Andrew Wright's Tao Story and what we did with it...

A few weeks back Lindsay Clandfield hosted a guest-post from the amazing Andrew Wright, who is for those who unfortunately now teach in an age devoid of supplementary-games-materials books or   are a bit too reliant on the computer, the king of cartoons. 
(if you happen to be wondering why these books disappeared- well, see, they got replaced & all supplementary-type of activities were stuck at the back of teachers' books which no one ever buys or reads... the result of which is, even if you do actually buy the teacher's copy, has been squeezed up and is now non-readable because of  the space vs page and all the financial restrictions of that..ya know
because see,
there happens to be no money in photocopiable stuff)

Anyway, that was a long digression,  let me get on with my stories.

Andrew Wright, probably on a whim one day - how ever did he convince a publisher to print that book (now there's a story) - decided to teach teachers all over the world, how to draw stick-figures on our boards to explain anything from emotions, grammar and easy and difficult lexis...

And he is the man behind me getting my own students drawing cartoons...
last week's post & even more coming next week, but in the meantime pop over to EHerrod's page

I enjoyed Andrew's 60 years on Clandfield's blog so I travelled on from SixThings to Andrew's blog where I was met by a number of delightful stories: mostly aimed at a younger crowd than my adult IT/Banking/Automotive lot.

Still, there was one which grabbed my eye so I printed it out.

Here's what I asked my students to do with it:

Read this story.
What do you think it means? How would you apply this story to business and the way that companies or people in your industry work?

Here's the story:

(republished here with permission)

There was a young woman. She was lying under a tree and she was sleeping.

Suddenly, she heard the roar of a tiger! She woke up! She saw it! The tiger, a huge tiger, its eyes burning bright, its teeth gleaming, was running towards her!


She couldn’t climb the tree. There was nowhere to hide! She ran! She ran away from the tiger. And she ran like the wind! She was fast but the tiger was faster and on great silent feet it came nearer and nearer!

What could she do?

She saw a cliff in front of her. It was the side of a deep gorge. The tiger was just behind her. She half jumped, half fell over the cliff. She caught a vine. She held on to the vine.

Let the sleeping tigers lie........................... or..... Rock a bye, baby...

The tiger was above her, its burning eyes staring at her, its claws opening and closing on the edge of the cliff.

She climbed down the vine, a little bit further. She looked up. The tiger was silent. Its eyes were closed. Its head was on its paws. It was sleeping.

Thank goodness!

Then she heard another tiger roar below her! At the bottom of the cliff was another tiger, with burning eyes. Its roarings echoing in the gorge.

Then she heard a scratching and a gnawing.

It was a little mouse above her. It was in its hole and it was gnawing at the vine; eating the vine slowly, slowly, eating the vine. But it was a thick vine and it was a little mouse.

Tree-climbing mouse 2

And the young woman felt the warm sun on her back. She felt the warm sun on the cliff. She smelled warm, rich smells coming from the little rock flowers and then she saw there were some bunches of dark blue grapes on the vines!

Rich and ripe! Fat and succulent! She reached for a bunch of grapes. She pressed the fat grapes into her mouth.

She lived the moment and forgot about the two tigers and the mouse.

The mouse was still gnawing at the vine.

Here's what two of my students responded:

1 (online)
I have read the story twice. I think the company is the woman in dangerous and risky situation. At the first time, she was scared and ran when she knew she was in seriousness. And she found a cliff. After safety in it, she observed what make her feel unsafe outside. Although she knew the dangerous things is around her but she also knew she was safe in the cliff. Thus, she kept calm and ate grapes. You can see if you want to manage your business well, you should kept calm like the woman but still look around and find out all of dangers could be happened accidentally and the methods to avoid them.
Sometimes, you must forget your present circumstance to relax and to find out the exit way then. About the mouse, I think it symbolizes inside inside factor of the business.
As we know, the mouse ate the vines and the vines is just like the development of the business (has grapes are rich and ripe, fat and succulent) .   Therefore, the mouse is the employees in the business. They do not contribute their talent, skill and ability to grow and expand the company they are working, but take advantage of the company to make their own profit.

