Monday, March 07, 2005


A couple of my interviewees have answered their questions. Andaloo has written a fascinating account of how he frightened his gardener, and Sleeper has proved once and for all that English teachers are wonderful people. Well, some of us are, anyway.

Speaking of English teachers, I have been spending far too much time at Englishdroid. The Man is down with the 'flu and dealing with it in his usual way, by taking his extremely bad temper to bed. (I think the aim is to sleep until it's all over. He has managed two days so far.) The bedroom is next to this room, though, and the fusuma (sliding doors) let sound through. Trying to laugh quietly is giving me hiccoughs.

I found the site via Language Log, where Geoffrey K. Pullum writes that teaching English as a foreign language is such hard work that after school hours its practitioners need a cheap laugh and a cold beer. Is this the voice of experience? It is almost too accurate (although I prefer wine myself). But I should also add that one of the reasons this site is making me laugh is that so much of it is truth thinly disguised as humour. I am laughing because I KNOW people like that. I have a horrible suspicion I am at least one of them. (But I won't tell you which one(s).)

I am tempted to use this teaching plan one of these days, but I won't, because it is too ethically confusing. I've been in a situation before where a bunch of students decided to trust me and told me far too much about my colleagues, and believe me, you do not want to be in a situation where you discover that your boss, who has the power to fire you, is notorious for groping his students. The students' demonstrations of exactly how he did this were appallingly funny. One of the girls was a gifted mimic who made it impossible to maintain my professional detachment, and I am ashamed to confess that I was so surprised by this unexpected talent that I really did fall off my chair laughing. But when you stop laughing, and when the students beg you not to tell, you are left with a nasty taste in your mouth and a moral dilemma.1

A couple of the other lesson plans in the satanic units are also tempting, but equally difficult to reconcile with job security. Not that I actually have any job security, of course, but even one year contracts are better than nothing.

And speaking of job security, for those of you who have ever wondered about the possibility of becoming an English language teacher and having a wildly exotic life like mine, there is a special section just for you: the Occasionally Articulated Queries. The answers are painfully accurate.

But even as I hiccough and giggle my way through this site, a part of me is horrified that a fellow teacher has revealed the secrets of our profession to the world like this. I mean, do we really want everyone to know that the reason teaching English as a foreign language is such hard work is that nothing we do actually works? And that the handful of students who learn the language properly are the ones who would have picked it up at home by reading a book?

My laughter is the uncomfortable laughter of a woman who emerged from the ladies' room two hours ago into a crowded room and has only just discovered that her skirt is tucked up in her knickers. I'm feeling a little exposed.

1. The moral dilemma was solved when the students took care of him themselves by complaining en masse several months later. He 'voluntarily' resigned his tenure. (Another tenured professor at the same university was a known bigamist but apparently that was not considered sufficient grounds for firing him. As far as I know he is still there.)


tinyhands said...

Ok, so I might not teach business English, but I'm heading over that direction (still on the fence between Japan & China) after I get my degree.

Badaunt said...


(If you become an English teacher you will be a New Bug.)

librariangush said...

I'm finished with my questions, teacher!

Can I go to recess now?

melinama said...

I loved these links, thanks!

volterwd said...

No one could learn a language reading a book... they would never pronounce it right... unfortunately some people will never master it... thats life... you are there mostly to provide a benchmark of what the english language should sound like... other wise they will mispronounce and not understand properly