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5 Useful Courses Not, to the Best of My Knowledge, Offered by Teaching Programs

November 26, 2011
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Well, the inevitable has happened: I’ve finished my teaching program. Exciting times, friends and lovers! My final task will be to complete a program evaluation form, and while my feelings and opinions about the past year are positive for the most part, I do have some constructive suggestions for the department. Since there isn’t enough space for all of my “great ideas” on the form, I’m writing some of them here on the internet, where numbered lists are the only acceptable form of communication.

Here they are: the five TESOL classes I most wish I could have taken this year.

1. Intimidating Unpleasant Students with Barely Detectable Sarcasm. Most students are lovely human beings, but now and then you encounter that one asshole who’s hell bent on ruining the lesson for everyone. These days it’s not permissible to wield a metre stick like the schoolmarms of yesteryear: whip-smart wit is the new strap. The meaning is all in the delivery when you say something like “Great comment; thanks for sharing that,” or “Your grammar is really improving.” Teachers need to learn the broadest possible range of inflection and intonation tricks to disarm the douchebags who would otherwise be destroying the classroom atmosphere with their attitude malfunctions and etiquette disorders.

2. Preparing a Decent Lesson and Materials in Under One Hour While Also Doing Other Things. Sure, it’s satisfying to get a 98% on a one-hour lesson plan that took you seventeen hours to prepare. Oh, you created all of the activities from scratch and meticulously hand-drew the pictures onto all the vocabulary cards and even wrote up a rules sheet for the very clever board game you painstakingly handcrafted out of Bristol board and egg cartons? Great work, nerd! I’m so proud of your stellar GPA! Now seriously, quit that shit. A class in effective corner-cutting would teach the teachers what they really need to learn: how to plan good lessons in the quickest, easiest way–preferably while cooking a meal or watching TV. Prep time is unpaid, and you don’t want to spend your free hours screwing around with egg cartons, am I right? I’m right. If it takes you seven hours to prepare an activity, then you’d better be planning to get at least 70 hours of classroom use out of it. There’s just no excuse otherwise.

3. Speaking Without Contractions. English speakers are lazy as hell. We will take any opportunity to degrade a perfectly good vowel into a schwa, abbreviate a word, make a noun into an adjective, etc., in order to get our thoughts out faster (and keep the rhythm of a sentence alive, of course). Contractions shave seconds off our speaking time every day, but it turns out that ESL speakers have a really hard time dealing with them. The whole deal of “I’ll” and “I will” being the same thing is a one-hour lesson in itself, and then you have to practice the hell out of it for the rest of the semester. If you’ve got a class full of beginner or low intermediate students, you’ll hafta you will have to learn to speak without apostrophes and shortened forms. It’s the weirdest thing to do, and it takes practice to be able to keep it going without feeling like a condescending douche.

4. Keeping a Straight Face Regardless. All kinds of beautifully hilarious things happen by accident in an ESL class, like an advanced student telling you she’s read 1984 but not Enema Farm, or a beginner writing that he lives on the “chicken floor” of his building. While interacting with his/her students, a native speaker quickly realizes how many English words sound like other, funnier English words. At a certain point, the teacher can actually give an entertaining pronunciation lesson on this stuff, but until students reach the advanced level and have absorbed a sufficient amount of North American humour, maintaining an earnest expression is necessary. After all, on a hot summer day, don’t we all like the bitch and find a cold Cock refreshing?

5. Using Archaic Technology. Teaching departments frequently offer seminars on learning how to use the SmartBoard or the computer station/projector/surround sound systems that seem to have quietly installed themselves in most classrooms while no one was looking, but in my experience, a teacher is more likely to be in a position of having to use one of those gigantic 1980s cassette players, or an overhead projector–or, god forbid, a filmstrip player. Teachers younger than 30 have never encountered these obsolete machines and need to be taught what they are and how they work.

All of these should be offered as electives at the very least. It’s too late for me; I’m sure I’ll have eight jobs and be raking in the Lauriers hand over fist (what in the hell does that expression mean? I’m trying to visualize it physically and it’s not working out at all) two months at the most from now. But future students would be better equipped to handle the real-life demands of the classroom if they got a little more practical instruction and a little less “Go spend the next two weeks writing a 20-page lesson plan”!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 26, 2011 5:34 pm

    This is hilarious AND true! I’ve found that teacher training programs barely touch on almost all of the things that you will actually need once you’re in the classroom. Enough theory! The theory is EASY. The rest is hard.

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