Bores

English language teaching is not something to do in an English speaking country. In distant climes any teacher with a TEFL certificate not currently in jail is fought over by Directors of Studies like tabloid editors over a royal footman. Should you have a diploma, strangers will ask to be photographed beside you.

Back home it is a different story. You are lucky to find a job at a summer school.

Back home teachers earn salaries that barely pay for their poky flats in remote suburbs. Huddled in the bus queue in the drizzle, they recall their chums from university, who wisely went into banking and now own mansions with special rooms for ironing their money.

The teacher cannot quite bring himself to admit he is a failure. Instead he becomes an ELT Bore.

ELT Bores are mostly male and middle-aged, but not DOSes. They have a diploma, plus a degree in something useless like Politics or English Literature. They cultivate a slightly raffish persona, to signal that they despise the bourgeois, commercial side of language schools.

Basic Bores slag off most ELT approaches and coursebooks. Their especial contempt is reserved for writers like the Soarses, who are enormously successful and rich. Occasionally they rave about an alternative coursebook, which they badger the DOS to adopt instead of Headway. The DOS frowns at the absence of colour photographs, winces at the anecdotes of female tractor-drivers, calculates the number of tests that would need rewriting, and says, “Hmm.”

Advanced Bores devise their own methodologies. They drone on about them at conferences and post acrimonious articles on the Internet. Their huge, fragile egos do not take kindly to ridicule. The methodologies are mixtures of the barmy and the blindingly obvious. For instance, teachers are forbidden to use recorded materials in the classroom (barmy), while students should choose the topics of conversation classes (blindingly obvious).

The great opportunity ELT offers Bores is its lack of intellectual rigour. Any dabbler with a half-baked idea can become an expert. The Bore claims “recent research suggests” his pet method is the effective one. (The research is never cited.) His students ripped up their coursebooks and burst into fluent, idiomatic English.

Actually, I am working on a new methodology myself. I plan to call it Total Language Programming, or was it Human Lexical Response? Recent research suggests it washes whiter than traditional teaching methods.