No, not the history of trying to find a Liz to my John Soars in the teachers’ rooms of the world…
One of the reasons my last post was even more untopical than usual was that when I went to have a look at Chase Me Ladies I’m in the Cavalry to see how best to link to the relevant TEFL bits I wasted a good two hours re-reading and alternately chuckling at the posts and cringing at my own comments there. To save your time and waste more of my own, I’ve selected all the best bits and put them here:
1. The British Council is better than most language schools. It’s run by the UK Foreign Office: all the other places I worked at were run by drunks. They could use this in pamphlets as their “unique selling point.” It would be an improvement on “Creating Opportunity for People Worldwide,” which is the current slogan.
THE BRITISH COUNCIL
At least it’s not run by a drunk.
…And when people ask me what I do I will no longer have to stare at the floor and mutter that I am a teacher “but I do other things as well”. I can look them squarely in the eye and say, “I work for the cultural arm of the British Embassy, and if I don’t get some respect around here I shall have you all shot.”
“I spend quite a bit of time at the British Council in Bucharest, primarily because it is the only place around here I can get books in English.
Everyone else here thinks it is very cool. They’d pay an absolute fortune for just one lesson about personal pronouns.
It’s a nice building, with loads of comfy chairs, and you rarely get shot at. You should give them a call.”
“Every teacher gets observed at least twice a year, and this generates the paperwork that most pen-pushers deem acceptable. At the moment the BC is so self-analytical that it is using microbes on its backside to inspect anal molecules.
Still better than being led by drunks, though.”
2. Just had an interesting discussion with a student.
“How to say [in English] trouser,” he asked, “but isn’t trouser?”
“Huh?” I said.
“Isn’t trouser. What it is?”
I said that I wasn’t entirely sure. He said that it was like a trouser, but is wear in the street. After a couple of minutes of this conversation I was ready to burst into tears. He was like a terrier with a rat. He absolutely would not let me proceed until we had cleared up this important point.
“He clearly means street-trousers, you fool. Don’t you have street-trousers in your country (where ever the hell that is)?”
“I started reading your blog hoping to catch up on what’s been going on with you, in a spirit of peaceful goodwill and harmless fun. I was utterly surprised and frankly disgusted to find that, while a student of yours, you actually had a very low opinion of myself, insofar as you now see yourself ludicrously fit to poke fun at those who were previously then left in your care, and especially one who was unsuspectingly brought under the wing of your knowledge, just to be publicly humiliated in this fashion years later.
I would have a good mind to denounce you and your blog to the British Council, had I not learnt through the years that you British people are all so full of yourselves and so cosy in each other’s company that my complaint would have produced in the Council people the very same reaction that my honest, though at the time imperfectly phrased, query about a synonym for ‘trousers’ produced on you.
I take this opportunity to inform you that, after being your student for a thankfully short period, I finally achieved full proficiency in English, French, Arabian, Icelandic and Tworo through the offices of Ms Harmsworth-Silva who knew a thing or two about language teaching, student incentives and oral sex – skills at which you have proved yourself to be utterly deficient.”
3. This particular brand of non-academic sub-adult clowning is called a “running dictation.” …It is supposed to be good because it “practices all four skills”… which sounds okay in theory, but in practice is absolute tosh. The effort/benefit ratio is enormous; greater even than synchronised swimming.
Nothing can dissuade my colleagues from the view that English is best learnt when the situation in the classroom is a free-for-all, a bun fight or minor riot, with the students all roaring themselves hoarse and looning around with vocabulary glued to their noses…. This nonsense is known as the Communicative Approach. (I myself prefer the Uncommunicative Approach: the teacher shows up, writes some verbs on the board and falls asleep. No one learns anything in either version –that would be too much to hope for- but at least my way you get some peace and quiet.)
Next time I do a running dictation I’m going to use Paradise Lost as the text. That will wipe the smiles off their faces! Or I might just dispense with the text entirely and make them hop up and down the classroom in a sack race, using the desks as an obstacle course.
4. Was just throwing away my IELTS examiner’s stuff. …This is the description of a level 2 speaker:
Lengthy pause before nearly every word. Isolated words may be recognizable, but speech is of virtually no communicative significance…
Sounds like Keith Richards
5. “Business English” is a huge swindle. You simply change “Tony goes to the cinema” to “Mr Blair goes to the conference”, then you double the price and give them a good shafting.”
If you liked that, you might also like my selected highlights from English Teacher X: