ELT Pet Peeves

I have over 30 years invested in English language teaching. I’ve seen and almost done it all. Private teacher, backpacking teacher, online teacher, business English teacher, taught refugees and immigrants, taught public school ESL, blogged, wrote coursebooks, designed 1,000s of materials, directed a school, managed an international ELT publisher, taught university pre-service teachers, TESOL graduate school professor, teacher training, managing teachers and teacher trainers, conference presenting around the world, author, online webinars, run my own online professional development portals, built and programmed ed tech, tech tinkerer, social media advocate …. That’s just off the top of my head this morning.

I say this because I believe it incumbent that I share what I’ve learned through my experience and years in the “industry”, plying the trade. You can see my #1 in ELT, Top 50 lists or my list of ELT Myths for some of my critical posturing. But if you want something really “critical” from my lookout tower – read the ELT Pet Peeve tweets that I’ve listed below. I collect them here because as we all know …. social media content and platforms are ephemeral. In time, these will all be erased. I’m a curator!

Many of these ELT Pet Peeves you will disagree with, adamantly or just a little. That’s fine. We all have our own belief systems and come from different teaching environments and cultures. Comment, debate – the goal is to get us critically thinking about our role, our beliefs and challenging what goes on in ELT.

So without further ado (and forgive me for the long intro.), here are my ELT Pet Peeves.

ELT Pet Peeve #1. Teachers who don’t share lesson plans/materials with colleagues / staff and treat their lessons like a top secret coca-cola formula.

ELT Pet Peeve #2. “Real English”. REAL English – really? Yet, you’ll see people using it as a supposedly valid term, adjective. Drivel. All language is “real”. What is “unreal” English?

ELT Pet Peeve #3. Word lists. Teachers and curriculum designers who believe learning a list of words is effective and central to learning English.

ELT Pet Peeve #4. “Listen and repeat.” “Listen and repeat.” “Listen and repeat.” “Listen and repeat.” “Repeat after me.” “Repeat after me.”

ELT Pet Peeve #5. Accent reduction. “Speak Naturally”. We all have an accent, get used to it, love it, embrace it. NEVER reduce it.

ELT Pet Peeve #6. Educational blogs with loads of google ads splattered everywhere. Imagine your classroom full of Pepsi and “Buy This” posters splattered everywhere ….

ELT Pet Peeve #7. Linguistic discrimination. Glottophobia. The notion that the utterances of some speakers is more beautiful than that of others.

ELT Pet Peeve #8. – Linguistic determinism. Or the peddling online of articles saying “If you speak X language it changes your (vision, personality, taste buds etc ….). It’s culture not language ….

ELT Pet Peeve #9. The oversell of “bilingual”. It seems to mean you have brain super powers and it increases everything from spelling proficiency to your marathon run time.

ELT Pet Peeve #10. The prevailing notion that teacher in class training and education ALWAYS improves their teaching. Not so. Not always transfer, even seldom is transfer without other types of follow up.

ELT Pet Peeve #11. – Oversell. Systems. Snake Oil. Learn English in x months. x weeks. We guarantee it!

ELT Pet Peeve #12. Any form of grammar-translation. Let learners do this in their head but should not be a method of teaching a language.

ELT Pet Peeve #13. “Just Be Yourself”. Bad trainer advice. Don’t be fake but also act in ways to get your job done. Teachers are soft performers.

ELT Pet Peeve #14. Useless blog posts and articles. Click bait, SEO garbage. Like this one about introducing vocabulary. For example – https://bit.ly/2Ji8eA7

ELT Pet Peeve #15. – Teacher Guides. Never seen one or used one that is any good. Cluttered and meant to sell and enculturate teachers to “the book” method.

ELT Pet Peeve #16. Hangman. Just don’t even go there ….. If you need “filler” – talk to your students. Use authentic language.

ELT Pet Peeve #17. Teachers who believe the language they speak is the correct language all others should speak, write.

ELT Pet Peeve #18. Teachers who deliver all lessons from one spot in the class and don’t move around.

ELT Pet Peeve #19. Teachers who insist on accuracy over fluency. (There are many)

ELT Pet Peeve #20. Nat. and Regional TESOL / IATEFL etc .. organizations / publishers that become “foreigners country clubs” and dens of exclusivity (with of course token entry for local minorities

ELT Pet Peeve #21. The general lack of job security, no benefits, low pay across the industry. The FACT we call it an industry not a field or profession.

ELT Pet Peeve #22. The confusion by many of declarative knowledge with procedural knowledge.

ELT Pet Peeve #23. People, companies, organizations, schools, ALL who value, rank, assess teachers based on innate characteristics (skin color, native/non-nativeness, place of birth, hair color, smile, frown etc …).

ELT Pet Peeve #24. The dearth and lack of awareness or training among professionals of special Ed. strategies/techniques and its importance vis a vis language learning.

