Why We Teach: A Review of “The Roasted Professor” (Book by Larry Laforge) (Review by Tom Baker, alias Profesorbaker)

“The first necessity for the short story…is necessariness. The story, that is to say, must spring from an impression or perception pressing enough, acute enough to have made the writer write.”
-Elizabeth Bowen

Hello Dear Reader,

As you know, I write books about a little bit of everything, from autobiography to historical fiction to, yes, mostly about education. In particular, education in Chile. More precisely, about English Language Teaching in Chile. If you have followed me at all, you know the teaching and learning of English in Chile is in serious trouble.

There are , for example, approximately nine thousand (9000) teachers of English in Chile, working in elementary and high schools. Well, what’s so unusual about that?

Nothing, except that over half, about 50% of those teachers are not qualified teachers of English.

Obviously, all of the efforts at improving the teaching and learning of English will never be solved until that problem is dealt with, in a direct, determined and robust manner.

There are not enough qualified teachers in the country to meet the needs of all the students.

When the news of the recent poor performance on the National English Test came out, everyone pointed their fingers at the teachers. “It’s the teacher’s fault”, everyone said. “One third – 34% – of the teachers don’t even have basic English Language skills themselves, so how can they teach English?”

Wrong. 83% of the students at private schools were successful on the National English Test (SIMCE Inglés), but only eight (8) out of every one thousand (1000) students at public schools passed the test.

What that means is that there are qualified teachers of English in Chile, but the distribution of those teachers is according to market forces. In other words, private schools pay better salaries, and the best teachers (people like me) work where they will receive better pay and benefits.

So, one solution is to increase teacher pay and benefits – in the public sector – and the best teachers will “follow the money”. Then when that happens, the current results would reverse themselves, with public schools having better results, since they would now have the best teachers (with better salaries).

In my simplistic reasoning, the real solution becomes obvious: Where do you get, or how do you get enough teachers of English? How do you increase the supply of capable, competent teachers?

That brings me to today’s book review, which at its heart, is about teacher quality.

How do you improve the quality of ALL teachers?

I suggest we could begin by reading Larry LaForge’s short story, “The Roasted Professor”. Currently it’s free, and I urge you to get this book immediately. That’s right, immediately. Don’t ask any questions, don’t delay, just trust me and go download this free book. I will wait for you to return…

—waiting until you come back —

Welcome back my friend. Did you downoad the book? Yes? Good. Now let me tell you why I urged you to get his book.

The book is inspirational. It talks about a professor who is retiring after a long and distinguished career as a university professor. Per tradition, he has been invited, along with his wife, to a “roast” where his shortcomings as a person and as a teacher will be made fun of in public, in front of his peers and colleagues…

This would be cruel if the professor were not given the last words of the evening, a chance to speak last, and to defend himself.

Well, that’s what they do in the USA when a professor retires, and it’s actually quite harmless, because everyone really likes one another. Trust me, they all really do like each other (that’s the fun of it, you can say mean things, which you might really mean, but you don’t, because the ground rules are already agreed upon by all participants, and everyone really likes each other, usually).

Anyway, the professor has a great speech prepared. Yet as he listens to each speaker, he becomes aware that something is wrong his speech. He’s forgotten something, something has been left unsaid.

It is only when the word, “student” gets mentioned that he knows what he has not considered in his speech. Students.

I won’t spoil it for you my friend, Dear Reader. You will have to read it for yourself. Suffice it to say that I read it once, twice, silently, treasuring each reading for its impact upon my own awareness of what has been left unsaid as we consider the quantity, and the quality, of the teachers of English in Chile.

In other words, nobody is paying any attention to the students. In the end, the students, their well-being, their welfare, their world, the students, are the reason why we teach.

Mr. Larry LaForge says this much more eloquently than I ever could, or ever have. I am in full agreement with him. The students are the most important aspect of education, not the teacher.

Focus on the students, and it’s quite likely that everything else, all of the shortcomings and obstacles we face as teachers of English in Chile, somehow, I sincerely believe everything will be much more equitable, much more successful, for all the students of Chile, regardless of where they go to school, regardless of what system of education the theorists dream up.

In the end, it’s all about the students…

Finally, I enjoyed this book. It is inspirational, motivational, and energizing. You leave the reading of this book with a new conviction, a renewed sense of hope that a brighter day is ahead.

I fully recommend this book, and if it were in my power to give it a number of stars to rate this book, then I would give it the maximum number of stars available.

This book, however, is not in need of any stars. It’s in need of teachers like you and me to read it, and put into practice what the dictates of our hearts and our conciousness demands. Put students first, that’s why we teach, isn’t it?

Profesor Thomas Baker
Santiago de Chile
Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book Description
Publication Date: March 24, 2013

In this entertaining short story, fictional Professor Ray Dennison comes to his retirement dinner roast with a carefully crafted speech in hand. During the roast he has a spiritual awakening of sorts — a sudden and profound revelation of why he achieved success as a college teacher.

How could he not have realized this before now?

The shaken professor scraps the speech and shares the revelation, giving the best — and shortest — lecture of his career.

Professor Elizabeth Bowles Sharp

Elizabeth Bowles Sharp: Great book. I am a college professor and it made me rethink some of my practices. The “roasting” book was also very inspirational. Thanks for sharing about our great profession!

About the Author

This award-winning professor emeritus draws on his 35 years in higher education to write stories about college and sports.

He uses fictional settings to tell entertaining stories that make you think about important issues in higher education and college athletics. His stories blend humor with serious circumstances encountered by students, professors, coaches, and administrators in today’s world.

Larry splits his time and writing activities between the great college town of Clemson, SC and the awesome coastal village of Folly Beach, SC.

See his complete bio and connect with him on Facebook:

Larry: “If you’re on Twitter, please consider connecting with me there. I usually send out a few tweets each day about higher education and college sports, often with links to interesting articles or statistics. I also provide updates about my stories.”

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rllafg

Blog: Larry LaForge’s Blog: A Sunday Writer

Larry: “Sunday Writers enjoy the process. Otherwise, we wouldn’t do it. There are no daily word-count targets or mandatory writing hours. There is no market analysis for the final product. We write what we think is important or interesting, and are elated if others find it useful as well.

Every writer, including the Sunday Writer, likes to see his work jumping off the bookshelves to eager readers. But the Sunday Writer knows this is icing on the cake. The fun for a Sunday Writer is mixing just the right ingredients and baking the cake.”


Larry: “I taught at three great schools during my academic career as a professor and graduate-school training: Clemson University, James Madison University, and the University of Georgia

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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