Wednesday, April 29, 2009
After all, the notion of 'learn in your sleep' has been around for decades. The fact that this novel approach to education was soon discredited is of no importance here. What matters is - you can get paid for sleeping your way through hours and hours of extremely dull, tedious EFL teaching! And think about it - if your teaching is enough to send your students off for a date with the sandman, why shouldn't you join in too? It's discrimination!
Anyway, for those tiresome pedants out there who insist on finding scientific proof of the effective nature of new teaching methods, let's briefly examine the theoretical approach behind the claim to being able to efficiently teach the English language in your pyjamas....
Firstly then, what do we mean by 'sleep'? The state is generally defined as “the resting state in which the body is not active and the mind is unconscious.” This chimes perfectly with the average Tefler's lifestyle choice and general lack of anything resembling ambition, being fond, as we are, of inactivity and something approaching a semi-conscious state. So it's bang on target there, then.
Another knowledgeable source refers to it as a condition in which "the eyes are usually closed and there is little or no conscious thought or voluntary movement, but there is intermittent dreaming”. Again, the similarity to the characteristics of the EFL crowd - lack of mental exertion and minimal physical movement - is striking, proving that the state of sleeping is ideal for teaching English also.
By way of example, I must admit that at times I spend the whole class daydreaming with my eyes closed, particularly while the little bastards are slogging their way through 12 pages of Murphy's Crapper. Moreover, my capacity for conscious thought and careful movement in the classroom has been severely limited many times by the previous night's intake of illicit prescription pharmaceuticals and home-made beverages - so it would seem that Hypnogogy was just made for us Teflers.
However, sleep has also been likened to death, especially in the Bible - but this might also provide us with a further analogy in our favour. For example, in Ecclesiastes 9:5 it states that “the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” Which again, appears to be extremely redolent of the average Tefl non-careerist. Are we alive or dead? Conscious or not? Do we give a flying fuck about it all?! It all makes so much sense!
So, there you have it - sleep is characterized as a condition typically devoid of conscious thought. Almost exactly the same as teaching EFL!
Coming next week: the practical side of the coin - tried and tested classroom techniques for the dozing Tefler
Saturday, April 25, 2009
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: http://www.sit.edu/ttsi/courses/being_present.html
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?
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Worse still, the article goes on to really hammer home just how puritan the place has become recently - "2008 government data shows that foreigners are arrested for sex-crimes at one quarter the rate of Korean nationals." Shocking! Of course, this might just mean that foreigners are better at avoiding getting caught out for their misdemeanours, but it does seem to strike a sorry contrast to the days of yesteryear when every small Korean city was apparently teeming with US college rejects in search of more than their fair share of 'oriental spice' and eastern pharmaceuticals.
This is sad news indeed, and shows how rapidly things can change when gullible people are made to believe that all foreign teachers are demonic incubi with backpacks full of illicit substances. It seems only yesterday that the Korean press were up in arms and the general public about to take to the streets to protest against predatory Teflers who seduced young Korean women and made them share their teacher's drugs. In fact, I would have thought that a 2007 internet article entitled "Korea is a Perverted Paradise for Foreign Teachers" would have gone a long way to encourage thousands of your average Tefl tourists to establish themselves in Korea, but apparently not.
Nowadays, prospective Teflers bound for the country of boiled bulldog have to submit to HIV and drug tests, along with criminal background checks and disclosures. Even - heaven help them! - the ones already living there have to prove that they are clean of drugs and shameful sexual diseases! How awful! What an infringement of human rights!!
In fact, I reckon it could be the requirement that they might even be expected to know how to teach that has had a greater determining factor in putting off potential Tefl tourists. No more backpackers with a dodgy certificate from TEFL International now, eh!
However, for me the article puts things very clearly in perspective with its opening paragraph, in which an EFL teacher currently working in Korea states that he has been denied service in bars - "I've been told to leave because I'm a foreigner" he moans. Now, if there's ANYTHING that's bound to put a prospective EFL teacher off going to work in a certain country, it just has to be that!
Friday, April 10, 2009
EFL Teachers to be 'Tagged'
by James Meikle, education correspondent
Monday October 9, 2006
EFL teachers at language schools are being asked to "clock in" to classes in an attempt to ensure attendance and cut drop-out rates from courses.
An electronic monitoring system is being tested at two EFL schools and nine more have expressed an interest in using it to track teachers. Its inventors insist they want to help teachers rather than enforcing a Big Brother approach, but the development coincides with some private language schools introducing good behaviour contracts which warn lazy Teflers they could face disciplinary procedures or even expulsion if they fail to turn up for classes.
The National Union of Tefl Suckers (NUTS) branded the scheme draconian, saying its members were being tagged like criminals. Gemma Goodgrope, president of the Teflers' union, recognised that teacher drop-out rates needed to be addressed but questioned whether such schemes would work when much of the problem might be increasing debt, low pay, lack of contracts, and a general lack of stability - sometimes mental. "Rather than employing such strong-arm tactics and effectively treating their employees like an underclass, which is what they effectively are, we believe more should be done to address the underlying reasons behind poor attendance - hangovers, overdoses, and a refusal to grant bail."
However, Tatum O'Greedy, Principal of the South-East London School of English, based in Jersey, stated that there was a real need to look at patterns of attendance. "There is a distinct correlation between attendance and a teacher's attainment. Teachers who miss out irregularly, we are not going to target. They may have had a bit of a late night the night before. However, teachers will be targeted if they miss three consecutive ‘learning events'. More than 50% of our teachers work part-time, and we are finding a lot of our teachers who work in take-aways on a Thursday night are missing on the Friday morning."
