Sandy McManus on Melanie Butler

I can't really say that there is a glass ceiling in ELT- much more of a 'Pink Ceiling', especially if you work for the British Council!

I would say that more than half of my bosses in the field of education have been women, so I can't claim any evidence for the deliberate belittling of women and their achievements in the ELT workplace. If I think back to my working life in both the UK and abroad, I'm quite happy to state that EFL appears to dish out the crappy DoS and Academic Leader jobs quite evenly between the sexes.

However I'd like to nominate Melanie Butler as my candidate for the "She in ELT" pages.

Her name is, I know, not even half as well-known as many of those that have appeared in this series but I have a very solid reason or three for nominating her.

Melanie Butler is the editor and owner of the EL Gazette, a much under-rated and under-valued monthly trade journal for the EFL/ELT sector. She took over the reins of the EL Gazette in the days when EFL was but a mere cottage industry, back in 1987, and has probably regretted it ever since.

It's no understatement to say that the EL Gazette has faced major financial headaches to keep afloat in recent years, and continues to do so, and Melanie has done incredible work to keep the journal alive.

There is no comparison to the EL Gazette in existence and its absence would be I believe, a great loss for the TEFLtrade. It really should have a much higher profile and be read by a far wider audience of EFL teachers and managers.

Moreover, Melanie and her team of intrepid journalists have carried out a good number of major investigative pieces and dealt admirably with the usual libel threats that accompany perceptive and accurate stories of this type.

For that alone I think she deserves the thanks and admiration of the entire EFL/ELT sector.

However, in truth, there was just one main reason I interviewed this crusading journalist back in June for The TEFL Tradesman: I knew that Melanie and I stand on the same side of the fence when it comes to

(a) revealing the shysters in the EFL business, and
(b) wanting to improve the lot of the average 'downtrodden Tefler.'

In short, those are the two principal reasons I feel that she deserves this special mention from me. Actually, she has also paid me for the odd bit of freelance reporting, so that's a third motive, I guess!

Melanie has been very vocal in exposing the illegal and immoral practices that permeate the shoddy and dangerous UK summer school scene even to the extent of having advertisers threaten to with-hold future advertising - it takes a really brave person to risk alienating your source of income!

Moreover, her sharp comments about the British Council and their 'stupid' decision to ignore teachers' terms and conditions from their accreditation scheme were extremely accurate.

"About time too", I would say, as it is farcical to maintain the illusion that UK EFL schools can guarantee quality when they oblige teachers to be in the classroom for up to 45 hours a week in some cases.

The whole British Council Accreditation Scheme has become a milch-cow, in my opinion, as they work in collaboration with the country's only EFL employers' federation, English UK.

The whole scam needs exposing, I believe, and Melanie Butler is the person to do that (well, one of them - guess who the other one is!?).

For her unwavering devotion and dedication to EFL, she deserves more than just a mention, instead- a medal!

Sandy McManus is the nom-de-plume of someone in the TEFL industry currently at large somewhere near an oil well by the Caspian. Or Libya. Or not...

He writes the TEFL Tradesman blog and is also the blogger behind the TEFL blacklist.

4 Responses to “Sandy McManus on Melanie Butler”

  • Darren Elliott says:
    October 09, 2009

    Including teachers terms and conditions in British Council inspections really would make a difference. And in an industry where such instability makes it hard to rock the boat, you have to appreciate a woman who stands up for something.

  • The TEFL Tradesman says:
    October 10, 2009

    I didn't realise Melanie had such a nice garden (judging by the picture). Maybe she's not such a crusading leftie after all - more of 'plant'? (geddit - garden, plant...?)

  • Adam says:
    October 12, 2009

    It's nice to read Sandy minus the cussing. Good post.

  • Anonymous says:
    March 23, 2013

    I'm glad there are resources like this, and was bummed to find that the blog mentioned here, is invite-only! I am currently doing a TEFL certification; my background is in the natural sciences and frankly I find that the very popular author/speaker/writer who wrote the book we are using, who is well-linked and cited at almost every TEFL/ESL/etc. resource site, and the various authors he cites and urges that we have to be familiar with, are full of it. It all just seemed to me...unbearably light and casual despite the pretenses of professionalism, despite the facade presented by the use of academical methods of writing and citation, and I've noticed that it is largely British influence, which makes sense given that English is a huge source of potential revenue for that tiny and wayward little island which is not exactly awash in opportunity or knowledge to go forward except, perhaps, through exploitation.

    I would be incredibly upset, in that I signed-up for the course I am taking because I wanted to be able to show students and employers seriousness about teaching, rather than just being someone hoping to half-pretend-teach and travel; I studied up through hispanic linguistics in college, and am known to peruse volumes on Latin and Ionic Greek grammar, and seriously desire to approach languages and teach English rigorously. What I am finding, is that the book we're using is the most bloviated assemblage of writing I have ever encountered, so infuriatingly that reading a few tens of pages might cost me several hours, and my class "peers" can be divided into categories like:

    (1) uncritical enthusiasts--they're all about "civility" where none is deserved, as is academia in general;
    (2) foreign learners who are barely able to use the language with accuracy, yet getting certified to teach (! --the tests used to assess competency for university studies, isn't fit to determine suitability for teaching English);
    (3) people who always write as though they are speaking, apparently unaware of the differences and how that can lead to being unintelligible.

    And worse, the instructors say NOTHING! People with decades of experience and degrees under their belts (Masters and higher), yet who are more concerned with making sure that nobody is offended, and that all the little tots' hands are held, and that they're encouraged and affirmed and "affect" is used and all that psychobabble*h*t that all the TEFL materials seem to recommend. It's crazy.


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