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Is teaching English a profession?
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leeroy



Joined: 30 Jan 2003
Posts: 777
Location: London UK

PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2003 5:11 pm    Post subject: Non profeshnels Reply with quote

A lot of interesting points here, once again Smile

As we've already established, it depends quite a lot on your definition of a professional before it can be decided if you are one. If a professional is defined as someone who is practising in an area in which he/she has an "advanced level of study" (which I interpret as a degree), then I, and I think most others in this industry (although not, I sense, on this board), are not professionals.

I however, and most of the other non-professionals I have worked with, can illustrate the difference between "while" & "during". Why? Because most new teachers hold on to course books like their new-born babies, and when they see "Chapter 12: While & During" they think to themselves "Well, I have to teach this, so what does it mean?".

"what better way to learn something than to teach it?" (Larsen-Freeman, 1997)

Most of what myself & my associates know about the English language comes from exactly this.

I would think, though, that knowing the appropiate uses of "while" & "during" is half of it. The other half is knowing how to present this to a class in an interesting, productive and communicative way.

Again, most of the non-professional teachers I have come into contact with do a pretty good job of this too. Most of the teachers at my organisation are CELTA qualified with no or non-relevant degrees, but we are aware of such concepts as STT, class management, error correction, etc...

Why is this? Because most of us take a certain amount of pride in what we do, although I am not suggesting that this is a rival or substitute for formal education. So I suppose I would rate most of my colleagues as "semi-professionals", apart from those of us who date our (ex) students of course! Smile

I am well aware of the backpacker-entertainment-monkey that exists around the world, and am trying to suggest that Not All Unqualified Teachers Are Like That.

Leeroy

(References)

Larsen-Freeman (1997) "Grammar and Its Teaching: Challenging the Myths." ERIC Digest. (ED406829)
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Gary B



Joined: 19 Feb 2003
Posts: 35

PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2003 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wha'z up?
Good idea about changing the subject or at least getting back on track. I'm one month away from getting a Masters in TESOL and I still don't look at ESL/EFL as a real profession. Some points were made that if one took their job seriously and looked at their job as a profession, then it's a profession. Hell, one can take diswashing very seriously and may be the fastest and most efficient dishwasher in town, but it's not a profession. I look at ESL/EFL as a quasi-profession, much like bartending. I mean do we consider bartending as a profession? Some people do, some don't. I also looked at various definitions of profession and they all mention something like advanced training or education as a requirement for a profession. In many cases, one is not hired to teach ESL/EFL with advanced training and in some cases yes. I would say the general overall perception of people in English speaking societies does not consider ESL/EFL a profession except for the people involved in it. I know I got a lot of funny looks and reactions when I told people around the Detroit area that I'm getting a Masters to teach English. They'd say, Who are you going to teach English? and "Why don't you work in the public school system or get a normal teaching job teaching kids or high school? I do love teaching ESL/EFL but still can't look at it as a true profession.
Chow for Now,
ESL/EFL A Quasi-Profession In Motown Gary B.
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Roger



Joined: 19 Jan 2003
Posts: 9138

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 12:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just thought... 'while and 'during', how do you EXPLAIN this to FELLOW NATIVE SPEAKERS? I don't know if non-professionals can TEACH such topics although I have no doubt they can explain the difference to themselves. A native speaker intuitively 'knows' the difference, perhaps they even 'feel' rather than 'know it. but they do not necessarily have a convincing theory at their fingertips. Native speakers follow their guts, so to speak, and English as an L2 speakers need a more academic approach to the same phenomena.
Perhaps a PROFESSIONAL teacher can EXPLAIN it to people who share a common language with them, but how do you go about it when you are faced with foreigners (or as they so quaintly put it 'speakers of other languages than English')?
Herein lies, perhaps, a defining difference!
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Sherri



Joined: 23 Jan 2003
Posts: 748
Location: The Big Island, Hawaii

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 1:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gary B
I am sorry to hear that despite the fact that you have chosen to do an MA in EFL you still don't regard teaching EFL as a profession.

Yes it is true that there are businesses that hire people without advanced training but that doesn't mean that the schools that do take teaching seriously aren't out there. The fact that some cowboy schools exist in the world is not reason enough for me to say that the whole profession of teaching EFL is non-exisitent!

As for the opinions of the people you know in Detroit about teaching EFL--who cares? I am not teaching EFL to impress them or anyone else.

