Notes from the TEFL Graveyard

Wistful reflections, petty glories.

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Location: The House of Usher, Brazil

I'm a flailing TEFL teacher who entered the profession over a decade ago to kill some time whilst I tried to find out what I really wanted to do. I like trying to write comedy (I once got to the semi-finals of a BBC Talent competition, ironically writing a sitcom based on TEFL), whilst trying to conquer genetically inherited procrastination... I am now based in Brazil, where I live with my wife and two chins.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019


If I had any kind of “Internet following”, or if I were a “digital influencer”, I would probably steer clear of the subject of this post for fear of a mass online lynching followed by the need to publish a flat-chested apology, but as I’m in my own little corner of the blogalaxy and I can mumble away to myself largely unnoticed - brace yourself, Sheila.

It was a frosty winter’s morning and I had just arrived in the staff room. “It’s a bit Pearl Harbour”, I quipped, a comment met by quizzical looks from my colleagues. “There’s a nip in the air!” If it didn’t exactly gain me a standing ovation, my play on words drew a number of chuckles and the odd wry smile.

But scarcely had the sound waves been emitted by my vocal chords than a tart Glaswegian (yes, those words are the right way round, though thinking about it, they could probably be reversed) snapped, “Well, that’s a bit racist!” At the time, I had neither the time nor the energy to wade into her as maybe I would have done today, so I just kept quiet and rummaged through some random papers to make it look like I was too busy with some highly streamlined lesson planning to pander to her political correctitiude.

If I had taken the time to destroy her argument and render her speechless, I would in all likelihood have countered with something along the lines of the following.

If it’s racist to call a Japanese a “nip” (from the word Nippon, Japanese for “Japan”), it’s also presumably racist to call a Briton a Brit. Not sure many would agree with that.

Secondly, at the time the word “nip” was being used, even if as a derogatory term, we were at war with Japan, and I think being called names was probably the least of anybody’s worries.

We’re increasingly living in a world where, because we’re all interconnected, you can’t comment on a pair of nice Chelsea boots without offending a coachload of drab vegans campaigning against the use of leather. Even the bloody Dalai Lama was forced into apologising recently when he quipped that, if his successor were female, he hoped she would be attractive. Cue mass hysteria, howls of derision, bony little pointing fingers, mean, piggy eyes screwed up in unrestrained ire…

Cut His Holiness some slack, online "community". As far as I’m concerned, he can yearn for a looker if he so wishes, after all he’s done for humanity.