(Also known, in the parlance of our times, as “Pissing contests”).
I guess I haven’t ranted so much lately. This’ll probably qualify.
I can’t help but notice (or think I notice?) when English language teachers get together there is often a subtle or not-so-subtle game of comparing and competing in which they try to highlight the importance of their current or previous positions or their contributions to the field.
Some examples that jump to mind:
- One dude telling me and some friends exactly how much money he makes and highlighting that this is more than people in his city usually make for teaching English.
- Someone referencing the amount of times they have observed other teachers’ lessons as a sort of proof of why their opinion was correct in a discussion.
- A new acquaintance mentioning numerous times that he, in fact, teaches graduate students (and thus not undergraduate students).
- People talking about how EAP is more serious or real than other English teaching contexts.
- Teachers being quick to mention that they are teacher trainers or teacher educators or teacher developers or teacher education developers and not “just” regular EFL teachers.
- Some folks mentioning the fact they have an MA when it’s not really relevant to the current conversation.
- Random explosions of TESOL jargon and theory unrelated to the topic at hand.
- Public school or private academy teachers made to feel looked down upon by those teaching at universities (especially here in Korea?)
- Unprovoked recitations of resumes or published works.
- Excessive use of the #humblebrag.
I must mention that interacting with these people has been positive and they are all pleasant people. I’d also like to apologize if I have somehow misrepresented anyone here. I mean no offense to anyone who has done these things or similar (with or without me around to judge you). This is just something I have been thinking about for a while and felt like blogging about and sharing my initial feelings on so that I might be able to understand it better.
I must also mention that I have almost certainly done some of the above. Especially the teacher-training one. Especially when I thought that was pretty hot.
It is also possible (or even likely) that I am misunderstanding such references and oversimplifying things and categorizing these examples in the “pissing contest” part of my brain when they are actually something else. For example, maybe the speakers thought mentioning some of the above were actually relevant to the conversation at hand but I didn’t interpret it like that.
Rash Generalizations and Amateur Psychology
I get the sense….
…this is more common from the male of our species.
….this is more common from males of a certain age (say under 40).
…this is more common from expat teachers in Korea and Japan than in other countries.
…this is more common from people who recently received an MA.
…this is more common from those who are still not sure if TESOL is a “real” field.
…this is more common from those who are not comfortable in their own skin or what they are doing with their lives.
My sincere questions:
- Is this more common in Korea (and Japan) than other countries?
- It this just human nature?
- Is this actually necessary? Does it serve a positive/useful purpose that I am missing?
- Is there a time and a place for mentioning such things and I am simply in disagreement over the time and place to mention them?
- Why do I even care? Am I being too sensitive?
- (How) Can we avoid the hassle and stench of the metaphorical urine being sprayed all over us?
As I was writing this I was reminded about a post I wrote just a few months ago, “Some valuable lessons I learned one time and hoping to remember.” Nice title, Mike! Very short, snappy, and informative.
Another thought that came to mind was this post on “expert opinion” from our
frenemy friend @EBEFL.
In my extensive research on this topic of pissing contests I discovered that humans are not the only animals that do this. Lobsters too! Per Wikipedia:
The American lobster urinates not from some posterior region of its body, but directly out the front of its face. Two bladders inside the head hold copious amounts of urine, which the lobster squirts through a pair of muscular nozzles beneath its antennae. These powerful streams mix with the gill outflow and are carried some five feet ahead of the lobster in its plume … What the researchers discovered during the ensuing fights was that dueling lobsters accompanied their most punishing blows during combat by intense squirts of piss at the opponent’s face. What was more, in scenes akin to a showdown at the OK Corral, the winner of the physical combat almost always turned out to be the lobster that had urinated first. And well after the fight was over, the winner kept pissing. By contrast, the loser shuts off his urine valves immediately.