Monday, September 28, 2009

A Model for Classroom Incompetence

At last! After a long and painful search through the sweaty staffrooms of many a crappy EFL school, I have finally found my true teaching teamster, in the shape of a Tefler who hears the same manic music that I do - indeed, one who dances to the same deranged rhythm that I do. Yes, a certain lady by the name of 'Marisa' has stolen the very words of pedagogical poetry from my mouth by creating her very own "teaching model for creating incompetence in the classroom". Just take a look at the splendid advice that my dear Marisa is giving to novice Teflers...

For starters, in the section entitled 'Rapport and Class Atmosphere" she recommends scowling and frowning as often as possible, as this makes the teacher look serious and busy. Of course, this is also an essential move in establishing your authority as a general know-all and cold-hearted bastard, one who brooks no dissent in the classroom and poisons the atmosphere from the very first moment she strides into the room and rents the air with her very first shout.

More importantly, she highlights the need to "create an atmosphere of high anxiety", so that the little buggers don't come to class feeling too comfortable. A good way to do this is to "threaten students with spot tests and low performance ratings as often as you can". A thorough verbal lashing, dished out at the front of the class, to the snotty miscreant who comes bottom in any test is probably a worthy tool too, I reckon.

In the next section concerning giving instructions to students, she advocates making your guidelines as confusing as you can, and never checking to see whether your students have understood your instructions. The logic behind this becomes crystal clear when we consider the alternative - some students might realise you haven't a clue what you're actually talking about, and may even rumble the fact that you haven't really prepared anything at all. And where would that leave you, eh?

Another good item is this: "Don’t bother to help or support students or groups who are lost". I mean, if we started wasting time on the dopey students we'd have less time to lavish on the good ones, wouldn't we - the ones who come to class with a bribe of chocolate, cigarettes, or those hard-to-get tickets for sporting and theatrical occasions.

Also, you should never tell the sneaky buggers what you expect them to do, as they might get smart. I can not emphasis the importance of this statement - I mean, if the students started getting smart, you might end up out of a job, eh? And that won't pay for the weekend Guinness, will it now?!

The moral poverty of the discredited and outmoded student-centred approach is also clearly revealed as the passing fad that it is, too. For instance, Marisa states that we should "never give your students choice – this means you might have to do more work." Any EFL teacher worth his Sol can immediately recognise the benefits of this approach, as more preparation time leads to less drinking time, dunnit?! Moreover, it's extremely important to "design activities and materials without ever consulting with your learners", because as soon as the students start thinking they're in control, you'll never be able to slouch off for a crafty ciggy again - they won't let you!.

Finally, let me leave you with just two of the oracle's many sage phrases regarding "Giving Students Feedback".
  • If anyone makes a mistake, do not neglect to comment on their low IQ
  • Name students who made serious mistakes and laugh at them to motivate them to study
Wise words, indeed. The bold approach of 'Naming and shaming' has always been one of the foundation stones of this blog, and I see no reason to fail to apply it in the classroom.

In short, I just can't recommend this 'Teacher as classroom thug and disciplinarian' approach highly enough, and would encourage you to sup long and hard at this particular fountain of Tefl wisdom.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Play TEFL and Enjoy Life in the 3rd Division!

Yes, it's all very true, I'm afraid. If you choose to teach EFL in the UK, you'll be condemning yourself to a life of penury and insecurity in the equivalent of education's 3rd division - the basement league for failed actors, poets, and assorted over-educated loafers.

And I've got the stats to prove it, actually. To start off, there's the official info from TeacherNet, which clearly states the salary scales for UK teachers, and it's a lot more promising than the usual financial insults that are handed out to EFL teachers in the UK every month.

For starters, even unqualified teachers earn between £19,445 and £28,434 in London, whereas outside the throbbing metropolis the figures are £15,461 and £24,453. Quite how an 'unqualified' teacher can get a job in mainstream teaching is beyond me, but the killer fact is this - even unqualified teachers get paid more than EFL teachers with Masters degrees!!

