Taboo 2

Much to my surprise the taboo ELT post took off! 

It was really just for my curiosity and I hadn’t intended on publishing at all. There are now 83 responses so I have put the new ones in this post. 

I would say some people out there seem to think views which are pretty mainstream are a bit taboo. I have, where I think it’s useful, linked to blogs or academic papers which make a similar point. Perhaps if you, dear reader, know of any other links you can post them in the comments. 


(note) 

For various reasons, I’m not sure I will continue to update this. That said, I think this could be an interesting research project if someone wanted to go about it in a more systematic way. Anyway here are the latest results. 


Approaches and methods 

Teaching the IPA is a waste of time and energy for all concerned.
Tired of endless arguments about methods. Grammar translation works for some students. TBLT seems hopelessly confusing and unsystematic to some students. Some students hate group work.
‘Listen and repeat’ is no good for practising pron. You have to get physical.
I wish you’d recognise the severe limitations of correction codes for writing.
“Everyone learns differently,” I’m not sure they do. People may have different learning habits and different strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve seen no evidence that the process of learning isn’t basically the same for everyone. I think it’s often just lip service to seeing students as individuals……before giving them all the same task to do anyway.
While communication is key, treating mistakes that don’t impede communication as silly and acceptable accidents so nobody’s feelings get hurt is lazy teaching and in the long run is far worse for students regardless of how or where they will use their English 
Process writing is a complete waste of our time. The teacher spends hours commenting and suggesting corrections, and students completely ignore them in their final version.


Qualifications 

A CELTA does not make you a qualified teacher.
I understand the rationale behind the insistence of having a degree to be a TEFL teacher. I have found that some folks who don’t have a degree to be better teachers and are more professional in their approach. This requirement is a big barrier preventing people with potential but have no degree from entering the profession.

Native vs non native 

Too much emphasis on grammar based on native English. Books for teens written by adults who don’t appear to have any connection with their readers.
There is a self- fulfilling prophecy to a lot of discrimination issues by which students expecting different styles from NS and NNS teachers can lead those teachers to be more effective when they adhere to their prescribed styles. Or at least being an effective teacher while breaking from a prescribed style for one’s teacher demographic would require a lot more training and experience.
Non-natives overestimate themselves and tend to be prescriptive (and proscriptive) and this ‘World English’ nonsense just sets the bar lower for them
While native teachers are often worse teachers, the bitterness of knowing that makes non-natives ignore any possible value or advantages that natives can bring to the table. 
Many Non native teachers make mistakes with their collocation and collogation. I have read a number of articles written by non native teachers complaining of their treatment that use unnatural expressions and contain mistakes

Other teachers 

Most of my colleagues don’t know what they’re doing in class and shouldn’t be teaching.
The “subject knowledge” that English teachers are supposed to be experts in is LANGUAGE. So many teachers know jack shit about language as a system, linguistics, phonology/phonetics and it’s embarrassing. If I hear another teacher respond “Oh, it’s an exception! That’s just the way it is! Isn’t English wild and wacky?!!!” in response to a question about some aspect of language that is completely systematic, rule-governed and explainable, I will go crazy! It’s not an “exception”! You just don’t know enough about the subject area you’re supposed to be an “expert” in.
There are teachers/trainees that will never be effective classroom practitioners because they don’t have the people skills (and such skills can’t be learnt/take too long to develop).
Many teachers are delusional, especially those involved in Teacher training. They really see themselves as big celebrities and sometimes act as annoying divas, asking people questions like “You DON’T KNOW who I am???”. Ridiculous to say the least.
We don’t all teach EFL as a means of living in the Far East while we decide what we want to do in life. Some of us do the job in English-speaking countries as a profession.
A lot of unprofessional behaviours and attitudes of teachers are ignored in the name of collegiality. Some employers don’t pay teachers for prep time due to funding issues or whatever and Ts end up doing hours of unpaid work.
The majority of teachers, especially at private language schools, are really just washed up has beens and life’s rejects, this always being the elephant in the room when issues of exploitation, unfair treatment and teacher’s rights are brought up. In other words, there may well be reasons for management at institutions, etc., treating teaching staff as interchangeable, expendable revenue generators, their attitude being that the ‘teachers’ (whom they tend to think of in inverted commas like that) wouldn’t be at their mercy without having seriously fucked up in life in one way or another (‘take it or leave it’, basically). There are indeed teachers who are passionate and go the extra mile, along with all the incompetent dross, but the rather awkward question of how most ended up long-term in what regular society regards as a silly sort of gap year job remains.
Linguists teach best. If you’ve learned a foreign language as an English native speaker, you’ve got to have a lot to contribute.

The industry 

it is too much work for too little pay
The lack of professionalism within the ELT industry.
It’s mostly all bollocks. People buy into all sorts of crap with messianic vigour and preach to a largely uncritical crowd. I suspect most teachers and students would mostly prefer to be left alone to get on with it in whatever way works best for them. Don’t mind me, I have fallen from the faith. Also. pretty much every test is meaningless and all the international language exams are essentially a scam. 
.That ultimately the private language school model is useless. Teachers have very little effect on the learners and they’d be much better off watching tv and reading books in English. The results we produce are typically down to the students own motivation/talent. For that reason it’s fine to use coursebooks as it will have the same effect as not using them.
1. Students are very often pushed into doing exams that they don’t need, and are not ready for, in the name of profit for schools and inflating salaries at the Anglocentric exam boards. Cambridge Assessment and the British Council are ‘not for profit’ which means they don’t pay taxes, and their income can also be ploughed into massive marketing campaigns. (I once contacted Cambridge Assessment to ask about their marketing budget for a research paper I was doing, but they said this information was ‘confidential’.) This means that in the EFL industry, the most highly remunerated are those who are not actually teachers or necessarily know anything about teaching. And, for example, Cambridge writing examiners are paid peanuts. 
2. ‘Management’ in ELT is just a euphemism for manipulation – how to get underpaid overworked teachers to do the job without having a nervous breakdown. All talk of ‘teacher motivation’ to me is thus senseless – pay them more and give them fewer hours- it’s as simple as that, instead of spending money on plastic red buses and gadgets like IWBs that nobody needs. To become Delta qualified is a massively costly and stressful exercise, but in London the going rate of pay at this level is only 20 quid a teaching hour gross. This is, quite frankly, very insulting and the main reason why I hope never to have to work for a language school again. 
3. Native speaker teachers (with TEFL+ observed teaching practice/CELTA ) are better than their NNS counterparts in some contexts because a) high school teachers in (eg) Italy usually have NO didactic training, neither are they observed or given feedback. Just having a degree in English is enough to be an English teacher. b) high level exam prep (CAE, CPE, Ielts bands 7-9) requires in-depth knowledge of idiomatic NS-like lexical chunks since the exam boards are Anglocentric. If you don’t like this then lobby to change the exams. But who would dare to challenge Cambridge Assessment and the BC?? 4. A1-B1 levels should be taught by someone who speaks their L1 and uses it in the classroom. Zero beginners especially should be taught in L1. CELTA style eliciting and CCQ-ing is just a pointless pantomime at this level. 
There are schools in the USA that are known to be little more than student visa factories, yet they manage to get CEA accreditation (for those outside the US, this is the body which oversees the quality of ESL schools and should prevent this situation).
Students 
the English students arrive in a course with is the English they leave with.
I don’t like every student 
We are fooling ourselves and our students in the process into believing that it is possible to learn language structures or concepts that native speakers learn over the course of their lives and have the ideal environment in which they can test their hypotheses about what they are learning.
That when intrinsic motivation for learning isn’t enough, there is very little I can do to motivate my students in the classroom 😦

Misc 

Some of the top academics often have trouble translating their amazing knowledge into practical application. They need to get their asses into a classroom again (or for the first time).
Racism is a much bigger problem in ELT than Native Speakerism.
Am also fed up of the environment as a topic. Just had to base an entire course on environmental themes and they wear very thin.
Textbooks are a good idea. Somebody took the time to plan a course not just so that you don’t need to but because you couldn’t do a better job AND teach at the same time.






Taboo ELT

Pluralistic ignorance is the situation whereby many people secretly believe something, but are all afraid of admitting it because they believe they are the only ones who hold the views. 


I was curious if there were any views TEFL teachers held but were afraid of sharing with their colleagues or peers. So I asked. The results of the highly scientific twitter poll was that around 52% of teachers said they do hold views they were afraid of sharing. I was really curious about what these views might be so I set up an anonymous poll. 


I will just post the views here without judgement or comment. I will say that I was kind of hopeful that there might be one view that stood out among a lot of teachers but the opinions were much more varied.  It was partiualrly interesting when people thought two opposing views were “taboo”. 


I should also note that this poll had no validity whatsoever. People could have been trolling or just writing something they really knew wasn’t a taboo view at all. There were 43 responses. I removed one because it was, to my mind, a little beyong the pale

Textbooks

Students can learn with or without coursebooks
I’m sick of explaining the hypocrisy of including a predictable, tokenistic chapter on ‘the environment’ in every textbook and syllabus written in the past 30 years when the ELT industry is largely dependent on millions of people travelling massive distances by airplane to undertake study. Similarly, I’m sick of schools and teachers making predictable, tokenistic gestures towards ‘the environment’ for the same reason: beach cleanups and banning plastic straws can all get to fuck if your entire student body just dumped literally tonnes of co2 into the atmosphere just getting here.
Textbooks represent a lot of research and a great understanding of students’ needs. They are an excellent resource to guide students through their English learning journey.


