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 - a True Repository of Useless Advice?

I came across this wonderful little item on the pages of 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

'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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another Regent Rip-Off?

I must admit, I was attracted by this recent statement by a former employer of mine on - TEACH ENGLISH FROM YOUR HOME. I mean, I've always fancied being able to jump out of the shower, slurp down some Earl Grey, and get straight down to business. And it had to be some sort of video-conferencing teaching idea, right?

But no. Apparently you're expected to “host and teach English to foreign students of all ages.“ Oh, Jesus fuck – you have to let the bastards into your own home?! What sort of self-respecting Tefler would EVER let a student see the squalor and degradation that he is obliged to live in! You'd have to rid all the ash-trays of incriminating substances, and chuck away those empty bottles of Sainsbury's Rioja that have been piling up in the front garden. It'd take AGES!

However, let's not dismiss the idea too hastily, here. After all, this could be a very reasonable alternative to spending a couple of hours commuting to and from work every day, putting up with crackpot colleagues, and enduring the wrath of the incompetent and usually half-sober DoS. Even better, you would no longer have to pretend that you actually enjoy trying to teach a room full of whacky foreigners. So I read on with interest.

“Regent Home Tuition requires welcoming teachers with comfortable homes within one hour of our Language School in Bournemouth, Bristol, Brighton, Cambridge, Edinburgh, London and Oxford.“

Hmm - could I possibly describe my tatty terraced house as 'comfortable'? Perhaps if I bought some proper furniture, yes - but that's a big ask, I can tell you. However, maybe with the aid of the IKEA catalogue, and bit of hunting round the skips of the posher parts of East Sussex, I could put up a reasonable show of comfort and prosperity. Which leaves the most important question, of course - how much are they paying?

Well, as for what Regent rather pompously refer to in their advert as 'Compensation', it works out not too bad...

“Up to £650 per week, depending on type of accommodation you offer, the age of the student and the type of course.“

Now that's not at all bad, is it? For five morning a week of head-banging grammar and skills work, plus the odd afternoon spent walking in the park and chatting in pidgeon English, you get almost a hundred quid a day. Oh yes, you have to play the ever-agreeable host at the weekend too, it appears. But maybe it's do-able, eh?

However, knowing Regent to be a far from altruistic organisation, I wondered just how much they were planning to charge the students for this blissful example of domestic pedagogy. Needless to say, the result, when I found it, came as a bit of a shock...

On their 'Home Tuition' website it outlines what they charge the punters for what it refers to as "a unique programme combining excellent intensive language training, while living in the home of your personal tutor" and "a highly intensive total immersion course in which your language skills develop quickly and naturally."

Actually, it probably isn't any of the above. What you'll likely get is a few pages of Murphy's grammar squeezed in between endless cups of tea and watching AM TV. And, of course, if you're really lucky, you'll get the chance to socialise with a family like that pictured alongside, who will be able to provide endless hours of entertainment, recounting their stories of thrills and adventure at the hands of the local police, social security snoopers, and the occasional employer.

However, let me not digress, as what's really interesting to note here is the wide disparity between what the poor old punter pays Regent, and what Regent pay the teacher. In fact, the teacher pockets much less than half of the fees, as you'll realise if you look at these charges the students will have to cough up. ..

* 25 one-to-one hours: 1 week - £1770 per week, 2-3 weeks - £1690 per week
* 20 one-to-one hours: 1 week - £1470 per week, 2-3 weeks - £1390 per week

Jesus Christ - that's one hell of a difference, eh?! Your 650 measly quid carries a 1000 quid surcharge that Regent get to trouser! What's more, I notice that their rates have increased almost 25% since last year, which means, I guess, that there must be a good market out there, willing to pay premium rates for top-notch accomodation and teaching.

And of course, if you want to go for the En-Suite accommodation, there's a supplement of £100 per week to pay on top. In my house, I'd recommend that option, as the family khazi is a touch primitive, even though it has recently been brought in from the end of the garden. So I'd need to think about converting the larder into some sort of en-suite crapper.

Joking aside, though, it seems incredible that the student could be paying out almost 1800 quid a week, whereas the most a teacher will see of that is 650 – just over a third! Not bad profit for Regent, eh, just for advertising somebody else's house and teaching skills on the web. And you have to put up with a total fuckin' stranger sleeping in your bed, eating your food, and swigging back the family whisky for the entire week - what a rip-off!!

