Saturday, April 25, 2009

Are We Hearing 'Voices'?!

Well, it'll soon be interview time on the TEFL Tradesman, as I've asked some key players on the TEFL scene some penetrating and barbarously impertinent questions about themselves and how they see Tefl - career or carcrash?

Of course, I won't disclose any names right now, as it might frighten them off, but just to give you a taster of somebody you WON'T be reading about, here's one of my favourite pieces of forthright Tefl journalism from the sadly defunct TeflTrade of some 18 months ago...


Yep, this is a real cracker of an activity that I picked up from IATEFL's Voices journal. Read this and tell me, please, that the writer, Tessa Woodworm, was taking the piss - or was just very stoned on magic mushrooms at the time.

The participants stand in a circle. One person thinks of an object and visualises its shape, size and weight. The person then, without speaking, mimes using this object. So, if they have thought of a ball, they pretend to throw the 'ball' up in that air and mime catching it, bouncing it and catching it again. Once the object seems clear, the 'ball' is passed to the person on the left. This person mimes receiving the 'ball', and then thinks of a different object, perhaps a flute. The ball then 'disappears' and the person mimes playing a flute ...

And so on - get the idea? Well, if you're tempted to mumble 'balls' at that, I'll join you. I mean, who but a person that trains EFL teachers would come up with such a daft time-waster as that? Who but a proto-Tefler would actually claim to enjoy doing that sort of nonsense?!

I mean, if I were there, I'd probably mime removing a condom from its wrapper and stretching it over an expectant-looking Mr Thomas, or something equally salubrious.

But my point (forgive the pun) is this: that such games are indeed fun to do with kids, but why the f*ck should adults (even consenting ones) indulge in such tomfoolery? And what right does a former President of IATEFL (Ms Woodworm - for it is she!) have in kidding us that this is the way to go?

The situation for the average UK Tefler has been one of steady decline over the past decade or so. And what are the IATEFL bigwigs urging us to do? Play with imaginary balls.

I think I could suggest a place for that imaginary flute, too!

First published: Friday, 7 September 2007

A few comments from the original posting...

1. 'A visitor' left this comment on 7 Sep 07
I'm well into humanistic stuff, me, but I must admit that it doesn't always sound that convincing.

Take, for instance, the description for this course, offered by one of her colleagues:

It says: "The major focus of the course is the experiential application of presence within our work context. Through reflection we examine how presence or lack of presence influences the situations and relationships of our context."

I'm not sure how you get an eight-week course out of that, though. Just tell them to focus on what they're doing...

2. 'Sandy' left this comment on 8 Sep 07
Well, maybe it should be 'presents', and not 'presence', eh? I find that when students bring me presents, the outcomes undergo some positive transformation. But how you could spend eight weeks on it is beyond me, too. Maybe you write out your list of expected presents, change with your partner, and all have a nice game of charades. For two months.

3. 'M. le Prof d'Anglais' left this comment on 9 Sep 07
I'm not really into the humanistic stuff myself. I once saw Mario Rinvoludicrous give a talk on Neuro Linguistic Programming, and while there were a few good ideas for getting the students to talk, the pseudo-science was decidedly unconvincing. But Ms Woodworm really is extracting the urine, as they say. Unless you give instructions in English. there seems to be no meaningful exposure or use of the language whatsoever. While it's probably a great exercise for drama students, EFL students would just be mystified and think their teacher was as nutty as squirrel poo. And they'd probably be right.

4. 'A visitor' left this comment on 11 Sep 07
Ditto to all of the above. I was actually participating in a BTT a few years ago and saw one of the instructors do this with the group of would-be TEFLERs. I thought at the time "WTF!!?" I still do, it has no intrincsic use to promote use of target language in the classroom, so why the f*ck do it?


Sid Spanner said...

Mmm, she looks a bit of a goer, that Tessa chick. Do you have her number? And doses she have a pension we could both share?

Anonymous said...

Why 'do' TEFL? Fuck knows,Sandy...but ask that question as regards 'doing' that minger who looks like Amy Shitehouse who is sitting 3 seats down from me in the internet caff i'm in,i could possibly answer your question truthfully!

Yours slightly drunkenly and pervily,

William Frederickson

Kapitano said...

The very first "classroom game" International House taught me:

* Gather your students (and fellow teachers) in a circle, with a ball of wool.
* Get each person to throw the ball at a random other, keeping hold of the string.
* Whoever catches the ball tells everyone their name and place of birth.
* Do this until everyone's spoken twice.
* Throw away the tangled mess of wool and start the lesson proper.

We played this with a class consisting of an elderly Russian man already fluent in English, a spanish supermodel, a french kid who'd wandered in to the wrong lesson, five teachers one else, 'cos they'd all bunked off.

My first observed lesson - marked "Satisfactory". It was excellent preparation for the real classroom.

Anonymous said...

Should have stuffed the ball of wool up the Spanish supermodel's arse,mate!


*shake head*

This is the problem when housewives rule TEFLlandia.

Unfortunately there are really just too many teachers of this ilk here in Deutschland and I have had the unfortunate displeasure of sitting in on workshops of this ilk and when you ask

"er, what's the learning objective" they look at you as if you're from out of space because you believe that business people are learning English to better their English not feel oogiee-woogie.