“Because it’s my nature.”

2nd June 2022

The fable of the frog and the scorpion

One day a scorpion was out walking when it came to a river. The scorpion, who couldn’t swim, wanted to cross the river, and saw a frog resting on a stone.

“Hello, frog, can you carry me to the other side ? I can ride on your back.”

The frog refused.

“You are a scorpion. You will sting me.”

“Why would I do that ? We would both die,” asked the scorpion.

The frog thought, then agreed. The scorpion climbed onto the frog’s back.

However, half way across the river, the scorpion stung the frog. The frog, in pain, asked the scorpion,

“Why did you do that ? Now we will both die.”

“I know,” replied the scorpion, “I couldn’t help it because it’s my nature.”

A modern day tale

Classes of students who are undisciplined, disrespectful and physically or verbally abusive.

The centre makes rules. The students start each lesson reciting them.

Rules such as not saying, “No,” to a teacher when asked to do something, not calling a teacher by a disrespectful name, no running, no eating in class.

Yet, forty minutes later, masks are off and half the class are eating, running in the halls, shouting. Students say, “No,” to polite requests, and call teachers disrespectful names.

They have been told if they break these new rules, they will be sent home, and if the offense is repeated, they will be expelled. Still they continue.

Why … because it’s in their nature.

Mr Orson Welles in ‘Mr Arkadin’ 1955

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: Sisyphus as metaphor

10th May 2022

Last week I held an IELTS Speaking Test. Only one student hit 7.5 although, in fairness, I was probably on the generous side in awarding the student such an admirable score.

Or, to be precise, learn from their mistakes.

I can break them down into three main areas:

coherence

vocabulary

complex sentences

Kicking off with coherence; it doesn’t matter how fluent you are, unless you answer the question, you will loose marks.

The test allows us to assess your understanding of both question and task. An example: one question was

What is the most popular activity in your country ?

ASIDE: I’ve told students until I’m blue in the face, never repeat, “In (my) country,” but since when do teenage students ever actually listen ?

The question asks for ONE activity; several students talked about two or three. This is not answering the question.

Anyone who’s studied at University will know how imperative it is to follow instructions.

COMIC RELIEF: One student, from a previous test, replied that the most common activity, “In my country,” was brushing teeth, and that foreigners do this every day, but Vietnamese only do this once or twice a week. Said student had to continue for two minutes. Needless to say, there were no flying colours.

More disturbing was the lack of IELTS vocabulary. You have been told time and again what that means, and I can’t keep hitting my head against a brick wall.

And so to work … get out your notebooks (those that actually bother bringing notebooks to class), look up previous lessons and write down:

TEN L-FWs

FIVE less common idioms

FIVE everyday expressions

TEN phrasal verbs

TEN basic collocations

I have taught you these ad infinitum. If you are struggling with this exercise, you will probably only get a 5 for the Lexical Recourses section.

Lastly, the old chestnut, complex sentences.

I had nine students, each with about ten minutes of speaking time. How many complex sentences do you think I heard ?

Yes, Steve …
That’s right … ZERO

EXERCISES: Use at least two L-FWs, one idiom and other IELTS elements

(and if you think it’s funny to ask what I mean, after all this time, by ‘IELTS elements’, just get up and leave the class).

Speak for one minute about:

one of your cousins // your favourite gift // sports // your best memory from childhood // best films // problems in your city // typical local food.

Part Two: Critical Thinking

“Oh, teacher, I’m tired and feel lazy.”

Work in teams. Watch the following short clip about the ancient Greek king, Sisyphus:

Characters from Greek and Roman mythology permeate western culture, and references and allusions are ubiquitous.

You may watch the video again, writing down new words. There is a lot of background (in which you may encounter a character from ‘The Avengers’ movies), but the main feature starts around the 4:00 mark.

Your task is to relate this story to modern life. Choose a person you know, or something from your own experience. You may even project your thoughts about the future, once you have left education and joined the workforce.

To assist you, some pertinent L-FWs and idioms:

futile (adj) futility (noun) / absurd / pointless / meaningless / contemptable / repetitive / a metaphor

a total waste of time / flogging a dead horse

sick to the back teeth / day in, day out

cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

talking until (pronoun) blue in the face / the grind

putting an old head on young shoulders

Look up the meanings yourself. Your teacher won’t be with you to give you the answers in life. Think for yourself.

Athene, Goddess of wisdom

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.