The cheerful blandness of our EFL literature
My impression from the several ELT magazines,journals and websites I read regularly, and from the publications I sometimes see, is that the overall tone of our writing about our profession is optimistic and positivist . It appears that EFL writers do not to want to look into the darker corners of the apparently sun-filled spaces we are often portrayed as inhabiting.
I then wondered if HLT, over the past seven years has bucked this trend and I find that, on the whole, it hasn't. Sure, though, there have been some powerful evocations of negative professional situations and here are some of them:
Year 1 Issue 3 , May 99 : in STAFFROOM CONFLICT, Jana Prochazkova describes the awfulness of her Czech headmistress
Year 1 Issue 4, June 99 : in LOOKING DOWN FROM ON HIGH, Rinvolucri analyses the words of an applied linguist speaking publicly, arrogantly and disparagingly about language teachers.
Year 4 Issue 1 Jan 02 : INTERVIEW WITH EUGENIA GUIMARANS, in which she shares her terrible memories of school as a girl and her worse ones of university.
Year 7 Issue 2 , March 05, in BOREDOM (Student Voices Section) a 17 year old student explains the crushing tedium he experienced at school before flunking out and getting a job.
While this is not an exhaustive list of looks into the dark corners of the EFL space, I have to admit that HLT, too, is pretty positivist and sun-light-seeking.
I would very happily publish more on the dark areas of our profession since light and shade need, realistically, to be in natural balance. You can't have one without the other. I am quite happy to publish anonymous pieces, where this is necessary, to shield a whistle blower from dire consequences.
Do EFL teachers suffer from burn-out? How many personal accounts of this sad process have you read over the past five years.
Are there some abysmally despotic and crooked employers in this world-wide enterprise?
How many exposes have you read of such people?
Do some EFL teachers suffer from bouts of depression? How do such states affect their students and them? What have you read on this in our technical literature?
Is there wide spread cheating and plagarism among the droves of EFL exam candidates? What do the exam boards tell us about these doings? They seem to have huge carpets to sweep these matters under.
How many different ways have publishers found to help smooth the way towards large scale adoptions of their coursebooks? When does a token become a present, when does a present become a bribe ( maybe a fridge or a TV set ?) and when do bribes become all-out, raddling corruption?
How much are roving EFL teachers involved in providing useful information to the Secret Services in their home countries?
Is it a normal characteristic of a corpus of professional articles in any field that they will tend to avoid investigating the problematic, immoral and illegal areas of the field?
Your views on this would be welcome.
What does this issue offer you?
The Teacher Resource Book Preview carries six lyrically good exercises by Hall Houston, currently working in Taiwan, and Lucy Crighton's Major Article 2 sets the scene for telling stories to early primary children. We need much more on primary in HLT and I feel I need to apologise to readers from this area of teaching. Help me by sending in more stuff!
John Morgan describes how he galvanised a group of in-service teachers by repeatedly telling them Teacher, you taught me wrong….(Short article 1)
In Major Article 3 David Cranmer, from Lisbon, Portugal, tells us how he finally managed to work his way into French. I would happily run more of these learner accounts of their process as teaching can only be useful in so far as it seconds these processes.
Jokes in this issue are very topical, dealing, as they do, with the mutual lack of love between France and UK, and the leather-eardness of conferences convened to "help" Africa.
Student Voices, in this issue comes, from the terrified heart of an Afghan teenager waiting to be brutally deported back to his war-torn homeland by the two-faced UK authorities.
The article that most intrigues me, as a reader, is Short Article 5: Explaining grammar with metaphors. The metaphors involved are physical-spatial and I wonder how you react to these original ideas.
Have a good read.