Not so long ago in a far away galaxy I was told that I “didn’t fit in” by a boss in an appraisal. When I asked for more clarification the reasons were related to my style of teaching and my passion for teaching as opposed to meetings, admin and red tape. I was also ticked off for not doing 100% of the handouts I was given and for not spending enough time ‘liaising’ colleagues, even though everyone was in a separate office and had differing schedules.
At first this shocked and rather upset me but now I think I understand the main problems:
1)The boss/colleagues had been schooled in old-fashioned lecture+grammar translation and still used these methods. Thus, they did not appreciate people NOT doing them and so when I did lots of conversation in ENGLISH only, they were not amused as they saw this as wrong.
2)My attempts to adapt my courses to my students and their needs was probably seen as me ‘not pulling the line’ or as criticising their courses. Actually, more the latter, or so I was told.
3)They spent a lot of time talking, I mean a LOT, far more than teaching. Meetings, more meetings, staffroom mini-meetings, email chain discussions on Sundays…So if you were not around or not reading your mail at any one of these impromptu times you were seen as not contributing. And actual meetings involved 5/7 people all arguing about 1 thing, say an answer to a question on a grammar test and if you did not give an answer it was badly seen, even though we had answers in the book.
4)I’m from an old-fashioned ‘DOS consults then makes decisions’ schooling and that the basics (title of a course and basic aims) are set before it starts. Not, everyone argues over decisions for 3 weeks and still don’t make a decision and then you have weekly meetings about what the heck you will be doing next week EVERY week for 4 hours. And this could be for every single course.
5)As they had all been there a while they had really got fed up with teaching and focussed more on admin, which had become far more important to the point that they would give classes a video just so they could complete a ‘document’. They would actually treasure these like gold and say “I’m working on a document” and if you never “read the document” then you were cursed.
6)Handouts were viewed as the superior material and typed out Word Docs (often copied straight from books) were the ultimate. but exercises were rarely given and answers NEVER.
So, the main problem was that YES I didn’t fit in.I like communication in English, creating courses around my students, minimal admin, a course structure in which I can work/develop, being completely dedicated to the lesson I am teaching and materials that help students develop and communicate.
I can’t change these but maybe I have to adapt and compromise. I spoke to other teachers while in this job and they thought much the same but their line was “if you want to keep your job, tow the line”. Another said “I know,you know and the students know that this is ridiculous but we all play along”. My favourite one was “in a few years, when they retire, we can turn the department into a proper EFL one and teach unplugged”.
There is also the ‘way of schooling’ issue at play ie I was brought up in the ‘CELTA is law’ way of thinking splashed with lots of communicative dressing and student focus with no L1 use. Older members of staff may have learned grammar-translation during their training and may not have done a CELTA because there wasn’t one or they studied for a teaching degree with an emphasis on subject knowledge. Straight away there will be some clash it seems between these approaches.
Do you fit in at your school? Why? Why not?