May. 28, 2020

Calling All Teslers


Calling All Teflers, Teslers, Tesolers, Teachers of Modern Foreign Languages,

and Actually All Educators and Parents!


Do our children and grandchildren deserve better schools than they have?

Do our children and grandchildren deserve better teachers than they have?

Do our teachers deserve better schools than the schools they teach in?

Do our teachers deserve students who can learn better than the students they presently teach?

Do our schools deserve better teachers than the teachers they presently employ?

Do our schools deserve students who can learn better than the students they presently educate?

If your answer is ’Yes’ to these, or some of these questions, please read on.


Provoking All Teflers, Teslers, Tesolers, Teachers of Modern Foreign Languages, and Actually All Educators and Parents!


My provocation comes through a few ’ex cathedra’ statements with which you may or may not agree. They are ’ex cathedra’ in a sense that I am not going to stop now and prove their truth but they are open for a debate or discussion. Please try to prove me wrong. Now here we go.

Running a good school is cheaper than running a bad one. Training a good teacher is cheaper than training a bad one. Because of this, running a better system of education is not primarily a question of more money. It is more a question of how we spend that money.

Professor Stephen Krashen thinks that the root of all evil is poverty. Poverty is bad and must be eradicated. But poverty alone cannot be made responsible for a bad or ineffective educational system. Education is actually the best way out of poverty.

If poverty and a bad education act together, then the child has no, or just a little chance, and the situation becomes really hopeless if the child is not supported by a caring family.

If we agree with Peter Ustinov (Dear Me 1977) and say


After all, what is education but a process by which a person begins to learn how to learn?’,


then we must conclude that many students come out of school uneducated. The 7,000 contact hours in the Elementary School have not been quite enough for 3 out of 10 to learn the 3Rs. What happens later without these basic survival skills is another story.


If we translate this into teachers’ education, the situation must be equally sad.

If we stick to TESL – TEFL - TESOL, there are two main trends:

  • the short courses, i. e. sometimes as short as 100 hours, and
  • the college and university courses

and both of them have their disadvantages.

As for the short course, I have my direct experiences and I must say that in 100 hours different institutes mainly train English-Teaching skilled-workers or semi-skilled workers. There is nothing wrong with this if this is the beginning rather than the end of their training. If it is the end, then the teachers have to live on the snobbery of local authorities re ’Native English Teachers’.

As for the college and university courses, I’m going to relate the state of affairs in the Hungarian Public Education and please translate it to your own teaching / learning environment if you happen to operate in another country.

In Hungary, University TEFL Courses are too theoretical. They train more pseudo-lingiusts than teachers, e. g. you will learn everything about morphemes, and graphemes, and tagmemes, and syntagmata, but you cannot tell the subject of learning and the object of teaching apart. The teaching is more about teaching a language than teaching a person, and least about teaching a person with a problem who needs help.

Trying to be practical, e. g. trying to translate anything to your own experiences, would automatically lead to punishment and to a fail. You should not mix yourself into the Big Boys & Big Girls’ Game since You Are a Nobody. It is almost always felt and quite often said. Your ’teaching’ should follow a strict dogmata as it is prescribed in the Hypothetical Theories of Theorems.

90-odd per cent of the study-material can be forgotten, and in most cases it is soon forgotten since you will never use it in your, however long, career. On the other hand, most of the knowledge and skills, especially people skills, you need for this profession are not taught and not even touched upon during your university years.

Teaching practice can be as little as 15 lessons all together and please compare that with the University of London TESOL Advanced Diploma Course where, over the four years, our trainees taught more than 2,000 hours. Whatever they learned one day, they built it into their next lesson.

And there is a third group, the effective or so called ’good teachers’ who can come out of either of the two sorts of training above, and actually also from a third group. These are the born teachers with or without any formal training, who learn by teaching and teach by learning.

Just to make it even more provocative, I copy here my definitions of a teacher and the good teacher.

In my definition, a TEACHER is a PERSON

  • who is very deeply interested in the subject he/she attempts to teach,
  • who is a good learner,
  • who can LEARN effectively in all the methods he/she will use in TEACHING,
  • who is very deeply interested in HUMAN COMMUNICATION and INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS,
  • who has something to say,
  • who has a high level of empathy and remembers what it was like not to know,
  • who knows the subject-matter subconsciously to be able to use it with a unique taste,
  • who knows the subject-matter consciously as well to be able to plan,
  • who is not primarily interested in prestige through presenting hard stuff,
  • who is interested in making hard-looking materials simple and friendly,
  • who has a wide range of learner’s vocabulary [the vocabulary to go up to in own learning],
  • who has a wide range of teacher’s vocabulary [the vocabulary to come down with to the students’ level],
  • who sets a really high ethical standard to self and demands the same from students,
  • who has a good sense of humour but never starts the laughing, etc.

Based on the above, a GOOD TEACHER is a person who meets a high number of the criteria listed.

I detailed this situation at the 14th World Council for Curriculum and Instruction Conference, at Pécs, Hungary in July, 2010 and at the Global Education Conference on 17th November, 2010 in my paper ’From an Educational Black Hole Towards an Educational White Whole’, but it can wait and be mixed in later.

Let’s turn a page. Only joyful learning makes sense. A precondition of joyful learning is joyful teaching. By the same token, an absolute precondition of joyful teaching is joyful teacher-training.

I have daydreams about a school where all teachers are eager to learn all the theories their classroom practice, i. e. their students’ learning, proves right. Just to make it very clear, I’ll paraphrase: rather than approving an effective practice by some theories, the effective practice can prove all theories right or wrong.

I also have some nightmares about a school where all teachers, with little or no practical skills, will enter for and complete MA and PhD Courses.

What is the situation in your environment?


Challenging All Teflers, Teslers, Tesolers, Teachers of Modern Foreign Languages, and Actually All Educators and Parents!

 As part of the challenge, I would like to invite you to take part in a ThinkTank organized by the International Teacher Training & Development College.

Our aims are to help

  • the Students, especially the LD Child [LD reads Learning Disability if you agree with Freud, Learning Difficulty if you agree with Skinner and  Behaviourism, and/or Learning Difference if you follow Humanistic Psychology and the Person-Centered Approach], and
  • the Alpha Generation who have or may have a great deal of hiccups in starting their education in our difficult day and age,

by helping

  • the teachers,
  • the parents and other helpers, and
  • the peers,

both in the Face-to-Face Teaching/Learning, and in the Home-Leg of Blended Learning. We have built up a Project that contains 140 Modules organized into 8 Streams.

If you are interested, please send an e-mail to [International Teacher Training & Development College]

and write ’Helping the LD Student’ into the object-line.

Leslie Simonfalvi

director, ITTDC