Look, I’ve been doing a fair bit of cruising lately, you know. Nothing to do with the sexual variety, you understand, but a serious cybernet search for nuggets of whiteboard wit, pearls of pedagogical wisdom, etc.
One of the first that I came across was this very personal approach to classroom methodology, from a certain mounted EFL teacher whose name I'm not going to mention, as he always ignores my e-mails (insolent git!).
I myself prefer the Uncommunicative Approach: the teacher shows up, writes some verbs on the board and falls asleep. No one learns anything in either version –that would be too much to hope for- but at least my way you get some peace and quiet.
Well, after that rather drowsy dismissal of an entire industry and its (mal)practices, I bumped into a few more oddballs, courtesy of a certain robotic raconteur known as Englishdroid. Unfortunately I can't give you a link as, even though he does deem to stoop to communicate with the likes of Sandy McManus, his website appears to have disappeared into a black hole. Anyway, take a look at this - a few words of advice from some mad fellow in the Balkans who has had the temerity to ask "Why does my teacher do that?"…
Q: My teacher puts words on pieces of card and then asks the students to move them around the desks. Why?
A: This comes from a course called the CELTA - a one month course that takes some determination to fail. The theory goes that if you have little pieces of paper to shuffle around you will remember better. It has not been backed up by any serious study - but academic research into the role of paperclips is seriously under-represented.
Anyway, all this stuff has inspired me to think about creating my own teacher-training manual, with a target audience of tired, cynical and jaded practitioners of the shameless Tefltrade. It struck me that there was obviously an unmet need for articles of great importance for all you highly experienced and completely dysfunctional Tefl Tradesman out there. So, with no acknowledgements at all to the author of the original article, here it is…
Lessons My Trainer Should Never Have Taught Me
Sandy McManus offers a whole range of tried and tested teaching tips for the obsolete and unadventurous EFL professional.
Over the past 20 years spent teaching EFL and running away from looney private English language schools all over Europe, I have more then once found myself involved in teacher training. In fact, several years ago I wrote a manual for Tefl trainees, but it turned out to be pure shite. However, after much further deliberation, and more than enough beers, I would like to offer the world the benefits of my accrued whiteboard wisdom.
There should be plenty in these few notes for an experienced colleague - and even if you, unfortunate loser, are just starting or planning to start a career in Tefl. What it offers is something you can read and perhaps go back to every now and then - or just tip in the bin, along with yesterday's crusty old sandwiches.
Although not every lesson will follow the same pattern (and indeed should not do so, unless you really are a dull old fucker), on some days you will want to, for example, concentrate on practice rather than presentation. Especially if you have a hangover. This is fine, but it is important to know how language chunks can be introduced so that you are then free to depart from, or go back to, that pattern. Or, if you simply can't remember that you were doing ten minutes before (this is called recycling the language, by the way).
A Typical Lesson
Important Note: It is extremely important that your students learn to respect you as a real professional and a sentient human being. This respect, however, needs to be earned, and can in no circumstances be assumed in today's social climate. It is therefore imperative, from the very first meeting, to clearly define the roles of teacher and student, and to make sure that no smelly foreign teenager ever tries to get the better of you. You are the boss, after all!
Procedure: Walk into class ten minutes after it was due to start. Slide the half-empty bottle of beer out of your trouser pocket in an effortless manner, as if you are accustomed to doing so (as you are), and take a quick swig. Then bring the bottle down with a crash on the teacher's desk. This should grab their attention.
Look at the class warily. Stifle a burp. Grunt "English?" at them, in a slightly disinterested manner. It is vital to make this first effort at bonding with your students via a primitive duo-syllabic vocal ejaculation. Chomsky said so ... at least I think it was him (or maybe it was Trotsky?).
Stroll (or prowl) around the classroom in a proud manner. Pretend to ignore the students - look out of the window, scratch your neck, and hum a few bars of "Roxanne".
Next, walk casually up to the board, pull a piece of chalk out of the pocket of your baggy cardigan, and write the following in large letters...
My name is Reginald
(NB: If your name is not Reginald, don't worry yet)
By now there will probably be a good deal of muttering and tittering going on in the class. Raise a finger to your lips and make an appeal for silence. Just stand there, silent, solid, and motionless, until only one student is left talking. Stare at him fiercely. Then, very slowly, draw your finger across your neck, making a retching sound at the same time.
It is now time for the first class to begin.