33 country fast food strike - TEFL lesson

A lesson plan around the "Fight for 15 campaign" and a recent international one-day strike in support of US fast food workers fighting for better wages.

Submitted by Angry Language… on May 27, 2014

Lesson plan should take between 1 and 2 hours depending on levels of class discussion.

Teachers may also wish to play students this clip, which contains an interview with a fast food worker discussing why he intends to strike. The clip can provide practice with accents as well as understanding graphs and charts.

If at any point the above clip becomes unavailable on youtube, please PM the Angry Language Workers and we can email you a copy directly. Similarly, if you find any typos in the lesson plan, let us know so they can be fixed!

Comments

Hieronymous

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on May 27, 2014

Sorry to sound like a dick, but this lesson plan is as bad as anything on Dave's ESL Cafe. It's admirable that you all want to put teaching materials together, but even the content of this lesson is intellectually dishonest; its implicit conclusions are disingenuous too. It reads like a Berlin Rosen press release, or something put out by a Change-to-Win PR wonk at the headquarters in DC. After the shameful, disgraceful collusion of SEIU goons and Chicago pigs to detain and arrest Jose “Zé” Garcia on May Day, why would you continue to promote SEIU's ideology?

Case in point: this AP photo went viral:

but the actual content is pissed off workers, confronting both the NYPD pigs and SEIU pigs who together had erected temporary metal barricades to prevent the protestors from occupying a McDonald's (the whole event's itinerary had been pre-approved by the pigs). The purpose of the event was so that Democratic Party politicians could regale the crowd with their campaign promises. Yet apologists for the SEIU's class collaboration, like Josh Eidelson at liberal mouthpiece Salon.com, continue to flack for the union. Unity & Struggle have an excellent first-hand account of this incident called "Chicago’s SEIU Arrest and the Story of a Stock Photo".

Ready-made lessons are way too teacher-centered. It's what Paolo Freire called the "banking model" of education. The teacher has all the answers and the students are the empty vessel to be filled with all the master's wisdom. You know, the sage on the stage; or, if you have a little partially-digested Pedagogy of the Oppressed under your belt, the guide on the side. But never the co-learner, in the reciprocal relationship that defines a healthy pedagogical approach.

Here are the weaknesses:

1. The paltry pre-reading activity is all about the student's consumption habits. It assumes that ESL student has a favorite fast food restaurant. I've taught EFL/ESL for 25 years and most of my immigrant students buy ingredients and cook their traditional food. Most with kids indulge them with fast food, while eating their ethnic food themselves. If you're going to discuss consumption and eating habits, why not discuss processed food and it's negative health effects. You might be surprised when you hear tales of horror of ESL students who've worked in food processing factories.

2. Why not simply elicit from the students what kind of work they've done, then see from there if any worked in the service sector. The latter is way too broad to limit it just to fast food, but that can be teased out in discussion. And come on comrades, using the word "joint" to describe a business comes off as way too hipster. And if you're going to be ideological, why not include working class struggle in the pre-reading discussion?

3. The ESL publishing industry is based on lowest-common-denominator assumptions about student needs. A healthy curriculum, instead, is based on needs assessments, where the goals and objectives are used to create lesson materials that grown organically from those student needs. So if this lesson is intended to be a catch-all, what are the purported language needs of the students? Without an approximate level, what determined the vocabulary (abbreviated as "vocab") you chose? What's their first language -- and why would they want to support, even abstractly, the PR campaign Berlin Rosen is running for Change-to-Win and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations?

4. Not to advocate for a prescriptive approach, but where's the grammar? What are the language functions being taught? Read and regurgitate factoids (that are mostly numbers)? That's what the comprehension questions sounds like. And again, to call these protests -- which are a combination of press conference and campaign rally for Democratic Party politicians -- a "strike" is disingenuous. So asking the students if they'd join them if they were held in their countries imposes an absurd paternalistic American-centric liberalism on countries that might have militant traditions of class struggle.

5. The facts are simply flawed. The Seattle minimum wage will be phased in over the next several years. Companies with over 500 employees have 3 years; ones that offer health care have 4 years. The SEIU cut deals where some union contracts (at sub-minimum wages) preclude the new citywide minimum wage. The Seattle minimum wage is so multi-tiered that it's a pathetic joke. Anyway, SeaTac (the town of 27,000 where the airport serving Seattle and Tacoma is located) would have the highest minimum at $15 an hour if it didn't have 2 tiers, one for airport workers and another without the minimum who work exclusively on the Port of Seattle property. In my opinion, the whole minimum wage campaign is a front for the Democratic Party, to claim credit when Obama raises the minimum to $9.

To assume that working class ESL students don't know about the working conditions in the service sector is naive at best -- and paternalistic and condescending at worst. They work in the industry and have a lot to teach you, the activist ESL teacher!

A truly radical pedagogy would equate ESL teaching as a low-wage, benefit-less service sector jobs and draw commonalities with ESL students working in similar sectors. That would build solidarity in the classroom.

Caiman del Barrio

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on May 28, 2014

Excellent post H. I mean, is merely changing the topic of a class (even if it is to a 'workers' issue) equatable to a free education? I reckon most students would mooch out of this class having determined that their teacher is some sort of extremist, and there's a fairly high possibility that they would have deliberately exiled from their country of origin due to a dislike of them damn commies anyway. Shouldn't we be encouraging students to exercise independence and a critical appraisal of their surroundings, rather than propagandising at them? I sort of detect a whiff of Leninist 'consciousness raising' about this whole project, which makes me uncomfortable.

Having said that, as a TEFL, I'm basically a reluctant warrior for the cultural sinkhole of America-centrism, so yeah. I would really like to discuss alternative, immediately applicable models of alternative/freer pedagogy that go beyond the propagandising methods used here.

H do you have any lesson plans or anything else to share? Can we set up some sort of alternative pedagogy online reading group/workshop or something?

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on May 28, 2014

Caiman del Barrio

H do you have any lesson plans or anything else to share? Can we set up some sort of alternative pedagogy online reading group/workshop or something?

Thanks. Yeah, I really am trying to synthesize Vygotsky's theory -- mostly his Zone of Proximal Development -- and Freire's practice. That latter is much more problematic than the former (see ultra-left professor at CSU San Diego, Rich Gibson's critique: "Paulo Freire and Pedagogy For Social Justice").

Some of the best proponents of a "participatory approach," taking the best of Freire's ideas, are Nina Wallterstein and Elsa Auerbach, who have been active in ESL/EFL/Literacy in New England for decades. They've updated their excellent 2-book expression of the use of this approach (available from Grass Roots Press in Canada):

Problem-Posing at Work: Popular Educator's Guide

Problem-Posing at Work: English for Action

The first is an excellent overview of this approach, outlining how the participatory pedagogical approach is based on a thoroughly student-centered strategy, using the students' workplace and social class needs to create lessons -- and which also give examples of including a critique of global capital. But in way that draws on the students' life experience -- doing their own problem-posing -- rather than being pedantic. The second book is actually a textbook for English learners that's decent, but when I use it I mostly just plagiarize and adapt parts I find useful. It's simply impossible to have one-size-fits-all lesson plans.

My strongest passion is activating schemata in pre-reading activities. Here I'd recommend the thoroughly researched (taking from latest functional brain magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI] studies) How the ELL Brain Learns by David A. Sousa.

I'm totally down for an online reading group. I have facilitated workshops on pre-reading activities, using Sousa's research, and would love to have feedback on these presentations and share ideas with other language teachers.

Additionally, I've taught Vocational ESL and created curriculum for the SEIU as a freelance part-timer for a decade, so I know how much the rank-and-file hates the pro-management bias of the union. In nearly every shop where I've taught, a decertification drive would take off like wildfire. That's why I think glorifying anything SEIU/Change-to-Win touches ends up -- often unintentionally -- as apologetics for their class collaboration.

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on May 29, 2014

I just got a PM asking me to self-censor any comments on this thread, so as not to offend the person who created this lesson plan.

Where does this groupthink come from? Perhaps beyond exporting pro-boss unionism and pseudo-strikes, American culture is also influencing the world with anti-intellectual McThinking™.

[deleted by H]

Ed

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on May 28, 2014

So I feel like I might as well step in here as I'm part of the small group of friends in a pub who decided to embark on this political project (though this particular lesson isn't mine).. basically, Hieronymous, I think a lot of the points you make, specific to this and more generally, are very valid. That said, I think you (and Caiman) are also making a lot of assumptions which are quite off the mark, particularly overestimating the amount of political importance put behind these resources.

