The Secret DOS

The Little Emperor Strikes Back

What’s the point?

In the recent training event, there was a role-play where one person was the “awkward” teacher and the other was the manager, giving feedback after an observation. In our group, I was the manager and my colleague was a teacher who just didn’t see the point in it all. Isn’t the main thing that my students are all happy, she asked. Isn’t the rest of it all just bureaucracy? The question we should never lose sight of is, indeed, What’s the point of it all? Anyone who tells you that they know the answer is either wrong or lying back on their deathbed, about to croak.

What is the point of it all? There’s too much life in the Secret DoS for me to be able to give you the answer. But I’ll tell you one thing now (for free): whatever you think is the point of it all most definitely is not the point of it all. Damn! I appear to have written myself into a corner. Humour me if I write on by considering a few of the more commonplace views.

The point of it all is to get good results.

If that were true, the best thing to do would be to make the questions in the exams much easier and to drill students in the answers incessantly. How many of us got into this kind of work in order to do that? Life would be easier in one regard, but it may be that the resulting ennui would also make it a life not worth living. ELT would mean Emo Language Teaching.

The point of it all is to enable students to speak better English.

Than who? Better than they speak English themselves?! There’s a self-defeating task if ever I heard one. That said, it also puts me in mind of a Shunryu Suzuki quotation: if it’s not paradoxical, it’s not true. Certainly, you’d be hard pushed to find many people who would say that this is not the point. But if we are to look at what people actually do, the question arises: is this really the point of it all?

OK, smart arse. The point of it all is to meet the needs of the students.

Really? Your students need to speak English? You are a very lucky teacher! I only wish that I could say the same of my students who seem to seize upon any opportunity they find to speak languages that are not English. For my students, the only need that I can see for them to speak English is to stop my blood from boiling. Regrettably, it doesn’t seem like a pressing need… But perhaps you mean a need in the future…defined by Ambrose Bierce as, “That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.” As far as I am aware, the future remains unwritten. Where is this need and to whom does it belong?

The point of it all is to help students become all that they can be.

Too easy. Everyone is always all that they can be. NEXT!

The point of it all is that this is what we are contracted to do.

Now you’re getting close. In fact, I am struggling to find a rebuttal here. The only thing that occurs to me is that this is a hard and fast argument from which I struggle to turn, but is it really the point of it all? Look at that job description a little bit more carefully. Ask yourself what does this even mean? Am I doing this? 

An answer for now

Perhaps…perhaps…the point of it all is to create a point for it all. To find within us a driving force that allows us to continue doing whatever it is that we do. If this is true, what does one say to the teacher who asks Isn’t the main thing that my students are all happy? Isn’t the rest of it all just bureaucracy?

I’ll tell you what I said. I said, No. While it is important that your students are happy, the main thing is that you are visibly performing to the standards that have been set. While your views on those standards are important and valuable to the ongoing development of our team, they are still not the standards that we have adopted. Yet.

So, perhaps what I am really saying from my managerial perspective is that the point of it all is conformity and compliance. Seems like as good a definition as I need for now. You have been warned.


21 Oct 2015 - Posted by | Rants and ramblings


  1. Being cynical, but I believe being honest, most, many ,if not to say all institutions are interested in bums on seats, shekels in the bank and teachers and managers who don´t rock the boat ! If you are prepared and confident enough to go it alone, forget the salary, security and paid holidays, row your own boat and deal with the circumstances, you might, just might find real job satisfaction !!!!

    Comment by Connie OGrady | 21 Oct 2015 | Reply

  2. […] please see the post by The Secret DoS’s on this. The final two paragraphs are kind of explaining one possible point of view very […]

    Pingback by Formal Observation, Formality and Dreaming | Wednesday Seminars | 22 Oct 2015 | Reply

  3. Cynicism is often brutal truth! Money is definitely (and perhaps we don’t need to feel bad about this) a driving force…a point behind it all…hence the journalistic advice to follow the money.

    Bums on seats keep our bosses happy and our bank managers satisfied. But -and I have to confess to being a pretty poor businessperson- I suspect that pitching a substandard product at an expansive market will only get bums on seats for a short time. The ones that will remain standing at the end of the bunfight are the ones who were selling quality. What’s more, they will be able to charge more for it.

    So, although I have yet to see much sign of it in places where I have worked, I think that owners should welcome boat rockers. It’s not the rocking itself that we should be opposed to, but the intent behind the rocking. The car industry fires hundreds of their models at brick walls to see how robust and how vulnerable the product is.

    For now, I think real job satisfaction comes from doing the best you possibly could in any given situation, recognising the constraints that you face each day. Perhaps this is the point of it all?

    Comment by TheSecretDoS | 23 Oct 2015 | Reply

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