100 posts

This is my 100th post. I was quite surprised to realise it but WordPress can’t be wrong.

To celebrate I thought of doing a ‘looking back in…’ post but then thought that it would be a bit dull so I would like to do a ‘looking forward in…’ one instead.

For several months I’ve been following blogs, commenting, writing my own and just keeping track of what people are thinking. There are certain things I think are going on and ideas spinning around that certainly indicate change is afoot. Here are some of my thoughts on what could happen in the near future:

1)A dogme book, or at least an attempt at one.

2)A tech overload backlash and a return to non-tech (controversial!).

3)Cheaper and cheaper materials with lower quality thus making them affordable.

4)The death of general English (at last!).

5)More and more online courses and F2F ones.

6)An eventual realisation that the CELTA is in fact the cause of most of the complaints that we have about ELT teaching. But will they change it and to what?

7)Less qualified TEFL teachers due to increasing costs of courses. Perhaps an acceptance of cheaper unaccredited courses?

8)A proper change to IELTS and other Cambridge speaking tests to make them a bit more realistic.

9)Schools and organisations employing rooms full of teachers to teach online like in call centre.

10)Teachers becoming more savvy earlier on to what and how to teach rather than just following materials and courses for years.

11)International British Council accreditation for schools out of England.

I think that’s enough for now. I big you goodnight.

100 posts seems like a good point to have a break or stop or do something else or all of them. Hmmmmm.

Classroom design

I mentioned in a previous post about people I know who are setting up schools. Well, I visited one before it was finished was interested to look at the rooms. Of course, the building work was still going on but I could see the basic shape and feel of the classrooms. This got me thinking…..

We all learn about the horse shoe and other types of table logistics but how about the rest? A lot of the places I’ve worked in over the past few years have just been white rooms with tables and chairs and maybe an OHP, some have had boards but some haven’t. Sounds dull I know but when they are used for different topics then it makes sense.

Now then, what if I was given freedom to design my own room? I’m not just talking about tables but the actual shape, colour, walls vs glass etc. Would I go for trendy glass walls or stone ones with a fortified gate? To be honest, I’m not keen on glass as everyone is able to see you and you them. I like a traditional room that feel safe so students don’t feel watched. But under the glass principal why have walls at all? I’ve seen this in some places that just have 1 room with 15 desks full of students having 121s. Not my ideal environment I must say.

OK, so I’d like walls with 1 or 2 bigish windows with nice views and natural light. I don’t like all the artificial stuff. Now, shape? Would round be possible? That would be interesting and a break from square rooms or even oval might be good. Then I could be in the middle. Why do we always have to be at the front? Just because that’s where the board is? Well, have a portable board or a rotating projector. Or just a portable board.

Tables? Do I want any or would seats with little tables attached be OK? Why not. Don’t tables just serve as a boundary between ‘us and them’? Would I be ‘cool’ enough to just use bean bags? How about sofas? Or it could be like in primary schools with activity stations or ‘areas’ where students choose where to sit.

Colours? White, black? Orange would be nice I think or even a pattern or a mural. Those digital photo frames too with pictures of the weekly topics perhaps or even student work or students.

Would it be too much to ask for a glass roof?

Here are some examples of innovative designs:

This one raises the question of ‘why do we need separate classrooms or spaces?’ Couldn’t we have open areas in a large open space? Then everyday you could alternate where you teach.

Any thoughts?

Who needs qualifications to teach eh?

This is a short post.

If you haven’t read this article then I’d suggest you do.

If you’re thinking of training to become a teacher I’d suggest you do.

If you’re working in another field but interested in teaching I’d suggest you do.

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/unqualified-teachers-academies-151447622.html?nc

Read it now have ya?

“We expect the vast majority of teachers will continue to have QTS. This additional flexibility will help schools improve faster. No existing teacher contract is affected by this minor change.”

Hmmmm. So, more and more non-teachers. Doesn’t that mean less work for qualified teachers surely? Also, notice the ‘no existing teacher contract’ bit. Translation, when their contracts end it’s a different kettle of fish.

Thoughts?

Eavesdropping

I’m not proud of myself. I did something yesterday that I feel guilty about.

I happened to be enjoying a nice cuppa in a tiny cafe, so small that you are literally sat with everyone in the place. On my left was a group of young people full of beans and all excited about something. the words ‘teacher’, ‘job’ and ‘pay’ started to get repeated a lot and from what could fathom they were graduate teachers who’d just received their certificates. I remember that day well and their, not unlike many of ours, conversation revolved around:

1)Where am I going to work?

2)Is it a good school?

3)How many ‘points’ will I earn towards extra pay or early retirement

4)How much money will I make

Yes, I used to talk about the same things at that time but nobody was talking about how happy there were to become teachers or what they were looking forward to doing and how they would make a difference.

There is a BIG difference here between these teachers and ones in England in that these people did a free course as are all the other BAs, MAs and Phds. This is why you often meet people who just sign up for a course for fun, because they don’t have a job or that it will help them get a PT job. It may also be why many teachers seem to have a reputation for just becoming teachers for the holidays or the easy life.

In the UK however, education is expensive. I had to save up many years for my MA and then pay more off afterwards. As tuition rates have gone up there’s no way I could afford one now. Same for a Phd. How horrible is that? I can’t AFFORD to become better educated. Here in France, you can apply for whatever and many of my cousin-in-laws are doing MAs or Phds just because there’s no work.

Herein lies a problem in that if education is free then anyone will do anything just because they can. The same when I went to uni. Everyone went to uni just because it cost nothing and you could get a grant and a loan and move out of your parent’s house. When it’s paid for then only people who can afford it will get an education. Does it mean that only dedicated teacher trainees who save up for years to become teachers will do it?? Perhaps not.

