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The Photocopier…..pfft!

What is the one thing – besides students of course – that you would be unable to do without in your job as an EFL teacher? I’m guessing The Photocopier. Most of you know me by now so I’m just going to say what I feel about the photocopier and its place in EFL teaching. Shove it! It’s expensive, tacky, unreliable, unworthy of our respect and entirely surplus to requirements. How much stress does the stupid thing cause you? How wound up do you get when it doesn’t work? How often does it run out of toner EXACTLY when you need it? How much paper – or rather how many trees have you personally been responsible for the death of due to endless, unnecessary, crappy copies of something that either you don’t use, or your students just put in some file that they will never open again? How much money, collectively, do we all waste and I mean truly WASTE on that ridiculous “Trabant” of a machine hulking in the corner breathing stertoriously and more often than not snorting to a standstill and obstinately refusing to throw up the sheet it has swallowed and got mangled in its innards in some sulky huff?

How many of you have physically attacked a photocopier? I have kicked one and broken it. I’m not proud of that: I did it in front of students (who all fell about laughing), I broke the machine and it cost a lot to fix (it was on a service contract, so I didn’t even own up) and most humiliating of all: IT’S A MACHINE. IT DOESN’T CARE. IT MADE NO DIFFERENCE – IT STILL DIDN’T WORK. From that day (15 years ago) to this I haven’t used a photocopier for any teaching materials at all of any kind. Photocopied teaching materials look cheap and nasty, uninspiring and unattractive. They are very often crooked, smudged and quite frankly, make it look as though the lesson has been thrown together at the last minute, no matter how long one has spent on preparation.

Seriously – what do you do with the copies after you have handed them out, if you hand them out? Do you mark them and hand them back? Do you go back to them later to recycle the work? Do they eventually make a whole little book of “stuff” for your students (which would be illegal)? What really is their purpose? Can you really not do the lesson without them?

Close the door to the photocopier room, leave that stress behind and confine the beastly thing to yesterday……


4 responses »

  1. Fifteen years without? I’m so impressed!

    I thought I was doing well on half a dozen copies a week 😦

    Have you managed to wean your whole institute off it? In my experience as summer school DoS, I was truly horrified to see the amount of copying being done. And having to pick literally 95% of it off classroom floors later.

    You’re right – it’s time to scrap the Trabant, as you so rightly call it. And as for the material: Dictate it, read it aloud, put a digital copy on a screen or just talk about it.

    • Cue Handel! Hallelujah!! Absolutely and yes indeed. I have done all four of your suggestions for 15 years. I cannot totally LIE and say I have NEVER used the copier. But I use it to – f’rinstance – photocopy a clutch of hand written phrasal verbs that someone wants “a copy” of. But I haven’t copied “something out of a book” to rush into class with for 15 and more years. It’s pointless. I remember once – it was pretty soon after I started teaching EFL – the DOS handed me a book, open at a page of pictures of vegetables and said, “Do fruit and veg,” and left me to it. I just stared at the book and thought, “Err, nope, I don’t think so.” Are there really still teachers out there who do that?
      Here where I teach, we have been “materials-light” since forever. We have the books, but they hardly get taken out of the shelves…’s just a different attitude, I think. Once you know you can do it, you do.

      Thanks for popping in!


  2. Anthony Gaughan

    The morning the photocopier breaks down is the morning that sorts the men from the boys, the women from the girls, the wheat from the chaff, the heroes from the bystanders, the A-team from the B-list, the mechanics from the tools, the….

    You get what I mean, I hope.

    • Oh yeah…’s in the eyes…some are spinning in panic and others….well they weren’t anywhere near the photocopier anyway….


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