So, here we have part two of the interview with Lindsay Clandfield, upcoming TEFL guru, and general good sport for doing this. As a measure of my gratitude to Lindsay, and to help raise his profile amongst the more discerning Teflers that read this blog, I am bringing you a picture of him in his earlier, more youthful days. Here we can plainly see Lindsay, when he had a full head of hair, undertaking a bit of 'personal tuition' with a young teacher-training greenhorn at International House in London. My, the things we'll do to get a trainee past the finishing line, eh?!
4. What's the whackiest thing you've ever done with a class?
I had a small group of ten-year olds at a private academy. It was the typical after-school English class, and they were often tired from school. They didn’t like the book we were using, and neither did I. I tried several things with little success until I noticed that they were completely obsessed with a role-playing game: one of those games with cards (like Magic, I think). I asked if they wanted to play in class, as long as it was English. They ended up making a whole fantasy game of their own, including their own cards, decorated with pictures from the internet. It was called Gladiators (the film had just come out) and they spent hours working on character cards, dice combinations and situations, all in English. We even made a cardboard coliseum. I suppose it was getting wacky when the vocabulary they were demanding included words like: impale, gore, coup de grace, execute… I also had to hide the arena and the cards at the end of each class so the director of studies (see q. 2 above) wouldn’t find them.
5. Why did you decide to become an EFL teacher; and what regrets do you have (if any)?
My parents were both teachers, so it was one of those things I guess. I also fit the psychological profile of the bleeding heart liberal who is drawn to helping professions. I originally wanted to be a full-time, professional aid worker or someone in international politics but those two things never worked out and so I became… a teacher. Still, I don’t have any regrets. There are one or two jobs I took on that I wished I hadn’t perhaps, but I quit them pretty quickly. Discovering writing and teacher training has helped stave off a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. It’s easy to burn out in this world of EFL, there is no shortage of things that can grind you down especially if you are in the private sector. Variety has helped me keep going and meant that I don’t really have any regrets.
6. If you could change just one thing in contemporary EFL, what would it be - and why?
Can I say two things please? One thing I’d change would be the pervasive sense of contempt that many schools hold for their teachers and the teachers who provoke that kind of contempt. By this I mean schools that hire people that aren’t trained at all as teachers and the people who happily go off a teach without any training at all and charge ridiculously low prices (enough to pay for beer, and even then…). It has created a situation in which the dog bites its own tail and won’t let go. I know sites like yours and others like Alex Case’s site have gone on at length about this so I’ll stop there.
The other is from the point of view of a materials writer. I don’t mind if people or institutions decide not to use a coursebook because they use their own materials. Great! What does bug me is when some school says in a high-and-mighty way that they “make their own local materials”, but they are in essence a bunch of photocopies from several coursebooks or online places (worse when it includes lessons I’ve written). Worse still is when an institution does this, binds them into a book format, puts their logo on it, and then sells it to their students. If I could change one thing it would be to make those schools go bankrupt, instantly. If you are going to make and sell your own books, then do it all yourselves.
So, many thanks again to the brave man from Canada. Who's gonna be next?