So let's move onto properly qualified teachers, shall we? Of course, the news gets even more distressing now, as the official stats reveal that the going rate varies from a minimum of
£21,102 for a newbie teacher in the provinces, to a mind-blowing £35,568 for an experienced teacher in the smoke. And these are just the rates for bog-standard teachers with a PGCE and nowt else, remember - those with extra qualifications and duties earn a good deal more!

"Oh, alright, we all know that teaching in state schools pays more than the UK Tefl scene" I hear you mumble bad temperedly. Yes, but ... "were you aware of just HOW bad the comparison is?" I counter. For an hour or so spent last week on, the UK Teflers' main recruitment site for dismal jobs, revealed the following shocking statistics...

Firstly, there were almost 40 EFL teaching jobs going on the site, and only two, in my opinion, were paying a salary that was even barely comparable to that of a 'proper' teacher. So, some kudos to the London School of Commerce, who were offering up to £30k, and the Leeds Language Academy, who set their remuneration at £26000.

To be brutally frank, the rest of the jobs on offer came in varying shades of shit-brown, but let me first deliver a Sandy McManus anal raspberry to the schools who were too ashamed to even name a figure! They were ...

Malvern House, London (salary not given), King St. College, London (not given), LITE (no mention at all), Regent Cambridge (not given). LTC of London (not given), and the not so mighty Hampstead School of English (not given). Or perhaps they are expecting us to work for nothing?

Of the hourly-paid sweatshops, let's have a look at the real crap sticking to the toilet rim first. Deep down there, nestling menacingly at the bottom of the Tefl turd pool, is a rather posh-sounding place that calls itself Belgravia College, but which offers 'compensation' of just £10.00. an hour!! Some compensation, eh?!

Now take a quick look at this table below - which of these crummy outfits would you rather (not) work at?

£10.50 to £13.00 per hour - Castle School, Brighton
10.00-£14.00 per hour - West London Business College
£11-£15 per hour - English Studio, London
£11.80 to £15.00 - ELT, Clapham, London
£10.30 per hour (DELTA qualified, from £15/hour) - Williams College, London
Hobson's choice, eh?!

And then there's the always self-congratulory Devon School of English, in cosmopolitan Paignton, which appears to be making a great deal of the fact that "Payment will be weekly at rates starting from 13 GBP per hour". So, for teaching the obligatory 23 hours per week, you'll be earning a dizzying sum of ... erm, 299 quid a week!! In other words, the equivalent of 15,540 a year - terrific!!

Of course, I've really saved the worst till last. On a par with the smug Devon School and Belgravia College above is a truly awful place that labours under the awkward name of the London Empire Academy. Here the intrepid Tefler can work his butt off, teaching 30 hours a week for eye-opening rates that range from £8 to £10.90 per contact hour.

In fact, they're also looking for a DoS (any surprise?), so get your CV e-mailed pronto to The 'Compensation' on offer here is from £22000 to £24000, but - and I'm not joking here at all - "you will be required to teach 15-30 Hrs per week".

Like I said - welcome to the true pedagogical equivalent of the 3rd division!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pariahs of the Tefl Trade

Pariah: An outcast; one despised by society.

noun: a person who is rejected (from society or home)

animal: a mongrel race of half-wild dogs which act as scavengers in Oriental cities.

Yes, just in case you thought old Sandy was going a touch soft-headed in his advancing years, I'd just like to remind my readers (all three or four of them) that the struggle for Tefl justice goes on, and Yours Truly is up there at the head of the infantry column, making sure that the Tefl shysters of this world get all the publicity that they strangely shun.

So I'd just like to provide an update on three personal projects of mine, all of which are designed to shine a welcome spotlight into some of the less edifying cracks and crevices of the EFL business, illuminating for the benefit of all members of the Tefl public the immoral and illegal antics of certain pariahs of our beloved Tefl Trade.

1. The Windsor Swindler
I'm happy to report that the odious shyster behind Windsor Tefl, Paul Lowe, has finally got his just rewards for many years of ripping off EFL teachers, students, and employees, etc. Click on the link above to read the joyous news of his SUSPENDED SENTENCE and 200 HOURS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE! Though I can claim no great credit in engineering his downfall (that belongs to Trinity ESOL), I have derived hours of personal joy and amusement in publicising the bastard's evil-doing, gloating over his well-deserved punishment, and generally being the greedy cunt's personal nemesis.

