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Often overlooked aspects of lesson obs in EFL. And hamsters
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cmp45



Joined: 17 Aug 2004
Posts: 1404
Location: KSA

PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sashadroogie wrote:
Oh dear, oh dear... Where's the evidence that many language schools are bad, really? And what do we mean by 'bad', exactly? Low pay? Crappy infrastructure? Poor staff room resources? Teachers who can't teach for toffee?

I'd say that even if a school is 'bad', no matter how it is defined, then this is all the more reason for a DoS to give support to his team of teachers - including proper observations. It is simply not good enough to shirk all teacherly responsibilities because one thinks the school is 'bad'.


When there is a conflict of interest between the teacher and management For example: Interpreting the way a lesson should be taught can certainly factor in to labeling the person or institution "bad" which can swing both ways...bad teacher or bad school. Yes many factors are in play and plenty of grey areas to consider...
Perilla...I was think same thing...we're basically on same page...but agree it doesn't make it right,...nevertheless
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artemisia



Joined: 04 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sashadroogie wrote:
I'd say that even if a school is 'bad', no matter how it is defined, then this is all the more reason for a DoS to give support to his team of teachers

Agreed, except I'd just adjust that to his or her team.

Has this horse been flogged enough now or will a few more rounds be needed? I think it's already been thrashed within an inch of its life. I may have to submit a 'cruel and unusual punishment' report.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 9710
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've never heard of a situation where there was a conflict between a DoS and a teacher over lesson content, a la the example of 'more dancing'. I have heard of this phenomenon of 'dancing monkey' in China and some neighbouring countries, but never with a DoS pushing for it on the basis of an ob. However, having never taught in the Far East, I will happily stand corrected by subsequent posters. In any case, it matters little. To over-generalise and say that this happens in all language schools is going to lead one to even more error, based on unjustified assumptions. It doesn't happen in Europe, for example.

And, even more importantly, the original post was not limited to crappy schools out east, but to observations generally, and the other benefits therein. I have not read anything that adds or subtracts from that so far...
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, sorry Artemisia, you are right there. As you can see, I have unreconstructed views on many an issue.

Also agree on the flogged horse. But what else could I do? I led the horse to water, but he just wouldn't drink!!! What sort of EFL horse doesn't drink? Hence the flogging Very Happy
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artemisia



Joined: 04 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
What sort of EFL horse doesn't drink? Hence the flogging


It's a positive relief to be reassured that there has been a basic rationale behind all of this! Wink For everyone involved, I mean.

I don't want to do any more flogging myself, but I've taken note of various reasons and arguments put forward on this and other threads. It's all given me some food for thought and made me think about the issue in a broader sense.
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Perilla



Joined: 09 Jul 2010
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Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 9:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am in full agreement that this horse has been flogged horribly and as a staunch supporter of animal rights a hope it can be left alone awhile to gambol in the meodows.

I can say that through this loooonng discussion I have softened my stance on observations considerably. They seem to be well regarded by many, perhaps most, experienced teachers.

And I agree that in lowly private language schools it would be preferable for the TEFL foot soldiers to have a nice, competent DoS occasionally observing them and giving useful, helpful tips to improve their teaching.

My main 'but', and it won't go away, is that there are bad language schools, bad owners and bad DoS's. Of course there are. Negative reports come into this website every day from around the planet. What sort of observations are going on at these places and with what motives? There are also "evolving" education systems. Ditto. In such contexts observations may do more harm than good.

Put simply, it's reckless to state that observations are always a good thing, and difficult for us to know what proportion are bad. More research is needed. A good subject for a PhD thesis perhaps.

Now, run Rocinante!
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

... Hurumph. Well, then I think that concludes all windmill tilting expeditions for the meantime. Mission has been accomplished. Stances have been soften, food has been thoughtened.

I propose a toast! To dead horses everywhere - long may your flogging continue to elucidate all EFLers! But this one can be put out to pasture...

Hic!
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 4:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My horsewhip is clean and ready for flogging the nag that bit more. It's hardly cruelty to animals if the "poor beast" is dead already. (TKO, in other words LOL).

The majority of language schools, even "respectable" ones in the West, are IMHO language mills. For example, the school where I completed my CTEFLA. About ten years after that, upon returning to the UK, I interviewed for and was more or less immediately offered another job there. (I'd worked there briefly, for a month or so, right after completing the CTEFLA those ten years prior).

The interviewer was a nice guy, and seemed very happy with my answer to how I would teach Present Perfect: "Well, there are 3 or 4 aspects to this form, depending on how finely you slice it, but probably only one aspect is sufficiently different from Simple Past to make it a worthwhile contender for explicit teaching, IMHO - the experiential aspect. From an experiential question one can zero in on specifics time-wise~adverbially, always ultimately implicitly or explicitly in conjunction with Simple Past (though note that an "echoing" introductory Present Perfect can still be used, if given a pause detaching it from what follows it), e.g. Have you taught at this school before? Yes, (I('ve) taught here ( - )) (t'was) just over a decade ago, back when it seemed a much better place to work at."

I had no option but to ultimately decline the job, for several reasons:

1) Classes were shared between teachers, that is, two classes per teacher, one their main, one their minor, and vice-versa, all necessitating more liaising than I was prepared to do.

2) Extremely an*l-retentive photocopying procedures, to be signed in blood.

3) A contract over 60 pages long, with all manner of clauses relating to maternity leave etc (er, I'm a man), but not one stating period of required notice to be given by employee, though plenty intimating that employee could be held liable for "losses incurred".

4) Clauses stating that nothing other than approved materials can be used without the express consent of the DOS.

5) Approved materials consisting of nothing but Headway Advanced (which I wouldn't wipe my backside on), to be supplemented with nothing but Ur's stuff. A definite problem if the main teacher uses up all the "good" stuff. The Business class that really was foisted upon me would've used nothing but Market Leader. (Honestly, the horror. Bleh).

