Thursday, February 26, 2009

Manchester School of English - a Crap Job! with a difference?!

Well, thank God for Sandy's spy network. Without my loose alliance of sinister Teflers, I would never have found out about this double-dodgy outfit, who, according to my top-secret informant, "may even have links to terrorism"!!

Their list of "misdemeanors" is quite lengthy, as you'll see. Previous employees have declared them guilty of...

  • Making people redundant without giving proper notice periods, etc.

  • Sacking TEN people in two months

  • Refusing to pay salaries/wages or invoices

  • Being run by Indians who are themselves illegal immigrants

  • Having no experience in running language schools - the levels are all mixed up

  • Claiming to have an accommodation service where there is none

  • Having no accreditation service

  • Being a 'front' for other activities - the "school" is just a couple of rooms

  • Employing unqualified 'teachers' and having no Director of Studies

  • Illegally hiring teachers as self-employed to avoid PAYE tax and NI

  • Paying crap wages - eight quid an hour

Yet it gets much worse. Look at this further report from Agent X...

A friend of mine had the misfortune to be employed by them, and their misogynistic treatment of her was pretty poor. The turnover of all the staff seemed high, even though my friend was only there a couple of months. The sacking is not so much the issue, but she was quite simply told she couldn't do the job - the whole thing could have been handled better, with proper notice periods given and outstanding wages of one week paid etc.

As mentioned before, there is no DOS, and the school is run by a couple of Indian immigrants who know nothing about teaching, yet supposedly offer IELTS courses. Interesting factors are: The father is often out of the country for months at a time, mainly in Lahore and Mumbai. He is in fact from Lahore and has no family in India apparently, and hasn't been seen for several months. He is a devout Muslim (not that that means anything of course of itself but when combined with extreme misogynism, it smacks of more to me).

Clearly it's the owners who are the real issue. They are a father and son outfit (both called Ahmed) and the link to terrorism can only be a suspicion in my mind, for otherwise surely the police would have done something. Although the elder seemed very charming on initial meeting, it was really a subterfuge, which soon dropped and he became really sexist - not just sexist jokes, but dangerous and violent stuff, talking about beating wives, pornography, and other distasteful stuff.

Well, they do sound a nice bunch of buggers, don't they!? They were advertising for teachers a couple of months ago, and the following ad tells you all you need to know...

Manchester School of English

English Language Teachers required for:

1. Morning 9am to 1pm

2. or evenings 6pm to 8pm.

*Must have degree plus Tefl/Celta/Tesol Certificate.

*Must be enthusiastic, organised, and have a passion for teaching.

*Native English Speakers only.

*Self Employed position – start pay £8.00 per hour - paid weekly.

To apply please email:

Manchester School of English, 86 Princess Street, Manchester M1 6NG

Tel: 0161-237 1917


So, there you - you'd better whizz your application in extra-pronto, as I imagine there's quite a lot of demand for such a choice plum of a Tefl job. I mean - eight quid an hour! This one's clearly the top of the Tefl tree in Manchester!

Actually, I've already done some preliminary investigations into this bunch of obvious shysters, and I've unearthed a few interesting facts about them. However, I'll keep you buggers in suspense a while longer, and publish the results tomorrow.

Until then, my dears...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How To Bully Your Way to the Top of the TEFL Tree!

Oh yes, it's time for one from the archives again, lads'n'lassies. This one proved very popular at the time, and one DoS even told me he'd pinned it up on the staff-room wall. I wonder if he's still working at the same place now?!

Here are some of Sandy's tips for giving feedback to a teacher following an observed lesson, all designed to assert your authority as DOS and thoroughly destroy your unfortunate employee's confidence. This is not some duff idea taken from the pages of a naff Tefl handbook written by some half-drunken Italian hermit - it's a tried and tested technique that I have honed over many years of systematic humiliation of gullible Tefl pricks.

So, get ready for ... Sandy's Seven Golden Rules for Observation Feedback!

