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Teaching Versus Entertaining Students: Toronto English School Chelsea Urges a Rethink of English Education Based on New Research

Robbie McMullan, principal of Chelsea Language Academy in Toronto, Canada offers new advice to ESL / English teachers everywhere based on a recent survey of online comments from other schools and teachers

Toronto, Canada, March 06, 2010 --( ESL students must stop being their own worst enemies. This according to Robbie McMullan, principal of Chelsea Language Academy in Toronto, Canada which has recently completed a survey of online comments by English teachers and ESL students “Our own experience," he says, "and confirmed by others online, is that too often, they are willing to be merely passive listeners in an English class. Thus, they leave the bulk of the responsibility for their learning of the language up to their teachers. In turn, this passive approach to learning English demands that teachers become entertainers, which they often feel forced to do in lieu of engaging students in less interesting but more useful exercises. Indeed, many English teachers eventually resign themselves to the idea that they must play the role of clown more often than serious educator.”

But not all the blame can be assigned to ESL students themselves. “In their quest to enhance profitability,” explains McMullan, “many private ESL schools directly or indirectly push their teachers to focus exclusively on the more entertaining aspects of English instruction. However, the reality is that not all parts of language learning can be fun.”

McMullan also asserts that English students are not mere customers. “They're not like department store patronizers,” he says, “who are to be given merely what they want. Instead, they must be given a healthy dose of what they actually need. Teachers and their schools may sometimes be criticized for not listening to students preferences enough. But just as often, or more so, they may be criticized for actually listening too much. To wit, letting ESL students dictate the style and content of their lessons has distracted many English teachers from their primary role: to teach.”

“Truly, though,” submits McMullan, “it does take a caring, strongwilled and skilled teacher to convince students, and private school employers, that they should worry less about ESL classes being fun and more about learning something of lasting value.”

McMullan, once a budding rock star, naturally further suggests that “Kurt Cobain of Nirvana famously sang the line 'Here we are now, entertain us' in that band's biggest hit 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. But knowing a bit about that band, one might surmise that Kurt wrote that line as a cynical societal epithet, one that could just as aptly describe the typical ESL learning environment today.”

Chelsea Language Academy ( is a fast growing English school in Toronto, Canada that was originally founded in 1993 in Tokyo by its principal, Robbie McMullan. Mr. McMullan is a highly experienced language teacher, writer and alumnus of Harvard University.


For further information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Robbie McMullan, please call Jin Park at +1 416 322 0008 or e-mail Jin at
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Chelsea Language Academy
Robbie McMullan
Additional Contact: Ms. Jin Park. 1+ 416 322 0008

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