Friday, April 01, 2005

Last Day of Training

by AJ

Training is over. My conclusion: they can shove their drill-based method right up their asses.

In that vein, I used a story to conclude my last junior high class and it went great! We told it as a chain, using the boy in class as the main character. The two girls had great fun concocting embarassing situations for him (He went to America with his girlfriend Minae, etc.). He seemed to enjoy the attention and they all used the past tense without drills or formulas.

I concluded the lesson by having each student write a story about the person to their right. The boy got his revenge. He wrote about Hirakus journey to the ocean, where she was eaten by a shark!

And for the first time since starting work at David English House, I had fun. And so did the students. (Dont tell anyone!!).

The David English way to do this is to have students write a contrived dialogue several times. For example:

Q: What did you do yesterday?
A: I went to the beach.
Q: Who did you go with?
A: I went with my mother?
Q: What did you do there?
A: I swam

Who the hell writes like that? This is contrived language and its boring as shit (for me and the students).

Unfortunately, this is just the sort of drill I did during the first 3/4ths of the class; as I was being observed. The observer was actually the coolest of the managers.. but I still felt constrained to do my sorry-ass version of the schools formula while he watched. Not surprisingly, the first 40 minutes sucked. Boring. Contrived. Artificial. Useless.

I wont blame their formula (well, actually I do), but I WILL blame the fact that Im forced to use it when:
a) I hate it
b) It doesn suit my strengths
c) It contradicts my teaching philosophy
d) I find it mind-numbingly boring.
e) There is no research to support it.

Once the observer left class I broke out the story and we all had a great time (and learned the past tense in an authentic, more effortless, and more enjoyable way). Im not claiming my experience proves anything other than: I teach better with my own approach.

With a Masters in TESOL and years of experience, youd think Id be trusted to make this decision. But Im not. Im just a wage slave at McEnglish. Would you like fries with that?

This is what Tom Peters is talking about when he rants againsts management that stifles //front-line workers//. Innovation is squashed. Motivation is squashed. Passion is drained. Resentment and frustration build.

I agree with Tom. The best management can do is provide a vision of excellence, hire insanely inspired freaks, create a culture of innovation, and (most of all) GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY!

[For a small example of this, see the Stephens House case study in our Curriculum Design post on ]


Steve Sherlock said...

Hang in there. Be subtle. Be submissive. Then when they are not looking/observing break out your own way (as int he story mentioned). When the feedback comes in later, it should be obvious as to which way worked better. Then the smile inside will be glorious!

Anonymous said...

AJ I knew you wouldn't let them bosses of yours stuff you into a rigid box out there. Well, whether or not the students actually get any good use for English, they'll be learning it from someone who won't just drill them with banalities like a bunch of robots. And it'll eventually get you a ticket out of there and back into freedom - the sooner the better. But do you think you could find a way to never have to succumb to work ever again??? Or do you see yourself having to keep on selling yourself for money like this when the $$$ runs out?
Dan ('sunwalker')

AJ said...

THE Question

Ahhh Dan/Sunwalker, you have hit upon the question of my life: "But do you think you could find a way to never have to succumb to work ever again???"

Ha! I ask myself that question EVERY SINGLE DAY. I meditate upon it. I agonize over it.

Never to succumb to work again-- that, indeed, is my goal.

How will I do it? Through freelancing most likely. I already scrape a few bucks a month from freelance writing. I hope to increase that. I also hope to gather some private/freelance English students (adults).

Eventually I might even start my own program, though that wouldnt necessarily be required. Enough writing and enough private students would do it.

So thats where I want to get to economically. Im certainly much much closer than I was three years ago... but I have a way to go still.

How about you.... what is your solution to your dilemma? Its a very important question.