Aldo Williams: How to find freedom - hit the south coast - Schools - Education - The Independent

Aldo Williams: How to find freedom - hit the south coast

Fed up with health and safety? Want to teach in a school where it doesn't seem to matter? Where, if the sun shines, you can just take the class out on to the streets to do a survey, or into the park for a game of footie? No forms to fill in, no tick-lists to tick, no first aid to freak you out...

And you want to do this in the UK? Then teaching in certain English language schools for foreign students should be right up your boulevard, carretera and via.

The relaxed attitude gets even better when it comes to your qualifications for the job. You may not need any. There are Tefl qualifications, but not all language schools bother to ask for them, and if you choose to ask about a CRB check the enquiry is likely to be met by a polite "Que?" from most foreign-run language schools.

Needing a bit of extra cash this summer, I decided to try a spell teaching in one of them on the south coast.

There are dozens of these schools, and thousands of students pouring into town centres along the south coast daily, providing more than a nice little earner for the nation's shopkeepers – though not for the staff who run the courses. By teaching standards the pay is poor. You'll be lucky to get £15 an hour.

But that is pretty good compared to the host families who, in return for providing a student with bed, breakfast, packed lunch, evening meal and convivial conversation, receive £11 a day.

Little surprise then that it is often only really cash-strapped families who do it, cramming in as many kids as they can and not always providing decent grub. And no wonder that the students then complain about English food. And English grammar.

"Sir, is it correct to say, 'You was', 'we was', and 'they was', as our host family does?'' How do you go about answering that?

"Easy," a more experienced colleague told me. "Just tell them it's a dialect."

The teaching was easy. More than that, in fact – it was an absolute joy. We had a textbook – a good one. But these kids could read textbooks in their own countries. As native speakers we could serve two really useful functions for them: improving their pronunciation – so that they could be better understood; and, by carefully mixing nationalities for group work, ensuring that they were speaking as much English as possible.

They did TV adverts, balloon debates, role plays. We kept them busy and, in spite of our lack of certification (none of the teachers had a Tefl qualification), we gave those teenagers good value, thinking of all sorts of exercises and games to push more English into them, and get more out.

Classes were roughly arranged into advanced and intermediate, but the lines were blurred, and all of us soon learnt that you could actually grade your students fairly accurately by nationality alone. The Scandinavians would have the best English and best accent; the Spanish and Italians weren't far behind. The French would be the worst (though the girls were often the best-dressed): less confident to speak, less vocabulary when they did, and by far the worst accent. Not the attractive, sexy English you may be thinking of, but something inarticulate and incoherent mumbled through a closed mouth.

Not really their fault of course. The English accent seems difficult for the French. But you also felt they may have been on the receiving end of that French attitude that considers it an appalling accident of history that English now dominates global communication when God really intended French for the world's lingua franca.

So, apart from the accommodation, the food and the weather (principally a Spanish complaint), great fun, and some English improvement, were had by all.

Not without exception though. Two weeks into the course, three of our students suffered a nasty beating late one evening down at the pier. Foreign-student bashing is a popular pasttime for some Brits, as tellingly revealed in this newspaper in July, and attacks are now nudging one every day.

It raises the question of course: does such an incident give a told-you-so winning hand to the health and safety gang? No. Those students chose to disobey some very clear and sensible instructions: don't go near the pier after 10pm. They did, and paid a rather heavy price. Sod's law that they were from our French group, too.

The writer is a former teacher at a comprehensive school

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Permanent KS2 Teacher required

Negotiable: Randstad Education Ilford: A Redbridge based Primary School is see...

NVQ Assessor Level 2 & 3 Sport Development

£19200 - £26880 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: In NVQ Ass...

Secondary supply teachers required in Newmarket

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush, London

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week