Like, both of you seem quite caught up with the idea that these are supposed to be like resources to 'teach' communist politics as well as English (which is fair enough, as the bulk of what's been posted so far have been lefty lesson resources so I get why).. in reality, they're really just resources made by lefty TEFLers of interest to lefties.

I like the idea of lefty TEFL plans because I'm a lefty who worked in TEFL and I'm very lazy.. but the rest of the blog is intended to be made up accounts of struggles (like this one!), working life etc. That's the side of it that more interests me as I personally don't see much political 'potential' for lessons as I only think there's political potential in resisting work rather than doing it, regardless of approach. Like, you mention "building solidarity in the classroom" but I'm not even sure what that would look like apart from maybe students helping teachers resist school management (funnily enough, we might have a report about this exact thing from one of our group very soon!).. So when you and Caiman talk about progressive pedagogies for me it's cool but kind of over-stating the importance of TEFL.. Like, I think progressive teaching is interesting and important but it's not particularly where I want to spend my time. That said, others in the group feel differently and one of the articles being talked over is actually exactly about progressive teaching practice.. as you can see, we're a mixed bag!

Last thing, your feedback is massively appreciated (and tbh, I would like you to get more involved, at least informally, with the project.. same goes for Caiman actually, but he's probably request payment!) but I think at times you forget yourself (or at least are unaware) in your comments.. for some in the group this is their first political project and all of us, me included, have much less experience in the job than you. So making self-consciously dickish (hence "sorry to be a dick but..") comments about the quality of less experienced colleagues' work is always something to be checked, in my opinion..

Hope that clears things up..

Ed

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on May 28, 2014

Hieronymous, if you have a complaint about a PM, send it to an admin. Otherwise, discussing contents of PMs on the forums (and especially backing them up with straight up insults) is against the forum guidelines. Between this and your post in the other thread, your behaviour in bordering on bullying.

Edit to add:
Hieronymous

I would bet my next measly paycheck that all of you are in the same organization. Also, I agree with commieprincess that lessons like this are full of "massive chunks of shit."

Sorry, this has to be addressed more directly. As far as I know none of us are in the same organisation (two Solfed, I'm ex-Solfed, others aren't in and have never been in any organisation); so I suppose you'll be sending us your next paycheck?

Also, (mis)quoting from a PM in order to insult someone is against forum guidelines (and also just really childish). Please refrain from doing it again.

commieprincess

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by commieprincess on May 31, 2014

.

.

Chilli Sauce

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on May 28, 2014

Personally, I think this whole discussion could do with deleting.

I'd then encourage H, if he wants to comment, to consider how he might do so in a constructive, comradely way. As a teacher, he should be aware that lecturing and shouting at people is rarely effective.

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on May 28, 2014

commieprincess

Can I request that last part of hieronymous' post is deleted?

Censor away. If you need to get it deleted, don't say it in the first place. It wasn't a misquote, it was a direct cut-n-paste.

The content of the campaign that the lesson plan refers to is based on a joint effort of the U.S. Democratic Party and their union foot soldiers to act as a cover for the Obama administration and his attempt to offer up a paltry $9 an hour minimum wage.

It is a direct attempt to channel the most recent radical moments -- from the 5,000,000+ immigrant workers in the anti-Sensenbrenner General Strike on May Day 2006, to the Republic Windows and Doors factory occupation, to the mini-mass strike in Wisconsin, and finally to the varied Occupy actions -- into the deadend of the ballot booth. Teaching that it is something other than reactionary to working class immigrant students in any country of the world is intellectually dishonest.

If you disagree, you can simply argue your case without appeals to censorship.

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on May 28, 2014

Chilli Sauce

Personally, I think this whole discussion could do with deleting.

I'd then encourage H, if he wants to comment, to consider how he might do so in a constructive, comradely way. As a teacher, he should be aware that lecturing and shouting at people is rarely effective.

WTF?! Where does this urge to censor come from?

Fleur

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fleur on May 29, 2014

Unlike other posters on this thread I have no knowledge or experience of teaching English as a second language, however I have taken classes to learn French as a second language and as far as I can see this is far better than a lot of the turgid lessons I've had to plough my way through. I can't speak for anyone else in my classes but I didn't attend these language classes to become a fluent commie, I just went to learn the language. I would have probably been OK with commie language lessons, as long as I was learning the basics of everyday communication skills, a lot of people I was with probably would not have been.

I appreciate the politics around the Fight for 15 campaign are far from perfect but given, from my experience, that a lot of the discussion in classes are centred around current events in the news, something topical like the strikes in the fast food industry would be far more interesting to talk about as a student than, say Kim Kardashian's wedding. And I can't see anything in the lesson plan which would preclude expanding the subject to include criticisms of the campaign, should the conversations advance.

I am assuming that most people learning a second language, like me, do not do it within a radical organization or a union, but do it in language schools, either private or within the state education system. (I did it through a Québec school board.) As such, I believe that the teachers are, by and large, employed on a semester-to-semester, short-term contract position, and are generally very precariously employed. I also assume that the materials used have to be OKed by the management, who are most likely not going to be happy with the teaching staff setting lesson plans based on overtly radical material, especially those schools whose clientele are largely paid for by employers. You could be the best radical language teacher in the world, but you most likely won't be having your contract renewed.

Maybe the de facto assumption that everyone has a favourite kind of fast food is a little western-centric but the assumptions that immigrants aren't fast-food consumers is a little sweeping too. After my classes, a bunch of us would pile down to Tim Horton's (it's a fast food joint,) all of us immigrants and myself being the only person amongst us who had moved here from a Western European country.

As far as I know, and guessing from the their name, the Angry Language Brigade, are an British group and are probably teaching English to people based in the UK. In British schools/education the word "vocabulary" is almost always shortened to "vocab" in much the way as gymnastics is shortened to gym.

And before I can be accused of groupthink, I would like to point out that I have never met anyone involved in this project. I just feel that you are making unfair criticisms. I don't see that these lessons plans are designed to teach radical politics. They're designed to teach English, which is what most people turn up to English lessons to learn.

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on May 29, 2014

Ed

Like, both of you seem quite caught up with the idea that these are supposed to be like resources to 'teach' communist politics as well as English

Fair enough, Ed, but you're assuming that Caiman and I are saying this, which we're not. My point is that it seems odd for a new, inexperienced teacher to "try out" a heavily ideological lesson plan on libcom. There are better places to get constructive feedback, mostly importantly from students in the classroom. Again, this lesson about Berlin Rosen's media campaign is strange, since the action happened already but the rhetoric in the lesson treats it as an upcoming event.

So this is directed specifically to the teacher calling her/himself Angry Teachers Brigade: how did it go? What feedback did you get from the students? Or is this the revised lesson, after having taught the class? And is Fleur correct and is this is a lesson for a corporate language school in the U.K.? If so, why make a lesson plan about something emanating from the Democrat/labor partnership in the U.S.? Wouldn't that be like me making a lesson plan for students at my corporate EFL chain in the U.S., discussing the Labour Party and their inspiring affiliation with TULO (The Trade Union & Labour Party Liaison Organisation)? If these ESL students were refugees from the Balkans, they might proudly point out that Labour is affiliated with the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia in their own homeland -- which was the ruling party of Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1990. It could make for one of those "small world" moments and all of us commies -- or ex-subjects of real communism -- could sing the Internationale while drawing hammer and sickles inside happy faces on the whiteboard.

Ed

. . . I'm a lefty who worked in TEFL and I'm very lazy.. but the rest of the blog is intended to be made up accounts of struggles (like this one!), working life etc. That's the side of it that more interests me as I personally don't see much political 'potential' for lessons as I only think there's political potential in resisting work rather than doing it, regardless of approach.

Here I disagree and wholeheartedly agree. Blogs like that are what's really needed; they're fantastic. But I don't identify as a "lefty," because -- not to split hairs -- I'm not on the leftside of capitalism. I'm simply a worker against work, like you. The whole time I've worked in this sector, I've always been willing to share any piece of a lesson with any other teacher who wanted to use it. And likewise. I've never used a whole lesson plan from someone else because we all have not only different learning styles (Gardner's Multiple Intelligences theory), but that's reflected in different teaching approaches too. I've been doing this so long that I'm a zero-prep teacher. I go into the classroom with the lesson plan in my head and any materials from whatever source I find in my daily readings -- or prior lessons -- and I simply teach. From those Auerbach/Wallerstein books above I learned great techniques for eliciting from the students what their needs are. If they want to talk about movie stars and spectacular consumption, I try to mirror discussion questions back to them based on what they get from it emotionally. Most end up admitting that it's a kind of addiction. Fair enough. I'm not preaching. If they want to talk about union pseudo-strikes and multimillion-dollar media campaigns, I ask if they're swayed. Usually they are intelligent and see through the bullshit and find these spectacular events no different from how they see the Kardashians. If they like the processed garbage at McDonald's, they keep eating it. If I counter that with a 2-minute clip from Super Size Me and they think twice about putting noxious ingredients -- willingly -- in their bodies, I've done the best I can, which is to encourage them to think critically.