Go through the lesson plan with the teacher BEFORE the observation. Here you’ll get the chance to laugh at his lamentable activities, and suggest changes to the entire structure of the lesson. Ask the teacher what his aims are, and laugh audibly; ask him for his contingency plan if things don’t work out, adding that he'll probably need a good one. On no account should you listen to the twerp wittering on about any difficulties he has with the class. Just point out firmly that he should have already ironed out any problems he has had with any difficult individuals - after all, he's been teaching them for at least two days.

Of course, if you really want to leave the pimply Tefler without an ounce of self-esteem, just forget the pre-observation stuff and turn up announced, waving your clipboard and sitting very obtrusively near the white-board. This approach will probably cause the wimp of a teacher to drop his photocopies and start mumbling to the class incomprehensibly, but just be firm and bark "pull yourself together, laddie". Also, if you take this approach, you are much better able to judge the lesson in terms of what the bugger thinks he can get away with when nobody's looking, compared to the sort of old textbook Tefl tosh he'd serve up if you'd given him notice.

Write up your observation notes carefully and give the teacher a copy. Make sure you underline all the negative points, and bring the teacher's attention to your extremely judgemental comments - words like CRAP! and JEESUS! - by using red highlighter. I recommend giving the teacher a copy in advance of the feedback session, just to let him mull things over, consider resigning, contemplate suicide, etc. You might like to pin a copy of your notes to the school noticeboard too, all in the name of 'transparency', providing cheap entertainment, and asserting your authority.

Don't start with that old chestnut, "So, how do YOU think it went?" Only incorrigible Tefl tossers do this, and the last thing you want to do is waste your time listening to this timid little fart waffling on about how good his lesson was, while you sit there nodding off to sleep. It's far better to be creative and dispense with established Tefl protocol, especially if the pubs are about to open. Just steam right in, screw up your face into a resemblance of a bulldog straining to have a shit, and croak "What the FUCK do you think you were doing, Jason?!"

Even if you did think it was a good lesson, learn how to frame your criticism to cause maximum damage. After all, a demoralised teacher is no personal threat to you, and you can look forward to enjoying a lot more of the same sport if your teachers fear you. Personally, I would gloss over any positive points, dismissing them as 'textbook maneouvres' and 'basic teaching techniques', and really come out blasting heavy with the negatives. Most EFL teachers will be expecting you to start off with the plus points, so wiping the teacher's crap in his face from the very first moment will really put the sad bastard's back to the wall.

Start nitpicking as soon as possible. After all, it’s easy for you to sit back and be all perfectionist about it - that's your job - and you don't want the poor little runt of a teacher to feel too comfortable, do you? Confess to feeling completely bewildered by the 'problems' you have witnessed, and ask the teacher if he has ever tried to do anything about it before. Then start to focus on the really important issues, like the students' opportunities to speak, error correction, pronunciation, making sure all students were involved, use of a warmer, making the lesson interactive, etc. Whatever the teacher did, be ruthless in your criticism of it - state firmly that there was either too much or not enough of the above Tefl waffle, and that he should reconsider his approach to lesson planning and classroom management, if not his entire career in the whacky world of Tefl.

If necessary, just to confirm your status as The Boss, make a casual reference to Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development theory. Point out as an aside, but with a clear degree of caustic criticism in your voice, the accepted and self-evident need for a truly effective teacher to provide differentiated elements of cognitive scaffolding when the students are carrying out challenging problem solving activities independently or in collaboration with their classroom peers - and then tell him he's an ignorant cunt.

Make a long list of all the points that you’d like to see development of when it comes to the next observation, and thrust them into the teacher's hand with a dismissive grunt. As you stand up to leave the teachers' room (your feedback should always be given in the teachers' room, where there is a captive audience), make it very clear to the mug in question that next time you’ll be focusing on ALL the points you have just mentioned - even though you were far from satisfied with the rest of the lesson. Finally, suggest that your by now gibbering wreck of a Tefler observe other teachers as often as possible, using every available break period to "make yourself useful in the classroom". You might even consider mentioning that you'll be sending other teachers into his class, as "peer observation should include the lows as well as the highs".

PS: On no account ask the teachers if they thought your feedback was fair. I mean, why should you worry about fairness - you are the boss after all?! Also, never EVER allow your teachers to observe you. They just wouldn't understand.

