The Secret DOS

The Little Emperor Strikes Back

The challenge of teaching is to make the financially viable pedagogical.

1. Don’t waste time yearning for the pedagogical; organisations will always prioritise the financially viable. The challenge of teaching is to make the financially viable pedagogical.

Lots of people see a tension in the interplay of pedagogy with profit.

Not me.

The question facing managers isn’t how to make pedagogical initiatives financially alluring; it’s how to make financially alluring initiatives pedagogical.

The money monsters are in control of the ship. We can lament this and demand that things change, but then we might find ourselves out of work. We will almost certainly find ourselves to be unhappy.

Instead, we have to make the best of whatever the money monsters come up with. If we can do that well, we won’t need to read the warblings of a conceited middle manager because we will have cracked it. We are also likely to say ourselves a lot of angst along the way.

Currently, where I work, the money monsters have issued orders to create a mighty project that will sink our competitors and secure our dominance of the planet. Unfortunately, they are not overly concerned with investing in it. They’ve just stuck together everything they have heard of that they think is Good. It’s like going to a restaurant only to find that it’s one of those places which has a buffet that presents poor imitations of Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indian, American, Mexican food alongside cheap white containers of brightly coloured ice creams.

The challenge facing this particular DoS is how to make some sort of pedagogical paella out of the stuff on the menu. Thank the Lord in Heaven above that I now have a team of mighty marvels. I have complete faith in their ability to distinguish shit from shinola and will watch from the sidelines as their pragmatism illustrates that despite what Einstein may have said, you can polish a turd.


21 Jul 2017 Posted by | The Secret DoS's Little Red Book | Leave a comment

You don’t need this…

So, we’ve recently completed a whole day of training. Well, seven hours of it. Or was it development? That’s probably a more revealing question than it may first appear. I suspect -by which I mean “I hope”- that the Senior Managers who contracted the trainee/developer, would say it was development – that is, would have recognised that we are all experienced managers who are deserving of input that keeps us at the cutting edge of our game. But considering that I would say that our trainer spoke to us for approximately six of the seven hours and told us thing after thing after thing after thing, I have a sneaky feeling that we were being trained. The difference? I think development is more of an accumulative process – it recognises that there is already an existing body of knowledge and experience and seeks to stretch out the boundaries of what is already there. Training, it seems to me, assumes that something is missing and tries to plug the gap.

Oh, but does it matter? Well, there’s the pragmatism of telling people things they already know for seven (or six) hours. Then there’s the emotional reaction people might respond with if they think that they are being told something that they don’t need to be told. Then there’s the wistful sigh of a lost opportunity.

On the other hand, there’s also something to be gained from everything that ever was, is and will be. Consequently, I am reassured that I left the training –it’s going to be training from hereon in- with some things worth pondering over. These are currently they:

  1. How do we avoid training people when what they really need is development? Genuine question.
  2. Who gives a shit about the difference between a leader and a manager? Semi-rhetorical question.
  3. That said, what is the difference between a leader and a manager? Genuine question.
  4. That said, why the hell do I care? How can this sort of thing ever help me or mine? Semi-rhetorical question.
  5. Why do I shiver whenever people speak about my people? Did Moses ever feel the same way? Semi-rhetorical question.
  6. Should I explore the assertion that the company line must always be held, even if that means sacrificing authenticity and integrity? Genuine question.
  7. What the hell is authenticity? Genuine question.
  8. Have we gone too far in our attempts to stamp out discrimination? Genuine question.
  9. What is it about training consultants? Semi-rhetorical question.
  10. How might the whole affair have been done more productively? Genuine question.
  11. What do I need to do differently? Genuine question.
  12. What are my standards of work? Genuine question.
  13. If the workers change, but not the work, do things get better? Genuine question.

That’s more than enough for now. If I still had anybody reading this blog, to answer each question…no…to address each question…at the rate of once a week, and assuming that corollary questions would also pop up, my loyal reader would have something to distract them from what currently passes as news for a few months. It would also help me scratch the damn itch I have to write something even though I have very little these days to say.

If you can bear to put up with my assholery, you’re welcome to come along and stare aghast at my arrogance. Buckle up, tovarisch, and let us go forth.