Ed

Like, you mention "building solidarity in the classroom" but I'm not even sure what that would look like apart from maybe students helping teachers resist school management (funnily enough, we might have a report about this exact thing from one of our group very soon!)..

Here's an example of what it looked like for me and a dozen of my co-workers. We went on an indefinite strike in 2008 at a non-profit EFL/ESL school in San Francisco. I'd say over 90% of the 170+ students honored the picket lines and stayed out with us. Not only that, but they self-organized. It was in a heavily Asian neighborhood, so the Thai students got all the Thai restaurants to put up our strike poster in their windows; Chinese, Japanese and Korean students got the restaurants of their ethnicity to do likewise. Spanish-speaking students -- mostly from Central & South American and Spain -- literally canvassed people walking down the street and went over the talking-points about the strike. Others got staple guns and rolls of tape and blanketed the neighborhood's vertical surfaces with our strike fliers and posters. So much so that when I was talking with a guy I knew, who worked downtown in the same building I used to, months later he quoted the strike facts back to me. I was amazed and asked how he knew; it was because he lived in that area and saw the fliers on telephones poles commuting by bus to and from work everyday. Even the Palestinian-owned cafe that was our de facto union hall put the strike poster prominently in their front window.

When the strike fizzled after 4 days and we lost, the students visited another EFL/ESL school en masse and negotiated a group discount with the director, then self-organized a campaign where they literally walked down the halls of my (soon-to-be-former) school with piles of transfers forms to encourage all the other students to move to this new EFL/ESL school. So even though we lost the strike, the school lost over half their students and still couldn't hire enough new teachers -- so they had to raise the wage $5, and still couldn't find enough experienced ESL teachers.

Ed

So when you and Caiman talk about progressive pedagogies for me it's cool but kind of over-stating the importance of TEFL.. Like, I think progressive teaching is interesting and important but it's not particularly where I want to spend my time. That said, others in the group feel differently and one of the articles being talked over is actually exactly about progressive teaching practice.. as you can see, we're a mixed bag!

I can't stand most of the self-righteous liberal moralists who practice "progressive pedagogies." That's why I'm more interested in his followers -- like Ira Shor, Elsa Auerbach, Nina Wallerstein, and others -- than Freire himself. I think Rich Gibson is right, in that despite some brilliant insights about educational practice, overall the Freire industry is a fraud.

Conversely, Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development -- in refuting Piaget's deterministic stages of learning hypothesis -- captures the true social nature of learning process of all humans. From the time as infants we learn to point, though mastering simple tasks like tying our shoes, all the way to comprehension of abstract scientific, mathematical and philosophical concepts.

My response was much too long, so I'll finish with something I picked up from reading Gilles Dauvé (and which he later elaborated on during a discussion): bourgeois school is "a specialized place which cuts off learning from doing." There's the rub: meaningful education combines learning and doing.

I'm sincerely sorry if I offended. I'd rather take up Ed's offer to have an open discussion.

De

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by De on May 29, 2014

Fleur

I just feel that you are making unfair criticisms. I don't see that these lessons plans are designed to teach radical politics. They're designed to teach English, which is what most people turn up to English lessons to learn.

Thanks Fleur for your contribution to this thread. I didn't want to make any comments as I've never been very political and am not familiar with forum interactions (which, from the experience of these past few days, I find a bit nerve-racking to be honest).

I'm a (non native) English teacher involved in this project and I can say that the idea started just because a bunch of us were a bit fed up with the general approach to stuff like gender issues in TEFL, being precarious all the time etc...the lesson plan thing is supposed to be something extra that might / mightn't be of interest but as a teacher I don't mean to lecture my students about politics (I literally have zero experience in politics) but I also acknowledge that by bringing certain topics into the classroom you end up lecturing them somehow. That's why I guess my lessons are mostly about grammar rather than politics. Well, also, I love grammar.

Caiman del Barrio

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on May 29, 2014

Fair enough Ed, I do see why my tone wasn't entirely constructive, but I think the criticisms stand. The last thing I'd like to do is discourage people from sharing lesson ideas and I think it's an excellent idea in principle (tbf H said that too). I am however, very interested in notions of freer education and I think any sort of anarchist/radical teacher should consider that. I personally feel utterly powerless to find a libertarian praxis for my teaching.

My general point can be boiled down to one specific question, which people would do well to answer, rather than huffing & calling for the debate to be shut down:

What about this, save the topic (and the educationalist criticisms made by H), is any different to a standard eg IELTS class? Change the title and the reading to, say, stem cell research or robots and you have a normal, boring, didactic TEFL class.

And yes, with my current financial situation, I would require payment. I have a longterm draft proposal for a TEFL cooperative school saved in Word, but it would require a level of security that I don't personally have.

On a meta sidenote, I find Chili's complaints and calls for censorship utterly bizarre and part of a pattern of his on Libcom where he responds aggressively to any sort of criticism. I'm not sure what exactly he or the rest of the collective expect when they put material out into the public sphere: a ticker tape parade? Some sort of medal? It'd be good if just once Chili responded to the point by point responses his words get, rather than continuing to believe that he is automatically right in every instance.

Caiman del Barrio

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on May 29, 2014

Amazing that H's in depth post, including a detailed account of a strike, some pointers on pedagogical praxis and even a goodwill apology, gets a down vote from the ruffled feathers of...well, it's pretty obvious.

Caiman del Barrio

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on May 29, 2014

Ed

So when you and Caiman talk about progressive pedagogies for me it's cool but kind of over-stating the importance of TEFL.. Like, I think progressive teaching is interesting and important but it's not particularly where I want to spend my time.

Sorry Ed, but you're gonna have to do better than that, especially if you consider that this is response to reasonable criticisms made of your lesson plans. You don't have to go all 'jailer of the mind' to recognise the problems inherent within the teacher-student relationship, and the specific cultural dynamics that often make TEFL pretty corrosive.

And if the only object of these lesson plans is to share materials, and it's mere coincidence that they're all (attempts at) communist propaganda, then can I share my class about The Smiths (even though I've yet to find a class who haven't concluded that The Smiths are inferior to One Direction/50 Cent/Shakira etc)? ;)

Ed

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on May 29, 2014

Caiman del Barrio

Fair enough Ed, I do see why my tone wasn't entirely constructive

I'm glad you see that but if that's the case then I don't understand why you're carrying on in that same tone. Like, how do you expect people to stop "huffing and puffing" when you describe their work as "normal, boring, didactic" or make snide remarks about people who don't want to be insulted demanding a "ticker tape parade". Or just come out with straight out personal attacks on one of the posters for believing "that he is automatically right in every instance"?

Seriously, do you not see how negative your behaviour is? Do you not see how your attitude is not 'comradely critical' or a springboard to chat about tactics/approaches but actually entirely destructive? And take into account that this is a group of workers, some with political experience, others without, in an industry you work in (and where people have actually said they would appreciate your involvement), who came together while involved in a successful campaign in their industry and have another campaign ongoing. Honestly, if you think there's nothing between 'ticker tape parade' and your dickish remarks, then quite frankly that's more reflective of your personality (and perhaps your own personal animosity towards Chilli Sauce) than anyone in the group.

Caiman del Barrio

Sorry Ed, but you're gonna have to do better than that, especially if you consider that this is response to reasonable criticisms made of your lesson plans. You don't have to go all 'jailer of the mind' to recognise the problems inherent within the teacher-student relationship, and the specific cultural dynamics that often make TEFL pretty corrosive.

To be honest, mate, I have no idea what you're talking about here. I realise it's become very important for you to 'win' this argument but if you re-read what I said you'll see that I agree with you (I think I described it as "interesting and important").. however, it doesn't interest me so much that I'd dedicate the very little time I have for political activity to it.. I prefer to spend it on the campaign above or the other one which is still ongoing or digitising and archiving a journal which has a lot of personal importance to me.. that's not to say you shouldn't do your thing, or that others involved in the blog won't, it's that I sadly almost certainly won't.. I'm glad that someone is doing it though, even if they are spending longer than I'd like acting like a dick on libcom..

