GREAT TEFL WASTERS I HAVE KNOWN – PETE
As far as anyone knew, he was a Liverpudlian living in Málaga through marriage to an Andalucian. Despite repeated attempts to engage him in social discourse over the nine months I worked with him, he showed himself to be uninterested to the bone in communicating with the outside world.
He would arrive and stand around with his hands in his pockets gazing at the ground until it was time to teach, then would silently slope off to his classroom, a term that could only be loosely applied to the six-foot by six-foot cubicles that had been cheaply constructed in the vast office space using paper thin partitions.
It was one of those highly successful schools that do nothing to warrant their popularity. They had totally cornered the pre-teen market.
The teaching faculty, of which I formed an integral part, was packed with unworldly no-hopers, desperate hangers on subjecting themselves to any depth of indignity just to remain on the Costa del Sol.
Wages were laughable. After a fortnight of working there, I decided to find out why the other teachers kept entering the tiny store cupboard with such frequency, wondering if there was some kind of cleaning rota in place I was unaware of, only to find it was the inaccurately designated “resources room”, built to the design of a ship’s lavatory, full of empire era manuals on understanding the natives and the proper manner in which to address one’s houseboy.
The Director of Studies was a raucous yet likeable American woman who went around screeching, “How should I know? I’m white trash!” in answer to teachers’ questions. When I complained that the course materials were worse than appalling, she informed me it had been her that had written them.
All this pandemonium simply passed Pete by.
When teaching in the cubby hole next to his it was impossible to tell if he was actually in the same vicinity as the students, such was the St Trinians inspired mayhem his presence, or lack of it, encouraged.
Occasionally he could be heard muttering a monotonal reprimand – “José Maria, no gouging, remember?” - but in general it seemed he was quite happy to sit and bear mute witness as his underlings flat-packed the furniture, hurled themselves at the walls and painted each other, all at a decibel level I frequently considered sufficient to bring a successful prosecution.
Then, at the end of his stint, with a silent raising of the eyebrows as he passed, he’d be gone into the night, like William S. Burroughs into the backstreets of Tangier.
I have never met a teacher who cared less about his work. He acted like a torpid South American civil servant who knows that, save for an attempted homicide, he cannot be fired.
And I have to secretly admire him for that.