Anyway, as a result of the above news, I have now decided to adopt a totally new life plan. Firstly, we're going to sell our bijou two-up two-down terraced workman's cottage in Skidrow-on-Sea and find a rather larger and more agreeable place somewhere around the West-ish country. Somewhere between Dorset and Devon should be nice, I reckon.

Then I'm going to start my own, very personal, 1-to-1 tuition business (Regent can stuff themselves), using the internet to lure potential mugs, I mean customers, from the so-called 'cash-rich economies' of Russia and South America. I anticipate a fluent stream of eager learners making their way to my exclusive detached residence, happy to fork out 1500 quid a week for a few hours of indifferent teaching, quality whiskey, and feeding the ducks in the local park.

By all appearances, home-tuition is becoming such big business these days, especially if you've got a pad with a swimming pool and a tennis court, that the wife and kids will be kept quite busy improving their construction skills. I mean, it can't take that long to dig a pit and fill it with water, can it? We all used to do something similar before things such as toilets got installed, right? In fact, they can all go and live in a caravan at the end of the garden, like real paddies, while I supervise their attempts to create the necessary material environment for the discerning punters.

And, on the weeks there's no punters, I can spend my time researching the local ales and curries, doing a spot of fishing, or just 'cruising' for exotic cheeses at the local supermarket. It'll be idyllic!

So that's it then - fuck the lot of yer! I've had enough of making money for the rest of the world, and now I'm gonna do it for myself!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's Official - Jews ARE Descended from Pigs!

Well, according to the King Fahad Academy they are. And this ain't the King Fahad Academy in Riyadh I'm talking about - it's the one in Acton, London!

Yes, another of my UK agents (this time Agent A) has alerted me to this genteel educational establishment, a true repository of liberal values and tolerance for all humankind. OK, I know it's bugger all to do with EFL, but it is SUCH a good story, innit, and puts many crazy Tefl tales well in the shade!

According to their own website, the King Fahd Academy in Acton is a 'World School', meaning that it is an educational institute offering the curriculum of the International Baccalaureate Organisation. Now, one of the 'misson statements' of the IBO is the rather grand and noble objective of fostering world peace, no less. For example, it claims to "promote intercultural understanding and respect ... as an essential part of life in the 21st century", and believes their broad(-minded) curriculum can "develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect."

Quite how they achieve this at the King Fahad Aademy, which is famous for telling its students that Jews descend from pigs, is unclear. Even more opaque is the way in which they manage to create 'inquiring young people' when they treat girls as inferior. The school has, however, been happy to admit that nowadays it prefers to follow Saudi education policy, which states that a girl's education should "enable her to be a successful housewife, an exemplary wife and a good mother" or prepare her for work which is "suitable to her disposition as a woman".

Strange, that is ... I mean, I've never heard of one's gender being referred to as a 'disposition' before, but I guess they see things a lot differently in the Magic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - also known as 'the largest open prison in the world' by many who have unfortunately entered but managed to escape.

Louise Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside and chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, has accused the school of inciting racial hatred, and hit out at Ofsted inspectors for failing to discover that the textbooks used in the school portray the other "peoples of the book" (Jews and Christians) as 'apes', 'pigs', and 'repugnant', amongst other rather less-than-agreeable terms. Take a look at yourself, King Fahad (resembling a rather corpulent member of the pork-sausage brigade himself alongside), I am tempted to say.

According to Ms Ellman, "This whole situation is unacceptable. It is incitement. It is part of a deliberate Saudi initiative to install Wahabbi extremism among Muslims and in the rest of society. If Ofsted has not drawn attention to this, that is a failing of Ofsted."

Of course, expecting the squib-like Ofsted to take on the might of the Saudi King Fahad and his school in London is probably expecting a little too much, I would add. Let's face it, the Ofsted inspectors are rather supine little buggers at the best of times, only daring to throw their weight around when they know they're on to a winner, so I guess they thought they were being bold just by knocking on the school's doors!

Anyway, there's more on this wonderfully open minded academy here and here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is this THE 'Crap Job' of the Year?

One of the good things about being a world-famous Tefl sleuth is that you have to maintain a network of Tefl spies all over the planet. Well, you need a couple of them in the UK, at least, even if it's just to let you know about the really AWFUL jobs that appear off the Tefl Tradesman's usually perceptive radar.