Caiman del Barrio

And if the only object of these lesson plans is to share materials, and it's mere coincidence that they're all (attempts at) communist propaganda, then can I share my class about The Smiths

All of your premises here are wrong, Caiman. That's not "the only object", it's not "mere coincidence" that they are lefty-themed lesson plans and they're not attempts at "communist propaganda". The object is to share lefty-themed materials and they are mostly for other lefty teachers. Now Hieronymous is right, that's very teacher-centred, certainly a problem in itself, but it's a very different type of criticism to being a boring attempt at Communist propaganda..

Last thing..

with my current financial situation, I would require payment. I have a longterm draft proposal for a TEFL cooperative school saved in Word, but it would require a level of security that I don't personally have.

Pull the other one, mate..

no1

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by no1 on May 29, 2014

You teachers are so passionate about teaching!

commieprincess

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by commieprincess on May 29, 2014

caiman

can I share my class about The Smiths (even though I've yet to find a class who haven't concluded that The Smiths are inferior to One Direction/50 Cent/Shakira etc)?

That would be great! And your students are right. ;-)

Can we please move this on? What De was talking about is far more interesting than people just being being mean-spirited for whatever reason.

Caiman del Barrio

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on May 29, 2014

Ed you're very quick to attack me but check out Chili Sauce's ridiculous calls for "this thread to be deleted" (!!!) and his sour grapes over legitimate criticisms being made. If you have a spare five minutes, go ahead and check his posting history over Libcom, see if he's ever apologised in good faith, ever taken any criticism in good faith or ever said he was wrong. It'd be interesting to see that, cos usually he just seems to post up stuff of varying quality (some of it good, some of it less so) and react angrily when his inherent right to be, um, right is questioned. You can make criticisms of me too if you want, and you'll probably be right, but I try to account for myself and take people seriously when they criticise me, rather than doing some macho pride act and calling for stuff to be censored.

As for this, I'm confused:

To be honest, mate, I have no idea what you're talking about here.

I don't believe you, of course you understand exactly what I mean.

I realise it's become very important for you to 'win' this argument

No it isn't. It's important for me to develop a libertarian pedagogical praxis that's immediately applicable for TEFL, like I say in my first post.

How can you say that about me and then ignore Chili Sauce's every contribution? lol.

if you re-read what I said you'll see that I agree with you (I think I described it as "interesting and important").. however, it doesn't interest me so much that I'd dedicate the very little time I have for political activity to it.. I prefer to spend it on the campaign above or the other one which is still ongoing or digitising and archiving a journal which has a lot of personal importance to me.. that's not to say you shouldn't do your thing, or that others involved in the blog won't, it's that I sadly almost certainly won't.. I'm glad that someone is doing it though, even if they are spending longer than I'd like acting like a dick on libcom..

Nice one mate, admin playing all "calm down kids", before calling posters a "dick" cos they criticised his mate. How are you with badly behaved kids, out of interest?

And yeah, your response to political criticisms of your project being put into the public sphere is to say "they're interesting, but they don't interest me". That is utterly weak bullshit and I think you know it.

Last thing..

with my current financial situation, I would require payment. I have a longterm draft proposal for a TEFL cooperative school saved in Word, but it would require a level of security that I don't personally have.

Pull the other one, mate..

What's laughable about this?

Soapy

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Soapy on May 29, 2014

nvm, i think angry language workers didn't really do anything wrong, don't deserve any flaming really

commieprincess

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by commieprincess on May 29, 2014

I'm struggling to keep up with who's a Leninist preacher, who's a liberal, who thinks ESL students all eat copious amounts of chicken nuggets, who thinks they never eat chicken nuggets.

Good post, Soapy. But nothing about this lesson plan is inherently unrepresentative of the interests of fast food workers. If a teacher wants to push the discussion in a certain direction, change the discussion questions, etc that's left wide open.

Having said that, how do you think it could be changed to represent the interests of fast food workers?

Chilli Sauce

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on May 29, 2014

Caiman, you do realize I have one published post on this thread, right?

I'm also not sure you're in the best position to be talking about sour grapes. Unprovoked, you've quite obviously let a personal gripe bleed over into quite an unrelated discussion on an unrelated thread.

Anyway, I'm going to agree with commieprincess, if folks have actual suggestions for this lesson, I'd personally be happy to hear them. I could imagine some interesting ways that discussion could be moved on from what's contained in the current plan - and I wrote a whole post with some of my own ideas, but never submitted it due to the generally vitriolic tone of the entire conversation.

jef costello

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jef costello on May 29, 2014

Saying the thread should be deleted because you think it is crap isn't really censorship.

In terms of the lesson plan I have a few points. I don't teach TEFL but I do teach English to non-native speakers.

First of all, it isn't a lesson plan, it is a resource, and it isn't a bad one. The text chosen is not a bad starting point. However the vocab and comprehension questions are not particularly exciting or interesting. Beginners won't get very far with the text and to be honest students that can read the text and do the exercises are likely to find this quite dull. As a 10 minute filler it is ok, but from a teaching point of view it is, as has been said, just like the resources from the language books, most of which are written by non-teachers or people without up to date pedagogical knowledge. A lesson plan would explain how to use it and expand upon it.

Radical resources can be helpful,; but as has also been said it is the teaching method, not the resource that is important. Communication is vital for learning languages (yes, my training was big on communicative language teaching) but by encouraging them to communicate and work together you not only improve their learning you actually teach them cooperative ways to work. That is why fuckwits like Gove like lists (apart from a complete inability to comprehend that having undergone something means you understand it!) because it is individual, it is rote and requires no thought. It is the idea of the teacher as supplier of knowledge. On a general note I reward students for good work rather than punishing for bad (a shockingly current practise) and if I do give them a bollocking it is for showing a lack of respect to the class (for example talking while someone else is. Giving open ideas and letting them make choices and evaluations is actualy quite revolutionary. Students are tyrannised by the idea of the correct answer and placed the control that gives to the authority that decides on this.

I think H is being a bit of a dick, but some of his points are correct. The other thing is that TEFL training is (or was) so variable, some people I know who did TEFL worked very hard and can teach, whereas others didn't learn the first thing about teaching. And H, I don't know how anyone can be a zero prep teacher. I have pulled a fair few lessons out of my arse but I can't imagine never preparing anything and managing to teach decent lessons.

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on May 29, 2014

Here, briefly, is where I'm coming from. I work 2/3 time, Monday through Friday, at a Europe-based EFL chain with 500 teachers at 18 schools. The hourly pay, which includes an hourly contribution to city-mandated health care, is just about $25 -- which is a poverty wage in San Francisco. But that hourly wage has 3 tiers, depending if it's classroom teaching, prep, or admin paperwork. Obviously, I put the latter 2 on my timesheet, but do as little of them as I can.

My second job is for a union, tutoring ESL to workers who are getting a stipend to take community college classes. Being that unions in the U.S. have deep pockets, this pays well but the work is intermittent. In the past, I've also taught VESL to these unionized workers at their job sites. Ironically, these union workers' dues -- along with those of ex-Change to Win union workers in UFCW -- go to Berlin Rosen, the lefty PR firm that runs Democratic Party elections and union lobbying efforts like Fight for 15 and the Clean and Safe Ports (for the Teamsters) for port truckers at U.S. ports. And that flow of dues money from the rank-and-file to PR firms -- like Berlin Rosen -- and Democratic electoral campaigners, amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars. In the 2008 election, the SEIU contributed $80,000,000 to the Obama campaign alone. Workers in these unions know this and resent it deeply.

My third gig is volunteer VESL teaching at a women's worker center in Oakland's Chinatown one day a week. It's here that I actually do thorough -- and continuously during the term -- needs assessments, working with the students to identify ongoing goals and objectives, and from there the curriculum flows. It's here that I pour my heart and soul (and countless hours) into developing finely-tuned lesson plans (which I'd be happy to share the pieces from with any other teacher). Nearly all of these students are middle-aged Chinese women who work (or formerly worked) in 4 sectors: garments, electronic assembly, hotel housekeeping, and homecare (mis-organized by the SEIU). Workers in the first two are on the decline, throwing these women into a labor market they're ill prepared for. The latter two sector are unionized, yet the women aren't always pro-union. Although if they work for HERE they're more likely to be sympathetic because they have O.K. wages, but decent benefits.