Finally, my thanks go to Mike Long for allowing me to ruthlessly lampoon his well-considered advice (see link below) for would-be Directors of Studies. At least, I think he said it was OK...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More Pedagogical Profanities

Look, I’ve been doing a fair bit of cruising lately, you know. Nothing to do with the sexual variety, you understand, but a serious cybernet search for nuggets of whiteboard wit, pearls of pedagogical wisdom, etc.

One of the first that I came across was this very personal approach to classroom methodology, from a certain mounted EFL teacher whose name I'm not going to mention, as he always ignores my e-mails (insolent git!).

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.

Well, after that rather drowsy dismissal of an entire industry and its (mal)practices, I bumped into a few more oddballs, courtesy of a certain robotic raconteur known as Englishdroid. Unfortunately I can't give you a link as, even though he does deem to stoop to communicate with the likes of Sandy McManus, his website appears to have disappeared into a black hole. Anyway, take a look at this - a few words of advice from some mad fellow in the Balkans who has had the temerity to ask "Why does my teacher do that?"…

Q: My teacher puts words on pieces of card and then asks the students to move them around the desks. Why?

A: This comes from a course called the CELTA - a one month course that takes some determination to fail. The theory goes that if you have little pieces of paper to shuffle around you will remember better. It has not been backed up by any serious study - but academic research into the role of paperclips is seriously under-represented.

Anyway, all this stuff has inspired me to think about creating my own teacher-training manual, with a target audience of tired, cynical and jaded practitioners of the shameless Tefltrade. It struck me that there was obviously an unmet need for articles of great importance for all you highly experienced and completely dysfunctional Tefl Tradesman out there. So, with no acknowledgements at all to the author of the original article, here it is…

Lessons My Trainer Should Never Have Taught Me

Sandy McManus offers a whole range of tried and tested teaching tips for the obsolete and unadventurous EFL professional.

Over the past 20 years spent teaching EFL and running away from looney private English language schools all over Europe, I have more then once found myself involved in teacher training. In fact, several years ago I wrote a manual for Tefl trainees, but it turned out to be pure shite. However, after much further deliberation, and more than enough beers, I would like to offer the world the benefits of my accrued whiteboard wisdom.

There should be plenty in these few notes for an experienced colleague - and even if you, unfortunate loser, are just starting or planning to start a career in Tefl. What it offers is something you can read and perhaps go back to every now and then - or just tip in the bin, along with yesterday's crusty old sandwiches.

Although not every lesson will follow the same pattern (and indeed should not do so, unless you really are a dull old fucker), on some days you will want to, for example, concentrate on practice rather than presentation. Especially if you have a hangover. This is fine, but it is important to know how language chunks can be introduced so that you are then free to depart from, or go back to, that pattern. Or, if you simply can't remember that you were doing ten minutes before (this is called recycling the language, by the way).

A Typical Lesson

Important Note: It is extremely important that your students learn to respect you as a real professional and a sentient human being. This respect, however, needs to be earned, and can in no circumstances be assumed in today's social climate. It is therefore imperative, from the very first meeting, to clearly define the roles of teacher and student, and to make sure that no smelly foreign teenager ever tries to get the better of you. You are the boss, after all!

Procedure: Walk into class ten minutes after it was due to start. Slide the half-empty bottle of beer out of your trouser pocket in an effortless manner, as if you are accustomed to doing so (as you are), and take a quick swig. Then bring the bottle down with a crash on the teacher's desk. This should grab their attention.

Look at the class warily. Stifle a burp. Grunt "English?" at them, in a slightly disinterested manner. It is vital to make this first effort at bonding with your students via a primitive duo-syllabic vocal ejaculation. Chomsky said so ... at least I think it was him (or maybe it was Trotsky?).

Stroll (or prowl) around the classroom in a proud manner. Pretend to ignore the students - look out of the window, scratch your neck, and hum a few bars of "Roxanne".

Next, walk casually up to the board, pull a piece of chalk out of the pocket of your baggy cardigan, and write the following in large letters...