And there's more right here.

2. UKhelp4U
On a par with the evil parasite mentioned above is Tyler Davis, the apparent genius behind UKhelp4U Language School. Mr Davis, whose real name is Paulo Henrique Ferreira, first came to my attention a year or so ago in this case, when he shafted several of his teachers by leaving them unpaid for a month and then going into liquidation, thus absolving himself of any legal obligation to pay them. Then, one day later, he set up shop in the same premises under virtually the same name - very crafty, Tyler!

Now he has performed the same trick with his international money transfer service - filing for bankruptcy after snaffling more than 35,000 Euros of his clients' money (and not for the first time, apparently). Unfortunately (for him) he won't be getting away with things this time, as the evidence against him is quite overwhelming, and the relevant authorities have been alerted, so it's just a matter of time before ... time runs out for Shyster Davis. By the way, his school is, quite incredibly, accredited by the British Council and a member of English UK - clearly they have no worries about supporting such a fine upstanding citizen!

More on this corrupt bastard here.

3. The Laughing Coyote School of English
Words fail me on this one. Well, almost. Imagine a school set up by a couple of severely under-qualified and mentally challenged God-squad moralists, and which fires teachers for perceived 'moral infractions' such as sleeping with another teacher, and ... erm, strangling the class parrot? Well, that's the Laughing Coyote School and their Teacher Blacklist for you!

Actually, words do fail me here - I can't go on. Just google the name of the school, and you'll open up a true Pandora's Box of wild and weird characters. And you could just start here, too!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Yeltsin Years

I had a new student in class today (no, not THAT sort of 'had', you dirty-minded bugger!). Nothing special about that, you might think, but ... the resemblance was uncanny. See that guy in the picture alongside? Well, they could have been twins!

All of which put me in mind of this little item of mine from April 2007, the month when dear ol' Boris actually popped his Russian clogs. And the story is quite true, honestly.



The Yeltsin Years

Well, now that the drunken old bugger has finally shuffled off his mortal coil, I can reveal all. You see, back in those dazzling days of madcap Russian infant capitalism, the mid-1990s, Boris was one of my star pupils. Five star, as in the brandy, I mean.

You might think that I’m kidding, but it’s true. Boris used to send the Kremlin limo to pick me up from outside the British Council in Moscow. Then I’d be whisked off into that swirling vortex of the Wild East, the nerve-centre of new Russian politics, where a deal made with the wrong guy could earn you a lump of hot lead in the head.

Although Boris wasn’t the most conscientous of students, he did know how to entertain. “Forget homework”, he’d often say, “just share bottle of vodka (brand: Parliament, of course) with me, and tell me all about English mini-skirt!”... before falling over the red Kremlin rug and disappearing down a trap door.

Boris was very good at vocab, though, and was careful to pick his collocations well. “Fuck you, stupid prick” he would often shout at his aides, confident in the knowledge that they hadn’t a clue what he was talking about. On occasions he would ask me to bring along a female teacher, so that he could practice his chat-up lines, such as “Why nice girl like you want sleep with old man like Boris?”

I was saddened when Boris was first rushed into hospital, deeply saddened. You see, I never saw him again after that, and he still owed me 200 bucks for five lessons. Despite my constant calls to his colleague, Vladimir, all I got was a load of old flannel, half in Russian, half in German, about hidden Stasi files, and questions about why I went to East Berlin in 1988. Strange, that was. You see I was there in 1986, and it's not like old Vlad to get his dates wrong, is it?

Then I got a knock on my door one night (dark and stormy, of course), and there, standing before me dressed in black, was an extremely well-built Kremlin crony. “I give you one ticket for London” he said, as he pressed into my hand a large brown envelope.

Despite my protests that I had no immediate desire to return to England, and that I had a few weeks more to run on my BC teaching contract anyway, I was bundled into the back of an anonymous-looking Zhiguli sedan. Twenty minutes later, I was delivered into the firm hands of a waiting Aeroflot official at the airport.

