Well as you all know we are currently most definitely NOT in Thailand and I’m not teaching Thai people how to speak English. Which is a shame. Right now I should be in some idyllic little beachside classroom, probably made of palm trees and bamboo with hot and cold running coconut milk while Sarah learns how to beat people to a pulp quicker and more efficicently. Instead we’re facing the daunting, depressing and downright difficult task of finding jobs to tide us over back in the good old U.S. of Scotland.

Luckily I managed to find myself some temporary part time work with an English teaching school in Edinburgh and have just finished my first week of classes, albeit only about 16 hours worth. Now, the course which I took a couple of months back (Trinity CertTESOL, well worth it) mainly prepared me for teaching groups of learners, usually about 6-8 of them, of various backgrounds, nationalities, ages and abilities. There was a single 1-on-1 lesson which was not even observed, just a small part of a needs analysis exercise. I kinda liked that set-up; the groups are large enough that you can give them group/pair activities so you can get a breather but not so large that people ever struggle for your attention or get out of control. It was quite relaxing really, just a small group of friends doing what they do.

Not this new workplace. Oh no. They were quite specific when I asked them what sort of classes I could expect. “Almost always 1-on-1. Almost always German and fairly advanced. Almost always businessmen wanting to improve their business English specifically.” Oh joy. Nothing against Germans or businessmen, it’s just not exactly a scenario that screams fun and relaxation or even remotely hints at being interesting. Turns out I was wrong though.

First pupil was head of marketing for a Scandinavian branch of a large Japanese car manufacturer, i.e a fairly big hitter in a pretty tough job. He was looking to improve his English comprehension to help him keep up in meetings with counterparts from Germany, Japan and other assorted far-flung countries. Now, I had no idea how to do this, no previous experience of this sort of thing whatsoever and was, to be blunt, shitting m’self.

Turns out though that the best way to deal with this sort of thing is just to have discussions, keep them talking and just correct them as they go along, occassionaly focusing on persistent problems. This I can do. And this fella – he liked to talk. I now know more about this particular car manufacturer than I ever thought possible, from their marketing strategies to their corporate culture to the way they stack up against their various rivals. Not only that but we covered the con that is bottled water, the foolishness and dangers of political correctness and even the concerns regarding racist political parties (BNP style) in his home country. I must admit that, despite these sessions being exceedingly tiring and at times quite difficult, I was genuinely sad to see him go at the end of my three days teaching him.

For my next shift I was given a single lesson, filling in for another teacher who couldn’t make it, with another learner requiring comprehension and general practice to brush up her extremely rusty English. More discussion-based lessons? Winner! Except this time it was even better. My pupil was a German journalist who was previously based in Brussels and covered all matters EU and NATO but was preparing for her imminent departure to Afghanistan to cover military operations there. Now that is just a goldmine as far as chat goes and for four hours we had a ball, covering everything from things to do in Edinburgh and the general and political history of Scotland to the Iraq/Afghanistan situation and the internal workings of the EU. By the end of it my brain was bulging from all the stimulation and new information (and also becaiuse of my immense hangover from the grand opening of the pub downstairs the night before).

Unfortunately I don’t currently have any more shifts lined up although I’m keen to get back to it if the previous two are good examples of your typical student. In the meantime it’s back to the job pages with occassional detours involving The Dark Knight, learning some tunes with Sarah (for our rash/genius new pub covers duet idea) and practicing with me band for the first time in about a year.

Not in Thailand. Still having fun though.

EDIT – Just been to the pub downstairs and it looks like I might be returning to bar/restaurant work after a hiatus of over a decade. Got a 12-12 split shift trial on Monday to see if I can still do this stuff. It’s gonna hurt but at this point money’s money…

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