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New bugs

new bug = a newcomer, tenderfoot, rookie, sprog, greenhorn, newbie, etc.

Typically a teacher lasts one year in a job before moving on. Anyone who stays two automatically becomes a grizzled old-timer. He exploits this by smugly demonstrating to new bugs his familiarity with the bus routes, the shops that sell Western delicacies, the sleaziest bars, and of course the local language, a few words of which he sprinkles throughout his monologues quite unnecessarily.

Humiliating new bugs is an ancient sport. In some societies they must undergo unpleasant rites of passage. In ELT these consist of being patronized by losers who did the Celta a year earlier, and getting the classes nobody else wants.

Somebody fresh off the plane and the Celta not only cannot speak the local language, he is not at all confident about teaching his own. He arrives at the school soon after dawn and begins prepping his lessons. Six hours later you stroll in and find him cutting up hundreds of pieces of paper for some game. Languidly, you indicate the boxes of supplementary materials, containing a ready-to-go, multicoloured, laminated set, and enjoy watching the expression on his face.

Other teachers drift in, make coffee, chat, check their emails, read the paper or leave almost immediately for prolonged lunch breaks. Meanwhile the new bug is looking anxiously at the clock. Only two hours left and he still has an entire lesson to plan.

After eight hours of increasingly frenzied riffling through books, photocopying and cutting up, the new bug is ordered by the tyrant Time into class. The other teachers watch dispassionately as he scoops up armfuls of handouts and realia and hurries off. One of them wanders over to the timetable to see what he is teaching today. TOEFL, starting five minutes ago. Now where is that class pack?

In the classroom the new bug is earnestly bonding with the students, who find him strange and a little alarming. He springs maniacally to the whiteboard whenever they do not know a word. The realia are piled up in a corner, itching to be used.

After the lesson he feels like a bomber pilot safely home from a mission. Sweat gushes from every pore. He gabbles to everyone in earshot about the lesson, how well it went, what the students said and did, and so on. The other teachers nod politely and ignore him.

By the end of the day the new bug has lost several pounds and needs a drink. He rapidly consumes three beers on an empty stomach and gets pissed. His attempts to communicate his newly acquired theories of language acquisition are suppressed by the other teachers, who talk over him and occasionally feed him titbits of local lore, from the price of vegetables to the shaggability of the natives. They do not ask him any questions about himself.

It is a sad fact that, no matter what you have done in the past, you are still a new bug. Perhaps you once rowed down the Nile, crossed the Sahara on foot, hunted with pygmies, danced with Madonna, translated War and Peace into Sanskrit... but you still do not know which bus to catch or where the spare boardmarkers are kept. You are a new bug and for a few months at least the old hands (who have done none of these things) have you in thrall.