#7: E is for Environment The flames will burn for decades, and humankind will shelter, like moles, in underground complexes waiting for the planet to heal itself after centuries of abuse. None shall dare tread upon the surface of the parched, scorched earth. Humans will survive on fungus and recycled sweat, until conditions are finally right for us to return to a place under a friendly sun. When the historians of the future finally uncover the dusty servers and musty documents that show the root cause of the catastrophe, they...

#6: D is for Desks This month we move from tables to desks. Here, though I refer to real desks not desks-as-simile. Real, solid, rectangular teacher’s desks. [caption id="attachment_1784" align="alignleft" width="384"] Evil incarnate[/caption] A desk is such an innocent thing, a flat top and four legs, sometimes a draw to forget things in. But I rage, rage against the using of the desk (sorry, Dylan). I want to find an axe and hack away until all that remains is a pile of splinters and sawdust gently settling in the air. What...

#5: N is for Natives [caption id="attachment_1594" align="alignright" width="448"] Some native speakers recently[/caption] I’m not going to revisit the old stuff about inherent linguistic knowledge vs explicit understanding, nor the career teacher vs the traveller, and certainly not local cultural knowledge versus target cultural knowledge. I’m going to ask a simple question. What’s the difference between a table and a native teacher of English? Not a lot really….. I see the native-ness as a layer of varnish on the surface of the table. It looks good, and it sells better than...

#4: G is for Gaps No, not those kind of gaps; not a cloze, not a key word transformation, nor a gapped text, and certainly not an information gap. A gapped teacher – with a thinking gap. A gap in thinking which results in a disconnected application of teaching. A gap in thinking which leads to the application of disparate activities which leads to a series of gaps in the thinking of students, which leads to an addiction to the need for constant stimulus and ‘new’ ideas which leads...

#3: C is for Coursebooks Sadly, there are coursebooks whose job seems to be to perpetuate or reinforce stereotypes, like the one below. Happily, that’s not the case in mainstream publishing. Instead we have generic pap - UHT coursebooks aimed at everyone and landing nowhere. [caption id="attachment_1186" align="alignleft" width="314"] https://hongwrong.com/hong-kong-textbook/ via Ken Wilson on Facebook[/caption] ELT publisher seem to be a bit like political parties - all fighting for the same centre ground, coming up with policies (or products, in this case) which are designed to be inoffensive and look good....

Well, first, apologies to Scott Thornbury for ‘borrowing’ and distorting his title. This is the closest I’ll ever get to his altitude, so forgive my mutant magpie-Icarus act. I present to you the first of the series An A-Z of Dysfunctional ELT – the art of getting things wrong, again and again. Each month, I’ll take a letter and explore some ideas about how we get things wrong.  And by ‘we’, I mean you, and you, and you. Oh, and me.  For example, C might stand for Communication (aw, don’t get...