The worker center staff took a completely pro-Occupy position, which was easy since Occupy Oakland's Oscar Grant Plaza was just 4 blocks away. The staff created a highly-politicized lesson plan for my VESL class about the non-profit's (that runs the workers center) position on the Occupy Movement. It was very pedantic and I was told that the timing was "crucial" and I had to use their lesson. As you might imagine, it was awful. Students repeated the unsympathetic spin from the Chinese-language media. Saying that they didn't support Occupy because the camp was "dirty," there was "drinking and drug use," etc. Without defending Occupy, I tried to get them to identify the demographic from seeing the camp first-hand. They told me it was mostly young people, of all races. When I asked about their own children, many had kids of the same ages. I asked what problems their own children faced when finishing school (either high school or college). Most said debt, so I referred to the staff's fact sheet in the lesson that pointed out that the average student obtaining a bachelors degree graduates with a debt of $26,000 (as of 2014, it's up to $33,000!). I could see a deeper understanding in their eyes, and they understood that the Occupiers could be their kids, with the same worries about unemployment, debt and a hopeless future. I offered to literally take the class to the camp, as a field trip during class, to refute the media lies about the danger of the camp. Something had worked, because they loosened up and saw the broader class concerns and spoke of the Occupy Movement more sympathetically. This transformation was fucking amazing and even astounded me!

I had a similar experience during a 7-week hotel worker strike/lockout in San Francisco in 2004-2005. The U.S.-based corporate EFL chain I worked in at that time was on a block that bordered the biggest of the 10 hotels that got locked out when 4 others went on strike. It was the balmy end of summer and all the windows in our air-conditionerless building were wide open to cope -- and we could hear the cacophony of the picket lines. These middle class European and Asian students were contemptuous of the workers disturbing their language tourism. Fortunately, a student grabbed the workers' fact sheet while passing the picket and brought it to class. I used it to create an impromptu lesson on the demands of the strikers. The students knew how expensive living costs were in San Francisco from direct experience, so even here I could see a shift as these kids with a financially successful future as the elites in their home country started to show sympathy with the locked out hotel workers. None of the students ever saw me, but during breaks and lunch I'd slip out of the school and walk the picket line in solidarity. Thinking back on it, I should have suggested a field trip to the picket line so the students could practice their conversational English by talking to the hotel workers themselves.

So to return to my previous post, learning must be meaningful to the student's own needs and desires, but works most effectively when learning and doing are combined as part of this process. .

Fleur

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fleur on May 29, 2014

Can I just say at this point that I've had lessons on the history of maple syrup production, the structure of the National Hockey League and fuck knows how many discussions on going to the shops, so anything slightly more relevant to my interests would have been good. And like most other language students, I was at the time, as now perfectly capable of further investigating topics myself which interested me, given that the 2 hour lessons didn't allow for much detailed discussion. But, as I said before, I know nothing about teaching languages.

However, I would like to lend my support for the Angry Language Brigade, who appear to me to not be a group teaching communist theory in a second language, but a group organizing around struggles within their workplaces, and have already won one of these struggles. Well done to everybody on that one.

De
Welcome to the forums.

not familiar with forum interactions (which, from the experience of these past few days, I find a bit nerve-racking to be honest).

You think? (Try not to let it put you off. People are nice around here most of the time :) )

Steven.

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on May 29, 2014

Yeah, let's keep things civil, please. I'm going to ask that there is no further discussion on people being unhappy about the tone of discussion up to this point (i.e. the back and forth between Caiman and Chilli), let's draw a line under it.

admin: draw a line under it means stop talking about it. Subsequent off topic post removed.

And if people want to constructively discuss libertarian teaching methods, or a constructive way of improving the above lesson plan etc please feel free.

As Hieronymous is an English teacher, just a pedantic note on what is a linguistic pet peeve of mine: "toxins" are biologically produced poisons, like bee or scorpion stings. You may not like what goes into McDonald's burgers, but I very much doubt they would bother putting in "toxins"!

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on May 30, 2014

.

.

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on June 6, 2014

First, I want to apologize again. If I was harsh, I'm sorry.

Chilli Sauce

I'd then encourage H, if he wants to comment, to consider how he might do so in a constructive, comradely way.

O.K., here are my constructive comments:

The initial post, clearly calling itself a "lesson plan" around a purported "international one-day strike," was posted on May 27, 2014 -- a full 10 days after the events in question.

jef costello

First of all, it isn't a lesson plan, it is a resource, and it isn't a bad one.

If it isn't a lesson plan, then why is it called one?

jef costello

The text chosen is not a bad starting point.

I ask this in good faith: a good starting point for what?

There's a logical flaw here: a text is posted on libcom, well after many, many discussions have happened about whether these events are even strikes, let alone wildcat actions, so what purpose does this text serve -- especially in the context of an EFL/ESL classroom?

Today is election day in the U.S. (in California, where I live, it's a midterm and primary ballot). For the last couple months the media has been a flurry about it. And I've seen campaigners all over my city, walking precincts and knocking on doors for the last few weeks. I even recognize a couple local activists, but even more who are union staffers. Even the local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle noted on this, saying in Sunday's (June 1, 2014) paper that ". . . with labor -- Democrat's most reliable source of campaign cash and foot power -- taking such a strong interest [in the electoral campaigns] . . . "

Campaigns of "progressive" Democrats across the U.S. are being run by high-profile Public Relations firms like Berlin Rosen, based in New York. Berlin Rosen also runs campaigns for unions in -- and formerly in -- Change to Win, like the Fight for 15 in fast food with SEIU, the various campaigns for Walmart workers with UFCW, and the Clean and Safe Ports with the Teamsters (these union demarcations overlap and aren't so clear cut). They also run AFL-CIO campaigns, as well as doing PR work for non-profits, NGOs and others in the "progressive" Left.

Here's what the PR firms says on their website:

[quote=Berlin Rosen]

The Berlin Rosen Approach

[color=#FF0000]Working hand-in-hand with the Walmart worker and fast food campaigns[/color] we developed a strategic communications plan that positioned the campaigns and emerging worker organizing as real solutions to rising inequality. When the ground actions took place—the first-ever strikes targeting Walmart, and the largest-ever strike of New York City fast food workers—BerlinRosen amplified the actions nationally, activating a network of engaged and informed reporters to tell the bigger story.[/quote]

So the PR firm plants the story with major media outlets to build up for their major pseudo-strikes. Here are the bourgeois media outlets they target:

Berlin Rosen

The Outcome

Just about every major national media outlet covered the campaigns—from segments on ABC's "Good Morning America" and MSNBC's "Up with Chris Hayes" to lengthy articles in Bloomberg and The Nation. The widespread media coverage of the Walmart and fast food campaigns created a platform that didn't exist just months prior. Media exposure around Walmart helped to galvanize 30,000 protesters across the country in support of striking Walmart workers, activating tens of thousands more online. Coverage of the fast food strikes, which encompassed dozens of stores, led workers in hundreds of additional outlets to engage with the campaign. And when a month later Walmart rolled out proposals to address mounting questions about its employment and business practices, "Business Week" noted the link to the campaign: “Wal-Mart tries to improve its battered image,” the headline read.

The PR firm goes on to say:

Berlin Rosen

What they said: The New York Times called the strikes against McDonald's, Burger King and other restaurants “the biggest wave of job actions in the history of America's fast-food industry.” In a cover story, Bloomberg BusinessWeek wrote that the emergence of OUR Walmart, which led the first-ever strikes against the retail giant, posed the “most potent challenge yet” to the company's low-wage, anti-union business model. The story proclaimed that the workers had “gotten Walmart's attention.”

So what Berlin Rose is doing amounts to the tail wagging the dog. Or to put it in a more sophisticated political context, they're conscious manipulative agents of the society of the spectacle.

So what the EFL/ESL teacher calling him/herself Angry Teachers Brigade was posting on libcom amounts to a press release, most likely issued by Berlin Rosen in New York (if someone can confirm -- or refute -- this, please do). Why I called this disingenuous is that this lesson plan was posted on libcom 2 weeks after the pseudo strikes. It's not even news, since the lesson plan was based on a press release.

Here's what I could garner from internet news sources about the pseudo strike on May 15, 2014:

1. average duration of the so-called walkout: 20 minutes

2. number of fast food outlets that were unable to serve customers: zero

3. number of fast food workers protesting their own workplaces: zero

4. number of protestors in New York City: 100+

5. number of protestors in London: 25

Even scanning the photos for those 30 or so countries, you can't see more than a dozen at each location. And they're clearly protests not strikes, as customers can be seen easily entering and existing the fast food outlets.

Here's a flavor of the event from a news source:

[quote=The Independent]Hundreds of demonstrators in the US city of New York attempted to draw attention to their cause in the bustling city by beating drums, blowing whistles, and chanting outside a branch of pizza chain Domino’s.

The manager on duty inside said no employees from the store were participating, while a handful of customers squeezed past the protesters to get inside. Protests in Miami and Philadelphia also did not disrupt operations at targeted restaurants.[/quote]

And in other countries the protests were non-protests since their contract with McDonald's prevents them from doing so:

[quote=The Independent]Meanwhile in Denmark, McDonald's worker Louise Marie Rantzau explained how [color=#FF0000]activists had used social media to stage their protest, by taking photos outside Burger King stores[/color].

