Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sealed With A Kiss

If you thought I was exaggerating (see Simply The Best viz. "2000s"), here's a genuine application I've just received from a young English Literature graduate to work as an English Language Teacher at our school. It goes without saying - though I'm saying just in case it doesn't  - that I've changed the poor lady's identity, telephone number, partner, etc. OK, here goes . . .


Myself and my parner are both efl teachers with teaching cert's and english degree's. We are looking to move over to Spain together to teach english, I have attatched our CV's, please contact me via email or on 0123456789.

Do you provide accomadation?


mandy Jones

So, let's see . . . Here we have somebody - an English Literature graduate, for heaven's sake! - who wants to teach English and, yet, she can't spell "attached", "accommodation" or "partner" properly. She also uses apostrophe + s to indicate plurals incorrectly - *CV's, *degree's, *cert's - and employs capital letters when she feels like it, basically. In my day, we were taught to use capital letters for names, places, days, months, etc. Oh, and at the start of each new sentence.

I haven't even talked about style or appropriacy . . . "Hi"? OK, we'll let that go, though I would prefer "Dear Colin" before we declare ourselves lifelong buddies. Obviously, "Dear Mr. Raphead" would be quite preposterous in this day and age. Nevertheless, "Myself and my parner" definitely loses points. Well, that's what myself and my colleges think. Sorry, my colleagues and I.

I was tempted to reply, "Hey Mandy, we'll provide accommodation just as soon as you learn how to spell it correctly". But I didn't. I daresay I'm coming across as terribly snobby and snotty, so I hasten to add that this is somebody who is doubtless a lovely person, and certainly much less a waste of space in the general scheme of things than yours truly. According to Mandy's CV, she was President of her Student Union, Editor of the university newspaper - Editor! I won't shame the university by naming them here -, and a fundraiser for Breast Cancer Awareness. She has a Duke of Edinburgh gold award, and enjoys horse-riding and raising money for charity in her spare time. So hats off to Mandy; that's far more than I will ever achieve in my life, I imagine. It's just there's no way I can take on an English teacher - an English literature graduate!! - who can't write English very well. And yet she can write English well, it seems, as she goes on to list several literary achievements and awards for poetry.

In any case, Mandy's application is fairly typical of the standard we've been receiving these past 10 years or so. For every English Teacher post that we advertise, we receive an average of 50 applications, of which about 50% contain spelling mistakes in the accompanying mail and/or CV. I'm sorry, but I'm with Mr. Grumpy from Tunbridge Wells on this one: 'What ever is the world coming to?' Don't British schools teach the basics of English grammar anymore? Can anybody get a degree in English Literature these days?

Oh, and bring back spelling tests, I say.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


It's been such a cold, miserable, rainy day, I decided to open my last bottle of whisky (a present from Rosa, my sister-in-law). Normally, whisky drinking season for me is from November to March, but recently I find myself breaking more and more rules by the day. Whatever, the whisky is wonderful, and it seems to me a pity in retrospect that it isn't cold, miserable and rainy every day of the year.

I think I might have ice-cream for breakfast tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Monkees' Theme

The Australian wine was pretty awful. And yet I preferred it to my usual Rioja. Sometimes a change for the worse is for the better. It keeps you sane. It's a bit like The Beatles and The Monkees: everybody knows who we should be listening to, but there are times when we all need to monkey around a little.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Say It Ain't So Joe

The greatest singer-songwriter of the twentieth century was Murray Head. No, I hadn't heard of him, either, until I spent a week in France in 1979. Nowadays, most people think of him as a one-hit wonder because of the huge success of the single One Night In Bangkok. A pity because that song is rubbish, it wasn't written by Murray, and he doesn't even sing on it.

If you want to hear Murray at his best, you need to buy The Big Four: Nigel Lived (72), Say It Ain't So (75), Between Us (79) and Voices (80). I've included a link to Say It Ain't So Joe, probably the best song ever written.

