201 – What do you actually do, Blogley?

My main profession – if you can call it a profession – is Teaching English as a Foreign Language, commonly known as TEFL – a horrible word for a horrible profession.

The result of a five week course I did in Nottingham in 2000 paid for by money I earnt testing anticoagulant drugs for AstraZeneca. £1800 for 9 days in hospital where I was injected with drugs and then bled to see how long it took to clot.

Blood money indeed. All to do a course that taught me how to teach English to Spanish exchange students using coloured cards, picture games, photos of 1980s film stars, the contents of my fridge, and recorded interviews with call centre operatives from Sunderland saying how good their jobs were.

‘It’s like Playschool,’ I said during the course. Once you’ve got the hang of it, there isn’t much else to learn. Teaching something you learnt when you were three years old. Like swimming, or walking or cycling. Throw them in at the deep end and see what happens.

Blogley TEFL lesson No.1


Look at the 10 words on the white board. They are all answers to questions about your teacher, the person who is standing in front of you smelling of beer, takeaway food and cigarettes. He is hungover, probably broke and lives in a flat the size of a dustbin. But bear with him. He is your teacher for the year. That is if he makes it past Christmas.

Exercise 1: Construct the most appropriate questions to the answers on the board using the present, past, or present perfect tenses. Use your grammar book and verb tables to help you. For example. Q: How old are you? A: 40.

See you next week…

Stretch the lesson out for as long as possible is my motto for all new TEFL teachers. I’ve made that exercise above last 14 years by simply changing the words on the board. Get the students to have a go. Get them to write their answers about their lives. Why do a five minute warmer at the beginning of the class, when you can stretch it out for the whole lesson? Or the lesson after that. Or even the whole course if need be. Think Big…

My current job is General Lackey as I mentioned in Blogley 199. Maintenance, cheffing, painting, gardening, carpentry. In short, DIY for people wealthier than me. I’m not ashamed of it either. Armed with the ability to cook a spicy beef madras, hammer a few nails into a piece of wood, mend a light, pull a few weeds up, clean a swimming pool, teach a few English verbs, I can get by pretty much anywhere.

Saying all of this, the job I love to do and the one I’ve done almost every day for the last ten years is to write. I’ve rarely earnt any money from it – in fact, in my whole writing career I’ve earnt about two thousand quid – but that’s not to say it isn’t a job.

I did an MA in Professional Writing at Falmouth that was meant to teach me how to earn a living from it. But either I wasn’t listening, or I simply couldn’t be bothered. Always happiest writing short stories, or scripts, or novel ideas purely for my own pleasure without thinking of how to earn money from it.

So maybe I need to reassess things. I can’t keep repeating the same lesson over and over again. Filling up the white board with pointless numbers or places I am living, have lived or will live. Past, present, future. Time for a change of direction. Think Big…

But before I finish. Back to Lesson No. 1. How good is your English? Can you guess the questions to the answers? Leave a comment. (Previous students need not apply.)


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