Now, if we go further with the FREE education train of thought, what would it be like if all English provision was free? Unis and colleges could open their doors to anyone living in the UK who needed English. This would destroy all the language schools and create a flood of foreigners wouldn’t it? How about if unis just went back to FREE tuition? As unis love foreign students because they pay more normally would we Brits be allowed back in? How would they then choose between Brits and foreigners? The way things are going the cost of tuition will rise and rise and unis will compete on price and become more like brands. England could become the educator of the world’s rich while we Brits are left to do the cleaning and cooking in the canteens.

I wonder if those new teachers realise how lucky they are now have got on a free course and graduate with no debts and now have a pick of good schools which pay more than the UK ones probably?

Costs of setting up a school

I have a few friends who’ve recently set up schools and it’s amazing how much it costs. I’m talking about overheads and desks but all the other small stuff. Then add on the continual costs and it gets even more expensive.

In a previous post I addressed the possible cost saving of using tablets and wondered if this could be used to save further costs….

1)Whiteboards

I saw one for   and then you need pens, lots of them every week also wipers and special cleaning products.

2)Paper

Notebooks for teachers, blank paper for copying and general use

3)Normal pens

For everything

4)Post-its and fancy stuff

Some places like coloured card, paper post-its, drawing pins, pencils, coloured paper, staples, laminated cards etc etc

Then you have subscriptions to journals, magazines, online groups/lesson shares, membership of teaching groups, licences for using software

If it’s an international chain there are also franchisee fees.

The end result?

Lower staff pay. Especially if the school is competing on a price basis but then again does extra stuff=better teaching?

The solution?

Cut backs

This is what Dogme is based on isn’t it? Getting back to what’s important and eliminating all this other stuff. It’s costly and you need time which should be devoted to the students.

A typical Dogme lesson we see online often just has students on chairs and a teacher with a board or flip chart. Do they need it? Could we just do a lesson vocally? After all, we are all supposed to be focussed on communication and a board automatically evokes ‘teacher-centred lecture syndrome’.

Last week I saw a big touch screen in a shop. Wouldn’t that do? Stick it on the wall, use it as a board, TV, video, internet access point, you could run PPT if you wanted, anything really. Maybe it would cost a lot initially but after 2 years it would be saving you money.

 

I wonder what teachers would say if you announced that all they would have for teaching was that screen but access to the internet and various links to online materials. I’d be very happy but the average teacher may not.

How about you?

Here some info about touch screens:

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/All-in-One-Computers/Touch-Screen-Computers/pcmcat190000050014.c?id=pcmcat190000050014

August

The time that all freelancers fear is almost up on us.

When you go for jobs they tend to be September to June but you may be able to pick up something in July for resits or marking. Yet, there is nothing in August. It’s the holidays when people on FT permanent contracts get paid for well, being on holiday. I know, I’ve been there but I never appreciated it.

August is generally a no teaching month and as a freelancer that means no money. Yes, it makes sense to go off and travel or see family but costs are high over the summer months. From years of ELT teaching I’ve learned to take holidays when it’s cheap i.e. to have an ‘alternative existence’. This became even more so when I took up early morning, lunch, late evening and weekend work. When your only day off is Tuesday you have to say goodbye long weekends. However, it’s actually BETTER! You can do more things with less traffic and cheaper prices in the week. Shhh!

Some schools an unis have longer holidays though. There are those that finish in May or June and those that go back in October or even November. This can mean a BIG break with no work or pay. Another reason why teaching in France is not for the faint of heart. Thus, you see people running round town, taking buses, trains and bikes to teach at 2 or 3 places every day. Why? Because they have to work as much as possible when there is work to make up for when there isn’t. Of course, when you go for interviews and people ask “how will you fit in this position into your timetable?” or “do you have enough availability?” you have to show that you can do the job. this “we want FT but will only pay for PT employees’ is common.

I’ve also noticed that every PT job seems to be on Thursdays more often than not. Is this some secret agreement between schools?

Moving back to my original point, the average freelancer seems to have to have a ‘whole year’ plan in mind to make up for Xmas and summer when there is no work. I see many teachers quite teaching or locations because they just can’t afford these gaps. Perhaps they don’t finance properly or just don’t make enough. Maybe schools and unis should provide work of some description or holiday pay. Here in France some contracts seem to give you an ‘end of contract’ bonus but the same type of contract at a uni doesn’t. Doesn’t seem ‘legal’ to me. Those 9 month contracts would give freelancers a nice bonus to help them through the summer and they could just be ‘teach 100 hours’ contracts. Problem here is that some contracts can’t be renewed or can only be so many times so freelancers seem in a limbo state of ‘my word is my bond’ or on a ‘service provider’ sort of basis.

How do you survive August then?

Blast from the past 1

I’ve decided to add various snapshots of ‘unusual’ teaching positions I’ve had that have made me the teacher I am today.

No 1 is:

The castle of doom

In the year of the lord 2000 I was given a short job or rather ‘experience’ teaching in a castle/fort complete with high wall and fortified battlements. It overlooked the sea and beyond that France. It was so hard to get in that I had to be given a huge iron key to open a secret tradesman’s entrance every morning.

The students were Italian nuns or rather trainee nuns who had smuggled in vats of nutella and would often hide them under their desks. There were also male nun trainees??? Still don’t know why.

Classes consisted of ‘culture’ ie magazines, clips and gossip about celebs. Mother superior seemed to have ghost-like abilities so she would just appear out of nowhere to watch or rather scorn a class.

What did I learn?

Never believe any description of a class your boss gives you. Nuns? Religious? Studious? My backside! They spent most nights climbing over the moat to sneak off to discos so would be extremely unresponsive in class, they even fell asleep.