After several disappointing albums (inevitable given the standard of the Big Four), Murray finally came back with the brilliant Tête-à-Tête in 2007, together with Crystal Heart, probably the second best song ever written. Though this is pure speculation, I think it's a fair bet that TaT hardly sold any copies.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ball And Chain

The sporting event of the millennium kicks off later today, with millions of football fans glued to the TV over the next month. I wouldn't be surprised to see South Africa giving Mexico a good run for their money - though a 1-1 draw is the likely outcome - while it takes little imagination to predict a goalless draw between Uruguay and France.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beaches Of Cheyenne

There was this bloke, right? And he–
You can't start stories like that, Mummy.
Why not, dear?
All stories begin, "Once upon a time".
Bollocks they do.
What's "bollocks", Mummy?
Sorry, dear, I was talking to myself.
Do you often talk to yourself, Mummy?
All the time when I'm not talking to someone else.
Daddy's stories are crap.
That's not a nice word, dear.
Daddy said people crap all the time.
Never mind what Daddy said.
Has Daddy got bollocks, Mummy?
Yes, darling, but I don't like you using that word.
What about the bloke, Mummy?
Yes, he had them, too.
I meant, What happened to him?
Oh, I see. Well, one day he was walking–
Through the wood?
Don't interrupt, dear.
Sorry, Mummy, it's just all of your stories are about people walking through woods.
Oh really? Well, this bloke was walking along the beach.
The beach?
It's the part between the sea and the land.
I know what a beach is, Mummy. Did you know beaches can have children?
I don't think so, dear.
That's what Daddy told me, anyway.
You shouldn't believe everything your father tells you, dear.
Because he's a great big son of a beach, Mummy? . . .

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

Three Theory

As we move into the third millennium, Three Theory, which started out as a simple seminar paper given at the University of Aretxabaleta (a small town in the heart of The Basque Country), continues its relentless march up through Europe and into Asia . . .

The central tenet of Three Theory states that, "People, and teachers in particular, tend to think in threes", as is borne out by empirical observation. If you can't be bothered with "empirical observation", just have a look at the facts . . .

- Most schools divide their year into 3 terms.
- School terms are about 3 months long.
- School staff form 3 natural groups: bosses, teachers and admin.
- There are 3 kinds of bosses: the good, the bad and the ugly.
- There are 3 kinds of teachers: the good, the bad and the hopeless.
- There are 3 kinds of administrators: the good, the bad and the petty.
- There are 3 kinds of students: swots, skivers and survivors.
- Most classes have 3 parts: a beginning, a middle and an end.
- Time is divided into 3: past, present and future.
- You can say the same thing in English in at least 3 ways. (Really? Oh yeah? Can you?)
- Teaching is 3 times more stressful than any other profession.
- Teachers are 3 times more irritable than "normal" people.
- Most teenage classes contain 3 giggling girls and 3 goggling boys.
- Teachers usually have to repeat their instructions 3 times.
- Students need at least 3 attempts before they get it right.
- The average teacher sleeps just 3 hours every night.
- Most teachers' cars have 3 pedals: accelerator, brake and clutch.
- There are 3 meals in a day. Most teachers consider themselves lucky if they get 2.
- Most lists end with 3 et ceteras and/or 3 points, etc, etc, etc . . .

By way of an afterthought, you might be interested to hear that the founder of Three Theory, who first presented his findings at the age of 33, is one Terry O'Heeth, a name which, by an even more remarkable stroke of fate, is a perfect anagram of Three Theory.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Free Fallin'

What day is it today, anyone?
Freeday, Vanesa?
Yes, Freeday.
If it's a free day, why are you here?
Sorry, sorry?
I said, If it's a free day, why are you here?
Because we class on Freeday, no?
FRIday, Vanesa, FRIday.
Ah, yes.
Can you say it?
Go on then.
Sorry, sorry?
Say FRIday, Vanesa.
Good. What does "FREE day" mean?
What mean "FREE day"?
Yes, what mean "FREE day"?
Today Freeday, no? . . .

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Day In The Life

routine (n.)
Reliving Groundhog Day again . . . and again . . . and again. Without Andie MacDowell, unfortunately.

Instructions: Read the description below of an English teacher's typical working day, then write a short paragraph about yourself . . .

A Day In The Life Of Colin Raphead, EL Consultant at Looniversal Learning

Normally, I wake up at about 3 o'clock screaming something like, “No, not my legs!” Ever since I took over 3T, I've had this recurring nightmare, but I try not to let it worry me too much. After that, I drop off again until my alarm wakes me up at five to six. I find it quite soothing to roll over and see "5:55" flashing back at me. I have a shower and get dressed (in that order) and then collapse on the sofa for a couple of minutes. A quick glance at my watch tells me it's 6:16, so I grab my old briefcase and charge off down the road, arriving just in time for my 6:30 English for Cashiers class. Personally, I don't see why our local supermarket is bothered about its staff learning English (on the off-chance a tourist comes in one day asking for a Kit-Kat, I suppose), but every time I mention this to my Director of Studies, she just replies, “That's their problem, not ours”.

What really irks me, though, is that my first student rarely turns up until five to seven – “Sorry, I sleep!” –, so I tend to sit there twiddling my thumbs for 25 minutes. On the positive side, by the time the class actually gets going properly (when Student Number Two rolls in at ten past – “Sorry, is traffic!”), it's already nearly time to finish.

