its most enduring legacy as it has led indirectly to the idea of Task-based Learning, to the widespread use of problem-solving activities in language classrooms, and to teachers just leaving their students to get on with the process of learning while they nip outside for a quick ciggy or two. In short, we carefree teachers in the Tefl Trade owe one hell of a lot to Stan Cruddy and his Licor 43-inspired technique.

Only today has that debt of gratitude been made fully apparent. Stan Cruddy - we salute you!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

TEFL.net - a True Repository of Useless Advice?

I came across this wonderful little item on the pages of TEFL.net the other day, and I immediately felt that it was suitable for a spot of close attention from Sandy McManus. Who could resist a gentle bit of leg-pulling when a novice Tefler asks a bright question such as “Can you give me some tips for teaching unruly teenagers?”? I certainly can’t...

Q: Dear Lucy: I've been brought in to teach 17 teenagers from the eastern bloc. [Oh, you lucky bastard!] The last teacher quit because of stress and in some ways I can see why [Ooh, aren’t you the sharp one, eh?!]. I am a newly qualified CELTA teacher, and today was my first day teaching a real class. [Congratulations! Welcome to The Club of Queer Trades!] I didn't have any lesson plan prepared as the appointment was very short notice [Now that IS a surprise!]. So I kind of just led a conversation class with them [Join the club, indeed – it’s called ‘winging it’!]. By the end of our three-hour slot, I still had 17 students in the classroom, i.e no-one had left, and I didn't feel distraught. [Stop trying to kid us, babes.] So that's a result I suppose. [An extremely good one, I reckon – nobody got shot, stabbed or crucified, and you’re still breathing too.]

The group all know each other and have a pretty good grasp of English. [Oh, that’s good too - you won’t have to teach them much, then.] Upper Intermediate - I'd say. How do I get them to not talk over each other and actually pay attention? [Try humiliation, degradation, and psychological torture – the CIA manual’s a great help for this.] They shout, speak in their own language, mobile phones go off, etc. [You don’t say? I find all that quite unexpected...] This is despite me setting rules at the beginning forbidding all this. [Fascist teacher!] I guess this is about classroom management. [Well done – you ARE a bright spark, aren’t you!] Is it just wishful thinking to believe that if I go in with a structured lesson plan tomorrow, I'll have less trouble? [Ah, wishful thinking, cosy pipe-dreams ... how would we Teflers exist without them?]

Yours, Simpler

A: Dear Simpler: I can totally sympathise with you. [While I’m laughing satanically.] Teaching teenagers is not easy, even for experienced teachers, and it is all the more difficult when they are unruly. [I bet you hadn’t thought of that, had you?] It's unfortunate that you didn't have time to plan the first lesson and I think it's a good idea to plan your next lesson with the students. [Oh yes, a lesson plan is ALWAYS a good idea – especially if you’re a TEFL greenhorn.] They might see structure in the lesson and you will feel more in control of what is happening in the classroom. [Or somebody might just be taking the piss here.] If you feel in control, you will be better able to handle the situation. [Amazing! I’d really never thought of that before...!] You were right to set rules at the beginning... [But unfortunately, the rules were all ignored, and not strict enough anyway...] ...

And so it continues. Well done Lucy Bollard (pictured alongside) for that truly fine repository of useless advice, don’t you think? To think it’s called a ‘Help Desk’ is dangerously misleading, I reckon, and a case should be brought against the author for wilfully leading poor young Teflers up the proverbial garden path. In fact, it’s much more of a ‘Helpless Desk’, and poor old Lucy, whoever she might be, should be stripped of her Tefl certificate and sent back to stacking shelves at Sainsbury’s.

Anyway, here’s your chance to get some real advice – so take a tip or two from Sandy. I reckon that if you adopt and adapt the following shimmering slithers of wisdom, you’ll be sure to emerge victorious from every lesson, every time.

Right now, the first piece of meaningful advice should be, of course, DON’T teach teenagers at all! Unless, you really, really have to; in which case, it’s essential that you show them who’s boss from the moment they walk in the door. This usually involves a good number of pre- and post-lesson activities, as well as constant attention during the in-class encounter.

So, for starters it’s essential to make sure that you’re actually in the classroom before the teenagers arrive, so that you can frisk them for phones, knives, guns, etc., as they enter. Any offensive weapons found should be dumped with great ceremony in the bucket full of water that you have cleverly prepared in advance and placed conspicuously in a visible corner of the room. This really sets the tone for the lesson – you will submit to my will! – and shows them who the real boss is.

What’s important here is that you don’t believe any of this lefty crap about the classroom being a democratic place, or a place for the fertile exchange of ideas between two equals. No, it’s a battle ground, and a chance for the efficient EFL teacher to display his or her skills at inflicting immense suffering on a fellow human being in a foreign language – a skill which is highly under-rated, in my opinion.

As for maneouvres during the lesson, the main point is to remember that your students are your skivvies, so get them to do all the grubby little jobs that make your teaching life so miserable. For example, order Pavel to clean the whiteboard - and if he refuses, pull him out of his seat by his hair and lead him (gently, though) to the board. Invite your little darlings to clean your shoes during the break, on a rota-basis; and remind them to bring you sweetmeats from home, if they want a good grade at the end of the year. It's such small and simple stuff, really, but it works.

Likewise, don’t forget to reward those who speak out of turn with a one-minute session licking the windows clean – from the outside. And if a mobile phone goes off, pick it up and shoot a good round of Anglo-Saxon abuse into it. Remember, all this intelligible input will be doing wonders for their language abilities, if you believe Krashen – or even if you don’t!

For those dimwits who venture to give an answer to one of your exceedingly difficult questions, you have two options. For an incorrect answer, scowl visibly for a moment and then burst into hysterical laughter. For a correct reply, mumble something like “smart-arsed little creep” under your breath. Your darling students will soon come to appreciate this predictable behaviour of yours, and it will help them to come to terms with the top-down nature of your classroom management style.

Finally, just because the class is over, don’t let them think they are free of your caring attention. For those students who fail to complete the reams of homework that you’ll set them, threaten to tie them to their chair and suspend them from a third floor window. You’ll be quite surprised at the response you get, believe me!

First Published: Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Comments
'A visitor' left this comment on 27 Jan 08

Yeah. Get to the classroom early and scent mark the room. Much easier for male Teflers, but you have a CELTA, you're smart, figure something out iof if you are a squatter, not a stander-upper. Remember, you are the Alpha beast. Kick the weaker ones out of the pride--if you can't dismiss them from class, maul then eat their offsprings, thin the herd. Works for me.