Rantzau, who earns about $21 (£12.50) an hour, said a [color=#FF0000]collective agreement with McDonald's in the country prevents workers from protesting the chain[/color].[/quote]

This lesson plan, based on a press release of an upcoming pseudo-strike that's already happened, doesn't serve any pedagogical purpose. All this spectacular hoopla was mostly being played out in social and bourgeois media, not by active members of the working class -- and was totally devoid of the agency of the fast food workers themselves (contrast this with the self-organized one-day general strike on May Day 2006, when millions of service industry workers -- including those in fast food -- wildcatted from their jobs).

Basically, fast food workers were pawns in all this, as its purpose was more to support larger union campaigns around Democratic politicians -- as well as to set up victory celebration when Obama raises the minimum wage. For example the Seattle minimum wage, which has so many tiers and exemptions (teenagers will be exempt; their wages will be sub-minimum), won't take affect for many sectors of workers for several years -- and unions made some of their own workers exempt!

Even if it was a news story about events that had already occurred, there's never been anything said about the demographics of the students.

Here are some questions that are crucial in any framing of pre-reading lesson activities and in the choosing of proper materials:

1. Are the students working class immigrants?

2. What sectors do they work in?

3. Have they ever been on strike?

4. What media sources do they consume and what's their level of critical engagement?

These should be considered, as well as the usual demographic questions about the age and national origin of the students, all well as any of the "learning outcomes" expected (and hopefully being undermined) at the school where it's being taught.

What I don't understand is the vehemence that people, especially on libcom, defend these PR agency run farces. It is even more absurd when the cheerleading is being led by people from across the Atlantic, telling us how much this media attention means to the workers themselves. To me, it's just apologetics for the class-denying anti-worker ideology embodied in the marriage of unions with the Democratic Party. And it's here that I wholeheartedly agree with Caiman that it sounds like the boilerplate Leninism of Trot groups, with their disingenuous "transitional demands."

commieprincess

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by commieprincess on June 6, 2014

The Angry Language Brigade is not one person. We're all around you, man. We're in your tea.

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on June 5, 2014

commieprincess

The Angry Language Brigade is not one person. We're all around you, man. We're in your tea.

Fair enough.

You work collectively, right? If so, then please check the accuracy of what you put out publicly. As I said in my initial comment, press releases don't make useful educational materials for working class immigrant ESL learners. Nor do planted stories on pseudo-journalistic TV infotainment shows. Unless you're critiquing coached videos to demonstrated how the interviewee's handlers (most likely from the Berlin Rosen PR firm) actually scripted the talking points. It could be used as a cautionary tale for workers about not being used as pawns by union hacks and electoral political operatives.

Also, did you read what I wrote above? Unless you can refute any of it, the lesson plan that started this thread needs serious revision. Since you're in my tea, please revise it. Frankly, there are better lessons on Dave's ESL Cafe.

Ed

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on June 5, 2014

Edit to add: cross-posted with the two comments above.. let's keep this civilised, guys!

Hieronymous

First, I want to apologize again. If I was harsh, I'm sorry.

Just to say, I think this apology has definitely been accepted and very much appreciated. And I think your post above is super-constructive. I'm not sure how much I can really add as I think your points are basically all valid. I think you're certainly right in terms of questions to be asked about framing pre-reading activities/reading materials.. I wonder though, if the answer to your first question ("Are the students working class immigrants?") is no, does that change things?

For instance, at my first TEFL job, my students were all wealthy professionals (I did a quick 'guess the teacher's wage' activity to practice big numbers.. they had no idea what a 'low wage' was!).. sometimes they were a bit lefty (some of the older ones were even involved with the student movement back in the day) but for the most part they were just wealthy liberals. I would sometimes do political lessons (not the one above but others) as it would spark debate, much more than other stuff like the blander, more neutral TEFL topics like transport or favourite food where I would have to get involved, keep asking questions so that the discussion didn't flag.. often with political ones my only role would be to make sure the talking was spread evenly but rarely was their a shortage of opinion!

Politically speaking, I wasn't so interested in the 'outcome' of the lesson.. I didn't think anyone would change their minds and, to be honest, I don't think that it was that important to do so.. partly because, anyway, my students were mostly petit-bourgeois (at best), wealthy aspiring-bourgeoisie students or sometimes even straight up 'top hat and monocle' bourgeois.. but I also don't reckon that teachers can have that much of a transformative effect on their students' politics.. apart from maybe in individual cases, where a close bond is built between a particular student and a particular teacher. Mass transformation of people's politics can only come through waves of struggle.. either of teachers fighting against their school (with student support) or of students struggling in their own respective jobs as workers.. and I'm not sure that me fulfilling my (ex-)role an English teacher can do either really..

That said, I suppose maybe if my students had been working class I would've been more conscious about the precise political undertones of my lessons in a similar way that I probably would be hesitant about delivering lessons around, say, a Unison press release or whatever.

So yeah, I guess there are two questions here really: pedagogically, would using this text (which while I haven't I probably have used something similar) make me a bad teacher? And politically, if I used this text (particularly with wealthy students) would that me a bad militant? I'm quite open to the answer to both of those questions being yes; quite frankly it's probably true!

Red Marriott

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on June 5, 2014

Chilli Sauce

I would basically ask that you refrain from commenting on these threads

I would basically ask that you give it a rest at the continued attempts to repress criticism. I know nothing about TEFL teaching methods but much of H's criticisms have been about leftist misrepresentation of workers struggles, something admins and SF-ers would normally want to correct, no? (Unless they really are practicing leninist tactics.) Even if some in the ALB group are inexperienced, others members clearly are - or should be - very experienced with use of the internet, the desirability of checking facts about struggles and the responses that such inaccuracies can expect. And surely most involved here know and should take account that calls for exceptional censorship when admin's pals are criticised unfortunately has a long and very sour history on this site (eg. Aufheben).

Ed

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on June 5, 2014

I've asked once that we keep things civilised. Can we get back to the topic at hand? All other off topic comments will be deleted.

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on June 6, 2014

Ed

I wonder though, if the answer to your first question ("Are the students working class immigrants?") is no, does that change things?

Yes, it does. Here's why:

Auerbach & Burgess

A more serious limitation of many texts results from not taking into account the socioeconomic conditions of newcomers’ [immigrants -- Hieronymous] lives. Middle class values, culture, and financial status are often reflected in lesson content; for example, a dialogue describing a student spending his one day off work playing golf fails to acknowledge that golf is a culture -- and class -- specific sport. (from "The Hidden Curriculum of Survival ESL," Elsa Auerbach and Denise Burgess, in TESOL Quarterly, v19 n3 p475-95 Sep 1985)

This incredibly lucid article also uses another example from an ESL textbook. It quotes a role play where two students look at a newspaper, with one explaining that she wants to see the weather report for possible snow because she'd like to go skiing on the weekend. Some textbook authors are totally oblivious to the class conditions of working class immigrants. Some teachers are equally oblivious in the classroom and simply assume that the students have the same -- often middle class -- tastes and values as they do.

Ed

For instance, at my first TEFL job, my students were all wealthy professionals (I did a quick 'guess the teacher's wage' activity to practice big numbers.. they had no idea what a 'low wage' was!).. sometimes they were a bit lefty (some of the older ones were even involved with the student movement back in the day) but for the most part they were just wealthy liberals. I would sometimes do political lessons (not the one above but others) as it would spark debate, much more than other stuff like the blander, more neutral TEFL topics like transport or favourite food where I would have to get involved, keep asking questions so that the discussion didn't flag.. often with political ones my only role would be to make sure the talking was spread evenly but rarely was their a shortage of opinion!

I had some similar experiences, when I used to teach EFL to white-collar Koreans in Seoul in the 1990s. A few had been student radicals and since I knew a little of the history, I could build whole lessons around eliciting what their hopes and aspirations had been in the late 1980s. I really, really learned a lot -- in the classical Freireian teacher-as-learner sense -- because they'd get worked up in an excited nostalgic frenzy and tell me what militant actions they'd done on their university campuses as part of massive mobilizations, like during the Great Strike wave of 1987. They'd also trace the trajectory of the military dictators and itemize the regional allegiances of various politicians. I once did a discussion activity where I asked the students if time travel were possible and they could live in any other time period, which one would they choose. It melted my heart when one business woman said she would like to travel back to the late 1980s, because "there was so much hope" and the social movements made it seem like "anything was possible." Teaching moments like that are precious.

