25 ways to get away with being a crap English teacher

1. Be good looking

2. Have good posture
Makes you seem serious and all the clothes you wear look smarter than everyone else’s.

2. Be amusing
Typical (mental) lesson plan for this kind of teacher: laugh at someone’s new haircut, page 13 ex 7b, a few little witticisms like changing the model sentences to make them about the students, ex 7c, laugh (again) at the Headway theme music, do listening, etc.

4. Dress well
Usually meaning smart and conventional. It will at least put some doubt into the minds of your students: “Why would a lazy teacher put the effort into wearing a jacket when they don’t have to?” etc.

5. Stay around even worse teachers
i.e. choose your schools well (or badly, depending on how you look at it) or get your waster mate who can always swing an interview to apply for a job there too

6. Cue your students before a lesson observation
Just guilt tripping them (“I’ll be in so much trouble if you spend 90% of the lesson chatting in Spanish like normal”), but bribery and threats are good back up plans.

7. Get an MA
and mention it to your students and managers as often as possible. As there are no lesson observations involved and it will actually use up the time you would usually be planning lessons etc in, an MA has the magical ability of making your classes worse whilst making everyone’s impressions of them better.

8. Use lots of jargon
No need to actually explain what it means. Ties in well with number 7 above.

9. Give your students what they think they want
Don’t worry about whether it helps them learn or not- by the time they work out that having every sentence corrected wasn’t what they really needed you’ll probably be in another country. Ditto for “free con” or going up or down levels at demand.

10. Become a manager
The best way of escaping lesson observations- put yourself in charge. It also means your students will have no one else to complain to but you.

11. Be best friends with your students
E.g. give them nicknames, remember details about their families or listen to all their problems

12.Be best friends with your boss
See above, but just be a bit more careful with the choice of nicknames

13. Be good at paperwork
It’s the only thing that stays on file forever, so how well you write up your lessons is much more important than how well you plan them

14. Presentation presentation presentation
Colour photocopies are more important than error free worksheets, nice whiteboard writing is more important than clear grammar explanations etc etc.

15. Be invisible
The best thing a DoS can ever think about someone is “He was never any trouble”. As they can’t write job references that just say that but they can’t think of anything bad, they’ll make up all kinds of nice things to fill the space.

16. Drop in loads of interesting cultural tidbits
The textbook forces you to teach your students “How do you do?” Never mind, telling them that in Papua New Guinea the equivalent question is answered with a detailed list of medical complaints will pass the time and stick in their minds much more than the bit where you let slip that no one ever uses the language you just taught them from the book. If it makes them feel culturally superior, all the better.

17. Convince them
Also known as the snake oil salesman approach. “All the experts are now agreed that shadow reading should be done in every lesson and that it doubles the speed of language acquisition” etc. Like a good placebo, it can even make it work.

18. Milk something for all it’s worth
E.g. one website (Breaking News English), one book, or one game (or variations on it, if you are feeling keen).

19. Get through the book exceedingly quickly
and make a big thing of finishing every chapter.

20. Do everything briskly
There is nothing that gives the impression of competence like flicking through supplementary books at speed, photocopying two books at the same time, lesson planning standing up etc- as long as you weren’t late and there is no panic on your face of course.

21. Be early
Rather than going for a shit at home, leave the house 10 minutes earlier so you are first in the teachers’ room. No point appearing busy with lesson planning until there are people there to see you doing it, so help yourself to the pristine bog at work for a while.

22. Tell students a big list of things they have just learnt
Of course, “learnt” can be interpreted many ways.

23. Let the students explain stuff to you that you already know
“There are four seasons in Japan? No??!!!”

24. Tell the students your secrets
“I’ve never told anyone this before” (because I made it up to make sure that I don’t tell the same “secrets” to more than one class) “but…”

25. Time the use of your few great lessons very well
E.g. first two classes to get their confidence, then as many bad weeks as you can get away with, a good ‘un to boost them up, another bad stretch (maybe with sob stories about sleeping disorders etc), then 5 good lessons before student evaluation forms are given out.

Unfortunately, I’ve never had the chutzpah to swing it with just one of the above and so have had no option but to slog my way up from the babbling shaking idiot I was in my first CELTA lesson to the Toyota Corolla of a teacher that I now am. To those of you who get paid exactly the same for doing one or more of the 25 things above, I feel no rancor but quite a lot of envy! For workhorses like me at an earlier stage in their career, several hundred (more serious) tips in groups of 15 are available here and here.

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8 Responses to 25 ways to get away with being a crap English teacher

  1. zorro (3) says:

    You’ve obviously been spying on my classes.

    How about a list of ’25 ways of being a good teacher’?

  2. victory says:

    it did give me a break, huh. we need time to laugh at our own selves…even if we’re not guilty at all. cheers

  3. Eric roth says:

    Perhaps you missed a favorite trick of poor teachers here: bring food to bribe students with calories, instead of sharing information and teaching English!

  4. Sandy says:

    Are there ONLY 25 ways you can get away with being a crap teacher?! Experience tells me there HAVE to be more!

  5. Alex Case says:

    Not impressed- a really good crap teacher can base a whole career on just one or two.

  6. Alex Case says:

    … have managed to come up with some more though:

    – Make learning a language seem so difficult that the students become dependant
    – Be incompetent in a bumbling and endearing way, preferably as much like Mr Bean as possible
    – Look like someone famous
    - Get famous yourself
    – Get a commitee position in a local teachers’ association
    – Get your photo in the school brochure
    – Blackmail

  7. Troy says:

    You’ve forgotten the most important (especially if you are teaching in the Middle East)

    Celine Dion lessons!

    Literally eat it up!

  8. alexcase says:

    The promised 25 Ways to Be the Best TEFLer You Can Be went up here:

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