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Is teaching English a profession?
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2003 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gary,

Read the very first post in this thread, and in particular the inserted quote!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is the SECOND time I've mentioned this.

If you don't particularly care for the thread, or don't understand it well enough to respond, why bother?
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Irish



Joined: 13 Jan 2003
Posts: 371

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2003 4:07 pm    Post subject: Why the question? Simple Reply with quote

Gary B wrote:

Quote:
If teaching ESL/EFL is TRULY A REAL PROFESSION than why are we even discussing this and why would anyone even ask? There must be some doubts regarding this issue.


Well...yeah, of course. Either you buy the dictionary definition of profession or you have one of your own based on your view of reality. People do this all the time with a variety of concepts, hence my earlier post asking Glenski for clarification about what definition of profession we were supposed to use. If you doubt the dictionary or find it inadequate, that's fine. It might even be interesting, depending on how you present your argument. But when we use different definitions, we end up with people questioning each other's terms. In that case, it's not about whether or not this field is a real profession; it's about defending your definition of a real profession.

Scoobydo seems to be one of those people who finds the standard dictionary definition of profession unsatisfying and prefers his own. According to his definition, we're not in a real profession. Glenski, whose working definition conflicts with Scoobydo's, was curious so he asked why.

Simple as that.
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scoobydo



Joined: 22 Feb 2003
Posts: 22
Location: China, Guangzhou

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2003 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not so sure I am preferring my own definition compared to the dictionary.

Profession: "An occupation requiring special education"

What "special" education do I require ( with the emphasis on require ) to teach English in China. My grasp of the English language as a native speaker? In that case all native speakers have such a special education and we are all professional TEFL teachers if we so wish.

I require a degree, in any subject at all, to get a z visa as teacher. I don't need a TEFL certificate and I don't need a masters degree in a teaching field. I need a degree but does this qualify as being a special education when referring to TEFL? I my opinion I don't think it does. I have a special education in Law. Thats not special to TEFL. A "special" education in respect of teaching English in China appears to voluntary and is not "required" to obtain a position in China.

Profession: "The body of people in a learned occupation"

This refers to a body of people which brings me back to my point about a professional body. A body of people in a profession do in the normal course of things belong to a professional body. We don't. How learned are most of us in respect of teaching English?

A trade: "People who perform a particular kind of skilled work"
A trade: "The skilled practice of a practical occupation"

I would contend that people who fix your toilet and tile your bathroom are tradesmen. Tradesmen don't belong to professional bodies.

If people are so quick to claim to be in a profession why are they not so quick to claim to be tradesmen.

It could be argued we perform skilled work in a practical occupation. Are we really tradesmen?
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Irish



Joined: 13 Jan 2003
Posts: 371

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2003 7:38 pm    Post subject: My apologies if I misrepresented you, Scoobydo Reply with quote

Scoobydo, glad you made it.

First, I apologize if I misrepresented your original post (the one embedded in Glenski's)--I was only trying to understand the basis of your position, not put words in your mouth.

Despite Kent's efforts to keep the conversation focused by introducing a formal definition of profession, it appears that we can't even get our dictionaries to agree. Mine doesn't include the "body of people" line. It sounds reasonable but does that mean a formal institution (like the American Bar Association) or just all of those who work in a particular field? I don't know and, frankly, trying to figure it out is making my head hurt. Maybe it's hopeless. Maybe we should let the good folks from Merriam-Webster, American Heritage, Oxford, et cetera duke it out for us.

Profession, trade, career, job, gig...as long as I get paid a fair wage on time, I'm fine with any of the above.
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Gary B



Joined: 19 Feb 2003
Posts: 35

PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2003 1:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wha'z up?
Glenski, what in particular in the inserted quote and what posting are you referring to? I am using the definitions of profession that I've seen in several dictionaries basically saying that a professon requires some sort of advanced training and not all English instructors, in fact many don't need advanced training to land a job. YOU CAN NOT LAND A JOB in a PROFESSION such as law, medicine, engineering, accounting etc. You may be able to get an entry level position in these fields, but you can not become a nurse, doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer etc. by hands on experience only like you can in teaching English. I'm not interested in anyone's opinion about what you think about lawyers, but it is recognized as a REAL PROFESSION. As Glenski pointed out waaaayyyyyyyy back, it depends on the type of English teaching position we're talking about. If you're teaching Academic Writing at a university in the States, then you would need advanced training and this is at least THE SECOND TIME I've made this point. I'm not putting down what I happen to be doing at the moment and I take my job seriously and love what I do, but I can't honestly say with a straight face it's a profession as MOST dictionaries I've seen define it. I'll say it OOOOOONNNNNNNNEEEEEEE MMMMMMMMOOOOOOOOREEEE TIME! If teaching English is truly a profession, we wouldn't be having this discussion and it doesn't matter if someone said that it wasn't a profession or not.
Chow for Now,
Sticking To My Guns (No Puns Intended) In Motown Gary B.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12297
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2003 2:08 am    Post subject: Does it really matter? Reply with quote

