Sunday, February 28, 2010

Crispy Rizlas

Things have been getting rather busy for me on the professional scene, what with my forthcoming viva for my Doctorate in Education, and several conference presentations looming ever closer on the horizon, so I've not been able to devote as much time as I would like to this blog over the past week or so.

As a result I'll have to palm you off with an offering from several years back, which came to me by way of a friend of a friend of a ... well, get the picture? It concerns a newbie's 'induction' to a certain EFL school in Brighton, that ever-so sophisticated alternative hub of the UK Tefl Trade scene - otherwise known as Skidrow on Sea, of course. As you know, I've always been keen on laughing at students' mistakes, and the fertile field of piss-poor pronunciation has given me more laughs than I could ever remember.


I had only been given the briefest of introductions to the students' cafeteria, where we were apparently entitled to half-price grub, if we could stomach it, so when I got the chance to have a good nose round the place, I took it. Obviously designed and decorated in the early 1970s, and not touched since, it gave off the dispiriting air of an old British Rail station restaurant (pre-privatisation, of course). The colour scheme was a daring cocktail of tangerine and coffee (today’s special, dear?), and the tables were mostly enormous oval-shaped lumps of heavy wood, surrounded by fixed and uncomfortable padded benches.

And here I sat, after a heavy morning’s classes at some time in my first week, happily shoveling down an amazingly appetizing dish of undercooked cut-price chips, heavily anaesthetised with brown sauce, and sloppy tea. I noticed the presence of one of my students, a sporty Korean guy of mature years and an accent to spike worms with, with a few of his younger pals from Seoul, on the seats behind me. They appeared to be discussing musical matters, as from time to time I would hear a carefully created dissonance of some far-off top ten tune, followed by either grunts of recognition or syllables of baffled ignorance.

Then came a tap on the shoulder. “Mister Sandy” my little Korean clubber intoned, with a slight tinge of triumph in his voice, “my friends don’t know Crispy Rizlas!”. My look of extreme puzzlement was enough to oblige him to expand on his statement. “Great music – Crispy Rizlas!”. Just about here my brain began a panicky perusal of its musical memory box. Was it some American cult band of the late 60s, sharing the honours with Jefferson Airplane? Or an obscure but legendary English outfit of the early 70s, stagemates to Soft Machine, or Kevin Ayers?

“You don’t know famous song ‘Rung Once’?” he asked, shaking his little head incredulously. I began to sense I was on to a loser here, and decided to slurp up my tea and make up some feeble excuse, like needing to use the toilet urgently.

Perhaps reading my thoughts, he chose an exemplary path to enlightenment – he burst into song. I clocked the tune immediately – ‘The Young Ones’! Crispy Rizlas - Cliff Richards!! That musical and cultural icon of a most peculiar British type had crossed immense geographical and cultural barriers – to become a crispy rizla!

Sort of seemed about right, I reckoned.

PS: For the teacherly fools amongst you, don’t worry; I did make an immediate mental note to do some focused pronunciation work with the guy the following week.

'A visitor' left this comment on 28 Feb 05
Ha ha - very funny! But it's also quite embarrassing when that happens, isn't it? You don't want to destroy their confidence by not understanding, but if you can't understand them, there isn't anything you can do about it there and then, especially with other people around, other than smile and nod - hoping that by nodding you're not actually committing yourself to anything untoward - and then jump into 'escape' mode.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Anguish UK - Man the Lifeboats! Principals and Directors First!!

Regarding our scuttled Tirpitz (or was it the well-shelled Bismarck?) of last week, I am happy to report that you can find English UK's measured response to the Government's broadside right here. What follows is a rather selective look at their wimpy bleatings, accompanied by a few choice comments from Yours Truly, Sandy McManus.

The UK is the global market leader in English language courses, which bring in around £1.5 billion in foreign earnings a year.
Yes, and the teachers get precious little of that pot, as you sit on their wages and refuse to let them organise.

The Government proposes to raise the minimum course level for such students to B2 on the European Framework, which corresponds to A level on the Government’s own Languages Ladder and ‘advanced’ on most other language competence scales. This is well above the ‘just below GCSE level’ which the Government was claiming earlier this week.

Oh dear, what a shame - the government has gone back on its word! How unjust it feels to get shafted by somebody who holds power over you!!

