NOT UNDERSTANDING… YOUNG LEARNERS

Once I had two jobs… now I have one job… heaven knows, I’m not miserable now.

Well that didn’t last long.

My job at the little school in Fuengirola (I’ve removed the name from my previous blog for legal reasons) lasted for precisely eight days, including a weekend.

Although I was in and out before you could say ‘teaching English to young learners is what the Devil will have me doing day after day if I get sent to hell,’ it falls some way short of rivaling my shortest period of gainful employment.

This was way back in 1976 when I somehow managed to get a labouring job on the Woodstock roundabout Park and Ride car park.

Tools of the trade: another one bites the dust

Having never done any physical labour before and having no great taste for it other than that it paid roughly double what I was earning in an Oxford city centre office, it came as no surprise when the foreman invited me to collect my P45 and sandwich box and get the f*** off his site somewhere between elevenses and lunch break on my first morning.

And looking back, he had a fair amount of justification for this abrupt termination of my contract.

‘What about my one-week trial period?’ I asked, more out of hope than expectation.

‘Do you want a f***ing list of all the f***ing tools you’ve f***ing broken this morning?’ He replied, demonstrating unsurpassable people skills.

I didn’t, thanks.

I considered informing him that if I’d had a little more in the way of an induction programme — perhaps a programme targeted at the less experienced worker… then I remembered the pack of porky pies I’d put on my application.

‘Trial period?’ He continued to rant, “If I let you stay for one f***ing week this company will be f***ing bankrupt and then none of us’ll have f***ing jobs!’

Of course my experience at the little school in Fuengirola was nothing like that.

You may recall, dear reader, that I had three classes, two of which were delightful while the one sandwiched in the middle consisted of four challenging and disruptive ten year-old boys.

Unruly young non-learners.

A class no one else wanted.

That’s why I was given it.

Now I naturally assumed that discipline was the most important thing, and Veronica (not her real name) had very much led me to believe that to ‘sit on them hard and don’t take any nonsense’ was the way to go.

I like the old adage: ‘when you have them by the balls, hearts and minds will follow.’ To me, it’s sound teaching methodology.

And so my second lesson was almost entirely ‘bad cop,’ and I concluded, afterwards in my evaluation, that it had been an unqualified success.

‘We’re not at home to Senor Sloth’ had set the tone; the threat of writing out hundreds of verbs, confiscation of pens, markers and board rubbers and other potential weaponry when not in productive use, and the insistence that my voice was the only one in the classroom — unless by invitation — had worked perfectly.

Everything was under control. With lockdown in place, education could begin.

Guantanamo Bay in a classroom.

Now, this is the way I’ve always worked you see, and if you are one of my former ‘students’ — I don’t really get why pupils are called students even when they’re still in nappies, but let’s not go there — at St John’s and you’re reading this, you’ll know.

It’s called effective education and it gets results. None of this weirdy-beardy child-centred stuff, just good old-fashioned hard-nosed discipline based learning.

But unfortunately, while it worked for me, it didn’t totally capture the imagination of my ‘students.’

So Monday night and I’ll telling Little Pedro that if he copies Little Deigo’s answers, he will be invited to conjugate the verb ‘to cheat’ in the past, present, and future forms.

And at this point Veronica (not her real name) enters and asks if she could observe my lesson, Before I can draw breath she sits down and tells me that she actively encourages the ‘students’ to ‘reflect’ on each other’s work.

“You mean to cheat,” I say.

“It’s called collective learning,” she replies humourlessly.

… hearts and minds will follow.

It gets worse.

Fifteen minutes into the lesson and she takes over.

Veronica (not her real name) tells the class that I have a headache — which I deny strenuously but she’s having none of it. She’s now in charge. I’m in the brig.

To be honest, it’s not a bad lesson, although I think the ‘students’ would have learnt considerably more from mine.

I save face a little by joining in and helping out and as the hour passes, minutes dripping slowly from the hands of the clock, the redness of my face fades a little.

But, heck, I’ve been relieved of command in similar fashion to Captain Frank Ramsey of the USS Alabama in Crimson Tide, and I’m still smarting.

So afterwards she sits me down, apologises for the unscheduled intrusion and for taking over, but points out that Little Pedro’s father had complained that Little Pedro had not enjoyed my last lesson and that I was too strict.

They come here, goes Veronica (not her real name) to have fun. They are taught in a formal and prescriptive manner in main school, so this is a very different learning environment where they must be allowed to express themselves and encouraged to enjoy learning.

None of this, of course, has been mentioned at interview, because back then she desperately needed someone to stand in front of the little feckers.

I can see this is not going to work for me, so I nod my head and agree, listening to her lesson planning advice with one ear, as I already know I won’t be back.

