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.

Friday, 14 November 2008


Oh, the rain. Falling on my head like a new emotion, it overwhelms everything in its path, including the fragile “drainage” systems. Cats and toddlers float by in the gutters. Thirty-nine more days and nights of this, and we'll be boarding the animals.

So yesterday there's this huge storm, just as I'm leaving for my half-hour drive to work. Water's entering our living room through the light fittings, the doorbell, the electrical sockets. The walls are stained like the front of a cachaceiro's unwashed strides after a two-for-the-price-of-one all-day session. I have to go and teach English to people I know won't bother to venture out. I feel bilious and curse the day I learned to read and write.

Ten minutes down the road I get this garbled phone call from the school, which I struggle to understand against the thunder of raindrops on my windscreen. “...don't have to come...” the secretary bellows, at which, needing to hear no more, I make a graceful handbrake turn and aquaplane back from whence I've come.

This morning I get another call from the school. “How are things?” I enquire politely. “Better than yesterday,” comes the secretary's reply, voice quivering. Apparently, the night before, the sewerage system gets backed up and gallons of human waste begin to spew from the (no less than three) toilet bowls in the school. When she arrives, the bastard is three-fingers deep, the secretary confirms when I see her in the evening, eyes filling up as she looks away, struggling with the memories. It must have been like a warped, scatological deleted scene from The Shining.

I foresee bleak times ahead. Imagine how other schools will use this against us. “The shit school,” they'll call us. “Fine, try it there if you like,” they'll tell potential customers, “I've heard it's good, if you don't mind paddling in other people's faeces.”

I'm sure there was something about this in Revelations. Doubtless Nostradamus predicted it, if we look carefully enough.

Thursday, 6 November 2008


According to, the Welsh name Idris means "ardent lord", and nothing could be more appropriate. Though I never met him personally on his trail-blazing summer passage through sunny Bournemouth, his all-to-brief career left its mark on many, including rope marks in many cases.

The Ardent Lord's speciality was putting Scandinavian teenagers to the sword, "with ropes and everything", as he used to slobber on the many mornings after. Always displaying an unpredictable fashion sense, Idris was evenually fired for turning up to a Business English class with a group of inevitably disapproving German executives in full Arsenal kit.

We can only assume that the school owner was a Tottenham Hotspur supporter.