The Home Office and UK Border Agency have never published any evidence to show that significant numbers of such students work illegally, overstay their visas or are engaged in any other unlawful activity in the UK.
'Significant numbers', no - that's true. But there are still a lot of accredited schools who allow many of their students to abscond and enter the grey and black economies, and English UK has never been keen to plug this hole, being much more concerned with raking in the dosh instead.
In short, if you and the schools you represent had been a lot more responsible regarding the legal and ethical duties towards the students you/they sponsor, keeping better track of them and such, none of this would have happened. But no, you saw this as 'doing the government's work', and relegated it to low priority. And that is not looking like a smart decision now, eh?!

English UK therefore urges the Home Office and UK Border Agency to: ...

... Let the schools go on making lots of money while ignoring their duties and responsibilites towards the students they serve and the teachers they employ. 'Cos that's about what it comes down to, innit?!

Anyway, if you want to get the most recent and steaming hot poop straight from the proverbial horse's mouth (or the dog's butt), you can contact the fat slob Tony Millns, Chief Executive of English UK, on 020 7608 7960, 07976 511439, or .

Meanwhile, have a look at this - English UK's rather lamentable Facebook campaign. It's not exactly rockin', but you might recognise one of the ... erm, contributors - it's that Howlin' Wolfman again!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Flatulence in the Classroom

Have your classroom performances ever been 'wind-assisted'? Do you often make appropriate usage of the flatulence factor, weaving an inspired and informative performance around the acrid aromas of your toxic anal emissions?

If so, I just might have found a new approach to teaching EFL that is right up your, erm ... 'street', I suppose. It's an article called 'Off the Beaten Path', and it's one of those loony attempts to justify doing bonkers things in the classroom, all in the name of 'radical methodology' ... I suppose.

The article has been published, of course, by that veritable refuge of charlatan theatricals in EFL teaching, Humanistic Language Teaching. And let's be honest here folks - where would all we Teflers be without our regular dose of the whacky HLT mag? Where indeed would we ALL be without that veritable army of Mario Rinvoloonies, who are ready, at the drop of several screwed up pieces of paper masquerading as a ball, to indulge in some of the most absurd pedagogical posturing imaginable, all in the name of turning a fast buck - oops, I mean, turning our heads, of course!

The article's a real cracker in modern methodology and its application in ... erm, teaching something or other. For starters, it recommends the application of PO as a way of "challenging ideas or stirring up new ones". PO means, by the way, Provocative Operation - a bit like this blog, I suppose; and the founder of PO, Edward de Bonkers, might well have been inspired to create his dear PO after a session gazing at these very pages of Sandy McManus. Maybe.

In fact, surely this is no coincidence here? I mean, I often shout PO - as in 'Piss Off' - when I hear ideas like this: "ask the entire class to remember new words by tattooing them all over their bodies".

Yes, that was PO1, which de Bonkers describes as "using a bad idea as a springboard for good ones." I'm sure I don't need remind you that De Bonkers is standing squarely on Tefl terra firma here, as the whole game is notorious for its bad ideas in the first place!

I mean, not only is the entire PO approach pure madness, it's the sort of madness that attracts a certain type of Tefl twerp by the busload. For example, there's also 'PO2', which involves juxtaposing two unrelated ideas, such as this: "the phrase 'TV cabbage' should conjure up some inventive combinations, such as a TV made of edible cabbage leaves, or a cabbage channel".

Yes, dear - very good idea! But I have to ask here - what the fuck's it got to do with teaching English? What possible benefit could it ever bring to my class of fat businessmen or rowdy teenagers, eh? Well, ask Hall Houston, the unfortunate author of this article extolling the hidden virtues of the PO approach in the Tefl classroom. Bacause I have NO idea at all.

And we should not forget PO3, either - challenging an idea, or just fart of it. Oops, did I mention the dreaded F-word there? Of course, the 'sense' (dare I use that descriptor?) behind this one lies in being able to do make it do anything you want - anything at all, I guess. So, instead of suggesting something like"Let's start every class with a dictation", we can challenge an element of it, and say "Let's start the classes with a farting competition" instead! Brilliant!!

Which sort of brings me rather neatly back to the beginning. So when your DoS raises an eyebrow at your inventive use of the proverbial buttock ballon in the classroom, you can just tell her - PO!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bismarck Sunk!

Well, the British government have been threatening to effectively torpedo the country's third largest industry (EFL) for a while now, and at last it seems they have summoned up the courage to scuttle this sizable part of the UK economy. Well done, lads - for now is certainly a good time to start sinking the fleet!

The BBC headline of several days back spelt it out in no uncertain terms - "Tougher rules have been brought in to stop people abusing the student visa system to remain illegally in the UK." And although the Home Office has denied that the changes will lead to tens of thousands of potential EFL students being refused visas, the truth is that many foreign students of English will find it very difficult come here for a dose of Tefl madness.

