If you are a student looking for a foolproof way of getting up a teacher’s nose, let me recommend ‘Telling Him How To Do His Job'. This is especially irritating if you, as a student, are a teacher in your own country. You can tell your teacher how you do things there, and compare his approach unfavourably. Never mind if you teach physics and know diddly squat about language teaching – all the better to piss him off. More tried and trusted ways are offered below.
- Sit sulking in silence for most of the lesson, then well over half way through, complain that you are not being allowed enough opportunity to speak. Point out that in your country, the teacher has students read aloud around the class, thus affording everyone the opportunity to drone a few lines of text while everybody else either scans the page to calculate which bit he will be required to read, or nods off. You should be prepared for the usual teacherly nonsense that reading aloud is not something most people are called upon to do in ‘real life’, that it is quite possible to read aloud without understanding a word, and that it is mostly pretty sort of pointless, really. Dismiss such objections. You didn’t scrape pre-intermediate level by the age of thirty-five in Libya by speaking spontaneously, did you? Well, then.
- If your teacher, mindful of your previous objection, brings in a poem or a dialogue for reading aloud, pull a face. Object that poems and dialogues are only used for kiddies in your country. Bear in mind that he will have excuses, as ever; poems are written to be read aloud, whereas editorials from The Independent usually are not. A dialogue has potential for some entertaining work on stress and intonation that The Economist entirely lacks. Have none of this. Are you not an economist? In seminars you will want to bore everybody into catatonia by reading aloud ad mispronounced, mind-numbing nauseam, as you would back home.
- There’s a kind of English language teacher that will work very hard to draw you into conversation by forever eliciting your views and encouraging you to elaborate on them. You’ll recognise the type: Alexander Technique poise, perpetual inviting smile, eyebrows arched encouragingly. Usually perches on the front desk, bright eyes trawling the room. Watch that taut bod sag like a dead octopus on the dot of 2.45! Until then, respond costively. Allow the ingratiating pillock to ply you with questions for about half the lesson before flouncing out, huffing that you came here to learn English, not have conversations!
- Wait until your teacher has spent a good fifteen minutes leading into a reading text, teaching relevant vocabulary, trying hard to engage your interest, striving to relate the topic of the text as much as possible to your experience in order that you might know the satisfaction of successful comprehension... ah, just watch the poor sap try… then say ‘yes, but I sink phrasal verbs are more important dan such tings.’ The counsel of perfection here is for you to be a pernickety, clench-sphinctered Swiss banker of twenty-five going on fifty, and say ‘Freissl Wurbs’. How your teacher will want to gob you one!