Sunday, 25 November 2012



Huh? Wott’s he mean by that? Bad for the health? Well, wot ‘e means by that, my good reader, is that teaching English is not conducive to good health.

 Take teaching schedules, for starters. I’m talking about private language schools here – the field in which most of us are employed. You start, what time? Five-ish in the evening, right?  You finish, what time? Nine, or nine thirty. Then, whaddaya do? You eat. And then what? You sleep. On a full stomach. Now, any nutritionist, doctor, or Old Wife will tell you that’s unwise. A sleeping stomach that’s also coping with the task of digesting one plate of spaghetti bolognaise and two bread rolls is not a happy sleeping tummy. It’s feeling aggrieved that you’re not awake and moving around; the better to shake the bolognaise down into the digesting part of the stomach. (No, I’m not a doctor, but thanks for the compliment.)

Some teachers are not content to finish work, then eat, then sleep. Some, the impetuous fools, feel they’d like to fit a little relaxation and socializing into their days. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and we don’t want any dull teachers in our classrooms, now do we? That would never do. So, our pleasure-bent teacher follows up the spaghetti with a couple of cans of beer, then a couple more, then Maria and Orlando turn up so you order six more, n then shix more pleeshe, n then….

Now I don’t want to preach here, but a sleeping stomach trying to digest one plate of spaghetti bolognaise, two bread rolls, and six litres of beer is a very unhappy tummy indeed. And sleep doesn’t come easy either, what with you getting up every half hour to take a leak.

So, what’s the solution? The solution, Dear Friend, is to leave EFL and take up a normal teaching job. That, or take up beach-combing.

OK, so work schedules are one health hazard. Hazard number two: air-borne diseases. Think about it. Here you are Mr Teacher, locked in an air-sealed, air-conditioned room along with 14 children and Tommy. Now I’ve got nothing against Tommy; he’s a lovely kid. Overweight, spoilt, and a trifle thick, but lovely all the same. However today Tommy has a cold. A wet, sniffly, runny-nosed cold that has him sneezing once every four minutes. And Tommy, true to Asian form, does not cover his mouth when he sneezes. Oh no. He throws his head back, opens his mouth wide, and gives a full-throated, microbe-laden blaargh!!! When the cloud of bacteria droplets clears, you see Tommy wiping his dripping nose with the back of his hand, then wiping his hand either on his text book or the neighboring boy’s shirt.

After ten or twelve of Tommy’s sneezes, students, books and classroom furniture are all coated with a fine film of snot. Hanging from the ceiling are little stalactites of mucous. And next morning you wake up with a cold. Thanks Tommy.

No, like I say: bad for the health, teaching is.

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