Original Source: http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/news/story/0,,1890939,00.html
Some comments from the original posting
- I have long considered it necessary to tag EFL teachers, firstly in order to keep them out of the pubs, and secondly to ensure they are in class, rather than having a crafty ciggy (or worse) in the basement. Most EFL teacher are cockroaches - a 'necessary evil' in any school.
- One way to encourage teachers to become more professional may be to pay them reasonably and provide them with a more professional working environment run by more professional managers. Re the article, the expression 'having your cake and eating it' comes to mind. The situation seems to go from bad to worse.
- This blog is nearly as funny as toothache. Seriously, if you hate yourself this much, why don't you go out and get a different job? It really isn't that hard, you know. [Andy]
- Andy, you've caught me in a bad mood, so I'm gonna take a swing at you. First off, you really are a wanker, intcha!? Don't read the blog if you don't like it - quite simple, eh? Anyway, what's wrong with me taking the piss out of YOUR job (not necessarily MY job)? Private EFL schools and their teachers are ripe for this sort of humour, as they take themselves so seriously, promote themselves as utterly professional, yet they are really just SO amateur. I could give you hundreds of examples, but I don't suppose you'd listen, anyway. If you've ever worked in a proper college, university, institute or such, you'd know what I'm talking about - but you're probably just a two-bit Celta-belter!! So I won't waste my breath anymore.
- Alex, of course teachers should be paid propery. We do such at IVLAD and we give even marijuana discounts to our teachers. But teacher must show up on time. And not sleep with students and sell them ecstasy. That all I ask, really. [Dr Kim]
- Dr Kim - why don't you offer your teachers a marijuana bonus if they arrive on time? Say 100g per term, less 10g for every class they arrive late for?
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Now let me explain. If we are all to believe the upstanding and honourable-looking guy alongside, we'll be happy to learn that "research shows that subconscious learning of English is much better than consciously 'studying' the language." So, throw away that TEFL certificate/diploma/doctorate, and just look for another job (perhaps as exciting as teaching), as subconscious language acquisition is here for keeps. Yes, really.
That's right, my dears, the bell has already tolled for us intrepid EFL teachers, who have vainly struggled to unravel the mysteries of the present perfect tense for our students (and ourselves, of course). For according to the blue-eyed TEFL guru above, who goes by the monicker of AJ Hoge, "students who learn English subconsciously learn faster and better than students who use traditional, conscious, analytical study methods." Yeah, right mate...
Anyway, what exactly is this magical method that makes such awesome use of the subconscious part of our brainbox? Well, apparently, Mr Hoge has written a whole number of 'short stories' that provide just enough understandable English input to your brain, but which rely on your subconscious brain decoding the tough bits you didn't catch first (or fourth) time around. Or something like that.
It seems that the mere fact of repetition forces the subconscious brain to, somehow, sort things out and arrive at the right meaning. So, according to the blurb "You never think about grammar rules. You never attempt to memorize words." And you probably never understand much either - or am I being a shade too pessimistic here?
However, let's press on, for the next part is the truly wonderful bit. Apparently, once your subconscious brain has decoded all the bits you couldn't make head or tail of when you were struggling to allocate meaning to that stream of gibberish, it then shoves them into your active vocabulary, so that you can use them! It's SO amazing!! Mr Hoax, sorry, I mean Mr Hoge, thinks so too - look at this...
"When you learn in this way, you can actually use the grammar too! ... It will feel automatic – you’ll just say things better and write things better and it will feel effortless. You won’t be thinking about rules at all!" Yes, it's as if it were ... just by magic! Follow the Yellow Brick Hoge!!
The truth is that you'll probably be talking and writing garbage too! I mean, does anybody actually believe all this flim-flam man type of stuff? Use my lazy-arse method and you too can become as proficient as Jade Goody? Pah! It's just another form of snake-oil salesmanship, I reckon.
However, don't let yourself be afraid - throw your intrinsic bullshit-detector to the four winds, because...
"So many students are afraid to use subconscious methods because they don’t trust their own brains." Really?!
Well, I would recommend that all prospective students trust their own brains here and give Mr Rogue a wide berth the next time he comes punting his magic method around your neck of the woods. Something tells me his lazy-brained method is the pedagogical equivalent of anti-aging cream - everybody wants to believe it works, so they buy it just to feel better in themselves. Anyway, if he's right, it could put us all out of a job!
For those of you soon-to-be-forever-unemployed EFL teachers who would like to know more about this 'language learning for suckers' scam, you can find out all about Mr H. and his dodgy lame-brained language-acquisition approach right here:
However, before I lose you to another page in cyberspace, can I interest you in the unique Sandy McMAnus approach to learning a language? You don't even have to book a course or buy a single text book. Just .... ah, but that would be telling, wouldn't it?!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Now, I've been warned off making any remarks that might be construed as 'scandalising the court', a specific offence under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 that carries a hefty £750 fine, so let me just recommend that anybody with an interest in this case attend. After all, it would be an exceptionally good day for justice in the EFL community if the public gallery turns out to be absolutely heaving with interested humanity on the day.
Paul Lowe - pleaded guilty to ten Trade Descriptions Act charges (making a false declaration under section 14) and five Fraud Act (Fraud, section 1 & section 2) charges at his hearing in August 2008.
Ashley Arnold - pleaded guilty to five Trade Descriptions Act charges (making a false declaration under section 14) on March 30, 2009.
Reading Crown Court, at 10am, on 8 May 2009, has been set for both to be sentenced together.
By the way - this is NO April Fools day joke!