Thinking (again) about TEFL and The Jam

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I’ve taken an extended hiatus from this site, but I’m back.

I think.


That depends.

The TEFL Industry

There are plenty of things to dislike – or even downright loathe – about TEFL. Not so much the job itself (although, like any other job, there are things to rag on – justifiably or just because we like whinging), but more the industry as whole: How it’s structured, the kind of bullshit that keeps it afloat year after year despite being such a depraved joke in so many cases, the dominant ideology of wrongness that permeates the whole freakin’ landscape about how to best teach/learn languages, the ineffective major publishing houses that perpetuate this crap edition after edition, the bloated (and expensive) seminars with professors/teacher trainers/authors essentially delivering their latest academic paper or chapter from their latest book (and where the entire event is just a thinly-veiled advertising opportunity for the major publishing houses who typically sponsor these things anyway), and the implications of all this garbage for students who really do want to learn and the teachers who really do want to help them.

Desperately Needing a Break

In January, I sent out this audio message to the folks on my mailing list and I haven’t posted here since.

After a decade of working myself to the bone in an industry overwhelmed by apathy, greed and incompetence (on all fronts: teachers, students, management, “educational” agents, recruiters, “training centres” and other TEFL course providers, and so on down a very long list of accomplices), I needed to step back and get away from TEFL — both online and off.


The thing is, though… I can’t stop being a teacher! :) And I’ve built up a degree of knowledge and experience about language teaching over the years that I’d love to be able to share with those other teachers out there who care.

But I’m still unconvinced about whether it’s worth the effort involved if only a minscule percentage of EFL Teachers give a shit.

At any rate, I’m thinking about putting together a couple of things:

1. Something for people getting into TEFL - to help them steer clear of the landmines

2. Something for teachers who’ve been at it for a while and who are tired of banging their heads against the wall

More news soon.

Prove Me Wrong

Comments and/or questions welcome, as always.


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4 Responses to “Thinking (again) about TEFL and The Jam”

  1. Lynne Hutchinson Lynne Hutchinson says:

    Hey Leslie,

    It's strange you should write this as I'd only been thinking this week that we hadn't had any news from you for a while and concern was starting to kick in.

    Talking about "concern", I believe this is a word we need to apply a little more often to TEFL. There are people out there (like yourself) who ARE concerned about what we're doing in TEFL classrooms, and - even more to the point - what some teachers and/or institutions aren't doing. I had an excellent example of this only a couple of weeks ago which I'd like to share with you, just to give you an obviously much-needed smile.

    As I think I already told you, I've been working on developing some teacher training workshops along with Jason, an American colleague. They're almost off the ground and just a couple of weeks ago I received a message from another colleage suggesting we try to organise some kind of get-together open to any EFL teacher who felt the need or inclination to come along. It was a case of "great minds think alike". The evening went very well with over 20 participants and lots who were sorry not to be able to come.

    I firmly believe that you would feel very frustrated if you stopped all your good work now. There are lots of people out there who, like me, have found your articles and comments both enlightening and thought-provoking. I know how hard it is to fight the system (going through that right now with administration at the local university just so I can get paid for something I've already done), but without people like you to boost us lesser mortels, it's not ever going to improve, is it?

    You're important. We're all important. But we can only be effective if we communicate, share and nibble away at the gangrene as best we can, knowing that others are doing the same elsewhere.

    Chin up!

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    •  Leslie says:

      Lynne, you’re too kind!

      I guess I do need a smile re: TEFL so it’s fantastic to hear that people like you are out there doing great work and trying to raise the bar. :grin:

      Congratulations on the success of your training workshop project, too!

      My girlfriend read this post and said to me "You sound fed up".

      To which I replied "Hmmm… somewhat. It’s a pity if it comes across that way, but it’s written now and it is what it is. I’m certainly fed up with the industry and all the B.S. that goes with it.

      Not fed up with my readers or the site. Just somewhat indifferent regarding this little project at this point. :neutral: I’m more than willing to write up and share what I know about language teaching – as well as provide a place for teachers to bounce ideas around – but if only a few people give any indication that it’ll be worth my time to do so, then I’ll just as soon shut it down and walk away. So, no, not fed up on that front. Just, as I said, kind of indifferent."

      Yet, there’s a part of me that says "Just get something up and rolling and see what happens." I certainly don’t believe in the "build it and they will come" nonsense. That notion, to me, reads as: "Bust your hump and cross your fingers" and I'm far too pragmatic for that.

      So, as I alluded to at the end of the post, I’m going to put together a plan and see who’s on board to make it a reality with me. If no one, then no problem; I’ll have my answer. If people like it, great!

      Your comment, which I’ve highlighted below is very true, indeed, and well worth repeating:

      we can only be effective if we communicate, share and nibble away at the gangrene as best we can, knowing that others are doing the same elsewhere

      Who else out there fancies being part of something that, hopefully, can make a real change? :idea:

      All the best,

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  2. Lee Ellen Johnson Lee Ellen Johnson says:

    Hi Leslie,

    I, ashamedly, must admit that I have never left a comment before. This doesn't mean, however, that I have been ambivalent to the site. In fact, I have read every blog that has been sent and have found much of it to be of great help. Some has given me good ideas, others have just reaffirmed that I'm on the right track, which when working in Korea is invaluable as they won't ever tell you. I know how frustrating it can be feeling that no one cares. I'm a certified teacher working in an industry where most aren't. They're fresh out of college with any variety of degrees and simply want to have a year of fun before starting a REAL job. That attitude towards my profession, a profession I take great pride in, can really anger me. When I have to send an e-mail explaining what can and should be done during prep time instead of playing on facebook, I can't help but wonder "What am I doing here?"

    The mixed messages I receive from program coordinators and co-teachers about what's important and what should be taught don't help much either. Just when I begin to feel like it's pointless, I meet a teacher who actually cares, who has brought something fresh and new and who wants to hear what I have to say. Then, like a breath of fresh air I'm rejuvenated and continue on. You are one of my breaths of fresh air - my reminder that this IS a profession worthy of my best and there ARE others out there who actually care what happens to their students.
    Please don't take my lack of comments as a sign of disinterest. It's actually a sign of my own insecurities. I'm always quite critical of my own work. Thus, I'm hesitant to express my opinion or ideas for fear they won't measure up to others. Ridiculous, I know, but there none the less. Lynne's comment is exactly right. It is through sharing and working together that the real accomplishments occur, so I will try to be braver and comment more often in the future.
    All this to say, "Please don't feel as if your work doesn't matter. I have a strong feeling that I'm not the only one out there reading your material and benefitting from it but simply hesitant to comment."
    I taught ESL for a few years in the states and have only been teaching EFL for a couple of years, so it is my hope that you will continue with your ideas about something for new teachers and something for experienced teachers. I'm looking forward to what that may entail. In the meantime, know that what you do DOES make a difference even if it doesn't seem like it at the time.

    Lee Ellen

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    •  Leslie says:

      Wow, Lee Ellen… that’s one helluva comment — and your first, no less! I dearly hope it won’t be your last (and not just coz you said nice stuffs ’bout me’n'that either! ;) )

      I really appreciate your kind words, too, and it’s nice to get a reminder about a couple of things. Someone contacted me privately a few months ago saying something similar "I don’t like to comment, but I thought it worth mentioning that I’ve learnt some things here".

      Not trying to elicit sycophancy, but still keen to know what other people are thinking (so please leave your comments below).

      In the meantime, I’ll get started on the plan… :)

      Thanks again for the comments and be sure to know that as someone who clearly takes a great deal of pride in the profession and in doing a good job, your voice is always welcome here!

      Take care,

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