While teaching EFL in the U.S., I generally do formal and informal needs assessments and build lessons around the students areas of interest or concern. I'm assigned textbooks, but I usually just pick and choose activities in them and mostly use them as grammar references. Most students freak out when they encounter San Francisco's sizable population of homeless people. Depending on where the students are from, I do several lessons to educate them about the social conditions causing homelessness. The simplest is to show video clips from Pursuit of Happyness, the 2006 film set in San Francisco, with Will Smith -- which most of my younger students have seen. I ask those having seen the movie to explain what circumstance drove Smith's character to homelessness. They usually remember vividly, and even get emotional about the scene with his son where they spend the night in a toilet in the subway. Someone always remembers that it's based on a true story. After significant discussion, students usually don't seem so freaked out about homeless people and stop dehumanizing them. Another method for more advanced students is to give them the homework assignment of doing interviews and asking people how they became homeless. I had some extremely bright young Swiss women who actually visited a homeless support non-profit, gathered their fact sheets, and did a presentation that showed statistics about the cost of housing and almost did a de facto Neil Smithian expose of the "rent gap" theory of gentrification. Another precious moment.

Most students I encounter at my main EFL job are language tourists, so I do a plethora of lessons about non-touristy ways to appreciate their stay here. I've done lessons on everything from why San Francisco's population is over 30% Chinese (due to the Gold Rush and later recruitment to build the transcontinental railroad), why so many gay people flocked here after World War II (depopulation and tolerant attitudes), to why Silicon Valley took off here (university research and military defense research projects). I think this gives students a deeper and grounded sense of where they're at and I would like to think they more fully enjoy their stay. If students, like some of the Saudis I've taught, want to debate gay marriage or issues related to feminism, like Ed I merely step back and referee the animated exchange of ideas. I've even seen some minds open up, which sometimes makes my own experience of alienating my labor power a little less miserable -- it's even close to being enjoyable at times.

Ed

Politically speaking, I wasn't so interested in the 'outcome' of the lesson.. I didn't think anyone would change their minds and, to be honest, I don't think that it was that important to do so.. partly because, anyway, my students were mostly petit-bourgeois (at best), wealthy aspiring-bourgeoisie students or sometimes even straight up 'top hat and monocle' bourgeois.. but I also don't reckon that teachers can have that much of a transformative effect on their students' politics.. apart from maybe in individual cases, where a close bond is built between a particular student and a particular teacher. Mass transformation of people's politics can only come through waves of struggle.. either of teachers fighting against their school (with student support) or of students struggling in their own respective jobs as workers.. and I'm not sure that me fulfilling my (ex-)role an English teacher can do either really..

Agreed.

Ed

That said, I suppose maybe if my students had been working class I would've been more conscious about the precise political undertones of my lessons in a similar way that I probably would be hesitant about delivering lessons around, say, a Unison press release or whatever.

When I'm teaching ESL to working class students, I feel a duty to act in solidarity with my fellow workers. I usually do extensive needs assessments and tailor my lessons specifically to their needs. As I said before, I then spend countless hours preparing materials for the lessons. Which is unlike the minimalist prep I do with students who are the present -- or future -- bourgeois elites of their countries (haven't had too many of these types though; most are sociologically in the middle class).

Ed

So yeah, I guess there are two questions here really: pedagogically, would using this text (which while I haven't I probably have used something similar) make me a bad teacher? And politically, if I used this text (particularly with wealthy students) would that me a bad militant? I'm quite open to the answer to both of those questions being yes; quite frankly it's probably true!

I wouldn't use this text for the same reason I stopped using mainstream news sources years ago. First, the spectacle is predicated on what poet Kenneth Rexroth called the Social Lie. I would feel disingenuous, as though I were lying to my students. Secondly, it comes off too much like a newspaper story, which is problematic because the bourgeois media uses language that is so culturally coded that it's impossible to get through the idioms, expressions and cultural allusions without wasting an immense amount of time. It's better to find simpler texts, or simply write your own. In the U.S., left-leaning groups like the New English Literacy Resource Center have many decent materials that can be poached. Their publication, Change Agent, is well-written and the materials have a range of appropriateness for different ESL levels, with many of them based on the stories, needs and concerns of immigrants. They often have essays written by ESL learners themselves, which are great first-hand sources to use in lessons.

If you used the text in the original post with wealthy students, I think you'd bore them to tears. Better to cater to their needs and talk about the Kardashians. Or get them to talk about the factories they -- or their families -- own and what products they produce, and the conditions of workers -- to better to understand the boss class' perspective on the class composition of their home countries. I once taught private lessons to an automobile industry executive, who had advanced degrees in mechanical engineering, at the Hyundai group's corporate headquarters in Seoul. If I asked him about technology, he'd geek-out and I could barely get him to stop talking. He even drew me an elaborately detailed map of the massive 4-assembly line vehicle-building complex in the company town of Ulsan (I still have the map somewhere in my files). These were the easiest lessons I've ever taught; additionally, I gained valuable insights into the dynamically evolving auto industry in Asia.

commieprincess

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by commieprincess on June 6, 2014

deleted.

EDIT - The downing for absolutely no reason is getting to be a bit farcical. But please, tiny-wanged internet men, knock yourselves out.

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on June 6, 2014

commieprincess

deleted.

EDIT - The downing for absolutely no reason is getting to be a bit farcical. But please, tiny-wanged internet men, knock yourselves out.

I think we all agree that the anonymity of the internet is a farce.

I'd be grateful if you commented on what Ed and I wrote. I would very much like to hear your opinion about politicized lessons in the classroom and how you'd present events like media campaigns around a minimum wage and the right to unionize.

commieprincess

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by commieprincess on June 6, 2014

H, what I actually wrote above before deleting it is that, in terms of these particular materials and your comments on the legitimacy of the strikes etc, I'm afraid I'm not super clued up and don't know the ins and outs. So I don't feel that confident about commenting on that in particular.

I also apologise if the tea comment came off as dismissive, it was just supposed to diffuse the tension.

On politicised lessons in the classroom generally, I'll give it some thought and get back to you. (If you're genuinely interested, which I can't tell if you are..?) I completely appreciate you've made an effort to change the tone of this discussion, but I still feel pretty uncomfortable giving an opinion here as you and Caiman did kind of kick this off in a really aggressive way. And you did completely misrepresent my private message to you. It's a bit tough to just jump in confidently with my opinion when people behave in this way.

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on June 7, 2014

commieprincess

I also apologise if the tea comment came off as dismissive, it was just supposed to diffuse the tension.

Accepted. [comment deleted -- H]

To unpack my critique, we'd have to look at some of the social history in the U.S. that drove the Democratic Party and unions to adopt such an expensive, high-profile type of media campaign like Fight for $15 (or the various Walmart worker front groups and the Teamster front group, Clean and Safe Ports).

Going back to the proposed anti-immigrant Sensenbrener Act (H.R. 4437) in 2005, the whole U.S. political establishment was caught by surprise and was totally unable to contain the working class self-activity in the General Strike of 5,000,000+ immigrant proletarians on May Day 2006. Try as they may, former union organizer Democratic mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, and his united front of the Catholic Church and the unions couldn't reign in this one-day militancy. It was the same at other sites of major strike action, like Houston, Chicago and nearly everywhere in the U.S. where there were Spanish-speaking workers.

So they channeled their energies into getting Obama elected, which even drew anarchists into the cross-class social-democratic-leftist "Hope Bloc," as the correct candidate for the global economic crisis in 2008. The union establishment tried to parlay this into a state-sanctioned law for unionization, with the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) in 2009. But that failed miserably too.

So the whole political system was once again blindsided when a massive, nationwide response to crisis and austerity came to birth in the form of the Occupy Movement. Fortunately, this youthful mobilization was immune to attempts to channel it into electoral cul-de-sacs or to use it as canon fodder in top-down union campaigns for service industry workers. Mostly because the demographic that attracted participants to Occupy was educated, but with a high percentage of unemployment and a sense that all the prevailing institutions of society offered simply more-of-the-same social bankruptcy. The greatest contribution was that many Occupiers saw through the bullshit of the whole political racket.

To counter this, the Democratic Party/Change to Win/AFL-CIO/NGO/non-profit think tanks came up with their version of neo-liberal Alinskyism -- in the form of fast food worker, Walmart worker, and port trucker campaigns. They linked up with the "progressive" clergy and the entire non-profit-NGO-industrial-complex who exist in their well-funded orbit. On the surface they're trying to empower workers in these sectors, but beneath the surface their strategists (at New York lefty PR firm Berlin Rosen) are campaigning for minimum wage laws and new versions of EFCA to allow their Democratic Party allies to take credit if they succeed. They're trying to strengthen the marriage of the union-left with the political institutions of the state. We've said this dozens and dozens of times on libcom. Simply using the links from these threads would offer much better materials for lessons for EFL/ESL students than the press releases and media coverage generated by union or Democratic Party front groups.

