DOS-ing All Over the World

 by Nick Kiley

Oh here we are and here we are and here we go
All aboard and we’re hittin’ the road
Here we go
DoSin‘ all over the world
And I like it, I like it, I like it
I li-li-li-like it, li-li-li-like it
Here we go
DoSin’ all over the world

Rock dinosaurs / legends (delete according to taste) Status Quo demonstrating their trademark lexical dexterity from the days when they worked as TEFL teachers, before realising that the word ‘rockin’, even with cruelly-discarded ‘g’, was going to sell more records than a musical whinge about managing teachers. If you don’t know them, look the song up on YouTube so that you have the right tune in your head.

So, one day I was innocently sitting in my office doing what everyone knows all DoSes do: killing time until I could safely pretend I had an outside appointment by playing Patience on my prehistoric computer (if you’re too young to know what Patience is (the game or the concept), find a computing museum). I had just comforted some teachers about their busy schedule by overwhelming them with empathy and pointing out that I had an inhumane amount of admin to catch up on waiting for me on the office computer, had negotiated the minefield of the staff kitchen to get myself a cup of tea without being asked for another brilliant idea for an activity to practise past simple, and had settled down to break my personal best for stacking virtual cards in numerical order whilst maintaining a look on my face of extreme engagement in important school matters (for the uninitiated, this is a skill bestowed upon DoSes at their passing-out ceremony (although unlike military academies, DoSes actually graduate by passing out from alcohol consumption)), when I got one of those annoying little pop-up ‘e-mail received’ messages. My curiosity got the better of me and I had a ‘quick peak’ at who it was from. It was from the renowned editor of this esteemed journal. Using the normal IHWO register for communicating with minions, she had written Oi Kiley! Write an article for the Journal! Or I’ll tell everyone that you’re playing Patience… (Someone once ill-advisedly leaked this knowledge to IHWO and it has been held against DoSes ever since) Make it good – write about something you know! Don’t write about cows!

Well, dear reader, you can imagine my panic. Having made a pact at one of the secret DoS moots to never allow another leak of any of the secrets of DoS-ing, and having even sealed it with the secret DoS handshake (which coincidentally looks like finger-correction, including perplexed wiggling of one finger and painful squeezing together of two others), I found myself desperately trying to come up with something worth submitting to a publication so noteworthy that it refers to itself as a ‘journal’. Realising quickly that ‘tips for succeeding at Patience’ wasn’t going to cut it (even putting aside the fact that Shaun Wilden had delivered what most people agree was the definitive presentation on the subject at the IATEFL conference last year), I was desperately seeking inspiration. It was then that I received a message from TEFL-leaks, the lesser-known subsidiary of Wikileaks.

–    Mr. Kiley. (Man, they’re good!) We’ve been monitoring IHWO correspondence for some time now, and this is the first time we’ve seen anything of interest. This is your chance to blow the lid off the whole thing. To tell the world what they need to know. Although you might have to live in the embassy of a central-American republic afterwards, but don’t worry about that right now.

As I lay in bed that night sweating and wondering if I could betray the Fellowship of DoSes, an apparition appeared above my bed. It took on the form of Jeremy Harmer, and advice began to issue from its lips. In an unnecessarily spooky voice it said, “Stop eating cheese before you go to sleep…” Isn’t that an old-wives tale?” I had chance to mutter before the apparition disappeared.

When I awoke the next morning I realised that I could write about the challenges and rewards of working as a DoS in different IH locations around the world. This would keep the renowned editor happy by producing an article, TEFL-leaks would get some inside information, and the spirit of Jeremy Harmer would be appeased by my attention being drawn away from cheese. I then realised I was late for work so, bits of cheese still hanging from my mouth, I rushed to work and fired up Patience. Just then an eager young head popped itself around the door.

–    “Excuse me, sir,” it said. (It’s always good to maintain a respect for authority amongst teachers).

–    “What?!” (I had been trained at IHWO)

–    “I wanted to ask your advice… I’ve been offered a job as a DoS at a larger-in-some-countries-but-not-quite-as-well-regarded-as-IH school, managing a small group of newly-qualified teachers. I’m going to accept, because we all know you’re rubbish to work for, but is there any advice you could give me?”