And the policy is paying off. I mean, just take a look at the awful dogshit of a job that Agent D came up with the other day. Not only is the pay the lousiest I have EVER seen for the UK, but it threatens to send you all over the place - although it disguises this cold vision of internal exile as "open to travel" and "possibility of relocation".

Dear Sandy,

I have just come across this advert (see below) on my tedious trawling in search of a job, and I have added my quick, unthought out and not particularly interesting reply below that.

Unfortunately the ad was posted on gumtree which does not require organisations to disclose their addresses (email or other). I'll only know if they get back to me (which is unlikely).


Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults (ESOL) whilst using a wide range of teaching and learning resources already available within the organisation. Learners will be taught ESOL at Entry level's and/or Level 1.

Applicants need to have the following qualification, experience and skills:
• A TESOL / TEFL qualification is the minimum requirement
• Part or fully-qualified CELTA or ESOL core curriculum training applications is an added advantage
• Existing experience of using and creating teaching and learning resources is an added advantage
• Applicant must have experience of using ICT for communication and collaborative working whilst possessing a good interpersonal skills
• Be flexible to work within a team or as an individual
• Maintain appropriate records, monitor students’ progress.
• Carry out any other duties relating to this post
• Build on existing learning resources by creating lessons and resources whilst addressing differential learner needs.
• Open to travel within the UK as can be required to support various sites within the UK
• Possibility for relocation if any opportunity arises.
• Ability to speak any other languages is an added advantage (Kindly mention these when applying)

The rate would be between £6.50 to £8.50 (dependent on the applicants' qualification and/or experience).

Dear Sir or Madam,

I noted with interest your advertisement on gumtree for an ESOL tutor, which I imagine you have now filled.
The role sounded very interesting, but I was wondering if there was one misprint. The advertisement stated that the rate of pay is £6.80 per hour. Obviously with the standard of living in London being what it is, I can't possibly imagine this was a serious wage.

But if it was indeed this lowly rate, could you please explain how you expect someone to live in this day and age on it?

Many thanks for your time.

So, well done Agent D - an extra packet of whisky-laced sherbert dabs is on its way to you for this most superlative example of the 'Crap Jobs' genre.

The bastard thing here, though, is that we don't know who the fuggin' employer is - so can anybody help? I'll give the promise of big bag of scag for information leading to the revealing of this cunt of an employer, who definitely needs a bit of verbal abuse over the phone from Yours Truly, as well as the usual exposure to shame and ridicule on the pages of this blog.

So, come on out there - who is this cunt?!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sixteen Things Somebody Thought They Knew About Sandy McManus

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the death of this blog - - I would like to bring all yous Teflers out there a compilation of the irreparably flawed wisdom of one Mr Michael Flynn, the poor soul who wasted the best part of two months of his life last year in trying to discover the true identity of Yours Truly, Sandy McManus.

According to Mr Flynn (no doubt a cunning pseudonym), he managed to unearth the following information about me, all of which was enough to apparently nail me and leave me cowering in a feverish, guilt-induced coma somewhere in a remote corner of the blogosphere.

Or not.

Anyway, take a look at the fine assortment of complete rubbish below, which are all quotes taken directly from his blog, and then read my clarifying comments that follow.

1. John William Campbell does NOT exist.

Very true, but I had you fooled for a while, didn't I! In fact, I sent our Mr Flynn a fake CV, purporting to be from the mysterious bastard behind SM, and he was gullible to enough to believe it was the real thing. Oh dear, Mr Flynn - never heard of 'red herrings' before?

2. We know that you are Northen Irish and that your wife is from Kazakhstan but you are DEFINITELY not William Campbell.

Oh really - not getting much better, are we, matey? Truth is, I've never even been to Ulster, although the second assertion is a bit nearer the mark - my wife does come from a Central Asian country, but it's not Kazakhstan. However, you're clearly right on part three - I'm definitely not William Campbell!

3. He is a footie fan and his favourite club is Derry City FC.

Footy fan, yes, (along with several hundred million other males) but ... Derry City FC?! Good grief - where on Earth did you get that mad idea from, Flynnie boy?! You must have been well pissed when you dreamt that one up...

4. My original profile about Sandy studying at Queen's University Belfast was accurate.

About as accurate as a David Beckham penalty, matey

5. Paul Fletcher and Lisa Harrington of Capital Languages should be able to shed light on the whereabouts of Sandy McManus.

Oh dear, was that another red herring you fell for? Or did you dig up that item of totally useless information yourself? If so, well done - but check here first...

