Tribulations of a TEFL Teacher

How good is your understanding of English? Ok? Excellent? Grammatically perfect? Sure. But can you tell me how the language works? Hell, can you even give a terribly good explanation of what grammar is? Maybe. I don’t know my readers, just that there have been twelve hundred of you passing this way so far. Some of you might have finished your Eng Lit degrees or whatever. But for the rest of us….!

I can assure you my ability at communicating in the English language is pretty good. I went to a good school, and considered a B a disgrace. I read plenty. And I attribute any spelling or grammar errors in my blog to typos, tiredness and styles of writing. Just in case anyone thinks of getting picky! But gee, after 12 years living in the real world away from text books and teachers, you sure do lose track of what a subordinate clause has to do with a time clause, and what the hell are modals and gerunds when they’re at home anyway?!

What I really dread in the classroom are the Overly Diligent Student and the Way Too Competitive Student. The former will suddenly pipe up at the end of a section (when you timidly ask if anyone has any questions, whilst praying they understood the material somewhat better than you did) to demand a more thorough explanation of the rule concerning reference and conjuction devices used to signal relationships in text blah blah blah.

I tend to scratch my head for the next sixty seconds, while deciding what to do next. Typical thoughts flashing through one’s mind at times like this – “I have absolutely no idea whatsoever”; “Bloody hell, I knew I should have done a lesson plan”; “….or at least had a glance at the book on the train here”; “geez, I can’t even remember what a conjunction is – nasty eye infection?”; “….stupid bitch, I can’t see you getting a good test score again this week, and frankly I don’t care how many questions you do get right…”.

There is a solution of course. Multiple choices actually, in keeping with classroom activities. Declare ignorance and try to move onto next topic. Take several minutes to work it out, while looking ignorant. Or my favourite – make something up, using waffle and vagueness to enable me to avoid embarrassment at a later date, then move the subject on. If they persist, then repeat, but with longer words, and….what the hell – just make some words up! There’s nowt like a few confibularitations to utterly obstrudle an annoying student!!!

The key is to speak in such a patronising way that for the student to persist further, or refer to a dictionary, would make them feel and/or look stupido! Quickly ask the class dunce to produce a sentence of any kind, safe in the knowledge it will take him 20 minutes and we can move the subject away from areas of difficulty! Da daaaa!

The Way Too Competitive Student is liable to show off their superior English skills to classmates, and may arrive at a lesson demanding confirmation that he/she was correct regarding a grammatical dispute they have had with another student during the week. They will then proudly read out their ‘correct’ sentence and await adulation from myself – while I try and work out what exactly is the best way to tell him/her that their sentence was complete gibberish. There is no best way. Not even Google in it’s infinite wisdom could work out what some of these people are trying to say!

Inevitably, the WTC student won’t accept my ‘suggested better way’ to phrase the sentence and will spend the next two hours insisting they have seen their sentence written ‘somewhere’, starting rumours that I may not actually be English and attempting to use their crappy “I want go mountains in the sea run” sentence at every opportunity during class to show that they are absolutely convinced they are right and I am stupid…..!

In case I’ve left the impression I’m a rubbish teacher, might I point out that we all have bad days at work when we haven’t prepared as much as we should have, and to write about the many days I gave great lessons would make a real boring blog!!!

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