The Secret DOS

The Little Emperor Strikes Back

On levels

I’ve done this one before, but history has a habit of repeating itself, I hear people say. Repeatedly. I’d be a fool not to cash in on this one. If you can’t be bothered to read my inane waffle, the long and the short of it is that I think that levels are a phonological blend of shy and height. By which I mean that they are shite. I am just trying to give due warning to those of you who may be offended by bad language. There’s only one more sweary expression in the following paragraphs. It’s used to describe a Mary who has been doused in tomato juice. 

These days I am met by teachers who want certain students to move up or to move down. The teachers have an earnest look on their face as they tell me that the student is “just too good for this level.” Because I don’t have the time, I let it ride and don’t ask, “Well, how do you know that they are too good for the level? What is the level? How do you measure it? Blah blah blah blah blah.” I try to think back to how I got by when I was a teacher. Did I also pester the power that was to move students? genuinely, I can’t remember, but I hope I didn’t. I can’t help that people who believe in Levels have probably taken a great bloody bite out of half of the rest of the crap that the ELT anglers put on their lines.

Ditto students. They come to see me with even more earnest looks on their face. They inveigle me with camaraderie and appeals to my professional instincts. “I’m learning nothing at this level. It’s all too easy for me. C’mon…what do you say?” Most frequently, they either dislike the teacher or seem to believe that by being in a higher level, the next step of their study plan is just that little bit more realistic.

When I publish my book (The Secret Dos’s Little Red Book), and the sales bankroll my language academy, there are going to be three levels: Incomprehensible; Comprehensible, but requiring patience; and Quite Impressive, Really. Students will have to be I, C or QIR in both writing and speaking. We are only going to concern ourselves with the productive skills because I’m not overly sold on the idea of skills either. Language is language and the chances are that if you are good at speaking and writing, your listening and reading won’t be lagging too far behind. Correct me if I’m wrong.

If you are in the “I” group, you can expect to be getting a good bit of grammatical input as well as lessons in basic rhetoric, spelling, handwriting and lists of vocabulary items that you need to commit to memory. Fun will not be forbidden, but the teacher who prioritises fun over learning is going to be getting their P45 before the end of term.

Students will move between levels based purely on what they can contribute to the class they are in. I don’t particularly care if Incomprehensible Student is in the QIR level, as long as they are gaining hugely from being there and not hindering the perception of progress for their classmates or for their teacher. Of course, I recognise that this is unlikely to happen, but one never knows.

Books that make any reference to “Beginners, Elementary, Pre-Intermediate (aka Elementary), Intermediate, Upper Intermeidate (aka Intermediate), Pre-Advanced (aka Intermediate) or Advanced will be flung from the top window with due regard for the swans in the moat below.

Students who bemoan the fact that they are not being fed pap and hoodwinked into believing that every ten weeks or so they can Do A New Level will be shown the portcullis.

If you would be interested in working at SD Learning, Inc., feel free to apply in the comments below. You might also want to consider buying “The Secret DOS’s Little Red Book” when it gets finished – something tells me that there will be a need for a rather considerable nest egg before the building work commences.


07 Jul 2014 - Posted by | Rants and ramblings


  1. I have noticed throughout your blogs a preference for putting learning before fun. I was wondering why that is so? Any particular reasons? The reason why I ask is because my DoS’s have always demanded the exact opposite – prioritise the fun. I think this is usually due the idea that learning might be more successful if it is done in a positive environment. I think this might be based on Krashen’s Affective Filter Hypothesis.

    Comment by ashowski | 11 Jul 2014 | Reply

    • The reason is because I think that we are about teaching more than entertaining. Learning can be enjoyable without having to be fun and there is a view that sometimes the fun can actually distract students from learning.

      Comment by thesecretdos | 11 Jul 2014 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: