Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Interview with the TEFL Tradesman

Whoops, I've kind of been neglecting to talk more about English teaching, here in the English Teacher X blog. Here's an interview I did with Sandy McManus last year. 

Sandy McManus is like ETX -- a venerable veteran TEFLer. Half-Irish, half-Scottish, and all mad, he vents his rage about the worst aspects of the TEFL industry on his blog,

How long have you been teaching, and where?

My first teaching post was in Spain in the mid 1980s, and since then (25 years ago!) I have worked in France, Turkey, Russia, and a few other places in the Gulf. Now I’m back on my native soil (hometown, in fact). All bad pennies roll back home, I guess.

What made you decide to become a teacher in the first place?

Lack of ambition, I suppose; combined with a desire to keep travelling, moving around the world, and generally not settle down. Yes, I was in thrall to my itchy feet! I also had a keen desire to experience the constant anxiety that is a feature of the genteel poverty of the less employable middle classes, rather like Mr. Micawber in Dickens’ great classic, David Copperfield. So it was literature too that got me into this game!

Which places did you like the most, and the least? 

I do harbor an ambition to return (retire) to Spain one day, as I enjoyed the teaching and the lifestyle there so much, but please don’t mention this to my wife, as she is entirely fed up with so much globe-trotting. I would never go back to the Gulf countries, unless you paid me ultra-handsomely and allowed me to do virtually diddly-squat all day.

Who have been your most venal and incompetent employers?

Which ones aren’t?

Which students have you found the most difficult and thankless to teach? 

The rich and the stupid (in many cases, especially in the Gulf, they exist together in the same body – very handy!). I enjoy failing the ultra-wealthy ones and humiliating the dimbos – it’s one of the few perks of this job. Actually, I don’t really object to lazy students – they make my job so much easier!

When and why did you decide to start the TEFL Tradesman website?

I think version 1 kicked off in early January 2005, when I actually found myself with enough free time on my hands to start a blog. I had long had a burning desire to dump on this profession’s shysters, ridicule the whacky so-called “methods” of teaching, and highlight the many degenerates and social retards that typically haunt the staffrooms of the least desirable “schools,” and setting up a blog seemed the best way to do it. It’s gone through a few different versions and mutations since those early days – usually due to threats of legal action or physical violence – but my current site dates from 2008 (or maybe 2009) I believe. To date I have suffered no acts of grievous bodily harm, and no financial misfortunes have befallen me via the courts. But there’s still time, I guess!!

Where do you stand on the issue of having sex with students?

It’s better lying down than standing, I reckon, although the anal variety, so I am told, can be successful in the upright position when tackled with care and integrity. No, actually my wife was one of my students, so how can I possibly be against the idea? However, shagging a colleague’s students is a complete no-no, as it only provokes jealousy in the staffroom.

Who's the most fucked-up teacher you've ever met? 

There are far too many to mention, but most of them have found their way into the TEFL Tradesman blog at some time or other, either as a composite or an individual portrayal. The ugly British Council bulldog? She’s there, along with the alcoholic Director of Studies and the callous, dismissive small-time school Proprietor who actually thinks he’s running the next …

What would be your main advice for someone who wanted to get into TEFL?

See a doctor, or ring The Samaritans. It’s a very nice way to see the world for a couple of years or so, but no more than that – a ticket to ride. Working in a language school in the UK must be the suckiest job imaginable, which is why I avoid them and am so keen to pan them. If you do return to your native country and want to remain in teaching, you should train properly and become a state school teacher or college lecturer. Otherwise, you condemn yourself to a lifetime of insecurity, bad pay, and socially inept colleagues.

What are your hopes or plans for the future? 

I no longer have hopes – “those who live on hope die of hunger,” I believe an important American once said. Now I just expect the worst, and remain pleasantly surprised when things turn out well. So I just plan to survive now – until I can retire at the ripe old age of … ooh, 50?

* * * 
Of course for more lowdown on TEFL as well as a dozen or so interviews with real teachers, check out the 2013 edition of ENGLISH TEACHER X GUIDE TO TEACHING ENGLISH ABROAD. 
Get it here as an e-book on Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Smashwords 
Get it here as a paperback at Amazon / Createspace


brian said...

Wow X, you make me so glad I quit my college admin job to teach in Tabuk!

English Teacher X said...

You're welcome! We here at English Teacher X are always glad to let people know how sucky and stupid their life choices are.

M said...

Hey X,
You've got all kinds of books on the market now. Why aren't you living in Chiang Mai, Thailand where you can live a middle-class life for $800 month or something? (Read To Travel Hopelessly recently. Great read.)

Matt D

English Teacher X said...

Nuno said...

Amazing interview. I quite enjoyed reading it. I think it is the common thing between all TEFL teachers that lack of ambition and looking for the quality of life. Certainly that was the reason for me to start my teaching career.

Anonymous said...

This is all a bit negative...I always find it is the well off or retired teflers who look down on the poorer and younger ones....too many snivelling weasels in the gulf, let me tell you, that place is hell, I worked in Oman and NEVER again, dry, dusty, just hell....and education system that is retarded, the gulf is abysmal...even dubai, no matter how big their skyscrapers, impossible to get a nice ice cold beer anywhere!

English Teacher X said...

One thing you know for sure about older TEFLers -- they were once younger poorer English teachers. And what are you talking about, you can get ice cold beer at any number of hotel bars, Barrasti, Irish Village, Lotus Hotel, etc etc.

Anonymous said...

So a helpless and hopeless aspiring trade writer.. and a target of course

Anonymous said...

next step redressing the past...COMPENSATION cunt! :)

Anonymous said...

Forgive a jarring note but isn't the Macmanus character the scum who couldn't see shit for the turds?