Urban Legends In TEFL

1904048358large.jpgI’ve fallen a bit behind with Pigs In The Toilet, but my last visit finds former EFL teacher Jeff on a bus to Varanassi, India – not, in fact, to teach at a call center, but instead to meet up with some friends, which I concur could be a bit more fun.

However Jeff also finds himself face to face with a couple of legends when a few fellow passengers realize this is his first trip to India. You know, the girl who stayed with her local boyfriend and was driven out of town by gossip that she was a prostitute; the woman followed by a masturbating boy on the train platform; the clerks who started to ransack the room of a sick couple, thinking they were gone, and so on. These tall tales aren’t even really about India; urban travel legends are about anywhere the listener hasn’t been.

Naturally, this made me think of urban legends with EFL origins: what are they? Are they based on truth or just scare tactics directed at newbies?

Becoming some sort of indentured servant.
I think in reality this is pretty rare, though there are sometimes factors that end up compelling teachers to stay in bad situations.

Needing to teach horrible grammar you don’t understand and/or teaching students who are cleverer than you. This can definitely happen, so do some training and take time to plan your lessons. Not all students will be greatly concerned with grammar, but do you really want to be caught off guard by the ones who are?

Coming to class naked.
Well, this happened to me, but only in a dream. Unless you’re really rural, someone should alert you in transit with a comment or at the very least a laugh.

Teaching a class drunk or hungover. I’ve been joking around with most of these. But don’t do this. Not helpful to your students and quite possibly humiliating for you…do everyone a favor and 1) keep your drinking in check if you need to teach soon and 2) call in sick if all else fails.

Eating something you find appalling without realizing it, like dog or rat.
I don’t think this is as uncommon as we all hope…but rejoice in the fact that it can happen to anyone who travels (and probably sometimes at home too), not just teachers. I like to think of this as an incentive to learn as much of the local language as possible: “One hot meal please, without cat.”

Have you heard and TEFL urban legends? Or have you lived one?