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MacDougal and Shoujin

THE KOAN

MacDougal told the class to turn to page 78 of the book. It was his first ever effort at being an ELT author and he had gone the extra mile to make sure that the product was different to all of the usual dross on the market. Page 78 marked the beginning of Unit 5, a highly innovative unit that looked at the role of fruit and vegetables in language learning. In space. Into it his editors had shoe-horned a grammar focus on relative clauses, both defining and non-defining. There was a smattering of interest shown in the passive (nothing fancy, just the basic construction). The lexical focus was on adjectives of quality.

The publisher had insisted on each unit being given a rigorous test drive prior to publication and this was precisely what MacDougal was doing. Never before had the material been trialled on a class of students. His heart beat slightly faster as he directed the class to, “Look carefully at the high-resolution picture on page 78, which is the start of a new unit, and talk to each other in pairs about what makes the picture which you can see there different to other pictures that you have seen before.”

He settled back to watch them. Five seconds later, Shoujin put up his hand. Shoujin, the student who had started coming to the class yesterday. Shoujin the investment banker from Shanghai.

“Yes, Shoujin? What is it?”

“Sorry, teacher. We’ve already done this.”

COMMENTARY

The students have already done it. So what? Does that mean that they shouldn’t do it again? Says who? Oh yeah? You and whose army? The students pay the piper, but the piper calls the tune. Isn’t that how it goes?

Have the students already done it? How do they know? And just where does Shujin get off by interrupting the class in this fashion?

If the other teachers kept meticulous records of work, this sort of thing would never happen to an innocent cover teacher. Would it? Or perhaps that should read, “Or would it?”

THIS BE THE VERSE

Struggling hard to make

An innovative lesson

Condemns you to fail.

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