But let me make this clear: there’s nothing wrong with the child-centred Montessori-flavoured form of education, it’s just that it clashes with the methodology of mainstream education and confuses the little blighters.

Children are like dogs; they need routine, consistency and discipline. Remove any of those building blocks in an educational environment and what do you get? You get anarchy.

New tricks? Let’s not go there!

Besides which, even if I wanted to, I’m too old to change: old dogs… new tricks. Actually… that’s not entirely true, as I have learnt a few new tricks during the course of the past year, but let’s not go there.

So I go home, lick my wounds and consider my options.

And fifteen minutes later, I crack open my second beer and write my letter of resignation.

It’s not all gloom and doom though, as I’ve now filled those three hours on a Thursday with private clients.

Im sticking to adults from now on.

Happy days.

 

And now, briefly onto other matters: Rugby.

Sean O’Brien made the news the other day by claiming that the Lions would have won the series in New Zealand three-nil had they been better coached. If you haven’t seen it, it’s here

And I have to say that I totally agree with him.

How many times have I told you that what Warren Gatland knows about rugby you could write on the back of a fag packet?

‘Now, where did I leave that fag packet?’

But if you read the article, it’s Rob Howley, according to O’Brien, who was the real culprit. But in my view, Gatland should have intervened when it became obvious that no one was listening to the Welshman, and the attack coaching was being led by the players who would direct it on the field of play: Farrell and Sexton.

What Howley knows about attack coaching could be written on a folded postage stamp.

Billy Vunipola: the best player in the world. Now also the best author?

Then, Billy Vunipola is invited onto BBC Radio Four’s Today programme (I very much doubt if Billy would have known of its existence prior to the invitation) to launch his book.

Billy Vunipola has written a book, I hear you ask? Well… obscenity my old boots!

Indeed he has, and it’s called Wrecking Ball. Waterstones have already marked it down form £20 to £16.99. They’ll be giving it away by Christmas.

Have you ever heard Billy talk? I’m not sure that he could spell ‘Wrecking Ball,’ let alone write the book, but I may very well be wrong.

Sean O’Brien — would better coaching have secured a 3—0 Blackwash?

Asked about O’Brien’s comments, Vunipola said: “I guess if he (O’Brien) is saying it and the authority he said it with, he’s probably right.

“For me to sit here and say they probably would have won is wrong. But personally my opinion is that if Eddie (Jones) went they would have won 3-0. He is that good.

“I don’t know how he would have done it, but he would have found a way.”

With acerbic comment like this, I just can’t wait to read the book.

But you really know your coach is the best in the world when he tells you that you have the ability to be the best player in the world.

The Billy and Eddie show.

You couldn’t beat Ireland though, could you Eddie?

Chicos! I’ve rambled on a bit; I’ll put it down to the fact that I have a truly dreadful hangover. But now it’s time to hit the beach and sleep it off.

Hasto pronto amigos!

 

 

 

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6 Responses to NOT UNDERSTANDING… YOUNG LEARNERS

  1. jim nolan says:

    hang loose for a few years, you may be in the frame to coach the lions in South Africa, well Marbella under 16’s is perfect preparation, cheers Jim

    • Richard Grainger says:

      They’re very good Jim. You should get Antrim or Randalstown to tour over here. Only problem is there’s no wet ball rugby played!

  2. David Stewart says:

    Enjoyed that Richard – although I observe you skate over our joint labouring efforts in the summer employ of Antrim Borough Council some 40 odd years ago !

    • Richard Grainger says:

      Well that was a sort of long term job — although we did nearly get the sack when Willy Young accidentally emptied the contents of a road sweeper over the path outside the lazy driver’s house as he gobbled his mid-morning Ulster fry.

  3. Miguel says:

    Cambodia needs you, they insist on discipline and more importantly are backed up by the parents. My first lesson, I literally picked this youngster up, tucked him under my arm and carried him halfway to the principals office to bemused smiles from the other teaching styles. I’m sure that would result in intant dismissal back in Blighty?
    I put him down halfway there and we came to my arrangement. We shook hands and the deal was done. When we got back to the classroom, the rest were somewhat quiet compared to the rowdy bunch I had observed. So yeah it worked a treat.
    We’ve been told to stop teaching if there is too much disruptive behaviour but what’s the point in that, there are other ways?
    I am a product of corporal punishment and think I’ve turned out ok, the wife disagrees.
    But I don’t fancy a stint in a Cambodian prison, so I’m forced to grow as a teacher.

    See you soon ?

    • Richard Grainger says:

      Hi Miguel, Way to go boy! Hey, I might just get my arse out to Cambodia when I’m recovered from this year’s excessive travelling!

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