6) A DOS who scowled with undisguised disdain when I approached him to introduce myself (I had been intending to query the necessity of the clause/of always following it to the letter). He obviously valued his privacy in his frequent tea breaks, and absolutely hated his job and workplace, despite getting paid quite well for then doing very little.

7) Surly Japanese students (JAPANESE, for gawd's sake) stomping around kicking things and swearing at the school's admin staff.

The thought of working at and being observed by "betters" in a place like that really, really did NOT appeal.

Sasha wrote:
I've never heard of a situation where there was a conflict between a DoS and a teacher over lesson content, a la the example of 'more dancing'. I have heard of this phenomenon of 'dancing monkey' in China and some neighbouring countries, but never with a DoS pushing for it on the basis of an ob. However, having never taught in the Far East, I will happily stand corrected by subsequent posters.


I've had bosses (OK, not strictly DOSs, but there simply weren't DOSs in any meaningful sense of the term! Not even the Englishdroid one LOL) in Japan press me to drill more, using VERY questionable resources. For example:

"DOS": Palmer's Think in English is how I learned to speak English! And the western co-owner agrees with me that it is the best thing sliced nattou!

Me: I'm sure you used more than that single resource. And to quote a typical example from it, do people really go around asking e.g. "Is it better to spread butter with a knife, or with a spoon?". (I can assure you a spoon will work fine if no clean buttering knives can be found LOL). But OK, the student maybe learns what a knife and spoon are, and a vague something about the use of 'better'. (Is that really the best example for gaining a practical all-round mastery of 'better' etc?). That's about it, though.

"DOS": Yes, but the students will learn the deeper English grammar from such examples. Believe me, they will progress much more quickly if you use this book for at least 20 minutes at the start of each class.

Me: Would that explain why Kenji is still in the low level-class and can barely string a sentence together after repeating this level and book, what, three times already?

"DOS": No, only two times so far. This is only the third. Anyway, you no good teacher! Make Sado's life difficult! etc etc.

Me: You mean as difficult as that other class that you've dreamt up could be for me? You know, the one coupling two reasonably attentive six-year old sisters with an unruly, boisterous eleven year old boy with slight ADHD?

Just substitute Headway Advanced and Ur and you have the same conversation repeated in a Western rather than Eastern setting.


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Wed Oct 24, 2012 10:09 pm; edited 11 times in total
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 5:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Arrrggghh!! Attack of the ninja hamster!!! Draws Russian blood!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bwjvVOmqr0
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 6:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Da, Sergei there is my cousin. All he wanted was to roam unhindered and unobserved!
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artemisia



Joined: 04 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 6:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we’re dealing with a guinea pig (not a hamster).
http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/189998/guinea-rats


Last edited by artemisia on Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:02 am; edited 1 time in total
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 6:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:
Da, Sergei there is my cousin. All he wanted was to roam unhindered and unobserved!


Yet, he too was put out to pasture in the end. Very Happy
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 7:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nastier than hamsters, or even guinea rats, is the Sumatran Rat Monkey:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=VUW6Mtg10tU#t=929s

You don't want to know what happens to the evil old spying (observing) mother after she gets bitten by said monkey at the zoo. Laughing


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Mon Oct 15, 2012 9:54 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This Russian bear is way, way cuter, and far, far deadlier...

Looks can be deceiving! (Probably due to the act of observing... Smile)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsooQDQhvns&feature=related
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VietCanada



Joined: 30 Nov 2010
Posts: 326

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2012 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perilla wrote:
Sashadroogie wrote:
Hic, I'm not sure I'm following you, Fluffy. Are you saying that because school owners are unscrupulous louses, unprofessional rip-off artists, that this is a justification for teachers to cry off professional development in the form of observations? Hic!

Jes' asking, as my poor brain is still muddled from sleeping rough on the bench last night...


Hi Sasha. Splendid indeed to resume our jousting on the subject of observations. Methinks Fluffy is suggesting, as would I, that as language mill owners are often "unscrupulous louses" (nicely put!) it follows that the quality of their observers/observations should also be called into question.

This aspect is indeed the central plank of my objection to some observations. I see nothing wrong with observations per se, when they are genuinely aimed at improving the teacher and the quality of his/her teaching. But I suspect that in the lower levels of the TEFL profession observations often do not have the best interests of the teacher in mind, and are more about snooping on the teacher and/or a power trip by the dodgy owner or DoS.


This has been my experience to date. The one time I expected to have an honest, beneficial observation I was disappointed to the point of walking from the job. The observation was used as a tool to weed out those who weren't with the 'program'. The program was to increase workload. More admin paper work, more contact hours. The program was to increase the presence of teachers from a specific region. The program was not about improvement of any teacher's skill. It was all about exploitation and acceptance of exploitation for whatever reason. But then I work in Asia.

The only informative observations I've ever had have been from peers that held a mutual interest in doing a better job.

I have observed staff performing their duties for a couple decades as their supervisor or employer and I've become quite aware of the impact of having my own opinion of how things should be done or how things need to be done in a particular environment.

I am not sold on observations. That does not infer that I am a bad teacher.

I think specialized training is a necessary starting point. I think simply having experience or power is a problem. I think mocking anyone who does this job disqualifies one from observation. I say that with the experience of one who was responsible for paying my staff as well as training and supervising them.

I've met a lot of hacks along the way in both my careers. I think this is not the thread to whinge about them. A thread promoting observation should promote the positive aspects not the thrill of exposing negative aspects. Respect seems in short supply in these observation threads. Having the power to observe doesn't abrogate one of this simple responsibility. That should not be the oft overlooked advantages of observation.
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