The Secret DOS

The Little Emperor Strikes Back


I have spent this term trying to establish an approach to language learning that will allow students to feel that they have some control over their progress. Learning a language, it seems to me, is easiest when you know Sweet Fanny Adams. At this point in your career, everything is new and not a day goes by (should go by) when you don’t learn something that you didn’t know before. By the time you get past these halcyon days, it all becomes a bit of a drudge and you begin to lose interest. Or worse, you come to my office and moan about how you’re not learning anything and placing the blame for your ineffectiveness on your poor, long-suffering teacher. When I was learning my L2, I had one of the worst language teachers I have ever met. She would begin to go through the class with the question, How are you? starting in the top left hand corner and working her way methodically to the bottom right hand corner. Did I feel that she hampered my learning? No. How could she? It was my learning…it just meant that I didn’t learn much from her teaching…which is not the same as saying that I didn’t learn much from her…

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30 Nov 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Teaching – WTF?

Yikes! How I struggle with teaching English these days. I have no more clue how to teach listening than I do how to teach reading. I have next to no idea how to teach speaking and writing is the only rock upon which I believe I can build my church. Well, that’s not strictly true. I do believe that I know how to teach. It’s just that I don’t know how to teach English. Mmm. Perhaps a public forum like the internet is not the most appropriate place for such confessions. Let’s just say that today I am writing on behalf of a friend…

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13 Nov 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 32 Comments

Prevention is better than cure

We are soon to have a training day. They are rarer than a word of wisdom in a textbook; more precious than a horde of IWB software; more costly than an audio CD component which is essential in order to do a listening in a student’s coursebook. And yet those who rule have in their wisdom decreed that part of the day is to be taken up listening to somebody from Prevent detailing to us how we can spot students being radicalised and thus safeguard them.

Safeguard is a nice verb, isn’t it? Radicalised is a nasty old adjective, isn’t it? What a wonderful world we live in where teachers try their utmost to safeguard their charges from insidious radicalisation! Thank the lord for those politicians who had the foresight to set up the organisation Prevent. David Cameron, I am talking to you, you lovable rogue.

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06 Nov 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Goodbye, sweet friends.

Ladies, gentlemen and all others

I write to take my leave of you. I have no more to say. It has been a thrilling few years and I have found the writing and the exchanges cathartic in the extreme.

I have discovered ancient philosophy and am drawn to the conclusion that none of the rest really matters very much. I have an itch to blog about  the application of ancient wisdom to my contemporary life. To that end, I have opened a new blog and you will be more than welcome should you ever wish to stop by there. I warn you now, I would be most surprised should ELT ever make an appearance. The new blog is called Chimp Jim and Me and can be found at It is empty for now, but won’t be for long.

You have all been very kind to me and this has always been much appreciated. May your lives be full of life and your deaths be quick and timely.


24 Jul 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Double, double, toil and trouble

The Secret DoS has made a bit of a booby this week. No details yet – the extent to which I might find myself in trouble has yet to become clear. But we could be looking at anything between a smack on the wrist or a need to update my CV. Microsoft, if you’re reading, might I suggest that the addition of a dialogue box which said something along the lines of, “You have chosen to send this reply to all of the original recipients; are you sure you want to do this?” would be a very welcome one.

But the occasion has given me something new to ruminate on. Let’s chew the cud…

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11 Jul 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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. 

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07 Jul 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Having an aim is the key to achieving your best – Kaiser Hal

I’ve been doing some lesson observations recently. I’m not a big fan of this sort of thing – they confuse the developmental with the authoritarian and they lead to teachers and managers getting more wound up than they should be, given that it is only a job, after all. But, unlike my musculoskeletal structure, my word carries little weight round these here parts and the observations needed to be done. Much to my surprise, I’m rather enjoying the experience. Continue reading

21 Jun 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Under re-construction

The author of this site is currently under reconstruction. Let’s hope the process is like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis rather than the undead rising to walk again.

11 May 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

On the level

If there is one thing that is guaranteed to piss me off, it is when students walk into my office and demand to move up a level. Actually, that is just one of a long list of things, and to be honest, it’s not near the top of my “Things Guaranteed To Piss Me Off” compendium (perhaps this could be The Secret DoS book???). But things are OK at work at the moment and I wanted to write something because I’ve already finished reading through my twitter feed, my Feedly streams and the front page of the newspaper (in that order). Let’s see where this one goes.

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11 Apr 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Baloney Detection and the Grandmas of SOLE

IATEFL…sounds like a badly aspirated “I hate EFL”. Where were the marketing people that day? It seems as if after the latest IATEFL shindig, two people who won’t be needing marketing gurus are Russell Mayne, aka @ebefl, and Sugata Mitra. Of course, Mitra doesn’t need a publicist because he is his own best publicist; his message is enchanting; his mannerisms are endearing; he is a polymath who has approached the problem of educating society’s outcasts and thinks he may have found the solution: a hybrid lo-tech/hi-tech mechanism that has Indian children from socioeconomically deprived communities struggling to help Geordie grandmas improve their pronunciation – assuming I haven’t misunderstood anything here. People loved it.

Russ doesn’t need a publicist because, weirdly, he did the opposite of Sugata Mitra and people loved it. Sugata told people that the solution to the challenges of creating a more equitable world was simple and straightforward. Russ told the people that when someone tells you that there is a simple and straightforward solution to a deep-rooted problem, you may need to use a Baloney Detection Kit.  I loved it.

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07 Apr 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

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