TEFL (Dis)Organization


cluttered_deskclut1.jpgI’ve experienced a surprising amount of disorganization in the TEFL world and I don’t know what to attribute this to. It could be that much of TEFL happens in cultures that I am not a member of, and I am just used to the American way of getting things done…though the brief period during which I taught in the US was not very different. It could be that arranging to accommodate, both literally and figuratively, a slew of foreigner teachers is a lot of work. It could be that teaching as a private business means coordinating many, many people, or any combination of these factors. But the fact remains: disorganization is sometimes the norm.

It is not uncommon for a school not to be able to tell teachers when the Christmas break starts, or to change it after announcing it.

The starting day of each term (not to mention the classes you will be teaching) is flexible and depends on student interest, student enrolement and availability of space and teachers and a whole host of other factors. There was one episode where a director and I spent a few minutes thinking I had been teaching a class (in which the students didn’t have a book) from the wrong syllabus for three weeks. Luckily, it transpired that the problem was “just” that one student had been in the wrong group for those three weeks. But organization was such that it was not out of the realm of possibility that this had happened.

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The other difficulty that comes up is that many issues only come to light in class, and as a teacher you may not have the information, authority, or ability to leave the class to solve those problems immediately. Class breaks are short and are often spent waiting in line for the bathroom or getting a drink of water or smoking. And just try getting students or staff to stick around after the end of a class to resolve some issue. That means that the most realistic time to take care of problems is the very next day…but then the student isn’t there and you have to ferry back and forth between the student and the administration.

I suppose the moral of this story is that some amount of disorganization is almost the norm; while it’s not ideal, it does not necessarily make a school a bad place to be. And my reasoning has recently led me to the conclusion that it may be better to try and deal with it than to spend the energy being frustrated by it.