Ignoring the insult and the clearly gate-happy lack of respect, I mutated my face into its wisest look (although I’m not, as yet, sure if this is very distinct from its trapped-wind look).

–    “No,” I blurted out, “but I do need an article on what it’s like to DoS in different places around the world. Go and do some research. I need a thousand words or so by Friday.” (I may have inadvertently given away another secret of the Fellowship of DoSes here, that everything they publish in journals, present at conferences, deliver in training sessions, was actually created by a minion.) The now-perplexed young head disappeared and a great day of DoSing was rounded off by skilfully convincing an angry parent that I was the cleaner and equalling my personal best on Patience.

A couple of days later the eager young head re-appeared around the door. After putting on my best listening face (actually, now I think about it, also quite similar to the trapped-wind face), I prised the following information from the eager, well-researched head. It seems that all schools are different. Different systems, different teaching schedules, different demographics of teachers. I nodded sagely at the eager head as I suddenly realised that I knew some stuff.

–    “Ah, yes,” I offered (all sages seem to start with this expression – it’s an indication that something the speaker perceives to be wise is about to issue forth), “but often their concerns are similar…”

The eager head became a confused head. This is when the expert sage goes in for the kill.

–    “They all have concerns about class numbers, syllabuses, resources. Usually, nodding and reassuring with a confident, leaderly ‘yes’ is enough to appease them and send them on their educational way.” I leant back for effect. The eager head nodded and gave a confident, leaderly ‘yes’. Oh, this one learns quick, I thought, before feeling really appeased and like I could go on my way.

Before long, a small group of passing teachers had gathered round to listen to our conversation and for some reason I was wearing a flowing jacket with huge sleeves that I could fold my hands into, I’d developed a long, wispy moustache, and taken to starting my wisdom with the expression ‘Confucious say…’

 “As you arrive in your new destination, my young acolyte, take some time to find out how people do things, how they like to do things, and most importantly, how the Director makes decisions. Spend time gathering information, building relationships, building mutual trust and respect.” Then, remembering myself, “Oh yes, and when the grasshopper jumps in the grass, be ready to face the moon.” (Always leave them thinking that you are so wise that they cannot hope to understand all your wisdom…)

–    “This will be a different country, master (a nice improvement on ‘sir’), so how will I know all these things?”

–    “You need to learn something of the culture. How things work, is it based on relationships or bureaucracy, and so on.”

–    “How will I show people that I am observing, learning, studying, formulating plans and so on, oh wise one?” (Getting better with the names…)

–    “They will never understand. One day you will reach enlightenment, switch on your computer, fire-up Patience and adopt a look of earnest engagement in school administration. When this day comes you will know that everything is running smoothly, all systems work perfectly and everyone knows what they are doing. You will also realise that you are asleep or hallucinating. You’ll then realise at the DoS moot that you are not alone and the secrets of Patience will finally be bestowed upon you.”

After shooing away the suitably impressed teachers, I realised I had given far above my daily quota of one piece of wisdom and went for a well-deserved drink, after explaining to an angry parent in the corridor that I didn’t work here and had accidentally walked into the wrong building for my origami class.

That night, the spirit appeared again, but for the sake of balance it was in the form of Jim Scrivener. The silly, spooky voice was still there, though. “You did well today. Now, try some Jasmine oil in your bath to help you sleep.” “I work in TEFL… I don’t have a bath..,” I had chance to mutter as he disappeared. The next day it was discovered that TEFL-leakswas in fact just a disgruntled teacher who liked to post angry things about DoSes on a well-known Internet forum for posting personal gripes, and the renowned editor of this esteemed journal discovered that she did, indeed, have plenty of better articles to publish. I discovered a new game called Minesweeper and life went on…

Author’s Bio: Nick has worked for IH since 2001 in a variety of locations around the network, and is currently Director of Studies at IH Riga. He has been a DoS in IH schools since 2006 and is currently Secretary of the Fellowship of DoSes, although that might end after this article. He is also a teacher trainer and in his spare time enjoys bestowing wisdom upon unwelcoming ears.