The plain truth is, of course, that our politicians have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, shot themselves in the foot, cut off their nose to ... etc., etc. - choose your very own suitable yawning cliche, if you please. If what I understand is correct, the Tefl trade in the UK will never be the same again - which could be no bad thing, for sure.

So let's have a butcher's at the facts, shall we? The following paragraphs in italics have been taken from the BBC website article in question, and I've added my comments underneath.

• Successful applicants from outside the EU will have to speak English to a level only just below GCSE standard, rather than beginner level as at present.

What a load of complete cock! If anything serves to prove that the government has not conferred with anybody involved in the nation's Tefl Trade over this move, then this is it, for they make the elementary mistake of confusing native-speaker exams with those designed exclusively for foreigners. I mean, have you ever heard of an EFL student with a GCSE in English? Clearly the UK government have never heard of the Cambridge KET or PET exams.

Even worse - just what do they mean by the phrase"speak English to GCSE standard"? Is there an oral exam in GCSE English? Where are the criteria for judging Sharon and Kevin's miserable attempts to speak standard English? I'd love to see them!

• Students taking courses below degree level will be allowed to work for only 10 hours a week, instead of 20 as at present.

Why? What fuggin' difference does it make how many hours they work? I thought the idea was to keep out potential terrorists and other 'undesirables' - not just keep them in poverty. And presumably those who are in the UK to follow a degree course are less likely to ... just what? I'm puzzled...

Additionally, visas for courses below degree level with a work placement will also be granted only if the institutions they attend are on a new register, the Highly Trusted Sponsors List.

Now that did make me laugh - the notion of a 'Highly Trusted' sponsor in EFL! I guess the Government has have finally realised that there are so many charlatans at work in Britain's tacky Tefl trade that they need to differentiate between them. So, presumably there will be Slightly Trusted Sponsors and Never-to-be Trusted ones too, like Paul Lowe and UKhelp4U!

The main threat to the industry seems to be the exclusion of all those foreigners who have a low level of spoken English. On the one hand, this could mean an end to those awful classes of non-speaking Chinkies and Japs; and what EFL teacher could possibly be sad to see the back of all that bollocks?

Yet on the other hand, who's going to fill their places? Will Britain's dynamic protectors of the domestic EFL industry (English UK, British Council) start making extra efforts to recruit students with better English - offering them hybrid courses of language and literature, cultural studies, sort of "English and golf/Premier League footy/24-hour drinking" stuff?

Even worse, what will these measures do to the ever-profitable summer school business, which typically recruits young kids from far and wide - Russia and the Middle East, to name but two. I would gladly stick my neck out here and say that NONE of the horrible well-heeled sprogs that I taught on summer schools ever had a high level of English. So will this side of the UK Tefl Trade just wither and die?

Well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see. I did e-mail English UK about their response to the government's magnificent proposals, but their silence has been, well, expected.

Of course, though, the biggest danger is this. If the UK Tefl industry does go under, what on Earth will I be able to take the piss out of in the years to come? Frankly, I'm terrified!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

EFL Teachers 'lack violence training'

"Nearly half of new EFL teachers do not feel properly equipped to deal out violence in the classroom". I was not at all surprised to read that sad admission in the online Guardian today. For much too long the benefits of 'The Violent Way' have remained hidden, crushed under the weight of the dead hand of political correctness.

Indeed, according to figures released by the British Council, as many as two-thirds of newly qualified EFL teachers have received no clear guidance on attacking students, and many felt that they had not had enough training to dish out appropriately challenging behaviour to students who perform badly in class.

Sandy McManus is therefore happy to reveal that techniques involving 'passive physical contact', such as blocking a pupil's path by offering a fist, and 'active contact' such as leading a pupil by squeezing the hand or arm, are soon to be incorporated into the EFL Teacher Training Council's new methodology curriculum. Other more advanced techniques, such as 'appropriate restrictive holds and neck-presses', will also be incorporated into the new 'Violent Way' syllabus.
IATEFL has also backed the proportionate use of force. A spokesperson said "We know that we live in the real world, we know that sometimes teachers will be faced with difficult situations, and will need to utilise violent teaching methods - especially when bringing old copies of Headache Intermediate into the classroom. But it's all for the students' good, after all."

Another source has stated that the official guidance is unclear, and EFL teachers are sometimes puzzled, or just too stoned in class, to understand things properly. Sharon Slapper, from the EFL teachers' union CUNT (Confederation of Underqualified Nobhead Teflers) said "These violent confrontations can erupt very quickly, especially when a Tefler finds out he's got to teach Beginner level for the third time in a year. So the teachers need to be clear about what sort of steps they can take to successfully manage an escalating situation, if they have to physically attack a student or other member of staff, and how in fact they can do that in the most economical and successful way possible - without getting another black mark on their existing police record."

