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.

Monday, 18 August 2014

2014 Elections - Wardy Sets Forth

“Wardy, you’ve been living in the land of the thong and the endlessly smouldering barbecue for over ten years now, so enlighten us, what’s your take on the current state of Brazilian politics, in light of the forthcoming presidential elections?” I imagine people would ask, if only I’d grant them an audience. I shall reply using an analogy.

As I may have mentioned herein several years ago, I once had a spluttering career in the Human Resources department of a local metallurgical factory, during which I limped along gamely for just over two years before I was rooted out and banished. Our department had no dedicated manager, so we reported directly to the Director of Administration. There were six of us in the department at the outset, a Psychologist, three HR Analysts (of which I was one), and two HR Assistants. 

One of my fellow Analysts was a short, stocky individual who peered earnestly out from behind a pair of narrow, rectangular spectacles, always giving the impression that he was addressing you through a letterbox, which nine times out of ten I would have preferred. He’d started working in the department six months before I arrived, but you would have been hard pressed to disbelieve him if he’d claimed to have been brought up there since infancy, such was his air of superiority towards his bumbling colleagues and sense of injustice that his talents had not as yet been fully recognised. He was the department spy, it later transpired, silently observing us co-workers and giving secret, no-holds-barred accounts of our collective ineptitude to our mace-wielding boss. This contributed in no small part to the brevity of my employment.

He could certainly set forth about HR – when he wasn’t making misty-eyed proclamations about shifting paradigms, or constructing competencies (“Why don’t bridge crane drivers have basic first-aid training?”), he was marching around with a package of documents as thick as a phone book, which never seemed to diminish in size. When I moved desks to work opposite him, I realised why. He’d arrive in the morning, grab the package, rummage through it, occasionally swap the order of the papers contained therein, apparently lose the will to live and make an urgent phone call to arrange a largely pointless meeting with the supervisors of the training units situated around the factory. In a nutshell, he saw himself as an executive (he was doing an MBA after all, despite having finished his undergraduate degree only months earlier), but in fact, he executed absolutely nothing.

It is hard not to see him as the personification of the ruling Workers’ Party, the PT. Endless meetings, congresses, grand discussions about great left ideas, calling each other comrade, but absolute atrophy in terms of actually making things happen to improve the country. Hence the protests witnessed last year during the Confederations Cup. FIFA-standard stadiums, Scandinavian tax rates and sub-Saharan public services an average Rotary Club could probably administrate more efficiently.

Indeed, it seems to me that this failure to offer a viable alternative is a major weakness of the left in general. Russell Brand’s recent call for revolution was all very entertaining, but when Jeremy Paxman asked him what he envisaged would replace the current system, Brand replied without pausing for breath, “Others are far more qualified than me to answer that question.”

Sadly, I suspect what masquerades as humility and a lack of presumptuousness is actually an inability to provide an intelligible answer.