Natives Vs non-natives 

Students are often better off learning English from non-native speaker teachers.
That native English speakers are often better teachers.
*Some* non native speaker teachers have accents that are difficult to understand, make countless errors, and really shouldn’t be teaching. 
On native-speakerism: in an ideal world, every program would have an experienced non-native speaker (who understands students’ L1, their struggles with grammar) AND an experienced native speaker (for cultural knowledge, model of pronunciation). We had that in one program where I taught and it worked really well. It’s what I’d want as a learner too.
Educated native speakers will tend to “know” more idioms than most non-natives do! That doesn’t necessarily mean they are retrievable to order (In feedback, for instance), universal across varieties, or even (Dellar-style) teachable. But the fact remains.
Monolingual English native speaking teachers who’ve never learned another language to a decent level of proficiency (let’s say B2) lack credibility as English language teachers

Effectiveness of ELT

The students improve because they are living in this English speaking country and interacting on a daily basis, not because of our courses
The majority of teaching (75%) in ELT is below standard.
we can’t really “teach” anything

Approaches and methods 

PPP is fine.
I think skimming and scanning are probably just pointless rituals
skimming and scanning encourage students to get the wrong end of the stick
The debunking of learning styles/multiple intelligences has not really reached many of the teachers around me so I feel like I’m breaking wind any time I question whether we should be looking at learning through that framework.
learning styles are of course nonsense but can still be worth keeping in mind
I don’t believe that learning in a group is of any worth to anyone. If you really want to learn a language then doing so by yourself and having a one-to-one teacher is by far the best method. I don’t believe that attending a private academy/institution/language school is the best way to spend your money.
Ain’t just the one way. There are so many ways to learn a language, like there are different ways to learn a musical instrument. And they *all* work to some extent – because learners are meaning-makers.
I believe that leveling (grading) text can be quite useful for making text more comprehensible and accessible, especially to beginning learners who can’t comprehend the text otherwise. Some teachers in my primary-secondary school district seem to believe that reducing the lexile level (complexity, lexical level) of a text for a newcomer English learner is denying them access to grade-appropriate materials. So they kind of look at the act of leveling a text for a beginning reader as a denial of rights, which is completely absurd to me, but I think it actually comes from a good place.
Memorize vocabulary using word cards, lists, or vocab apps
accuracy is more important than fluency

The profession 

ELT teachers should not be allowed to teach YLs. It is simply a babysitting service. Most teachers don’t have the skills, passion or knowledge to teach and deal with YLs. You should only be allowed to teach YLs if you have done exactly the same qualifications as someone who teaches YLs in a state school for example. Degree, PGCE and possibly a masters in specialising in YLs.
loads. example: the majority of teachers I’ve worked with or managed outside of the higher education or public sector don’t deserve to be treated or paid as professionals as they utterly fail to conduct themselves as professionals, hold themselves to professional standards or do a tenth of the work of the average school teacher.
  I’m also constantly disappointed by the insistence of teaching staff to try to impose middle-class leftwing values on their classroom practice, particularly as so many of their students don’t share these values.
We aren’t saving the world!
Within the private academies, student progression is based on customer retention and ensuring they layout out payment for the next semester. Should you raise this issue, goodbye teaching job.
I feel that it’s all so technicist, focusing on techniques and the creativity side has gone. Maybe that’s just the context in which I work.
Some adolescent students are not temperamentally predisposed to language learning and therefore it is a complete waste of time teaching them. Their presence in the classroom is disruptive and counterproductive. Experienced teachers will know who these individuals are in the class within the first 10 minutes of a lesson. Exceptions will occur from time to time, but it would serve every one’s interests if these students were quickly moved into other subjects.
The field caters to middle aged white ladies far too much and this robs it of racial literacy
You might be living the dream teaching now. But the lack of a pension will fuck you up in your golden years.
That qualified & experienced EFL teachers are more knowledgable & hardworking than PGCE qualified teachers. EFL teachers never get to set work and do marking in class, EFL teachers have to satisfy a wide array of paying students and I’ve seen a lot of mainstream teachers on Twitter go crazy over the simplest of ideas that are the mainstays of EFL work. EFL teachers should be better paid and recognised as ‘proper teachers’.

Misc

The other teachers just SUCK at teaching
Krashen is wrong about FonF, but he’s so close to being right on everything else. (This isn’t taboo; it’s just not widely enough appreciated.)
“You’re a white supremacist”
 because e.g., You have an English only policy in your classroom 
You don’t teach about world Englishes 
You keep telling your Japanese students: Don’t be shy 
You keep asking your Japanese students to speak louder 
Can I really share these with my “colleagues” who even pretend I don’t exist at the teachers’ room? 
American Celta trainees just cannot take any criticism.
Standardised testing is overrated
No one cares about all the gendering stuff. It’s an English language lesson, not social engineering.
I don’t think there is that much evidence that explicit and implicit learning are separate processes.
I get to choose – pretty much – what I teach, but I do feel more and more uncomfortable with many of the ‘traditional’ theories of SLA. They are so monolingual and anglocentric in their view of how people use language, assuming that people speak and are educated in the same language they use at home and that a ‘second’ language is an add-on.
Students exchange some time and a bit of effort for 1 / 50th of a degree while we all pretend it means something more.
We spend 80% of our energy on the 20% who cheat, lie, and laze about.


The poll is still open. If you want to submit your views I will try to update this page periodically 

There were so many responses that I made a 2nd post. Here