ELT Pet Peeve #25. Conference pricing. Everyone suggests teachers need to attend more conferences but nobody suggests decreasing prices.

ELT Pet Peeve #26. Parents that want/demand/look for white, western only teachers. Let’s do a better job at educating the public.

ELT Pet Peeve #27. The blah status quo. Not enough teachers, organizations, admins, schools, you name it ….. demanding change

ELT Pet Peeve #28. Language “tests” that involve paper only. Placement or otherwise …

ELT Pet Peeve #29. Discussing or negotiating class rules on Day 1. Day 1 should be a day of getting to know each other – rules can come thereafter.

ELT Pet Peeve #30. Employers who post ads (and the businesses that accept these ads) that indicate “the ideal candidate will be a native speaker”. Like this one.

ELT Pet Peeve #31. “English Only” school and class policies/rules.

ELT Pet Peeve #32. – Language classes with desks in rows. Or language teachers saying it is too much work to move and then remove desks.

ELT Pet Peeve #33. Correcting students during a discussion or free speaking activity.

ELT Pet Peeve #34. Too much pre-teaching. Not letting students have a go first. Little attention to pure enjoyment of the language and inductivism.

ELT Pet Peeve #35. – “Get into groups of X and discuss topic Y.” An imposed conversation that isn’t nurtured or of the students’ volition.

ELT Pet Peeve #36. That higher education in ELT is so and utterly male dominated.

ELT Pet Peeve #37. Teachers, schools, a curriculum that doesn’t promote student autonomy and independence.

ELT Pet Peeve #38. Sentence transformation and language manipulation exercises. Especially when it comes to tests, qualifications etc ….

ELT Pet Peeve #40. The over assignment of English language learners to special ed programs in ESL programs.

ELT Pet Peeve #41. The presumption that pronunciation is a productive skill alone.

ELT Pet Peeve #42. The lack of focus on true communication and textbook driven teaching.

ELT Pet Peeve #43. Students who ask for homework that they’ll probably never ever do.

ELT Pet Peeve #44. The enduring belief among so many that there is or should be an order of acquisition.

ELT Pet Peeve #45. Lessons without a hook, art, soul, spice, flash, magic, creation. Let’s replace fun with flare.

ELT Pet Peeve #46. Admins, DOSs, head teachers, principals, school systems that don’t give teachers adequate (or any) paid prep time.

ELT Pet Peeve #47. The dearth, the lack of freedom to teach. Teachers as assembly line workers fluttering through imposed curriculum and pages.

ELT Pet Peeve #48. Teacher overcorrection. Especially of student-written work.

ELT Pet Peeve #49. Conference presenters that ask us to read lists of “points” on a screen that we easily could read before or after. Presentation malpractice.

ELT Pet Peeve #50. The belief that an innate, congenital, hereditary characteristic is the standard which all teachers should try to emulate.


ELT Pet Peeve #51. The lack of current events and news (world or local) in daily lessons and curriculum.

ELT Pet Peeve #52. Language schools closing and not paying their teachers or debts.

ELT Pet Peeve #53. Lessons teaching directions with “unreal” materials, decontextualized and not local or of the students’ world.

ELT Pet Peeve #54. The fact we need to explain, argue for, promote the self-evident notion of ELF.

ELT Pet Peeve #55. That so few women in ELT have come forward as #metoo ers. I know of a few scandals with women by several ELT big shots – one very big one I admire is a serial womanizer.

ELT Pet Peeve #56. Teacher visa discrimination. Why can’t well qualified teachers from some countries travel the world and teach while others can?

ELT Pet Peeve #57. Online digital ELT/TEFL franchise selling mongers. I made X in X days and you can too, sitting on the loo! Just pay me!

ELT Pet Peeve #58. Paying $50 USD to “have tea” with an ELT Presenter (just did). Hell – I’ll buy you the tea, beer, coffee …. if you want to talk and pick my ELT brain.

ELT Pet Peeve #59. The standard conference format. It’s broken, doesn’t really work. Is not creative at all. Sad. Why don’t conferences try other models?

ELT Pet Peeve #60. Educated educational researchers that don’t understand that correlation doesn’t mean causation. And thus mislead most …

ELT Pet Peeve #61. Word finds. Word searches. Word spelling worksheets.

ELT Pet Peeve #63. Textbooks that just replicate their hard copy version ebook online with click and fill in the blanks, audio files, etc …. and they market it as online learning.

ELT Pet Peeve #64. A curriculum that begins students writing too early and at the same time they are just starting to speak English.

Teach listening first. The ear rules when it comes to language.

ELT Pet Peeve #65. The lack of attention in lessons and language teaching given to non-verbal communication. Especially evident in the name itself.

