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, 8 January 2010


Once more TEFL leaves me with a feeling of abject grief. Having spent the last 5 months of 2009 convinced that I'd hit upon a winning formula for getting my flock to speak my mother tongue without any of us breaking into too much of a sweat, I mark their end of term tests and find that my prediction that all of them would achieve at least 75% was nothing more than wildly optimistic grope in the darkness, with scores ranging from 68.5% down to a frankly degenerate 30%.

My cunning recipe involving making recordings for them to listen to at home (at least once a day, no more than 7 minutes per recording) appears to have fallen on deaf ears, as the lazy fucks obviously haven't been doing any such thing, despite cleverly lying en masse to me that they were diligently following my linguistic orientations. Where do you end up once you've gone past your wit's end, I wonder? I passed that milestone some years ago.

To swing wildly away on a tangent for a moment, the relevance of which shall become clear shortly, my recent back problems have been greatly alleviated by a Japanese woman who lives on our avenue. After looking at my tomography for a fraction of a second, she told me my lumbar problem was caused by a lack of assertiveness. I end up giving in to things to avoid conflict, and then regret it as Rome burns around me and I rather wish I'd mentioned that playing with matches can be dangerous. "We all have our personal space," she spoke wisely, "and you must learn to defend yours." I am trying, and lo and behold my spine is responding to my new emotional equilibrium.

And, if only for the sake of my poor spinal column, I'm going to be defending my space like my life depended on it, and I shall be a lot less forgiving of the assorted excuses I've been hearing as to why my sponges have not managed to soak up any Inglês this week - "I was on holiday this week, so I didn't have time..." they harp, or, "I've just got back from holiday, so I didn't have time..." or even, "Next week I'm going to be on holiday, so I didn't have time..." It would be perfectly acceptable if I didn't care as much.

I am already preparing my oratory-cum-ultimatum for the first lesson of the semester. They shall rue the day...

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