Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head

Archetypes of ELT – 2016

I won’t be at IATEFL in Birmingham this year, but I think I can guess who will be …

To my surprise, there are two new entries. They’ve both always been there, so are not strictly new archetypes, but I  have only just apprehended them.

Ed Tech Entrepreneur

The serial networker in their Emperor’s New Clothes with matching brogues, universally liked as a person even though everything they stand for is a source of forum fear. They’ll remember your Twitter handle before your name and have friended you on Facebook before you’ve exchanged more than  a couple of pleasantries.  From there, they’ll like all your posts but only skim the first lines of anything you’ve written that wasn’t for their website.

Before you’ve woken up in the morning they’ve disrupted their sleep, accelerated their shower, gamified breakfast and seen the future of lunch. Don’t expect to see them present at IATEFL more than one year, after that they’re saving it for TED. If only there was an app to attend conferences on their behalf.

Most likely to be:

Anywhere but in the actual sessions. Anything printed in the conference program is automatically out of date.

Most likely to say:

Drop me an email and I’ll zero inbox it.

The Wannabe

Wants to get out of teaching and into materials writing but has to pretend to keep a hand in teaching so as not to lose touch with the market. This presents a problem in choosing what to attend and who to network with. Teaching related sessions with the future customers of the books no one will ever commission them to write? Or sales talks by the movers and shakers of ELT in the hopes someone will throw them a pronunciation exercise sample activity to write for free?

Most likely to say:

My last post got 4 Likes and 2 comments – a platform is so important if you want to make it.

Most likely to be:

Trying to work out if they should have heard of the person they’re talking to.

New for 2016 The Freelancer

Now freelancers are nothing new to TEFL, neither in teaching nor publishing. But thanks, to countless rounds of lay offs and restructuring, freelance is the new way to say on a zero hours contract. Rumour has it that there are actually people still on the payroll at the large publishers but much like Oompa Loompas, no-one has ever seen them going in or out of the buildings.

Most likely to say:

Got any projects on?

Most likely to be:

Unsure whether being hired by a different publisher is more or less risky than actually freelancing.

Secret Er*tica Writer

I know of two of these at least so it stands to reason that there are others, getting a thrill of sudden inspiration in a seminar near you. Since both EFL teachers and materials writers are so badly paid, I expect there are secret escorts, lapdancers and Butlers in the Buff amongst the conference throngs. One of these days, ELT will throw off its conservative shackles and no-one will have to hide.

Most likely to say:

Nothing that will ever give you the slightest clue.

Most likely to be:

The best hidden of all. The more innocuous seeming this attendee is, the more likely they are to be fully engaging in the Sexical Approach in their free time.

The App Developer

There are two kinds to watch out for. The ones with an idea but no app have got this amazing plan for an app that makes round things and puts them on the bottom of vehicles to speed them up. If only they had the skills or cash to make it happen! Then there are the ones who found the funding and paid for their IATEFL 2015 conference ticket just before they went bankrupt.

Most likely to be:

Looking for collaborators. For the first group this is anyone off Twitter that they meet face-to-face. For the latter, it’s anyone with money and no idea that Duolingo’s success lies in its $0 price tag.

The Pro-NNESTer

This is everyone in ELT — safe in the knowledge that they’ll never have to do more than show public support for the cause.  Well, it’s everyone except language school owners who are the only people with any power to make a difference.

Most likely to be:

Signing petitions and anything else that is of no practical use.

New for 2016 The Closet Misogynist

These guys have always been here too and probably form the backbone of at least two of the other Archetypes. They can be hard to spot though, as they camouflage themselves amid the mostly female make-up of ELT by loudly proclaiming that those they most admire and  have most aided them in their career are women.  They will do everything in their power to support women in the industry they have ruled over from the highest board levels, magazine covers and plenary positions. Everything that is,  except giving up even an inch of that space for the women that, for some strange reason, are still listening to them.

Most likely to say:

I am NOT sexist. Women love me.

Most likely to not be:

Nominating any women for the Women Speakers in ELT list. That’s right. Not one of these three noted supporters of women have nominated any women for the list … funny that.

Mrs Jangly Bangles

I never bother to look up conference venues in advance on Google maps. I just head in the general direction, look for a rise in the number of brightly coloured blouses, jangly bangles and statement necklaces and choose metro exits accordingly.

I have to admit to owning more bangles post CELTA than pre, but as I usually have to fly Ryanair to get to conferences, my luggage allowance prevents me from bringing them. Don’t follow me, unless you see a technicolour woman ahead of me.

Most likely to say:

Something you didn’t catch because her accessories were making too much noise.

Conference Cassanova

This isn’t specific to EFL, all conferences were invented solely to give married men a hunting ground away from home turf. It works out less well for professions dominated by men, like comics, physics and computer programming but EFL events are like a phrasal verb dictionary of never ending options.

Most likely to say:

My wife isn’t coming until the weekend.

Most likely to be found:

Buying drinks for (female) teachers.

The Apostle

Drawn to TEFL, not just because few other professions allow for so many opportunities to wear linen trousers, but for the apotheosis that they’ll never admit to. They’ve brought with them handwritten letters from their students to reply to during the coffee breaks, wiping away a tear at the beauty of the sentence construction and covering it with smiley faces rather than corrections which would stifle their students’ right to expression.

Most likely to say:

I’m not a teacher, I’m a guide on my students’ learning journey. They create the path and I just help them if they stumble.

Most likely to be:

In the front row of every presentation with their hand up, half an hour before the questions at the end.


Old Boy’s Club

IATEFL could wallpaper the seminar rooms with the sports jackets of the Old Boys of EFL. Lay their ties end to end and you can circumnavigate the globe twice – just like they’re doing on publisher sponsored book tours every year. At a conference, you’ll never be more than ten metres from one but you’ll never be one.

However much you think these guys have earned from writing the twelfth edition of Even Newer Cutting FileWay, triple it and then add the royalties. Throw in some first class air tickets and writing cabins on Caribbean islands and you’ve a sense of the things that clutter their ivory towers.

Most likely to say:

That’s not the champagne we had last time.

Most likely to be:

Asking people if they want their course book signed.books


9 comments on “Archetypes of ELT – 2016

  1. caraleopold
    April 11, 2016

    Love it! Comedy gold!

    • Nicola
      April 11, 2016


  2. paulwalsh
    April 11, 2016

    Great post Nicola – but haven’t you forgotten two archetypes? The ******* ***** and the ****.

    • Nicola
      April 13, 2016

      Next year!

  3. Dominique
    April 12, 2016

    “I’m not a teacher, I’m a guide on my students’ learning journey. They create the path and I just help them if they stumble”
    Priceless Nicola!

    • Nicola
      April 13, 2016


  4. laurasoracco
    April 13, 2016

    With all respect, what a sad and disempowering way to view what you’ve deemed the “pro-NNESTer”. Not sure if I’m just taking your post too literally, but I sure hope there’s more to be accomplished by discussions in our field and an increased awareness of our role in the NS/NNS dichotomy.

    • Nicola
      April 13, 2016

      The post is satirical (definition: vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.) But how many people actually DO and not just talk (which of course has its place)? How many NS Pro-NNesters refuse to work for schools that have NS only hiring policies? How many quit their jobs at such schools? How many see a job ad and, rather than just clicking the angry face emoticon on Facebook, write to the school and tell them why they won’t be applying? How many give up anything eg job, pay discrepancy in their favour, conference speaking role to further the position of a NNEST? To all those who can say yes to one of those, this post is meant for everyone else.

  5. teachingbattleground
    April 16, 2016

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

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