Monday, May 31, 2010

An Early Summer Bath

Shouldn't that be "Early Summer Break"? Well, maybe so, but I've been saving on water these past few years by only taking a bath once in every season. Apparently it's really good for the skin, and the smell doesn't get any worse after the first three or four weeks. You think I'm joking?!

Anyway, fact is that this blog will be dormant for the next couple of months - perhaps even until August - as Sandy departs for colder climes. It all depends how things go at my forthcoming resting place, pictured above. Y'see, my mate bought that pub, complete with stock, and swiftly boarded the place up, so's he could drink himself to death.

Only, the problem is, it's too much for him to drink alone, so he's invited me to stay with him until the booze obligingly shrinks and shrivels his liver and kindly dispatches him skyward. And I think he's also a bit worried about waking up dead one morning and having nobody around to get him buried. Poor fucker!

So, I've been volunteered into being the guy's guardian angel and getting him a proper Christian send-off. Otherwise, if the neighbours are the first to catch the sharp aroma of his lifeless pickled flesh, they'll send in the Social Services loonies - and they'll all drink what's left of his booze, the bastards!

No chances of that, mate - I'll be taking that!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wanted - Chavs to Learn TEFL

So, I guess the inevitable has finally arrived. Any old dosser can become an EFL teacher now, as apparently the criteria for signing up for an EFL teacher-training course have become, in sympathy with the UK salaries, rock bottom. Well done to the UK's unregulated and unprincipled Tefl Trade for bringing us to this current dystopian state of affairs!

I mean, just have a butcher's at the criteria for entry from the latest advert from that paragon of ethical teacher-training, British Study Centres...

Applicants must:

  • be at least 18 (It is generally recommended that candidates should be aged 20 or over, but candidates aged between 18 and 20 can be accepted at the centre’s discretion.)

  • have an awareness of language and a competence in both written and spoken English, which will enable them to undertake the course and prepare for teaching a range of levels

  • have the potential to develop the necessary skills to become effective teachers and to complete successfully the written assignments and the assessment of practice teaching.

So, not only do you not need a degree or higher education diploma of any kind, you don't even need an A-level or two. In fact, there's not a single mention of any academic or school-based qualification at all! Hats off to BSC for really scraping the bottom of the educational barrel here!

And just what do those rather guilty-looking phrases "an awareness of language" and "the potential to develop" really mean? More to the point, what are they trying to hide?

Presumably the first expression refers to the ability to differentiate between a noun and a verb, or is that a shade too demanding of the average 19-year-old scrotebag? Maybe if they can write "r u l8?" in standard English, they can make it on to the course, eh?!

Of course, the old cliche "potential to develop" can be skewed and screwed around to mean anyhing you really like, so it's quite meaningless here. How do they measure this 'potential'? Is it a visible entity, or does it come in the shape of the ability to pay the course fees?

Anyway, I've contacted the two charlatans responsible for press-ganging youngsters onto this course, but I'm still none the wiser yet. I wonder if they have any academic creds to speak of? Perhaps they'll be in touch after the weekend, the poor shameful souls.

Or maybe you'd be interested in having a chat with them? If so, you can contact the craven bastards as per below.

Good luck!!


CELTA in Oxford: Steve Haysham, Head of Teacher Training, British Study Centres School of English, Oxenford House, 13-15 Magdalen Street, Oxford OX1 3AE. Tel: +44 (0) 1865 246620

Trinity in Brighton: Anna Bate, Teacher Trainer, British Study Centres School of English, Fairfax House, 47 Cromwell Road, Brighton & Hove, BN3 3ER. Tel: +44 (0) 1273 731352

UPDATE: BSC have some of the crappiest summer jobs I've seen in a very long time! Look here for some REAL STINKERS - from as little as 190 quid a week!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Summer Schools - Seasonal Bonded Labour

Well, it's that time of the year again - time to slag off summer schools! But actually, as I've done this before (many times!) I think I'll just refer you to my previous scribblings before getting started on some new stuff.

OK, the truth is I'm feeling a bit uninspired for regular blogging these days, but I'm hoping the sight of some of my earlier eager-beaver stuff will get the creative juices flowing. Or maybe I should just crack open a couple of bottles of Old Speckled Hen, and get THOSE creative juices flowing, eh?!

summer school saturnalia [revisited]
May 31, 2009
In my previous posting about the sheer folly of committing yourself to a six-week sentence on a residential summer school, I promised (threatened?) to spill the beans on those other clowns in the equation, your 'professional' EFL ...

uk summer schools - a masochist writes...
May 27, 2009
Well, as the dreadful summer school season is swiftly marching towards us, I thought I'd dig out a few of my old 'dissertations' on the unfortunate subject, and present a sort of thematic approach to the coming few weeks' blogs on the ...

how to double your money at summer school!
Jun 03, 2009
Sincerely now, would you like to know how to make more money from your summer school than your employer intended to pay you? If so, read the piece below, kindly provided by a colleague of mine who has a legal background, and has put his ...

