The British Council: TEFL Logue Friend Or Foe?

shoplifter1.jpgI shared my thoughts on the awesomeness of a certain cultural organization in Online Resource: The British Council. A British Council membership means easily accessible English libraries which often include teaching materials and free DVD rental. They may not have Cosmo, but they do have the latest edition of Modern English Teacher.

However, I recently had a rather unusual experience at my local British Council which made me wonder – is this institution a friend or a foe?

Browsing the DVD section and having made my first choice (it was Sliding Doors if you must know), I saw a colleague absorbed in reading the back of a book. I should say hello, right? In this case, no, because I’d just come from a short lunch with said colleague which we’d rushed through because she’d said she had a student to teach. Apparently not.

I drew a blank and didn’t know what to do or say. So I decided to leave without saying anything; she didn’t seem to have seen me even though she wasn’t very far away. Walking at a fast pace, I put my DVD down near the check out and just left.

My next visit there was following an email notice that something was overdue. I paid the fine and went to browse again, and was shadowed by an employee pretending to work. I’ve worked at bookstores and this is what you do when you think someone is stealing.

It was not until a few weeks after this that I made any connection between rushing out and being suspected of library-lifting. Since then, there was just a tad of snarkiness on my part towards the employees who’d been suspicious of me, and reciprocal snarkiness back from them. I’ve been a regular at British Councils in three countries up to now, and I encounted unprovoked snarkiness at one of them without question, plus this one (though, to be fair, I cannot call it totally unprovoked). I should point out a) these were all local employees in their respective countries, not Brits, and b) I do believe the TEFL Logue is a fan of the online work of at least one British Council teacher, so I certainly do not mean to dis the institution as a whole.

Luckily, there is a happy ending to this drama: the other day, I became concerned that I had inadvertently stolen something. I brought home a paper I’d thought was free because of where it was stacked…and then saw a price printed on the front page. Oops. Now I’d confirmed their beliefs – I was in fact a thief! I actually returned the next day and broke the ice by asking them if I owed them 40 Slovak Crowns…no. The paper was in fact free and they even smiled at my earnestness. The day after that…I was allowed to use the internet without handing over my membership card. The British Council and I are back on good terms it seems.