2 (face2face, but sent as an email)
How can the tenor of the story be transfered to the modern economy?  The young woman looks like a young and inexperienced market player.   And the tiger symbolizes an old and clever competitor.  Maybe the young woman is enjoying success of a good business so she doesn't think about the jealousy of her competitors and she forgot to secure her advantage. 
Suddenly a competitor is breathing down her neck in the form of the same or better products.  To find a way out of her problems she runs into new markets in a panic.  Luckily for her, the old competitor can't follow her into this new market and the other competitors are now far away.
But while she is enjoying this new sweet success, another small competitor is gnawing at her advantage.
Conclusion: you can't sleep if you do not know who or where the tigers are.

Fun, eh?  How would you have interpreted this story yourself?
Actually after spending about 45mins reviewing their emails/ discussing the various options for the application of this story to their own business scenarios (my students are well-trained in dogme - btw did you see how he picked up the word gnawing and inserted it into his own text, correctly in context -proud TeacherMama I am)...   anyhoo, we naturally flowed on to their own memories of childhood fables and we all had a good time trying to remember stories of foxes and storks and the like... 

And I simply have to share P's with you because, aside from the fact he had us cracking up in class, I just haven't been able to get the core lesson out of my head since.  

I apologize in advance if this story has a copyright somewhere -I'm just going to retell it as P told it.

There was once a little mouse who was being chased by a tiger.   She ran up to the elephant and said "hide me, hide me, I'm in big trouble, there's a tiger chasing me..."
The elephant said "No problem, go behind me."
Then the elephant shat on her...  
Unfortunately, the mouse hadn't curled her tail up next to her so when the tiger came up behind the elephant he could easily see where the mouse was.  
He pulled her out by the tail and then he ate her.

The moral of the story? 
Not everyone who shits on you is bad and not everyone who pulls you out of the shit is good.

Share with me...

I hope these bad words haven't offended you, this is how my student told it and he's an adult, as am I and I decided the story wouldn't make sense without them. 

But my question is, do you think that BE classes should always have BE texts as reading material?  Aside from the news and topical life events I generally have tended to focus in on Business when working with my students but after the success of this exercise I wonder if it's too limiting to think like that.   Have you ever used any fables or any other type of philosophical tales or even plain old-fashioned storytelling in your own adult BE classes?  What texts work best, in your opinion, where do you generally source this material when you're not using a textbook? 


Useful links related to this posting:

2 Responses to “Andrew Wright's Tao Story and what we did with it...”

  • Tara Benwell says:
    December 08, 2010

    It's a really interesting question. When I taught Business English it was all Business English (apart from a fun warm up at the beginning of class and lots of chatting). There was no course book and I was free to include any activities or tasks that I pleased. I always had a small group (under 6) and I wish now that I had thought outside of the box a little more rather than covering traditional topics that I thought they'd need in the workplace. These were usually students who were already working in Canada and only taking Business English. But now that I think about it, most of them were probably taking the course because it was offered in the evening and they were working in the day. We didn't offer general group English classes at night (just private lessons). Hmm...

  • windows for games says:
    December 28, 2010

    Oh great, I wonder what happened to the woman? I really can't understand the lesson here but still I just hate the mouse but I love the tigers. If I were the woman I would fight the tigers, even though I would loose but still I gave a fight! Cool story though and I love it still.


Visitors and Regular Readers


FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed

Communities of Practice

Directories, catalogs and Back Links

Adult Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory Add to Technorati Favorites

The EFL ESL Blog List - ESL/EFL/TEFL Teaching Jobs and Teacher Resumes

International Blogging Directory

Recent Posts

Simply Conversations

Pedagogically sound materials designed to get your students actively talking:

Free Samples
Conversation Control

General English
Business English

Learn more on why these work