You are welcome to your opinions of course. I just think it is a shame that you feel this way. By the way why do you write "chow for now"? What does "chow" mean (except for food)? I have been out of the States for a long time now. Am I missing something here?
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Ben Round de Bloc



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1946

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 2:01 am    Post subject: While or During Reply with quote

I think some valid points have been made about teaching EFL using the example about teaching the difference between while and during among others. True, most native English speakers can tell when to use while and when during would be the standard choice. Some EFL teachers might be able to explain when to use one and when to use the other to other native English speakers or maybe even to non-native English speakers. Then again some might not.

Take the following two sentences for example.
He learned a lot during training.
He learned a lot while training.


Both are grammatically correct. Is there a difference in meaning? Are there situations where one would be used but not the other? When I was getting my MA in TESOL, we used to get questions like this thrown at us in a couple of courses all the time. I found them to be good courses, because they forced us to really think about the English language and how we use it. (Note: Please don't take the time to answer the questions or go into lengthy explanations in a reply post. They're included only as part of an example suggesting the importance of knowing and being able to explain the language we teach.)
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Ann



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 45

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Exactly Ben! That is the reason I do feel unqualified as a teacher sometimes. Even though I have learned the nitty gritties of the English language in a formal setting, there is still some intrinsic knowledge required. One does go with one's gut feeling at times, and it is hard to explain certain rules. One of my pet peeves is that English (as a language) doesn't always abide by rules. I can't explain the exceptions at times and it frustrates me as a teacher.
*sorry for straying from the topic, Glenski.*
I had thought about completing my earlier post but lost my original thoughts over the day.
In the end, I have to agree with everyone who regards ESL/EFL as a profession. I disagree that dishwashing or drug dealing is not a profession--it IS! Its just not regarded as a profitable or socially acceptable one.
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Kent F. Kruhoeffer



Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 2129
Location: 中国

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 6:38 am    Post subject: the dancing monkey ... revisited Reply with quote

Hello People:

I didn't mean to cause such a hub-ub with the dancing monkey analogy, and I certainly don't think that being able to explain the difference between 'during' and 'while' is the make-all or break-all for English teachers.

My point was more subtle. What I was trying to say is this: If you are the sort of English teacher who takes these questions seriously (the point of my original post), then I would say that you are in a profession. In other words, the mere fact that some of us (and most people on the street) can't answer these questions...is proof enough that teaching English is not quite on the same level with washing dishes.

Ok; let's clear up this mess now. Laughing

1. He learned a lot during training.
2. He learned a lot while training.

In example #1, the preposition 'during' is followed by the noun "training", also called a gerund.
In example #2, the conjunction 'while' is followed by the continuous form of the verb "to train", as in "He learned a lot while he was training. In example #2, the 'he' and the 'was' are absent, but they are implied, because using the conjunction 'while' requires a subject and a verb. (also called a clause)

Teaching the concept is usually less difficult than the example above. I simply explain to students that 'during' is followed only by a noun, and 'while' is followed by a clause (a subject and a verb) and most students grasp it fairly quickly. eg. During the holiday, during the lesson, during the war, etc. While I was on holiday, while I was in class, while they were fighting, etc.

Is all of this really important? Heck no. It simply illustrates the difference between being able to speak English ... and being able to teach it as a profession. Just as the doctor knows how to use his scalpel (let's hope), a professional teacher needs to know how to explain grammar. How you explain it is not such a big deal. It's the result that counts. Whether you learned "how" to explain these things from experience, by sitting in a classroom, or snuggled up with your 'Headway' workbook...does not matter much, I think.

Yours truly,
Kent
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stgeorge



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I didn't have time to read all the posts thus far so I'll just insert my opinion randomly into the discussion.

In Taiwan and South Korea you only have to look the part and have a degree and you'll go straight into a job. The employers couldn't give a fig about professional qualifications. The fact is employers in Asia generally don't want professionals. Just look at all the naive fools who post comments like "can my school make me do this?" or "visa advice needed" on the Korean forum. That's the sort of person they love in Asia: as young and naive as possible.

You can shout about your qualifications from "accredited universities" as much as you like, but they count for nothing in this most unprofessional of professions.
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Ann



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 45

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kent,
I teach the same thing from my book, "Grammar in Use." But thanks for reiterating it.
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Ben Round de Bloc



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1946

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 2:21 pm    Post subject: On a personal level Reply with quote

Quote:
You can shout about your qualifications from "accredited universities" as much as you like, but they count for nothing in this most unprofessional of professions.