I would actually like to see how the self-activity and militancy of of workers themselves could be used in the English language classroom. But in a non-pedantic, non-preachy way where learners could see their common class interests with their teachers. But if the lessons are for present, or future, managers of capital -- our class enemies -- why even bother?

Caiman del Barrio

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on June 7, 2014

Someone above asked of what importance critiquing TEFL resources written by radicals is, which is an issue I'd like to return to. There are a few things I would personally love to exterminate from activist culture/psychology, such as baseball caps & beards ( ;) ), the notion of consciousness raising (patronising, disingenuous and essentially Leninist in its conception of the working class) and the whole notion of simplifying/dumbing down a 'message' in order to achieve greatest possible breadth. I think it's really important to trace the relationship between militancy and education, since - apparently - a huge number of militants see it as their job to 'educate' the working class in 'the truth'. As a result, we can see 'activist' teachers trying to perform the same role in teaching as they do in activism. This line of thinking leads us to theoretical and, er, praxical (apologies for neologism) compromises where a 'line' or principle is diluted in order to appeal to more people (or so the thinking goes). This is the logic of so called 'anti-imperialism', where support for bourgeois nationalists like Fidel, Chávez and even Putin is taken on as a precursor to insertion in a broad movement which enables individuals to argue for socialism to a larger audience (again, so the thinking goes).

I think you could possibly suggest something similar has happened here where a hugely problematic thing like the Fight for 15 campaign has been presented uncritically in an apparent attempt to argue for the principle of workers' rights and revolution. Some people have denied that this was the original intention above, but I frankly find this implausible if taken alongside the discussion questions (eg "would you join this strike?" etc). If we forget the pedagogical critiques of the class as an exercise in teacher soapboxing (which, I think, we've largely established, is not the best strategy for encouraging people to act in their own interests), then there is the obvious question of what the teacher believes they can achieve with this class: do you want your students to leave the class convinced they should join a mainstream trade union and be footsoldiers for their PR campaigns? I mean, taking away the odd focus on the US workers' movt (America-centrism at its worst!), and assuming you had students working in the low wage restaurant sector, would you encourage them to uncritically join, say, Unite? What is the point of merging/blurring the boundaries between teaching material realia and agit prop if the agit prop doesn't match the sort of militancy you want to catalyse, after all? How disingenuous is it to get your students to think that Fight for 15 is a great thing if you're fully aware that basically isn't?

This is the implicit Leninism behind it IMO.

Ed

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on June 7, 2014

Right, this is getting ridiculous now. I've unpublished all the off-topic or insulting comments. If people want to discuss how much they hate each other I suggest they go elsewhere. Any other comments of that type will be unpublished and the poster will receive a temporary ban.

H, I have some comments for your earlier post but I'm really busy and probably won't get round to responding until this evening. Sorry about that, can't be helped.

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on June 7, 2014

There's so much to discuss here, even if we simply limit ourselves to the lesson plan.

And if anyone disagrees with what I write, feel free to not like me Facebook-style. But it would be much more comradely to engage, constructively, with what I write.

One criticism of the pdf lesson is that it's taken, verbatim, from Al Jazeera without attribution. No big deal, right? But it might be useful to track down the original Berlin Rosen press release, and I'd be amazed if Al Jazeera didn't simply reprint it verbatim -- or verbatim regarding content. Which brings up the question of intellectual honesty. I doubt that whomever wrote this intended to be unethical, but how much did s/he verify any of what was actually being presented in the classroom? Al Jazeera is the mouthpiece of the ruling family of Qatar, the house of Thani; the network is notorious for its pro-Sunni positions, as well as their biases in coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Syrian Civil War, and their anti-Zionist conspiracy theories (e.g. General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi being of "Jewish origin," etc.). So students in the classroom are getting a New York PR firm's version of events -- that haven't even happened yet!, filtered though a Qatar-based bourgeois media network, and fed to them by their teacher. That's too many degrees of separation for something to be credible.

I also think Caiman's critique is valid. It smacks of Leninism for activist teachers to promote workers' rights (i.e. the right to unionize and minimum wage laws) in an EFL classroom, without at first explaining the context (and determining the demographics of the students being taught: who are they? what's their level? what's their purpose in learning English? where are the from? what do they do? how old are they and do they have work experience? what's their class and educational background? etc.? etc.?). And do the teachers in the U.K. have a substantial grasp of the labor law in the U.S.? If so, why are they promoting the agenda of one faction of the American bourgeoisie, the Democrats, to bring legislative change around these labor laws? The position of these Berlin Rosen-led campaigns is a farce: the National Labor Relations Act (a.k.a. the Wagner Act of 1935) gave U.S. workers (there are different laws for agricultural and railroad workers) the right to form unions. Strikes are legal, but workers only have protection against being permanently replaced by scabs if they walk out because of "unfair labor practices," not for higher pay. Hence the attempt to get the government, with minimum wage laws, do what unions have become incapable -- or unwilling -- to fight for. Joe Burn's Reviving the Strike gives an excellent account of this; another labor lawyer -- and historian -- Staughton Lynd dates the decline of class struggle to the rise of the CIO and its complete conformity (and perhaps even complicity) with the legal limitations of the Wagner Act.

Speaking from my own experience, in a largely pro-union town, most working class people see unions as compromised -- even corrupt -- institutions of the political establishment that are one, of many, special interest groups. To anyone somewhat aware, they are pegged as the electoral wing of the Democratic Party. Which is true. If you talk with any rank-and-filer in one of the mega-unions, like the SEIU or UFCW, they consider their own union to be pro-boss. They're forced to watch passively as management hands a cut of their paychecks (the infamous dues checkoff) to their class collaborationist union bosses.

None of this reality is expressed in the "33 country fast food strike" lesson plan. That's why I -- and others -- say it's flawed.

To return to my previous post, the Occupy Movement despite it's many, many flaws gave many young working class people a taste of self-organized politics. They could fully participate in the decision-making process of an organization they were full participants in. Had these attempts been successful, they saw that they might be able to shape their own destiny. The political establishment -- meaning the politicians, political parties, unions, clergy, NGO/non-profit/lefty think tank/industrial complex, leftist parties (mostly Trots), business lobbying groups, etc. -- saw this and panicked. Literally. They decided to throw tens of millions of dollars into these media blitzkriegs to bolster, and attempt to reinvigorate, the pro-state marriage between labor and the Democrats. The worst example of this is Walmart union front groups, who pooled workers' money to buy Walmart stock in order to join up with pension fund stockholders, to vote out Rob Walton and -- hopefully -- vote in a new more sympathetic Walmart chairman. Now that's an anti-class struggle position reaching the point of pathos.

So my question to the Angry Teachers Brigade is why don't you do lessons about class struggle in the countries where the students are from, instead? Or on working class conditions in the U.K.?

But a much more interesting discussion would be how to use any ideological material in the classroom. I stopped using any bourgeois news sources years ago because I found not only the use of jargon inappropriate for all but the most advance levels, but also because of their near universal pro-capitalist biases. But this is putting the cart before the horse, isn't it? My lesson planning methodology is based on finding what the students' needs and interests are, finding the appropriate structures (grammatically) they can use to express those ideas, then using material that will scaffold their use of language to a higher level. If I use readings in class, I always do pre-reading exercises that "activate background knowledge," which taps into their long-term memory -- the schemata -- and makes them more cognitively engaged. If this sparks post-reading discussion, or even more ideally debate, I simply referee the students and try to facilitate everyone's involvement. At best, the EFL/ESL classroom can develop critical thinking skills. I agree with Ed that consciousness comes from struggle -- and that almost always takes place elsewhere.

Caiman del Barrio

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on June 7, 2014

WTF? I wrote a 3 paragraph post full of ideas for discussion.

Hieronymous

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on June 7, 2014

Caiman del Barrio

WTF? I wrote a 3 paragraph post full of ideas for discussion.

I think Caiman's post was on-topic and was of great substance. It included an important critique of TEFL resources written by radicals and the relationship between militancy and education.

Could the mods please re-post it?

Thanks

Red Marriott

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Red Marriott on June 7, 2014

The censorship on this thread has been totally biased and ridiculous.

Ramona

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ramona on June 7, 2014

This thread is now locked. For the record, plenty of posts by both Angry Language Brigade and their critics have been hidden as they were off-topic.