ELT Pet Peeve #66. Whiteboard scribbling grammar and vocabulary English teachers. Like this guy but there are plenty more …

ELT Pet Peeve #67. Teachers who give homework and then don’t review it or use it in class. Teachers that give “busy” work as homework.

ELT Pet Peeve #68. Lessons/activities where students write sentences without any cohesion/true communication.

ELT Pet Peeve #69. Teaching “useless” grammar. Granular grammar teaching – ex. Circle the non-restrictive subordinate clauses.

ELT Pet Peeve #70. Teachers that never participate in and with student activities and do the same things as students. Lead by example not command.

ELT Pet Peeve #71. Smucks, for profiteers, like this guy offering pie in the sky solutions to education (for a fee). There is no magic bullet, Dorthy.

ELT Pet Peeve #72. Ageism. That some educational organizations, schools, systems hire just young, pretty teachers as part of marketing forsaking older teachers with great skills and experiences to contribute. Also, that in some places teachers MUST stop teaching at X age. Why? It’s about if you can do the job.

ELT Pet Peeve #73. Those #!$*% who leave no paper in the photocopier or worse – leave it jammed.

ELT Pet Peeve # 74. Grammar worksheets. Fill in the blanks. Explicit learning at its worst. Doesn’t transfer into results, acquisition, increased fluency. Bad use of class time.

ELT Pet Peeve #75. Private students who just want to talk but don’t have anything interesting to say.

ELT Pet Peeve #76. The notion out there that learning a second language, being bilingual makes you a better, more intelligent, more moral, superior human being.

ELT Pet Peeve #77. Teach English to Chinese online oversell, overkill. We don’t care about credentials or if you know how / what to teach. We just care you do what we want …..

ELT Pet Peeve #78. The belief that “backpackers” have no place in English language teaching. In a word, “credentialism”.

ELT Pet Peeve #79. Facile, recycling and rolling over of a syllabus and lesson plans and materials (for a new cohort) without a good thought as to why …..

ELT Pet Peeve #80. Old white guys (disclosure: I”m one). Let’s move towards age, gender, cultural diversity …. top n bottom.

ELT Pet Peeve #81. Teachers who expect students to fully learn and master the target language they teach and support a “memorization” approach. Let’s understand most of Eng. language learning is incidental.

ELT Pet Peeve #82. The belief you can learn a language sitting at a desk alone, alone.

ELT Pet Peeve #83. The use of educational technology as a means (part or whole) for classroom management.

ELT Pet Peeve #84. Teachers, professors who let their research interests become a hardened belief system.

ELT Pet Peeve #85. Teachers who speak the students’ L1 in class because they, the teacher, want some practice. This isn’t the time or place.

ELT Pet Peeve #86. Teaching by PowerPoint. Death by a thousand instructions.

ELT Pet Peeve #87. Dave’s ESL Cafe. “Just pull the plug on that dinosaur”!

ELT Pet Peeve #88. Teachers that don’t have a plan. Teachers that stick to the plan.

ELT Pet Peeve #89. That teaching a language (or any skill/subject) is immediately associated with “book”. How did this happen?

ELT Pet Peeve #90. The little focus and attention given to listening skills early on in language teaching.

ELT Pet Peeve #91. The very pervasive thought and the presumption that because you got a certificate, a diploma, a piece of paper – this transfers into performance and better teaching. It can / may long term but it isn’t assured.

ELT Pet Peeve #92. I repeat. The under-representation of people of color as teachers.

ELT Pet Peeve #93. Parachuting in, predominantly white, Anglo-Saxon presenters into foreign teaching contexts. Let’s save the planet. They can stay home – allow the focus on local professionals or have them pipe in through webinars.

ELT Pet Peeve #94. The belief you can make any $ of significance for your work making materials and selling them online. Just not gonna happen and anyone who pretends they make good money is lying – like a gambler who says they always win.

ELT Pet Peeve #95. The belief that feedback on student writing helps them become a better writer. No. Reading helps them develop as a writer. Also more writing. Also the belief that any action by educators doesn’t cause harm. Much we do, does cause harm and can be detrimental to learners.

ELT Pet Peeve #96. Teachers who go to conferences and only attend sessions that confirm their own beliefs.

ELT Pet Peeve #97. Getting emails from TESOL and IATEFL conferences or any conference promoting a product of a big publisher. Is that CPD? Am I just a pocketbook and dollar sign?

ELT Pet Peeve #98. The belief (myth) that beginning teachers benefit more (than advanced teachers) and need to use a coursebook. The myth that new teachers can’t teach without a book.

ELT Pet Peeve #99. Teacher trainers with less than 10 years of actual teaching experience. + Train the Trainer courses with no pre-req. of actual teaching experience.

ELT Pet Peeve #100. Conference presenters that use bullet lists and too much text on their slides. Tell us a story, don’t recount a shopping list. We can read these at home. We are there to see and hear YOU.

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