Capital Languages Ltd.
4 Campbell Road
London E17 6RR
Telephone +44 (0)20 8520 5363

6. Sandy McManus' blogs have ... been motivated by a desire to put the competitors out of business.

Erm, so I want to be the only EFL blogger on the planet - is that it? Oh, no - now I remember. You thought I was either Paul or Lisa from section 5 above, who had created the ghastly McManus creature to drive all their EFL competitors in the UK out of business. Right, ... well, erm ...

7. The name is probably taken from Sandy (as in desert) and McManus from JP McManus the famous Irish Horse owner. Sandy must enjoy a flutter with Paddy Power (the bookies).

A fine piece of logical posturing, Mr Flynn - but the truth is a lot simpler. However, I won't spoil yer fun and hand over the answer until another attempt has been made. Oh, and I'm not well-known for gambling, by the way. In fact, the last time I was in a betting shop was probably ten years ago (when I won 150 quid, if you're interested!).

8. The latest profile:
* Nationality: Irish Catholic, from Derry
* Age: mid 40s
* Studied at Queen's University Belfast and also took an MA in Applied Linguistics in Edinburgh.
* Has a PGCE in FE.
* Worked as an EFL teacher at a number of schools in England including a summer school on the south coast
* Is married
* His wife is from Kazaksthan
* Has children
* May possibly have a passion for Harley Davidson Motorbikes

What - me, a fuggin' Catholic?! A left-footer?! And a biker to boot?! Well, I did once possess a fine BSA Bantam (see piccy alongside), a cracking example of post-war technology from the cutting edge of the British motorbike industry, but that was a very long time ago.

And what's this about an MA from Edinburgh Uni? Oh, if only!! But yes, I'm married with children, and I have worked on summer schools in the UK - just like many thousands of other Teflers, I reckon. But wait - am I detecting an improvement in Mr Flynn's snooping skills, here?

9. He has a passion for literature and is very well read.

Hey, well done, Mikey - you got something right at last! But, then again, there is a section called 'Sandy's Secret Library' on this blog, so that bit didn't need very advanced detection skills, did it?
10. The vulgar racialist bigot is probably not on public display and is a persona he uses on some of his blogs.

Hey, that's an awful porkie pie to tell - I am a vulgar racist bigot in my private life as well as in public! Shame on you, Sherlock - you're just clutching at straws, intcha!

11. He is capable of rational and articulate argument and his real life persona is probably completely different to his on-line persona.

Haven't we been here before - the second bit, I mean? And as for those words about being rational and articulate - clearly it is an awful slur on my character!

12. He ... is capable of writing articulately and intelligently.

Oh, alright then - I give in. In fact, I'd give you a kiss just for that, you know...

13. The Sandy McManus persona that we know of on-line is probably a fictional character that he has invented.

I think we've stopped off at this station already, too. Can't we move on a bit now?

14. He has libelled with impunity, using many different aliases, many people over the years ...

Now that's much more like it. I could not have put that better myself - top marks, matey!

15. Paul Lowe, if you are reading this you will be happy to hear that I now know Sandy's exact home address in Dubai.

Very good. Except that ... I have never lived in Dubai.

16. I'd love to hear from David Kerr, a.k.a Sandy McManus, an instructor/administrator at Zayed University, UAE.

Now, David Kerr was the first name that this demon detective drew out of the hat, and I definitely ain't him - and vice versa. David, though, does exist, unlike (John) William Campbell and Daniel Regan, plus a few of the other red herrings I threw his way.


OK, that's enough of all that crap. It's no wonder the poor bugger gave up, is it, if that's all he could come up with after a couple of months of hard labour slogging away at the internet?!

Anyway, the only remaining question is - does anybody else have a clue as to my real identity? More to the point, though - what about Michael Flynn's?! Just pop the name of your choice in the comments section below, and I'll let you know if I think you're warm or cold.

Really, I will!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Great TEFLers of our time: the truth piddles out...

Yes, it gives me no small grain of pleasure to reveal to the rest of you Tefl rabble that I was recently given exclusive access to Scotland Yard's files on subversive Teflers. Of course, we all suspected that being a celebrated Tefl guru was merely a flimsy cover for a whole array of despicable and beastly activities, and I'm pleased to say that we were all right. Well, most of us were - and most of the time, anyway.