Dear Glenski et al,
What surprises me about this subject is that it seems to be an important matter to some. I could be wrong on this, but if it's significant to you that others regard your employment as a " profession ", perhaps you rely a bit too much on external validation. The reason I say this is - it makes absolutely NO difference to me whether others consider teaching EFL/ESL to be a " profession " or not. Clearly there are a number of " unprofessional " people ( if you go by any of the " dictionary definitions " ) in the field, and there are also lots of " professionals " ( ditto ). Then, there are probably some " professionals " who don't act " professionally " and some " non-professionals " who do. How you regard yourself - as a professional or not - is your call. Personally, the issue has never even crossed my mind ( well, at least until this and other threads got going ). Irregardless of the label, it's how well you do your job that's the bottom line, in my opinion.
Regards,
John
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Kent F. Kruhoeffer



Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 2129
Location: 中国

PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2003 6:42 am    Post subject: one final thought from me Reply with quote

Hello again good people:

I have just one final thought to add to this discussion; one that has not, I think, been raised yet.

Are we, as EFL/ESL teachers, differentiating ourselves (and what we do) from the generally recognized profession of "teacher" in general? In other words, when people ask you what you do, do you say "I'm an EFL teacher." or simply "I'm an English teacher." ?

This may sound like an academic point, but it's really not. In fact, it might be the "crux" of the question we're trying to answer.

Strictly speaking, I might even be willing to accept some of the arguments made by others on this forum that ESL/EFL, as such, is not really a true profession, but rather a 'subset' of the more widely recognized and accepted profession of being "a teacher" in general.

It's true; there are many EFL schools that don't give a hoot about credentials, degrees, or your competency in explaining when and how to use "during" or "while" in a complete sentence. Laughing

For the record, when people ask me what I do for a living, I reply, "I teach English." And when I defend teaching English as a profession, I'm not necessarily defending EFL/ESL itself.

Just a closing thought to ponder. Rolling Eyes

Best wishes,
Kent
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2003 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For Gary's sake, here is a snip from the quote in question. I can't make it any clearer than this.

Quote:
I think this whole "professionalism" question does need a reality check. For a start has anyone remembered the old expression: "those who can do, those who can't teach". We are not starting from a good position.

Teaching ESL is not a profession.


I enjoyed reading the last few messages from Kent, Gary B, and johnslat. Wonderful commentary in my opinion.

I disagree semantically that a profession requires advanced training or a "professional organization" to which members must belong. Perhaps, this is a reason some of us disagree. Mere semantics. It's so hard to get points across with just written text in a few scant exchanges.

Teaching is a profession to me. Teaching ESL is different from teaching EFL. Teaching in an eikaiwa is certainly different from teaching in a university or high school. But, it is still a form of teaching the English language. True, it is not always like law, or medicine, or accounting, where you need specialized skills. But, some people make fairly long term commitments to teaching EFL even in eikaiwas. I would have to say the vast majority don't, and a huge number (nobody really knows the true percentages) of eikaiwa teachers are unqualified/underqualified, but they have the eligibility to get their feet in the door. So be it.

Nice discussion, folks. Thanks to everyone for their input.
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Gary B



Joined: 19 Feb 2003
Posts: 35

PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2003 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wha'z up?
Glenski, you make an excellent point. It's all a matter of semantics and nothing more. I was only going by the dictionary definition as well as what I personally consider a profession. Kent made an excellent point as well because I have personal experience which is another reason I don't consider teaching English a profession compared to being a "regular teacher" at a private or public school. In the Detroit area, I can not technically teach adult ESL under the public school system because I'm not a Michigan certified teacher. A Michigan certified Social Studies teacher in K-12 would have first crack at teaching ADULTS English over someone that has experience and a Masters to teach English, figure that one out. Apparantly the state of Michigan does not recognize a Masters in Tesol a profession when it comes time to teaching adult ESL under the public school system. A person with a Masters in Tesol could teach at community colleges, but most of those jobs are part time. Now, how can you consider part time work as a profession?
Chow for Now,
Great Discussion And Rock On In Motown From Gary B.
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Ben Round de Bloc



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1946

PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2003 2:14 am    Post subject: In a way it makes sense Reply with quote

Quote:
Apparantly the state of Michigan does not recognize a Masters in Tesol a profession when it comes time to teaching adult ESL under the public school system.
- Gary B.


