Whilst recently perusing a list of Dos and Don’ts for teachers at the TEFL Tips blog, one item particularly caught my attention:
“DON’T - Wear weekend clothes to class. Jogging pants, jeans or shorts aren’t acceptable… Men should wear dress pants and a dress shirt with a collar.” (My emphasis)
Ignoring the fact that the author of this tip has used the wrong word “pants” for the correct one, “trousers”, this, to me, is sound advice. I got through my Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults in
Fresh out of University, electing to do a TEFL course was perhaps a strange choice, as I too was subject to the world’s most widely-held phobia, that of speaking in public. The closest I’d come in my four-year degree in Italian to standing in front of a group of people to give important information was revealing incoherently to my drinking brethren that, if they really expected me to down the rest of my pint of Irish stout in one, I couldn’t be held responsible for ensuing dry-cleaning bills.
All who have endured one know that a TEFL certificate course is full-stick - four weeks of intense pressure with a thousand quid (probably more now) at stake should you let your attention wander.
And so I came upon my TEFL Trousers – a pair of unremarkable black slacks, with turn-of-the-decade front pleats. When I slipped into them, I felt confident I could face down any classroom situation, though, to be fair, the students we were educating during our afternoon teaching practice sessions were doing the extra classes for free, so were hardly likely to be disruptive or complain about things. As the days passed I began to warm to the task, even managing to combine recently learned juggling skills into a lesson, thus neatly placing myself within the TEFL/big top fraternity.
During the course I also struck up a four-week friendship with a first-rate companion who, like me, was an aficionado of chess. Without fail, every morning break between classes we’d set up the board and have a round of speed chess over coffee, with honours roughly shared over the duration of the course. It was our daily ritual, from which we never wavered.
Then, one day, disaster struck. My TEFL Trousers had gone to the wash without my prior knowledge, and I was forced into wearing jeans to school. I tried to remain calm, but by the end of the day’s teaching practice, I was in tatters. The timing of my class had been all over the place, my concept checking laughable, the students had ended up uniformly confounded – even that day’s chess match had been the scene of an almighty, almost Crimean, blunder. I realised that, in order to teach, my TEFL Trousers were a necessity. Given this revelation, I also began to worry that I might be turning into Bobby Fischer, give or take a few IQ points.
Back strutting around in my worthy black strides the next day, I breezed through the day’s lessons, carefree and crazy. I even got a grade “B” at the end of the course, for what that’s worth. As for my TEFL Trousers, they made it through the rest of the nineties giving me their sterling professional support, before being retired at the end of the decade when a growing paunch rendered their services wholly inappropriate.
“Men should wear dress pants and a dress shirt with a collar.” It’s a worthy statement, and I commend it to the House.
Do you have a pair of TEFL Trousers? Or another garment you need in order to teach? If you do another job, do you wear any lucky item of clothing, like a helmet with a light on it if you’re a miner, or a stab-proof vest if you’re a Policeman? Do you like chess? Do you ever worry that you may be turning into an obsessive, in an unhealthy way? Please feel at liberty to open up about your trousers.