Shadow education secretary Michael Gove said that if the Conservatives were elected, they would change the law to give EFL teachers more arms. "The government backs the use of violence that is proportionate, and will legislate to enable teachers to undertake weight-training and small-arms practise - by force, if necessary" he added.

He went on to state that the nation's Teflers should "feel empowered to use whatever force they consider to be appropriate in order to pull apart pupils who are complaining" and fully supported teachers learning to acquit themselves well by attending martial arts programmes and shooting ranges.

Sir Tony Millns, a fat blob of a spokesman from English UK, also underlined the need to increase professional standards in dealing with difficult customer behaviour by 'justified force', such as throttling students, thrashing them for bad pronunciation, and immersing them in water. "Standards of teacher violence have improved, and are good in the majority of EFL schools" he said, in between gulps of Theakston's Old Peculier, "and we are determined to tackle poor teacher behaviour and raise their overall standards of violence - that is why we are giving EFL schools clearer and stronger powers than ever before to ensure good discipline, and in order to avoid prosecution. Now, whose round is it...?"


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

TEFL is Cock!

You know, it really is time to do something about this lamentable turd of a 'career' that Tefl in the UK has become. I mean, there are times I really wish I was just a snotty-nosed 19-year-old with a mere handful of useless GCSEs . Take a look at a recent advert that appeared for just such an individual...

Data Entry/Office Assistant - LONDON
Leicester Square, London, WC2H
Hours to be arranged: 39 hours /week, 9AM - 5PM, Mon – Fri
Salary/Wage: £26,000 annum
Employer: ID Statistics Ltd
Closing Date: 15th February 2010

Still not sure what I'm on about? Well, compare the job advertised above with this one below...

Date posted: Monday 11th January Ad viewed: 1030 times
Location: London
We are looking to employ 3 part time English teachers

1 position for :2 * 6 hour shifts and 1 * 3 hour shift
2 positions for evening 18.30 to 21.00 4 days per week.

We are a friendly school and very flexible.
Must have TEFL or Teaching qualification.

The rate is £8.50 rising to £9.00 after 3 months.

See what I mean? A job in London that has no need for a degree or any sort of 'professional' qualification pays 26,000 quid a year. Another job in London that requires a degree and a teaching qualification pays ... what - about half?

Yes, you read right there - the 'professional' job gets you about half the salary of the scrote from the council estate. See, if you calculate the rate of remuneration as 9.00 an hour for six hours per day (£54), five days a week, then that equals 270 quid a week. Multiply that figure by the 52 weeks of the year, and you get an enormous annual salary of ... just a shade over £14,000!!

So, I've decided - enough is enough, really. I'm gonna do something about all this, even if it does only involve shaming a room full of Tefl twerps. The plan is to book a slot at the next EFL conference (IATEFL? English UK?) in the UK and do a presentation on 'Why is TEFL crap in the UK?'. OK, it's a rather rhetorical question, I know, but it should attract the necessary attention.
My presentation plan, complete with a wide range of colourful powderpoint slides, will be something as follows...
Part 1: Is the UK Tefl scene really crap? Cue slides of teaching jobs and scrotebag jobs (as per above). Elicit comparisons with other industries too; invite salary comparisons from members of the audience (both of them).
Part 2: Just why is it so crap? Steam in to the British Council for failing to acknowledge teachers' salaries and conditions in their accreditation scheme; Slag off English UK for running the industry into the ground in terms of teachers' opportunities; and give serious grief to HM Government for allowing utter criminals and total shysters to set up 'language schools' with no knowledge of education at all.
Part 3: What can we do about it? Unveil my plan for (a) lobbying the Government to take a serious look at the private EFL sector in the UK and REGULATE it properly, (b) picketing the offices of the British Council at Spring Gardens until they change their accreditation service to reflect the true value of the teachers employed in EFL in the UK, and (c) sending parcel bombs to EnglishUK.
Oh, hang on, I might need to revise that last bit. Maybe it would just be more appropriate to send them packets of dog-shit? It's about what they're worth, in the eyes of every UK EFL teacher, I'd say.
So - what do YOU say, dear downtrodden UK Tefler? I'm very serious about this idea of doing a presentation at one of the upcoming EFL cenferences, by the way. Perhaps I should try and deliver a presentation at ALL of them? What do you say, playmates?!