Well, at least they let me sit in the back of the car, instead of the boot. And they didn’t send me home with a lead souvenir in my neck.

Nice touch, that was, Boris!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Teflers' New Code of Practice Revealed!

In the wake of the recent General Teaching Council guidelines forbidding teachers from letting their hair down too much at weekends (see 'Teachers moan that new code of conduct will stop them getting drunk at weekends'), the British Council and English UK have no lost no time in jumping on the proverbial bandwagon, and have drawn up plans forbidding EFL teachers from smoking and drinking to excess ... and more or less everything else.

Don't believe me? Just take a look at this summary of a recent press-release, published jointly by those two stentorian defenders of teaching standards and performance in the UK. The document, published after consultation with several well-known and teetotal Teflers from International House at a series of meetings held in the Lamb & Flag, Conduit Street, London, is guaranteed to invoke strong opposition from a good number of the UK Tefl industry's particularly hedonistic practitioners.

A draft version of the so-called Code to Regulate the Advancement of Professional Performance (CRAPP) states that all EFL teachers will be expected to 'maintain standards of behaviour both inside and outside school that are appropriate to their membership of an important and responsible profession - TEFL'. In accordance with this concept, sleeping with their own or each other's students, as well as shagging their own colleagues (either inside or outside the staff room) are to become strictly forbidden.

Moreover, it also expects Teflers to 'maintain reasonable standards in their own behaviour that enable them to uphold public trust and confidence in their profession'. As a result of this apparently vague but sweeping statement, many Teflers now fear that smoking dope and sniffing coke with their colleagues and students will soon have to be confined to the weekends, with that 'midweek staffroom binge' becoming a thing of the past.

Although a late addition to the code states that it 'does not limit an EFL teacher's right to a private life', many EFL Teachers are apparently demanding the right to get drunk, stoned, and almost everything else at weekends as they protest against this allegedly draconian code of conduct. A couple of quick calls to several of the Tefl Tradesman's colleagues in the UK revealed the following strength of sentiments against the plans to effectively neuter Teflers' free time activities.

Several prominent Teflers (Kevin and Darren from Bournemouth) are in fact considering setting up an online petition calling for the scrapping of "these fuckin' absurd rules that tell us to stay sober for almost five days a week". The petition was to be up and running by the end of the weekend, but both Kevin and Darren have not been seen since entering a Westbourne pub early on Friday evening.

Another Tefler was equally vociferous in his opposition to the draft. "Why should I have to be sober to teach Headway?" rambled Jason, from a school in Brighton."I've done it so many times now I don't even have to look at the pages anymore" he ventured, before tripping over a discarded copy of Murphy's Grammar and falling into his school basement.

Another teacher from Brighton, who wished only to be known as "Miss Whipp", complained that she would no longer be able to appear in her own online porn programme, nor encourage her students to indulge in 'exploratory sex' at her 'weekend therapy sessions'. "This has put an end to our midnight dogging sessions on the beach" she moaned, adding that the proposals are "completely unwarranted - it's pure harrassment of lower middle-class loafers like us" . Several of her colleagues appeared to agree, stating that it was "entirely unreasonable to expect Teflers to behave in a reasonable way like that."

Both the British Council and English UK were unavailable for comment earlier today, but one insider assured me that Teflers with Celtas would obviously be given a greater amount of leeway in their choice of recreational poison, whereas those with Diplomas would be restricted a little more - no spirits or hard drugs, for example. Any teachers possessing Masters degrees in TEFL would, of course, be limited to paracetamol wih codeine, with the occasional whiff of 'therapeutic' aromatherapy concoctions.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Crystals in the Classroom

Well, shag my old boots - look what I just found! An excellent piece from the sadly departed and much missed EnglishDroid, which just happened to be found loitering in one of my files on this tatty old laptop of mine. The article, I mean, not EnglishDroid himself, of course.

Whatever did happen to that cheeky little bastard, by the way? Does anyody have any news?


