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Is teaching English a profession?
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Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

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


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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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:

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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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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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, 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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Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
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.
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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,
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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.

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 advance