Richard Constable

Not a Mister Chips among them

EFL teachers I've known over the decades, who didn't always wax their tracks as serious educators.


Taking the Callan Method too far

Starting with Callan Method School teachers, these really were a motley crew. That's the first of a number of the world famous Callan Method Schools that came to Silom Road in 2002 (it's claimed that students learn English four times faster than with conventional methods), whereas I don't know if that's true. Still Bill, a retired Yorkshire mining engineer, used to enjoy a bit of a one-way chat with his students. By that I mean Bill's students were all but absolute beginners at English therefore could hardly understand a word - outside of the context of their lessons.

One particular evening, I heard Bill at the end of a first lesson with beginners saying at breakneck speed. 'If I were sat, where you're sat now, and you were the teacher, I'd possibly find it as difficult to learn Thai, as you do to learn English!' Pauses 'In fact! I'd probably find it more difficult to learn Thai, than you do to learn English!' he takes a breath, 'For example, you say two bus and we say two buses! late interjection 'Well! That's, we say two buses, and you say two bus!'

A blueberry fan  

Next, good ol Ron, a franchise owner of a Callan Method School, an eloquent American who'd later become the director of one the most famous international schools in Bangkok. Although again, Ron's Achilles heel as a teacher was that he loved to talk and his favourite narrative was about 'Blueberries'.

I used to hear him from my classroom as often as not, with a beginners' class, 'I. . .lovve. . .bluue. . .ber. . .ries. . .when. . . I. . .was . . .a boy. . .I. . .used. . .to. . .lovve

. . .to pick. . .bluue. . .ber. . .ries. . .I used. . . to. . .lovve. . .to eat. . .bluue. . .ber. . .ries. . .I . . .still. . .lovve. . .to eat. . . bluue. . .ber. . .ries. . .I. . .would . . .pick. . .a . . . huuge. . .bas. . .ket. . .of (and so on).

A teacher who wouldn't be wrong

Third down the line, that comes to mind, Nick. A very tall, handsome, white South-African who taught at a known private girl's school in Asoke. One day, I found myself invigilating his M2's reading and writing test, when I spied in its 50 word paragraph (comprehension reading), no less than 3 third person mistakes.

Back in the office, I thought I'd give Nick the heads up so that he didn't make the same errors twice. After I'd done so, his face turned red with anger, he pulled open his desk, grabbed his edition of an M2 student's book, and tore to the page which he'd attempted to copy from. And on seeing that he was wrong, he said, 'Anyway, I dink I did pretty good!' (He couldn't even copy from a book, and he thought he did pretty good!)

A few days later, I was saying how the school should let us leave at 4:15 pm in the afternoon in the rainy season, and not at 4:30 pm. That way we wouldn't get

f _ _ _ ing soaked every day, and our shoes wouldn't get ruined by f _ _ _ ing flash floods! When Nick piped up, 'I don't dink mine will get ruined, because dhay are lead-her.' I responded, 'Because they are what?' Nick, 'Because dhay are lead-her!' Me 'Ohh, so some teachers actually wear plastic shoes for school, do they! Vegans, I guess.'

Relied on his gift of the gab

Then we come to Patrick, a hard-drinking, charming Irishman, that's if he wasn't trying to knock your head off with a right hook - wasn't an unuseful teacher by any means. As Patrick generally had a fine rapport with his students, also with the Thai teachers. And that's why, Patrick was the teacher chosen to do demonstrations for the school bids (a process a number of agents make, while applying for teaching contracts), clearly these bids take place before the start of the new term.

Besides Patrick, if yours truly had nothing better to do, I'd go a long and do a demo too. And that's where I'd witness one this fella's weaknesses - he wasn't good at remembering the rules of the English language.

Even though he always chose to do the same demo; pronunciation of verbs in the past tense /t/, /d/ and /id/ - he could never remember the rules. And sure enough, when he was coming to the end of his usual demo, one Thai teacher or another would ask something like 'What are the rules of pronunciation for /t/, /d/, and /id/?' To which Patrick would inevitably answer, with much gisticulating of his considerably large hands 'Well, that's it! He'd take a deep breath 'There aren't any rules, we just have to remember!' holding out a big hand 'It's like i before e, except before c, (holding out two splayed hands now) nobody actually knows why.'

On the way back, in the back of the agent's company car, I'd give Patrick another review of the rules. Then he'd say something like, 'I know!' thinking hard now 'You told me again the other day, but I still couldn't remember them!'  

His student could speak better English

Another, though I can't recall his name, was Latvian and I worked with him in a language centre which had studwork walls - insomuch as I could hear every word in a neighbouring classroom. And it was there I heard him utter these words, 'I go for. . rest, Chonburi.' to which his female student stated 'Ohh, you will go to a forest in Chonburi.' The Latvian English teacher, 'Nohh! I will go for rest, in Chon Buri, for holiday!' His student again said 'Ahh, you will go - for a rest.' (I very nearly pissed myself laughing).

A few weeks on, Lyn the manager of the language centre was asking him 'What your nationality? I not sure you exactly a nat- tive speaker.' He replied determinedly 'American!' pulls a face 'To tell you truth, I hate - British accent - very difficult.' Whereupon, 'Oh, good!' said Lyn 'American!' big smile 'Now I know I can sell you to the students.'

Might've bin a record

A thin, bald, English man of medium height, in his late thirties, who'd recently come to Thailand from Cambodia, where he'd been teaching for a couple of years. After a chat about his days in Cambodia, he told me briefly that as he'd just got the money from the sale of his deceased mother's house - he didn't really need a job.

Sensing that he was having second thoughts about the position, which made him my co-teacher - I tried to encourage him. Whereby telling him that the learners  at this school were a well-behaved, bright group of teenagers who studied in small classes. Although he wasn't all together convinced, off he went to teach his first lesson to his first class.

After about 10 minutes, a Thai teacher came to ask me, 'Where's the new teacher?' (Whilst it turned out, he'd put his head around the door of his class, looked about them with a puzzled expression, then shook his head, and made a quick exit via the school gates.)

By the way, I didn't choose to write about the worst of the bunch, that's of those I've known over the years. Moreover, I chose to write about some of the teachers - who I found to be the most amusing and likeable, that's apart from Nick.   




Comments

Thanks Joe,

Yes agreed, the Callan Method has some merit, such as putting a grammar tense passed a student at a quick fire pace, or simply getting your student to speak - still it can be quite manic for a whole lesson.

Not sure if there are any Callan schools left here now, but Help 4 English, Silom Rd, were still using it for most of their lessons back in 2013.

(I don't know why there were so many errors, but the rumour was that after 3 edits Callan said that it would have to do, and he owned the copyright,)

Though, one English language centre got it edited and re-typed here in Bangkok, so of course there were then more mistakes than in the original.

By Richard Constable, Bang Na (10th June 2023)

Liked your article and I can remember the Callan Method school coming to Bangers back in 2002 / 2004 etc. I kinda thought Thais are not going to go for this. And roll on 2023 are there still any Callan schools in BKK???

Personally, I myself use the Callan method in my lessons but very sparingly as some of the speaking exercises can and do help but I keep it to the very minimum 10 minute bursts. I also noticed that there are some very strange sentences in those books. I think they must have outsourced the work to India or something!

Anyways, liked your article please share more!

By Joe, Bangkok (10th June 2023)

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