Crystals in the Classroom

The Aries student certainly has a proactive metaprogram, which means he first acts then thinks. Just to give a practical example: first he leaves the classroom, then asks to be excused.

Witch Hazel

There’s nothing very new about the New Age, of course. Just the packaging. Spirit mediums have long since abandoned their darkened seances and their ectoplasm to set themselves up as “channellers” of wise old Native American spirits and long-departed Atlantans—most of whom speak surprisingly good English but in a rather silly voice; ring-dancing Victorian fairies have been replaced by currently fashionable angels and crop-flattening aliens; protective amulets and strength-giving talismans have given way to pretty crystals emitting “healing vibrations”. But remove the shiny wrapping and it’s the same old credulous crap beneath.

And what has all this got to do with ELT? Well, have you noticed the sort of people writing for English Teaching Professional and similar industry publications these days? Hypnotherapists, Master Practioners of NLP, Multiple Intelligence Theorists, shamanic counsellors. And it’s not just the magazines. Take a look at the titles of some of the teacher training seminars in your area. If it’s anything like where I live, you’ll see what I mean. As for the Internet, many ELT websites are awash with the sort of tosh exemplified by the above quote from the Language Fun Farm. (Notice, by the way, how Witch Hazel’s ridiculous and dangerous assertion that a student’s star sign corresponds to something called a “metaprogram” cleverly blends astrology, the world’s oldest surviving species of claptrap, with one of the newer and trendiest forms of pseudoscience, Neuro-Linguistic Programming.) Unfortunately, with so much encouragement from supposed “experts”, there are all too many teachers who take this stuff seriously.

So why is ELT so prone to such nonsense? It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to the sceptical ELT teacher that much of the Orthodoxy handed down on CELTA and DELTA courses is based less on objective, thorough research than on pseudoscientific thinking and such trendy but infuriatingly fuzzy concepts as “student-centred learning” and the “holistic approach”. The superficially impressive jargon, when it’s not obscuring the bloody obvious is all too often obscuring the bloody ridiculous or at best highly questionable. Against such a background, is it any wonder that so many dangerously irrational and anti-scientific ideas flourish?

Of course, silly ideas have been around for a while. Try your school’s bookshelves. There probably won’t be anything there that’s over twenty years old—however good some of the coursebooks of the seventies may have been, they just don’t have enough colourful pictures of house husbands and female construction workers to make them acceptable in the modern classroom—but flick through any set of coursebooks old or new and the chances are that you’ll find at least one section on horoscopes or similar nonsense, often thinly justified as presenting adjectives of personality or the “will” future. Now look on the discussion and role play shelf, if you’re lucky enough to have such a thing. Those helpful Speaking Personally-type books, perfect for the minimum preparation post-pub lesson, are riddled with pop psychology-style questionnaires on telepathy, palmistry and the like.

The difference nowadays is that, where once such things were just a bit of relatively harmless fun to liven up dull coursebooks or get students speaking on Friday afternoons, the recent ascent of the New Age movement has meant that equally bizarre ideas are rapidly becoming incorporated into ELT theory and methodology, with far more dangerous consequences.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming™ (NLP™) is a trendy and typically vague New Age pseudoscience. It dates back to the mid seventies when Richard Bandler, a mathematician and computer programmer, and John Grinder, a linguist, got together and decided that what we needed was a user manual for “programming” our brains. (In more recent years the highly litigious Bandler has been suing his old friend Grinder and other prominent NLP people for hundreds of millions of dollars, so I shall be very careful what I write.) Heavily influenced by hypnotherapy and the unsubstantiated Freudian notion that conscious thoughts and behaviour are greatly affected by the unconscious mind, it is perhaps best known to the general public through its use on corporate training events in which people unleash their “true potential” and learn to perform such amazing feats as firewalking. (Firewalking is allegedly a triumph of mind over matter but it’s actually a simple demonstration of the counterintuitive fact that glowing charcoal has a low specific heat—anyone who can walk can firewalk, but don’t tell that to your New Age friends.)