My name is Reginald
(NB: If your name is not Reginald, don't worry yet)

By now there will probably be a good deal of muttering and tittering going on in the class. Raise a finger to your lips and make an appeal for silence. Just stand there, silent, solid, and motionless, until only one student is left talking. Stare at him fiercely. Then, very slowly, draw your finger across your neck, making a retching sound at the same time.

It is now time for the first class to begin.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

TDC and UKhelp4U Academy of English

Yes, it's time to introduce my assistant, The Debt Collector. He'll be making lots of appearances over the coming months of depression-riddled economic angst, I guess. OK, I do realise he's a bit of a scary bastard, but don't worry, as he'll be working for the downtrodden Tefler, not against her/him.

I've given TDC, as he will henceforth be known, the special remit of ferreting out TEFL shysters in the UK (bugger the rest of the world - let some other mad sod take on than mammoth task!) and devoting a blog to them. Hopefully, by applying a little blog-sided pressure on them, the TEFL shysters of this world will be exposed for the snidey little c*nts they truly are!

That means, of course, that TDC will be taking over this account - Paul Lowe's very own Windsor Swindler blog. What's more, he's already made a start on UKhelp4U Academy of English in Swindon, who are guilty of ripping off EFL teachers by trying the old trick of holding back wages, then going insolvent and thus avoiding the legal obligations. They've already been given a pasting by Inspector McHammered of the TEFL Blacklist, so it's a nice easy job for starters.

Of course, please let me know if you have any more candidates for TDC to look into. He is a very persuasive guy who's just too eager to please!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Host Family Experience

Your stay with a host family is a very important part of your experience in England, and every English family, no matter how dysfunctional, will do their utmost to make you feel part of their crumbling social institution.

Whilst I cannot promise that you will be able to share every intimate moment of their daily lives (thankfully), a few tips on how to make the most of the unique British way of life will help you to be very happy with your host family, and allow you to escape with all your possessions when you leave.

What you get is:

Meals - breakfast and dinner, Monday to Friday, plus lunch at weekends. This is your chance to get acquainted with some of the choicest microwave meals available from Iceland, so be sure to make the most of it.

Bedroom – Clean and tidy; with a desk, a heater, and several secret compartments suitable for hiding a wide range of cash and/or private substances.

Showers - One shower or bath a day, about 15 minutes each day. If you are an early riser, you can take much longer.

Laundry - You can usually wash your clothes at your host family. They may ask you to wash theirs too, so learn how to use a washing machine before you venture out to the UK.

Ironing - Ask your family if you can use their iron - if they know what one is. Use mime and motioning gestures if your request results in acute incomprehension.

Keys – Don't forget to ask your family for a door key. They may have several keys to different front doors on the estate, so just make sure you get the right one. If you find the door locked and are unable to rouse the semi-comatose residents indoors, just remove a few window panes and enter quietly. The youngest member of the house will probably be able to demonstrate this to you in a spare moment.

Going out - Tell your family if you will be late home. They will probably lock the front door anyway (if it has one), so be sure to practice bunking in through windows beforehand (see above).

Telephone - You can receive calls at your host family, if you can locate the handset. DO NOT make calls without asking first, otherwise you might find yourself needing to make an unexpected call for an ambulance.

Letters - You can safely use your host family address to receive letters, as few of your surrogate siblings will be able to read.

Sandy's Top Tips for having a happy stay with your host family:

Always speak to your host family - even if they ignore you.

Do what your host family do - watch lots of daytime TV, drink super lager, and blame everything on the neighbours, immigrants, or “that 'orrible fuckin' slag” at the DSS.

Learn POLITE English and use it - you might get to teach your family something useful, after all.

Tell your family if you will not be home to eat, as it will save them a shoplifting trip to Iceland.

Tell your family if you are going away for a weekend - otherwise they might not notice at all.

Don't Offer to pay something if you go out to a bar or for a meal with your family. It would be considered rude, and would slow down the dash for the exit considerably.

Follow their House Rules – if they have any.

Speak to them if you have a problem. Learn the phrase “Am I fuckin' bovvered?” first, though.

Keep your bedroom tidy and make your bed. Otherwise one of the family's dogs (or an “uncle”) might come and sleep in it.

