A not necessarily critical experience from 2006

I knew it was off. Something was strange. I could feel it. I could see it. I could almost smell it. I couldn’t, however, explain the problems clearly. I didn’t always have the words to express what I thought was wrong. I guess I also lacked the gravitas needed to persuade people the problems I saw required action.

At the time I was working as a cover instructor for a company that dispatched teachers to universities all around the city. On the days no teachers were sick or recently laid off or in jail for drunken brawls with taxi drivers I would head into the office and work on the project. My main job on the project was to find typos, inconsistencies, grammar mistakes, and logical errors. In doing so I learned that such tasks appealed to my nature.

My duties did not include commenting on methodological concerns, although sometimes I could not help myself. My main task was to simply collect and pass along the language mistakes I saw and let the decision makers make their decisions on what would happen next. Despite the fact it was not my remit,  I did at times discover what I thought to be flaws in the methodological basis of the units.

It was not really up to me to suggest new activities or sequences but sometimes I felt compelled to. It was during he process of looking for typos but instead ending up with a suggestion to scrap the existing activity and creating a new one I learned the term mission creep from a colleague. I fell into this trap quite often and ended up doing a lot more work than I was tasked to. I found myself pointing out errors and inconsistencies the higher ups did not necessarily feel like hearing about or thinking about at the time. I also think the decision makers were able to see the whole picture and knew they were not looking to make something perfect or earth-shattering but just wanted to make something quickly. Perhaps my naivete, youthful exuberance, and perfectionism were not an ideal fit for the project but I like to think I caught a quite a few mistakes which were previously unnoticed.


I was not hired to be an innovator so my suggestions to be ahead of the curve typically fell on deaf ears. It was 2006 and we were laboring away on a CD-ROM for Japanese learners of English. I always wondered about the insistence on a standalone CD-ROM (with no possibility of connecting to or using the internet). I was always wondering at various decibel levels  exactly where all these computers that could not connect to the internet were and why there was a resistance to use the internet in any meaningful way. I was so confused by this. Perhaps at the time I was still unaware of Japan’s love for the fax machine.Or again, maybe I just wan’t seeing the bigger picture.

Armed with a BA in History, a CELTA, and 5.5 years of experience I couldn’t always understand my colleagues’ reluctance to follow all of my suggestions and repair everything I said needed repairing. Through my experience working on this project I decided I should develop both my skills and credentials in materials development so I never had to feel again that I couldn’t properly explain my criticisms or beliefs about materials development.

I suppose this is another one of those blog posts of mine where you, dear reader, are left to your own devices to figure out the moral of the story, if there is one. I just felt like writing it and thought it might be slightly interesting. I hope that is the case.


  1. Kristen C

    As a brand new teacher I am spoiled by the freedom that I have in my first teaching position; I am a full-time volunteer through AmeriCorps and while I teach English to adult refugees and immigrants, my primary project for the year is curriculum development. I have been developing a curriculum for adult Emergent Readers for the past 4 months and piloting the curriculum in my classroom. While it’s challenging, it is so much more flexible than following someone else’s hastily designed materials and lesson plans. I know that this will most likely not be the case when I teach in future positions. I sub from time to time and I often find myself wanting to rewrite the cover lesson plans that I am given. Like I said, spoiled…

  2. M. Makino

    We took some translation proofreading jobs from people who were applying to study abroad programs and whether or not to tell them their content made no sense in any language was a common issue.

  3. Marc

    I’ve done some rubbish curriculum design before due to the need to shoehorn critical thinking skills in to entrance exam prep courses for students with no grasp at all of the language. I like to think the students progressed but I think it was more to do with displaying attendance. Still, the only person who used the stuff was me.

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