Worst Jobs, Best Conversations

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that bad times make good stories. Unfortunate experiences at least provide ideas for conversation. I once took quotes from a site built on workers’ testimonies and complaints, and I used them to help create role play in the classroom. (Unfortunately, the site is no longer active, so I can’t include the link.) Each student in my advanced class was handed a written testimony that was submitted by a disgrunteld worker, from a road kill collector to an Alaskan crab fisherman. They had to read the short text silently, look up unfamiliar words, and then prepare an argument. Taking on the role of the author, the student had to convince the class that he or she had the worst job in the world. To transition from one speaker to the next, I listed prompts on the board that issue a challenge:

  • You think that’s bad? Let me tell you….
  • I can top that.
  • That’s bad, but I got something even worse.
  • That’s nothing compared to…
  • All right. That’s bad. I’ll give you that, but I…
  • Etc.


VARIATON 1:   Give only job titles to students. They must then brainstorm with a partner about the possible demands and downsides of the job. As a pair, they argue to the class that their job is the worst or most difficult in the world. Possible job titles: waiter/ waitress, taxi driver, nanny, garbage sorter (for recycling), toll booth collector, customer service representative, bodyguard, flight attendant, grave digger, or window cleaner.

VARIATON 2: Watch a slide show of tough jobs. CNBC.com has a presentation on The 10 Worst Jobs in America. Having volunteers read the captions for each photograph will call upon variety of language skills. After viewing the last photo, assign a job title to each student or a pair of students. Based on the information given in the slide presentation, ask them to prepare an argument that their job is truly the worst or most dangerous.

SUGGESTION: This activity nicely springboards into a discussion of ideal jobs. Ask students which jobs they’d like to have and why?


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Cristina.cabal@gmail.com says:

    This is a fantastic idea to use with advanced students. thank you very much for sharing.

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      Thanks for the comment, Cristina. Please let me know how it works out in your classroom.

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