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.



Marisa Constantinides said...


I am most flattered to have been elevated to such a high status and what can I say but "thank you" for being so perceptive about my awesome teaching skills...

I just hope you're a good dancer and have a good ear for music, otherwise it's a no go situation.

:-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

Just for your information as I know you collect interesting facts about TEFL, when I presented this talk at the conference I mention in my own post, everyone kept laughing in silly and uninformed merriment, but I noticed one very serious lady in the second row nodding her head in agreement at some of the points I was making but also looking very very puzzled and, on occasion, somewhat disdainful.

At the end of my talk, in response to my question about questions and/or comments, she raised her hand rather hesitantly and said "But this is not new, this is what we do, isn't it?" .......

That is one memorable time in my long and (as you see, varied) career when I was so effectively silenced by the realisation that she was probably the only member of that audience who had not just "seen" the true point of my talk, but who had been putting it so effectively into practice, she thought it was old hat!

I have been much more careful since.

The TEFL Tradesman said...

Ah, you see, Marisa, I'm good at flattery, I am. This blog thrives on it, in fact.

I'm also a bit of a romantic, so if you're up for it, pop over to my place this wekend, where you'll discover my talents for providing soft music and a rhythm to drop yer tights to.

Later on, a kabab and a quick shag - what more could a young lass want?

Drew said...

Maria's article was good but Sandy, if she comes around to yours for a nice shag can you whisper in her ear to go as far as leaving out the obligatory 'empowering' from use in this context, next time...?


ER, so like you're cheating on me?


Your blog is white today.


The TEFL Tradesman said...

Yep, sorry babes, but you are history ... shit happens, dunnit?