NLP’s infiltration into ELT has been achieved mainly through its pronouncements on “body language” and “learning styles”. In an article for English Teaching Professional, Jim Wingate, a writer, teacher trainer and regular contributor to that magazine, presents an activity from his book Knowing Me Knowing You. “When people are thinking,” writes Jim, “they tend literally to look at the place where their thought is situated in their heads, so you can tell from their eyes how (not what) they are thinking.” He goes on to catalogue the eye movements that supposedly correspond to each type of thinking—visual = up, auditory = to the side, kinaesthetic = down to the right, remembering = left, etc—and he helpfully provides an exercise in which students can record the eye movements of their classmates in response to various questions and instructions. “Keep the activity and the discussion light-hearted,” Jim advises. After all, the “principal aim is to give students fun language practice.”

Some might say the principal aim is to indoctrinate students with fashionable ideas that are superficially pretty but ultimately without any scientific validity whatsoever. Even more worrying, and equally without support in the scientific literature, is Mr Wingate’s assertion that you can tell when people are lying because “their eye movements will often give them away. If they are inventing information (rather than remembering the truth), they will probably look up and to the right!” Is this the sort of thing we should be teaching our students? Tragically, many teachers already are.

An alarmingly high number of people seem to believe that NLP is a science. It ain’t. Of course, it surrounds itself with the trappings of scientific-sounding language and a few of its techniques may even be effective for some people, but it eschews the scientific method. Its assertions, when they are not too hopelessly vague, metaphorical or ambiguous to be subjected to any meaningful test, tend not to be based on or affected by peer-reviewed experimental evidence (certainly not the findings of neuroscience) but on testimonials and anecdotes. Oh, and most sciences don’t trademark themselves.

Another intriguing idea currently fashionable in ELT circles is that of “learning styles”. You may have been told on a CELTA course or teacher development workshop that your students all have their own preferred ways of receiving and processing information: kinaesthetic learners like running around the classroom with phrasal verbs stuck to their foreheads, visual students respond to pretty pictures and diagrams, auditory ones need to hear things, etc. Now, I’m sure there’s a fair amount of truth in this. People, after all, are complex beings and often respond very differently to identical stimuli—for example, I’m told some people actually think Lenny Henry is funny—and it makes sense that different students will prefer information to be presented in different ways.

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to mix up your classroom activities accordingly. (Note to teachers just off CELTA courses: some students actually learn better sitting down.) The problem is, as so often in ELT, common sense tends to be jettisoned as an interesting though not entirely convincing concept is seized upon and stretched to extremes. Well-meaning but patronising teachers start diagnosing and pigeonholing each student as a particular “type” on the strength of such ideas. Rather as astrologers categorise people with their utterly baseless horoscopes.

Often (deliberately?) confused with learning styles, and equally beloved of trendy ELTers, is the notion of “multiple intelligences”. Howard Gardner’s “Theory of Multiple Intelligences” goes something like this: There are seven (possibly even eight—I think he’s still working on the last one) types of intelligence which we all possess in varying degrees, namely linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic (that word again!), interpersonal and intra-personal. Interesting, but hardly original. It gets better: apparently, each one of these intelligences is resident in a separate part of the brain and each is independent of and unaffected by the others. There’s bugger-all hard evidence for any of this as yet but, predictably, the ELT world and the “liberal” educational establishment as a whole have lapped it up. After all, it fits in perfectly with their “everybody is gifted and all shall have prizes” weltanschauung.

Teacher trainer Rosie Tanner, for example, presents a totally uncritical look at the subject in Issue 21 of English Teaching Professional and offers her own questionnaire “devised specifically to help teachers to look at their teaching in the light of MI theory”. Among the 58 statements in Ms Tanner’s questionnaire, each of which we are invited to grade from 1 (never) to 5 (a lot), are “I would describe myself as a planner,” “I like units in my coursebook which deal with natural phenomena (e.g. volcanoes, animals),” and, er, “I touch my learners.”