- stgeorge


I'm not going to enter into the debate at this point about professional vs. non-professional. However, in my particular case qualifications have made a difference. I enjoy living and working in Mexico. Perhaps I would've managed to get my current job without my qualifications, but I think it would've been unlikely or at least much more difficult. Even more important, I believe, is the fact that my employer (university) has made it evident in subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways that it wants to continue employing me in part because of those qualifications. Without my qualifications I'd have probably had two options: return to teaching in language schools or leave an area of Mexico that I enjoy. Because I didn't particularly like teaching in language schools, I'd have probably chosen the second option. Therefore, in my case I feel qualifications have counted for something.

Best wishes!
B.R. de B.
Smile
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Gary B



Joined: 19 Feb 2003
Posts: 35

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 4:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wha'z up?
Ben makes a good point that credentials CAN make a difference in where you teach and maybe the rate of pay. The points about being able to explain grammatical questions as a sign of being professional or unprofessional is not a strong argument to define teaching ESL/EFL as a profession or not. In fact, many of the courses I've taken suggest staying away from lengthy grammatical explanations, (which I disagree with to some point). After all, there are many disagreements and unexplainable areas of any profession. My response to Ann's point about saying, "it's a shame I don't feel that teaching ESL/EFL is not a profession" is that it's not a shame at all, it's reality in my opinion. I don't care so much what other people think because I take pride in what I do and I love what I do. The point is the general consensus of most people in English speaking areas wouldn't consider ESL/EFL a profession except for those in the field. St. George said something like it's the most unprofessions of the professions and I agree with this statement. I mean if it were a profession, why are we even asking ourselves this question?
Chow for Now,
Reading Some Interesting Insights In Motown Gary B.
PS: The chow for now business is just a rhyme thus chow and now and the spelling is actually something like Ciao, not sure but changed it because of "ow". Common expression to say good-bye.
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Ann



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Posts: 45

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Could ask you the same thing: Do you really care how society views this line of work?
In my area (IN THE United States), ESL/EFL is seen very much as a profession and a respected one at that.
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Glenski



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

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gary B,

I don't know where you get this idea...

Quote:
The point is the general consensus of most people in English speaking areas wouldn't consider ESL/EFL a profession except for those in the field.


Any support for it? Maybe it's true for the area in which you work, but teaching ESL/EFL covers a LOT of countries!

As for St.George's statement...

Quote:
it's the most unprofessions of the professions


I didn't want this thread to say how professional it was. Just whether or not it really is a profession. I can think of several OTHER professions that people consider unprofessional. Lawyers (known negatively by some as "ambulance chasers"). Faith healers (seen by many as shamans or quacks). Drug dealers and prostitutes (for obvious reasons).

In my opinion, teaching ESL or EFL is definitely a profession. Whether you need advanced training or not to get hired is irrelevant. Carpenters don't need training. Janitors don't. Hotel desk clerks don't. Landlords don't. In my dictionary there are two definitions. One calls for advanced training, and the other just says it's any job. What's so unique about teaching ESL/EFL is the international aspect of the work. I know some regular elementary school and high school teachers in the USA who were suddenly told that they would be teaching ESL the following year and had no opportunity to improve their skill sets by getting training, so they picked up whatever they could all on their own. And, we all know that various countries have slack regulations on who can be a teacher. The idea still holds that teaching and getting paid for it is a job (ie, a profession). Whether you do it with a strict code of ethics, or whether you stay with it a long time, or whether you teach grammatical structures to university students or present little old ladies with 60 minutes of recipe swapping time, it's still a job.

Quote:
I mean if it were a profession, why are we even asking ourselves this question?


Simple answer: someone said it WASN'T a profession.
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Roger



Joined: 19 Jan 2003
Posts: 9138

PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 11:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gary,
why do patients go to see a DOCTOR?

AWhy do unhappily-married people go to see a lwayer?

Why do owners of a house with a broken watermains ask a plumber to fix it?

Why do people rely on the postman, the cabbie and the milkman?

And yes, my plumber (in China) took the faulty tap off, then examined it - and put it back on! It was still leaky!

And one of the doctors in a HK hospital sold me an expensive injection for my recurrent leg cramps!
(I found out that bananas contain enough magnesium to ward the problem off).

And the postman often puts the letters in the wrong box...

Still, they all are professionals!
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Gary B



Joined: 19 Feb 2003
Posts: 35

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2003 2:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wha'z up?
With all due respect to the various responses to this topic, I'll ask the question again, "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.
Chow for Now,
Having Doubts In Motown Gary B.
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