Lock your bedroom door (see above), especially if you don't want to see your own clothes on sale at the local market the following weekend.

Wash your clothes – you'll probably have to, as your host family won't know how to work the washing machine (unless you show them - see above).

Above all, enjoy the time that you spend with your host family, and cherish every moment you spend with each member. After all, you might never see them again, as when you return the following year, most of them will probably be 'away' for a few months or so.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My favourite learn-to-teach-EFL-in-a weekend teacher-training abominations

Cunningly continuing the thread of crap TEFL courses, which I kicked off with i-to-i and their pathetic online and weekend offerings last week, I'd now like to offer you this - a half-forgotten article that I wrote for a certain Tefl Trade journal some time back, but which, for some inexplicable reason, they chose not to run. Can you believe that?!

Anyway, here it is now, rescued from the Recycle Bin of my trusty gas-powered laptop – Sandy's personal guide to those completely useless 'how-to-TEFL-in-a-weekend' teacher-training cou
rses that nobody will recognise or accept... fact, there was a good article about these trashy courses in The Online Guardian a few years back, with a very useful summary. So I'll start with a rather lengthy quote...

Beyond these substantial qualifications come a plethora of shorter, lighter courses that suffice to introduce the subject of Tefl, though they may masquerade as "certificates in Tefl". These can be anything from a weekend to one or two weeks, or if online from around 40 hours of study time.
The short online and weekend Tefl courses start at around 200 quid, but pro-rata are actually more expensive than the 120 to 130-hour courses, which average at about 800 quid, although can be available for much less. There isn't any real comparison between a brief insight and a thorough, four-week intensive course, nor in the level of recognition these courses offer and the ability each one gives you to actually do the job in hand.

So there you have it – there's no real comparison between the knowledge gained, the skills offered, and the recognition achieved. You could find an analogy, albeit rather a weak one, in the difference between a trained nurse and a bod with a First Aid certificate. I mean, you wouldn't really want to be in the care of the latter full-time in a hospital, although you'd be very grateful for his presence if you fell off your bike (pissed again!) and injured yourself. But little more than that.

However, the course providers tend to take a max bullshit, heavy-on-the-hype approach towards their useless products. What do you think of this comment, suitably vacuous of course, from the following site:

"What we can give you are the tools and the confidence to take your talents abroad."

Unfortunately, the 'tools' amount to nothing more than a rusty old hammer and a handful of short nails; not to mention the obligatory 'chocolate chisel' - good for nothing! As for the 'confidence' it mentions, it would be more honest to call it 'bravado', or even 'bare-faced cheek' I reckon. And of course, behind the facade, it turns out to be our old mate i-to-i again - shameless bastards!!

The worst offender should be this one, though:

The site looks like a con-job for a timeshare outfit, and even features spoof 'accreditation' or 'validation' logos - such as IATEFL! I'm sure these organisations are not aware of it. The brazen con-men even have the cheek to include a link to the TESOL code of ethics!!

Worse still, the outfit initially appear to offer their weekend courses at a wide range of university campus locations in the US (and beyond), but if you probe a little further you'll see that are really limited to Chicago only.

As for their syllabus, look at this for day one - modals, classroom management, the history of the English language ... AND there's still time for a spot of teaching practice and feedback!!

Sample Day
  • Ice breakers, prep and/or review
  • Classroom management
  • Intro to grammar, modals, and more
  • TEFL at work
  • Elicitation techniques that work
  • Whiteboard & classroom materials made easy
  • History and function of the English language
  • Practice teaching preparation
  • Multiple practice teaching & feedback sessions
Sample Night... We go out and celebrate at pubs, clubs, & local favorites! []

The 'Sample Night' could be right up my street, though!

So, anyway, there you go – Sandy's quick guide to the worst of the Crap Tefl Course offenders. Or maybe I've missed one? In fact, if there's anybody out there who has come across an online or weekend TEFL course that could possibly be worse, please let me know.

Equally, if anybody has actually found a job based on their possession of one of these crappy certificates, please let me know. Somehow, though, I don't think I'll be inundated with messages of support for the likes of Teflweekend and