The TEFL Tradesman: Another Peek at TWIN
Jun 19, 2009
Let it serve as an example – one of the worst - of the genre of less-than-ideal summer Tefl employment. And remember - if you willingly sign up for this sort of punishment, you really only have yourself to blame! ...

Anyway, I do hope that's enough to keep you sterling Tefl troops going for a good while. I hope to be back here by the end of the week, insh'allah.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Eddie Yates' Second Career

Things are extremely busy here at the Sandy McManus ranch, and for a whole range of rip-roaring reasons - 50th birthday preparations, getting the cat neutered, preparing the first draft of my Tefl novel - so I make no apologies for recycling one of my favourite postings from about five years ago. For those unfortunate youngsters out there who have no idea who the inimitable Eddie Yates ever was, I refer you to google - and the picture alongside.


I had a bit of an 'incident' with one of the other teachers a few days back. Well, more like a couple of weeks ago, actually, but I've been brooding on it, I suppose. Anyway, it goes a bit like this.

I was asked to cover an afternoon class for a fellow Tefler who had to visit the dentist, and seeing as it would mean a few extra quid in the kitty, I was happy to oblige. A few minutes before the class is due to start, my 'colleague' thrusts a tatty old copy of Hardway Intermediate into my hands, telling me to start unit so-and-so on page whatever. When I ask him for the register, he claims he's lost it.

So, I trundle up to the classroom, start getting to know the students, and we get going. It's a very nice class, quite small and rather chatty, mostly Latin types, including a handful of rather attractive South American girls. We spend a fair deal of time just talking at first, then move on to the prescribed unit, kicking off with a bit of vocabulary to pre-teach, before a reading exercise.

Then I do my usual trick of asking the students to write half a dozen questions about the text. This usually shows that the students still have problems forming the correct structures for making questions in English - either no auxiliary verb, it's in the wrong place, or they put one in when it's not needed.

Cutting a rather long and none-too-exciting story short here, we spend a good deal of time on this, as the students clearly need further instruction and practice on it, and we obviously fail to cover all the work requested by my partner-in-crime. So, having assured myself that they understand at least the concept of the present perfect simple tense (not too difficult for speakers of Latin languages, I feel) I ask them to look at the relevant grammar section at the back of the book, and see if they can get their heads round that grammatical colossus, the present perfect continuous tense. Nothing too heavy, just sort of 'take a look and see what you think'. Then it's the end of class, and we all part on good terms. Money for old rope, really.

Next day, my partner is not a happy chappie. He storms into the staff room after lunch, waving his half-finished rollie cigarette around and accusing me of having deliberately scuppered his finely-tuned lesson plan. "How can they cope alone with the present perfect continuous" he bellows "when they're only Intermediate level?"

Sitting behind a table (actually, it's the only table in our putrid squat-like staffroom), I gaze up at him, and take him in. Dressed like a dustman, with a grubby green t-shirt, baggy black trousers and a tatty flak-jacket on, he looked just like a middle-aged glue-sniffer. It was at this moment that I automatically dubbed him 'Eddie Yates'.

For those of you who don't know, Eddie Yates was a character in Coronation Street back in the 1970s, maybe 1980s too, back when the programme contained a good deal of subtle and sympathetic humour, rather than the current obsession with spite. Eddie worked as a binman, and was a lodger with Stan Ogden, the local window cleaner, and his long-suffering wife Hilda. Together, the three of them made up some of the most humorous working class zeros you could imagine.

Eddie, of course, was as idle as shit and dressed like a tramp; Stan was little better, and boasted a beer-gut the size of a small town. His wife Hilda became a well-loved legend, with her curlers, headscarf, and fag clinging to the corner of her mouth, not to mention that irritating, nagging, Lancashire accent.

So, Eddie it had to be. Not for the humour, mind, but for the attire and the idleness. Of course, I realised that the source of his ire was that he'd hoped I would teach his charges all about the present perfect continuous, thus relieving him of the onerous task. But I hadn't (you see, I focused on the students' needs - teach the students, not the materials, kidder!), and he'd wandered into the class, probably still half under the influence of the dentist's anaesthetic, and found himself in deepest do-do territory.

"It's called discovery learning" I shouted at him as he scuttled out of the staff room, in preparation for another rollie outside at the staff cancer table. Ten minutes later he wandered back in. "It's OK now" he gasped, "I've calmed down". As if that made everything all right.

There then followed a brief discussion, in which I tried to outline some of the principles, as best I could recall, of the idea of 'discovery learning'. Lovingly referred to in some quarters as 'fuck-off-and-find-out', it does actually have some pedagogical pedigree about it.

But Eddie was having none of it. His ignorance was obviously greater then my illumination. "But they're only Intermediates" he kept chuffing, like a steam train stuck on a loop line.

You see, that's what I really love about this job - working with such enlightened and professional people. Dress like a slob, speak like a slob, and think like one too.

Eddie Yates, welcome to your second career!