Half past seven, a quick coffee and I run back down the road to my 7:45 English for Systems Operators class. This might sound glamorous on paper, but I promise you it's not my idea of fun wading through every single paragraph of a 600-page manual entitled Troubleshooting for two hours every morning – especially as my students say the manual's got it all wrong, anyway, and isn't worth the paper it's printed on; or copied on, rather - nobody seems to know where the original manual is.

A quarter to ten and I stagger out of class and onto the number 88 bus which takes me into town . . . eventually. As I sit there waiting for our driver to finish his cheese and tomato roll, my stomach begins rumbling. Then, I catch sight of Miss Snapper, overtaking us in her bright red Mercedes. I wave feebly, but she never sees me (or pretends not to, at any rate).

By the time I get into Looniversal Learning, it's gone half past ten. I greet Miss Snapper on her way out to some appointment somewhere. She always asks me how things are going, but never hangs around for my answer – “Sorry, Colin, can't stop”. She seems a very busy lady, indeed. I sit down at my desk and prepare my classes for the afternoon. I don't really have as long as I'd like (20 minutes for five hours of classes) but, as Miss Snapper pointed out at the last staff meeting, “Time is money and I pay you lot to teach, not bleat.”

Ten to eleven and, armed with briefcase, four dictionaries and CD player, I sprint down the corridor to room 121 (aptly named as it happens since, although eight students enrolled for my Post-Proficiency class, in practice it tends to be a "one to one"). Anyway, between the two of us, we manage to keep the conversation flowing – it's either that or listen to my rumbling stomach – until 12:59 (one to one again!) when all inspiration suddenly dries up and we both agree to call it a day.

One o'clock at last and I stuff myself silly with a Massive Mac, large bag of fries and a chocolate thick shake at the MadConald's opposite our school. Unfortunately, an irate parent collars me, demanding to know why I've got it in for his daughter. I tell him it's not only his daughter – I hate the whole lot of them in 3T – and that I'm sorry if I sounded a bit abrupt on the phone. This usually does the trick, and then it's blissful peace / peaceful bliss (take your pick) until five to two when I suddenly realise that I forgot to order my photocopies for the first class this afternoon. I say something very rude in a loud voice, shocking everyone around me, and charge back to the staffroom to let my colleagues know that I'm in a bit of a flap.

Panic is not the word to describe our staffroom at two minutes to two: “Get out of my way” . . . “Who's nicked the Headcase Elementary Teacher's Book?” . . . “Where's that bloody CD?” . . . “Hey! Who's swiped my CD player?” . . . “Look what those morons have done to my photocopies” . . . “OK. There was a DVD on my desk” . . . and so on and so on . . . The sense of camaraderie is terrific.

Seven p.m. and it's smiles all round as everybody is friends again in the staffroom: “Sorry, I called you a ****, Colin” . . . “That's allright, you ******” Most of us decide to go down the road to Jackie's, where we unwind over a few wines - “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” . . . “Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow” . . . - and exchange plans for the evening ahead: “I thought I'd stay in and mark some compositions” . . . “I've got to prepare my classes for tomorrow morning” . . . “I'm going to get really pissed and paint the town red. Then, if I'm feeling up to it, I'll make a start on those reports”.

Inevitably, conversation turns to the day's classes:

One of my students said she'd never heard of "identifying relative clauses".
Who was that?
You know, the one who's going out with the butcher's assistant.
You mean the bloke who works down at B & M?
Isn't that the supermarket where you give classes, Colin?
No that's M & B. B & M is where Jill works . . .

Eventually, I have to remind everyone that we agreed not to talk shop and, in any case, it's gone 8 o'clock, so we'd better get back to HQ and get our classes ready for the morning.

It's usually about 10 o'clock by the time I've finished sorting myself out for the next day. I get the bus home (same driver, different roll) and stumble up five flights of stairs, carrying my briefcase, a loaf of brown bread and two cartons of orange juice. I fumble for my keys, burst through the door and dump my stuff in the hallway. As I collapse on the sofa, I notice that my clock has just turned "11:11" , which I find kind of reassuring.

A couple of hours later, I usually wake up in a state of shock. “Eh? OK, number six, please, Andrés, er . . . Where am I?” My stomach is rumbling again, so I make myself a massive cheese sandwich and turn the telly on or off - depending on whether I'd left it off or on respectively.

If I've got any energy left, I take my clothes off before crawling into bed. I say a short prayer and thank God I'm still alive.