So, kindly note below the names of the great and good of our industry, who have all been detained at Her Majesty's Displeasure for a wide range of violent, shameful, and alcohol-related crimes, from fraud to fornication. Ah, the pride it gives me, being a member of such a multi-talented gang of geezers!

Of course, in true Tefler spirit, I have disguised this bit of not-so innocent fun as a matching exercise. So, just match the miscreant Tefler with the correct misdemeanour, and plonk your answer in the comments box below. I promise a full crate of Old Speckled Hen to the first downtrodden Tefl Tradesperson to get 100%! ...


1. Jeremy Harmer 2. Jennifer Jenkins 3. Mario Rinvolucri
4. Jim Scrivener 5. Scott Thornbury 6. Lindsay Clanfield


A. During a recent IATEFL conference in Exeter, this solitary Tefler took to the river in a stolen pedalo with a serious cargo of contraband alcohol. He had to be rescued by the coastguards when he was seen to be drifting unconscious into the English Channel, and was later arrested for being drunk in charge of a sea-going vessel.

B. This cad was arrested for drink-driving after being found in a country lane with a female Tefl groupie. When her husband turned up at 3 a.m., the semi-naked Tefler sped off and drove into a lamp-post.

C. This well-endowed Tefler was caught on camera in a nightclub, with his tackle hidden (just about) by the label of a beer-bottle. He was given a firm bollocking by his publishers, and was dismissed from from his advisory position to a certain University. Since that event he has been known affectionately as 'Budweiser'.

D. On the bus back to college after taking her students on an excursion, this particular Tefl loony ordered the bus to stop at a pub owned by the director of her school. When it came to paying, and after several rounds of top-quality 'sauce', she referred the barman to the same director to cover the bill. She was later arrested for 'Intent to Deceive'.

E. Upon being unable to rouse the night porter at 4 a.m. at a certain Spanish hotel where he was staying during an EFL conference, this resourceful Tefler stole a motorbike, rode up the establishment's steps, and careered through the plate glass window of the main door. Not only did he need 30 stitches at hospital, he had chosen the wrong hotel.

F. This sociable Tefler became extremely tired and emotional (i.e. drunk and abusive towards his fellow passengers) on a flight to an EFL conference in Turkey. After attempting to wrestle the last remaining bottle of brandy from a hostess, he had to be beaten back into his seat with a fire-extinguisher, and was thrown off the plane in Greece.

So, there you go. Remember, submit your answers below, and you could be the lucky recipient of that crate of amber nectar!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

An Interview with Liz and John Sores

Following on from their well-deserved victory in Sandy's September EFL Poll, I am now delighted to bring you a bit of a scoop - an exclusive interview with Liz and John Sores! Yes, just yesterday at their palatial residence - location undisclosed, for obvious reasons - I had the privilege of spending a gloriously dull and wet afternoon chez Sores, and here is the hot poop!!


Liz and John Sores are experienced teachers and teacher trainers, well-known for their contributions to EFL teaching and methodology. Over the last twenty-odd years, they have written and developed the mind-crushingly dull Headache series for adult learners of English. In an exclusive interview granted to SM, they reveal the secret behind their tedious Tefl textbooks...

SM: Liz, John – you are probably the most famous people in the worldwide ELT market. How does that make you both feel?

LJS: Of course, immensely important, but we don't kid ourselves. In fact, it's quite remarkable, unbelievable even, that an industry can survive such constant contact with our dreadful course books, and then keep on nagging us for more! It's all those dimwit EFL teachers, I suppose, who can't be bothered to do anything more challenging than punch a button on a photocopier. Yes, if it wasn't for those idle gits, we'd still be slumming it at IH with the rest of them.

SM. How do you go about choosing the authentic materials to use in the course?

LJS: Oh, we steal a lot of it off the internet. Of course, everything is chosen for its interest value, but above all you have to be on constant alert to the world around, looking for ideas to rip off from TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, daily contacts, etc. There's also the old shit that daft EFL teachers send us, but practically all of that lies in our cupboards gathering dust and turning yellow before it gets confined to that great authentic dustbin – at the back of the tennis courts over there.

SM: It’s unusual for a series to span from absolute beginners to advanced level, but Headache has done exactly that. How has this come about?

LJS: Well, we have expensive tastes and face a constant cash flow problem, so Headache has been a very convenient milch-cow. I mean, it certainly wasn't intentional. We never had a grand plan. The series simply evolved because of our drug and alcohol habits. And John so enjoys his regular trips to Thailand...

