As the token scientist in almost every TEFL school I have worked in, I have decided to move on from telling all your English Lit graduates how to work out percentages on your end of year grammar tests and move onto explaining to you how the Darwinian laws of Natural Selection means you should stop being a waster and take that job as a DoS.
One of the commonest misunderstandings of evolution amongst you humanities types is that it is a method that all species use to adapt so that they survive. Well, it can be, in the way that eating chocolate can be a way of making sure you don’t starve. However, the various ways in which different individual species and their genes adapt is sometimes as successful a way of surviving as some people’s urge to get a balanced diet from the food groups of sweet things, cold things and cold sweet things is a successful way of eating.
To give one example, the human species is unlikely to evolve into a big brained super race beloved of sci-fi writers at one time while Debbie who works in Tesco’s is having more children than Bill Gates. And in the same way the level of teaching and professionalism in TEFL is unlikely to improve while we have the twisted system that we have now.
If we define a successful teaching industry as the maximum number of students having their level raised by the maximum amount over the long term*, the best way to achieve that would seem to be to have the best teachers teaching the maximum number of students and the guy who wrote his lesson plan on a napkin in the pub on the way to work being paid to stay out of the classroom. However, as teachers climb the ladder what they in fact teach are fewer and fewer students- fewer classroom hours in better jobs, smaller classes in better schools, more one to one classes with executives in Business English teaching etc. etc. Even when that is not the case, the skills that one teacher has built up over a 10 year career and somewhat wasted if the only people that benefit from them are the comparatively small number of people that they teach in a year. And so they have no choice, they have to become a Director of Studies…
For those of you screaming at the prospect of stepping into EFL management (my own fingers tensed up there on the keyboard and I had to have a cup of PG Tips to calm myself), there are several caveats and many exceptions. Being a DoS is more efficient in improving students’ English in the world only if things are set up so you can improve the teaching of your teachers (see How to Make Sure Your Teachers Can Really Teach post below), e.g. having time to do workshops, observations etc. and having the training to make sure you can turn your own successful teaching into a way of managing people so they can teach successfully too. Such jobs do exist, and in smaller schools you can usually sell the idea of being such as DoS eventually.
Still not convinced you should take the plunge? Other ways of spreading the word and making the TEFL world a better place are:
-Becoming a teacher trainer
– Giving workshops
– Making a good contribution to other people’s workshops with questions, comments, feedback etc.
– Reviewing teaching materials to make sure the publishers get it right next time
Come to think of it, I didn’t chose that life at all.
* This Utilitarian view of TEFL is a bit of an oversimplification, as targeting your teaching at where it is really needed would also be part of the equation, but my head is starting to hurt even thinking about including that in my arguments…