Just add up your scores to discover your “MI profile”. Then, why not try some of Rosie’s suggested activities? Number 3 is particularly useful: “Using your linguistic and interpersonal intelligences, discuss with someone how you believe your intelligences influence you as a teacher.” Or, for an entirely different perspective, try number 4: “Using your intrapersonal and linguistic intelligences, write down how you believe your intelligences influence you as a teacher.” Fascinating. Might I suggest using your bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence to chuck this sub-Cosmo garbage into the nearest bin?

At this rate, how long will it be before there are crystals in every ELT classroom and new students are subjected to a thorough dowsing to ascertain their emotional and spiritual intelligence before joining a course? Think I’m joking? My colleagues include two witches, two astrologers and at least one fan of Ayurvedic medicine and our classroom walls are regularly festooned with horoscopes and photocopies of students’ palms.

Haven’t our multiple intelligences been insulted enough? Isn’t it time the silent sceptics and the advocates of common sense started to fight back?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Humouristic Language Teaching - Gateway to Debauchery?!

Let's face it, there are times in every tired Tefler's life when we feel like our career-choice, taken after nine pints of Old Speckled Hen at a mate's birthday party, was approved by Old Nick and has been steered by the God of Bad Ideas Gone Wronger. Take today, for example, when I realised that I had been given probably the worst class in the whole fuggin' educational establishment.

What I usually do in such circumstances is turn to a particular website that offers me hours of hoot-filled laughter and pants-wetting entertainment - Humanistic Language Teaching. And, I'm glad to say, my explorations today have been no disappointment, unearthing several gems of methodological madness, a comical cavern of truly Herculean proportions.

For example, take a look at some of these fruitcake-inspired "practical activities" below, and ask yourself, honestly: "Would my wife/husband/pet dog/conscience seriously let me do that in a class full of (presumably consenting) adults?". Consider your respones to these VERY carefully!

1. Hugging as a warmer exercise

Although officially billed as a "warm-up exercise", this could well set the mercury rising to uncontrollable levels. Here's what the author claims about groping your classmates.

I use it with a background of classical baroque music and encourage the students as they listen to show their emotions in a meaningful way by giving a hug to the person they feel friendship or sympathy with.

Here, hang on - can the teacher play this game too?
I might have 'feelings' towards certain class members too, y'know. And what if I prefer Metallica to baroque?

Sometimes the whole class ends up being hugs and kisses and this kind of activities are scientifically proved to be a good way of relaxation as the body releases substances called endorphins which enables the child to be more active for the English class.

Mmm, I rather think a few more body substances might get released here, as Paco and Elena fall to the floor, nervously fumbling with each other's underwear. And sometimes it ends up in a class orgy? My Christ, learning was never like this when I was a schoolkid! How different my life could have been if I had ever gotten the chance to 'show my emotions' to that horny piece in the front row...

2. Classroom library

Now, this is a bit more like it. After the students have had their fun stroking each other's genitalia, they then get to (a) go to the library to choose a book, and then (b) fuck off and read it somewhere else. Excellent! I can then stay in the classroom and read my copy of Nuts in peace.

Some students go out to the school gardens and lie down on the grass, others bring a pillow from home and make like a comfortable bed in the middle of the class, or others just sit at the library seats. The aim is to make the reading of English comfortable and creating a home environment. The result is that the material learnt or read by the student is later better produced orally or written as he/she was relaxed when the child was dealing with it.

Fuck me, he's at it again! Making a bed in class, talking of 'orally produced material', and such - who is this perverted teacher?! Where did he get his Tefl certificate - at the Aphrodite Teacher Training Centre!? Is he sponsored by Durex??

3. Free choice project

Right, let's see what our libertarian language teacher gets up to here, shall we?

In my opinion students should never be obliged to do anything they don’t want to do.

I'm with you there, mate. Should apply to the teacher too, though, don't you think? I mean, sometimes I just don't want to teach a room full of spotty teenage herberts.

That’s why I choose a project in which they have to work as a group they always have to choose the topic they want to talk about, and the most important thing, being interested in them so they can show interest when they talk about it for the rest of the class.

Mmm, a bit underwhelming that one, I reckon. Hardly as ground-breaking as the class orgy, is it? Let's move on.