I think the point is that degrees and state teaching licenses/credentials are two different things. They are related in that a person needs a degree before he/she can get a state teaching license/credential, but they aren't the same thing.

In most states when a person earns a master's degree, it doesn't include a state teaching credential/license, even if it's a Master's in Education. Granted, one would think that a master's degree with the word teaching in its title such as MA in TESOL would include the credentials to teach in public school systems, including adult education programs that are part of public school systems, but it doesn't. Since community colleges don't fall into the same category as public school systems, community colleges function under different rules and policies. The same is true of universities. People don't need state teaching certificates/licenses to teach in them either. Perhaps they should. I don't know.

When one looks at it from the perspective that a master's degree, at least one from a recognized or accredited university, is usually recognized worldwide, while a teaching credential/license in the USA is only recognized within a particular state, the difference between the two sort of makes sense. A degree in something doesn't necessarily give its holder the legal right to practice it. One might argue that a Master's in TESOL goes above and beyond what should be required for a state teaching license to teach ESL. However, such is often not the case. Most states have requirements to teach ESL in their public schools that aren't the same as what's required for a Master's in TESOL even from their own state universities.

Many professions -- or other professions, depending on your view of teaching ESL/EFL as a profession -- function in a similar manner. A law degree is recognized as such, but just having a law degree in itself doesn't give someone the right to legally practice law. A person must pass a state bar exam in order to be licensed to practice law in a particular state. Just because people have degrees in medicine, that in itself doesn't mean that they can practice medicine wherever they want without being licensed. Is a person with a degree in law or a degree in medicine who who isn't licensed to practice considered a professional? Again, I don't know.

In most cases, people need a degree or training and then additionally they have to get a license or credentials to do legally what they were educated or trained to do. In general, looking at the big picture of things, such is not the case in the field of teaching ESL/EFL except for a few situations, for example, teaching ESL in U.S. public school systems.
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 15858
Location: USA

PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2003 2:19 pm    Post subject: Good stuff here Reply with quote

First off I must say that this has been a great thread. I have just read through page 3 and I am so impressed at how much has been said with very little name calling or insults. Smile

I have to agree with JohnS that the question never came up in my mind until I started to see this topic repeatedly on various boards. I tend to agree with Gary B that if it was a 'profession' we wouldn't have to even have this discussion. (though I have trouble with his use of being a part-timer as negative evidence - one could be a part-time lawyer or doctor - and I think everyone would still consider them 'professionals')

Perhaps it never occurred to me because my original degree is in Education and I added an MA. So, I guess I feel that I am in the 'profession' of teaching. But, one detail makes me think that in academia, we are not considered part of the 'profession.' I always taught in colleges or universities around the Middle East. We were definitely considered second class citizens (not because of our nationalities, but because of what we taught) and there were often rumbles of taking away our benefits because we were 'mere' EFL teachers. Every time there was talk of cutting budgets, we were the first in line. Here is where the reality of the standing of ESL in US university structure as Gary mentioned comes into play - mostly part time with no benefits.

So here is a question guys (and Irish)... if we seem to get so little respect within mainline academia, does that affect this discussion? Does that suggest that within the profession of education, we are not considered to be members.
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itslatedoors



Joined: 17 Feb 2003
Posts: 97

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 6:33 am    Post subject: a TEFL professional.....yawn Reply with quote

If TEFL were a profession people would not waste so much time trying to rationalize that it actually is.The whole thing on a macro level is an unregulated joke.On a micro level..sure we can be professional according to our own ethics..but where does it actually get you?In Eastern Europe you might get a senior postion and earn 50$ more a month....in the Middle East it might get you fired.Face the fact guys and gals we all decided to do TEFL/TESOL/TESL, (whatever you want to call it ),because we are slackers and any gibbon can do it well...even pompous ones like....
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Kent F. Kruhoeffer



Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 2129
Location: 中国

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 6:52 am    Post subject: Pompous? Reply with quote

Hello Mr. itsLatedoors Cool

pompous: adjective

1. showing or inclined to show an exaggerated air of dignity or importance.

Personally, I'll take 'pompousness' over 'negativity' any day of the week. As for the "We are slackers" comment, please speak for yourself. Twisted Evil

Have a nice day Exclamation
kENt


Last edited by Kent F. Kruhoeffer on Mon Mar 24, 2003 9:54 am; edited 1 time in total
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Stephen Jones



Joined: 21 Feb 2003
Posts: 4124

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The noun's "pomposity" Kent. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary gives "pompousness" as being Late Middle English.

Even you aren't that old.
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 12094
Location: Ultima Thule

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 6:45 pm    Post subject: kruehoffer ? old ? Reply with quote

No he just pretends to be that old.
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