04 Apr 2017 Posted by | Rants and ramblings | 2 Comments

You don’t have to be mad to work here

And so we come to the end of another year of teaching. And for some reason, hopefully entirely unconnected to me personally, mental health issues are rearing their heads at work. At times it seems like the entire team is batshit crazy (and I should stress -baddaboom- that I actually mean that in a loving sense rather than my usual haughty dismissive judgemental tone).  In all seriousness, I have never been more aware of the high levels of stress, anxiety and outright depression than in the recent past. Do you want to hear my views on the whole business? Well, if you read on, you’re going to whether you want to or not. Continue reading

09 Dec 2016 Posted by | Rants and ramblings | 7 Comments

I’m an asshole

Passive aggression…how could I have blogged so many posts without dedicating an entire one to this phenomenon of the modern workplace? It’s quite a fascinating phenomenon, actually. It’s such a widespread tactic that people employ and where I have the pleasure of working, I can think of at least a quarter of my team who regularly employ it as a means of dealing with things they don’t like. Continue reading

08 Nov 2016 Posted by | Rants and ramblings | Leave a comment

In the midst of life, we are in death

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Life is difficult – well done, Buddha, for spotting that one. It might have passed me by completely otherwise.

At work, the staffroom is punctuated with loud noise from time to time throughout the day. In class, my tiny little coterie of students are in two camps, one of which has no inclination whatsoever to learn English; in the boardroom, idiots are trying to concoct a model that is both utterly impossible to deliver and utterly pointless in its design; buzzwords are seized upon by the makers and shakers and turned into diktats.

ELT, I have never hated you as much as I hate you right now. Continue reading

05 Nov 2016 Posted by | Rants and ramblings | 2 Comments

Go on now, GO! Walk out the door!

Events over the last few days have made me reflect…well, actually, have made me feel superior. It occurs to me that we rarely enjoy anything better than occupying the moral high ground. I don’t think that this is an individual character flaw, but something hardwired into humans. We like being right, but we like it even more when someone else is wrong. Might there, I wondered, be perfectly good evolutionary reasons for this? Might it be that we reinforce behaviour that keeps the species alive by feelings of smug self-righteousness and ostracism of the deviants? Maybe. Maybe not… Continue reading

13 Dec 2015 Posted by | Rants and ramblings | 4 Comments

You’re shit, and you know you are!

For those who are beginning to worry about just what sort of ship I run, the title is a football chant, not how I go about giving feedback to teachers. And this is what I thought I’d write about today – how to give feedback…more specifically, how to give negative feedback…constructive feedback.

Following the last post about observations, there was an interesting exchange of opinions both here and on Twitter. The comments here seem to be centred around whether or not observations serve any real purpose (and the evidence seems to suggest that they don’t serve very much). The debate on Twitter was more about my apparent hardline stance on not sugar-coating the pill.

In no small measure down to my own shortcomings as a writer, I had left people aghast. They thought I was “angry” and “need[ed] to chill.” If I was like this, I was warned, I “would end up getting hated [by teachers]”. I was advocating a position where “feelings come second.” I should be careful not to become the worst kind of back seat driver…reminding me of my grandmother who used to sit behind me and helpfully point in the direction I needed to be going…

Let us move on…

Continue reading

29 Oct 2015 Posted by | Rants and ramblings | 2 Comments

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.

Continue reading

21 Oct 2015 Posted by | Rants and ramblings | 3 Comments


The other day, I attended a training/development session about observations. For most of the time, I had to swallow my bile as the usual hackneyed dross was piped out. How should we give feedback? Supportively! Always focus on the good! Point out areas “for development” and the recalcitrant teacher will see the light.In every lesson I observe, I learn something myself!” WHAT THE ACTUAL FLUX?! C’MON, SHEEPLE! To paraphrase (somewhat criminally) R.E.M., Everybody sucks, sometimes. In the style of Rafa Benitez, here we go: Continue reading

17 Oct 2015 Posted by | Rants and ramblings | 17 Comments

On dealing with difficult people

This, as I believe I have said before, is a tired old saw where I work. If Senior Management want Middle Management to excel in any given area and if a measure of what that area might be can be deduced from the training that is provided, even Doctor Watson would see that the area of Dealing with Difficult People is the area du jour.

As I sit in these training sessions, I more often than not end up secretly thinking, “What a big pile of hairy bollocks this is.” Continue reading

07 Oct 2015 Posted by | Rants and ramblings | 8 Comments

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