SM. What level do you most enjoy writing?

LJS: Actually we've stopped writing our own books now, and are in the process of setting up a sort of franchise system, in which aspiring EFL authors bid to write the next book in the series. It saves us a whole lot of work, and rakes in loads of cash before the damn thing's even published.

SM: I understand you commissioned interviews with some interesting and well-known people for the latest edition of Headache Advanced. What made you choose these people?

LJS: The obvious reason – they paid us to appear. For example, the foreign correspondent Simon Winchester, and his amazing tale of meeting an anglophile Chinese lady in the middle of the desert. Truth is, he made it all up, but couldn't find a publisher for it, so we offered to run it for him – for a fee.

Then there was the delightful, amusing, and inspiring life story of Joe Downing, a famous American artist who has lived in France for over fifty years. Except he hasn't – he still lives with his Mom in Denver - and he was keen for his fans not to find out. So we obliged with a nice little story for him – very lucrative, that one was.

There was also the Patel brothers, and their tale of rags to great riches – all achieved through bribery and corruption, of course. However, they wanted a 'clean' version of the story published, for family consumption, so we obliged, and picked up a handsome fee in the process.

We could go on – there are dozens of similar stories. How did we find these people? Well, we read about some in the papers, heard others on the radio, and a few are personal friends – all had fascinating tales to tell, but the common denominator in every case was that they were willing to stump up a few grand to 'glam up' their image.

SM: On a personal note, what has been your greatest satisfaction in working in the ELT profession?

LJS: Making pots of money and spending it. I suppose I should mention all the 'usual suspects' and co-conspirators - the huge variety of weird people we work with: deviant students, fruitcake teachers, alcoholic editors and designers, desperate researchers, bolshy illustrators, etc – but I'd rather not, as I prefer to forget them. They're all pathetic little cunts compared to us, anyway.

SM: What would your advice be to young, aspiring authors?

LJS: Fuck off – we don't need the competition.

Or pay us to publish your work under our name!


BTW, I almost forgot this - an interview with Yours Truly, Sandy McManus, can be found here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

September Poll Results...

Yes, here are the monthly poll results that just everybody in EFL was waiting for - even if I say so myself. The questions was this:

You are trapped on a desert island with a gang of TEFL authors. All food and whisky has been exhausted. Which author do you eat first?

Well, there was a flurry of frantic action in the closing days, leading to a bumper crop of 72 votes being cast. And, I'm happy to say that there was a clear and outright winner - well, a pair of them actually, as they happen to be a couple. I suppose the extra meat was a crucial factor here, but I'm only guessing really.

On the other hand, there were clearly four extremely nice chaps who nobody would touch with a wooden barge pole - or even a pair of elongated chopsticks. Or maybe it was just their appalling taste that led to them getting left way behind in the cannibalism stakes (steaks - geddit?!). They are far too tender for the table, anyway, it seems.

So, on to the detail. As you can see from the wizard hand-crafted graphic above (my skills on Excel appear to have evaporated over the years), the winners are - Liz and John Soars! This charming couple, well known throughout the TEFL world for their authorship of the apparently endless Headache series of course books, garnered a massive 30 votes, equating to 41% of Teflers choosing to eat them first! Yum-yum!

The second place in the barbecued flesh market has gone to Mario Rinvolucri, the inimitable author of dozens of slightly cranky books about brightening up your classes by bringing in your washing, resorting to psychological torture, and pretending to be a therapist. Mario notched up an entirely reasonable 18 votes, making him first choice as the main dish for 25% of discerning Tefl carnivores.

Close behind, as ever, was Scott Thornbury, inventor of dogme and writer of a wide range of unreadable books about not teaching grammar, not preparing anything at all, and whatever he happens to think we should (not) be doing in our classrooms this year. Scott attracted a healthy eight votes, good enough for a side-dish or a starter, which left him with 11% of the Tefl take-away trade.

The also-rans were as follows: Jack Richards (6%), Jeremy Harmer and Philip Kerr (5% each), and finally, poor old Lindsay Clandfield, who must be far too sweet to eat - only 4% of the Tefling electorate chose to devour him.

So, that's it then. Oh, hang on, that's not it, actually. In fact, and by way of an immense personal scoop, I have managed to secure an interview with the yummy Soarses! Yes, and it will make its world-wide premiere tomorrow, on these very pages, all things being well.

Meanwhile - does anybody have any ideas for an October poll?