Teaching fail. My weekend with Mr. Rolton



It’s time to look back at perhaps the worst lesson I ever taught. Copious amounts of alcohol were flowing through my system as I rolled up to the closed-off oligarch community village where the baron of Rolton noodles lived. He was the company’s star client, the only big name they had, and I was about to torpedo him.
But first, let me set the scene.
This was about 6 years ago when I was working as a business English teacher for the first time. I was the proverbial rookie cop being drilled by all the big swinging dicks of the Russian business world.
Except it wasn't quite like that.
I was working for a small operation called Native Speaker and the best thing they had going for them was their business card. My expat friend Cozmo (that really was his name) was teaching for them, wearing a suit and everything, getting paid cash in hand. I saw him looking all baller in his ‘serious teacher’ outfit and decided I needed in on the action.


                              Because nothing justifies high prices and a lack of experience like a suit
While a newb to the teaching game, I figured that if Cozmo can do it, I could too. (England-Moscow trivia: many, many years later I named our dog Cozmo in honour of, well, the original Cozmo).


                                                                                      Cozmo 2013

As I later came to learn, Native Speaker was another smoke and mirrors type teaching operation. I started teaching a mini group for them, basically copying what I had seen Cozmo do, in some man’s flat. But while that sounds like the prelude to some brutal sexual assault, he wasn't just any man, his name was Sergey and he was fucking Yulia, the woman who ran the operation.
Back in those days I was younger and far more na├»ve. I used to get nervous before lessons and face them with a terrible sense of dread. But, shit, I wasn't about to turn down hard cash and a chance to play big boy in a suit.
At this point in time, I was in Russia for my second stint, studying at MGU and living off my dwindling savings. My diet was made up of street shuarma,  beer and 3-rouble Rolton noodles, every day. Sometimes I would have bread and cheese spread to spice it up. I was basically one chicken noodle pack away from leasing out my sexual organs to some of the less reputable clientele at the local train station.


                                                                    In a word, I needed the money
Then I got the big call one Friday evening. I had just finished bullshitting my way through another class (don’t worry, my teaching did improve later) when the Yulia asked me a special favour.

She needed me teach two classes on the weekend at 9am - 90 mins a piece for 200 dollars – an amount that equates to roughly 150 train station hand jobs. Naturally I was up for it.
But the client was not the usual sucker, it was the vastly rich king owner of Rolton noodles (FYI, Rolton are the far inferior Russian equivalent of Ramen or, if you’re from the UK, Super Noodles).

Apart from shitty-quality noodles, Rolton also makes other things shitty things like shitty instant coffee and shitty instant mash potatoes in pot.

                                                                 did someone say delicious and nutritious?

But shitty shit aside, Yulia stressed that this was their biggest and most important client. He was a stickler for punctuality and hardcore with his lessons, studying 7 days a week (even though he probably would have got just as good watching news in English for the same 12.5 hours a week, but whatever).
Now, it just so happens that his usual teacher was in fact Cozmo so I decided to meet him for a late dinner so he could tell me how the noodle king liked his lessons. I hadn't see old Cozmo for a while and once he filled me in on big Rolton, he suggested we grab a beer.
                                                                                 what could go wrong?
In case you’re wondering, ‘everything’ is the answer to the above question. A beer turned into us doing multiple shots until 4am at then-slut central, otherwise known as Real McCoy’s (sadly, the Real McCoy’s on Barikadnaya has since been replaced with yet another coffee house- Moscow sure ain't what it used to be).
Since Cozmo lived close by (and even closer to Rolton’s station) I decided to crash at his place instead of at my squat at DSV which is red line south.


                                        this was my DSV room, the mess was from my Chinese room mate
After crashing back at Cozmo's room, it was 5.30am, I was hammered and I had to be teaching in 3.5 hours. I set the alarm for 7.30 and promptly passed out on the floor.
When I woke up, I didn't seem to feel as bad as I should for 2 hours sleep. In fact, I felt feeling of what I would call suspicious freshness. Sure enough, I looked at the clock and it was already 9am

I had a kind of sinking feeling in my stomach, that wasn't booze related. If you've ever accidently hit/scraped someone’s car, or bashed your own car, you’ll know what I mean.
I grabbed my phone, called Yulia, called Rolton and made up a series of lies about me being stuck in traffic. I was still partially drunk, looked like shit, smelt like shit and my low-baller suit had booze stains on it and smelt like smoke. Excellent.
Naturally, Rolton lives in a closed compound outside of Moscow so I had to jump in a car and get there ASAP.
I eventually arrived at his millionaire door exactly one and a half hours late and I could see the raw combination of anger and disappoint in his eyes when he opened the door.
I had broken the only golden rule I was given, made the worst possible impression and simultaneously pounded the company’s biggest client in the ass.

                                                                 that's right Rolton, pick up that $200 soap
From there, things only got worse. I also knew it was bad when he asked me how old I was, something which is always a red light with me. You see, I have a young-looking face. Fellow blogger Crazy Russians and an Englishman calls me cherub. At 28 I look about 21-22. Back then, I looked about 17.
So when big R asked me how old I was, his brain was thinking ‘he is far too young and thus incompetent’. So, chalk up another minus point next to cherub's name.
Basically, Rolton was paying probably 300-400 dollars (if I was getting 200, Yulia must have been getting a fair slice more) for a drunk, 17 year old  boy who was intoxicated. I crashed my way through the lesson with zero preparation and, of course, It was a train wreck.

I crawled out of his compound and got a cab to the metro and went directly to bed. I spoke to Yulia and she stupidly advised me to go earlier on Sunday to make up for my previous lateness.
Another lesson I have since learnt is that you don’t shit on peoples’ time, especially if they are millionaire noodle moguls. So arriving early also made him unhappy because he had a guest visiting. His live-in servant brought me a coffee while I sat there like a massive penis for 30 minutes and waited.
On the upside, I wasn't drunk and smelling like ‘that guy’ in the crowded metro cart this time.
Sadly, Rolton was further angered because I had I forgotten my glasses and misspelt a word because I couldn't read his screen properly. I tried to explain that it was because of the glasses, but he kept repeating the phrase “you don’t know this word, you don’t even know grammar” like an angry broken record.
So Rolton was disgusted with me and thought I was essentially illiterate.

With the lesson over I went and collect my $200 but sadly, after the scandalous debacle, my other lessons mysteriously dried up.
Instead of getting fired, I’d get more and more lesson cancellations. Yulia would have Sergey call me and tell me the lesson was changed etc etc. Eventually the phone just stopped ringing and I was back on the 3 rouble noodles.
I had learned my lesson and my budding hatred for teaching was born.
If you have any crash and burn teaching stories, let me know in the comments or on FB



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