Drama In The Teachers’ Room


ea-sports-fight-night-round-3-20060222065334991-0001.jpgCutting Edge Intermediate. Unit 4

Present Perfect Simple and Continuous. Need I say more?

Well, yes, I guess so. These are two of the most obnoxious tenses in the English language, and one evening I happened to walk rigth into the middle of a loud verbal argument between two teachers, both over thirty, brought on in part by these tenses.

The two teachers — I’ll call them Brad and Jane — were sharing a group, and Brad, the native speaker, had given the class some examples and explanations which weren’t exactly … correct. I believe he’d said something to the effect of “I’ve lived in Rome for two years” does not necessarily mean “I am living in Rome now as well.” Jane, who was not a native speaker and who had accordingly spent years studying (not to mention teaching) English grammar and tenses, was confronted with students who did not believe her when she gave some correct examples. And apparently several students had written Brad’s example down…so it was looking like he really give these bad examples.

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I must say at this point that I’m slightly regretful that I left the teachers’ room halfway through the fight…because it was said to have escalated even more. But I decided I didn’t want to play referee or grammar expert.

Did a couple of bad examples really matter that much? No…what mattered was that both teachers felt that they were being set up to look wrong. At this late point in the situation, there was really no way to go back and fix it…but the morals of this story are:

  • come prepared when you teach grammar. If you don’t know the answer, don’t give an example off the top of your head or make up an explanation.
  • be professional and do your best to support your colleagues. If it seems that a colleague makes a mistake, gloss over it at first and come back to it when you have a good way to teach the correct rule or explanation without immediately saying the colleague is wrong…even if it seems clear he was.