4. Role play

Ah, a good ole role-play. Can't go wrong there, can we.

Role-plays are very important to break-up with the barrier of traditional sexism education and the intolerance for people who have chosen a different sexual identity from mainstream society.

You what?!? "... people who have chosen a different sexual identity from mainstream society" - what the fuck's all that supposed to mean? Ooh dear, suddenly I think I'm coming over all queer...

In some of my role-play activities men become women and women become men.

So now it's gender-reassignation, is it? You'll be in big trouble mate! Especially if you teach at The School of the Immaculate Conception, or Our Lady of the HolyCross . It was never like this in my day...

... and with low primary levels I have boys impersonating princesses and girls impersonating traditional male roles.

Jesus, Mary and fuckin' Joseph - young boys in drag and butch girlies!! This'll never get past the Director of Studies - never!!

Oh Lord, ... it's gonna get worse, I can feel it in my bones!!!

5. Fairy tale transformation

You just knew this one was coming, didn't you? After classroom orgies and transvestism, we all get to turn into fuckin' fairies! Oh, the shame, the shame...

I have done this activity with primary students, often suggesting giving an alternative ending to a fairy-tale and the results have been more than successful. Many of them composed their own creations with lovely pictures on them and later invited the parents to visit our own personal private classroom library and they were delighted with the results.

Jeez, it seems he's come to his senses at last! I just hope the parents didn't get to see the class warmer and the cross-dressing, though!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cheap as China!

Yes, the research has been done, and the UK TEFL industry can now proudly claim that ... London's EFL schools are officially just as cheap as their counterparts in China! No doubt the odious Tony Millns and his smug cohort of Tefl-busters at EnglishUK are celebrating this fact as I write, swigging back pots of champagne (and real ale), and chuckling mercilessly at how the humble EFL teacher gets screwed time and time again in this country.

The truth is, of course, often stranger than fiction, and this article, written by the excellent Tefl-sleuth Melanie Butler of the EL Gazette, puts the reality of it all into sharp focus. I'll just concentrate my two-pennorth on two or three aspects of the article, the ones that most get me SO fuggin' angry!

Firstly, the saddest of sad truths is that there are some accredited private language schools in London charging just over a quid per class hour for general English courses, which apparently makes them cheaper than many language schools in China! Apparently, in the land of the billion squinty-eyed students, the hourly rates in many Chinese EFL schools are the equivalent of £1.80–4.50. By way of illuminating contrast, Ielts classes in India now cost £2 per hour - still more costly than many London schools!

OK, those were extreme examples, but take a look at this, direct from the article:

"The average price across London for the same course type is £6.40 per hour, compared with £6.66 an hour in 1987 – a drop in real terms of 66 per cent over the 22-year period."

As the article points out, these very low fees are leading to decreasing hourly rates for London EFL teachers, which range from £8–13 (equivalent to 9.20–15 Euros). To hammer home the point, Ms Butler notes that hourly rates for EFL teachers in Dublin and Madrid stand at 19–24 Euros, whilst there is a legal minimum rate of 15.88 Euros in France. So, we can't even keep up with our European colleagues on salaries!

The section that really infuriates me is this, though: "many teachers are forced to work long hours and the British Council, which specifically excludes terms and conditions from its accreditation criteria, has accredited schools where teachers routinely work 45 hours per week. "

Yes, that's right. The 'good old' British Council is essentially colluding with shoddy EFL school owners by deliberately turning a blind eye to a situation that can not in any way be said to work for the benefit of the students or the teachers. Only the crafty school owners derive any advantage from this state of things, in which teachers are overworked and underpaid. Well done, BC - I hope this makes you feel feckin' proud!

Anyway, I shall be contacting those smarmy c*nts at the BC over the next few days and seeking their opinion on the above. I have also, by some sneaky means, managed to get hold of several important (and presumably confidential) BC documents regarding the accreditation process that they carry out, and will be sharing these with you over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, if any of you downtrodded Teflers out there have any documents, stories, or compromising pictures to share about the BC and their accreditation at your school, please send the stuff my way:

I'll be more than grateful to receive them!