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Anti-English-native-speaker-ism in immigrant ESL programmes
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9135
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2011 10:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
This raises what seems to me to be an interesting point: how much should a teacher's personal views affect her/his approach to teaching ESL?


Dear John:

I think this question has a couple of interesting (and very different) aspects.

First (and probably off the track you intended), a fairly wide body of literature suggests that language teachers are strongly influenced in terms of approach/method used in the classroom by their own early learning experiences (personal views of effective teaching/learning). Essentially, as you are likely well aware, what we saw as useful teaching/learning techniques when we were young strongly affects what we tend to see as useful in our language classrooms later on. Unfortunately for many language teachers, traditional teaching methods have not proven to be optimal for every language learning situation, though they do work well for some learners. Change in this respect can be very difficult to achieve.

This aspect interests me because I, among a few of my teaching colleagues over the years, am a bit of a freak: my early learning experiences were in an experimental school near Washington, DC. Open-plan classrooms were the norm there, and what went on in them was highly student-centred, to the tune of student-directed syllabi. Lest you snort in scorn from the onset, the programme was consistently evaluated by outside bodies as highly effective, and even now, decades later, those of us who have been tracked from the programme have very solid academic records. It was basically abandoned as too expensive (along with other drawbacks related to perception rather than reality).

You may recall, from threads on teaching higher-level learners in other contexts, that I continue the tradition of negotiated syllabi and other strongly learner-centred approaches into my classrooms to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the context. However, this means that for me to feel really comfortable with a course, I must limit myself to upper level learners who are open to and ready for such approaches, at least to some degree.

It's both a plus and a minus, I admit.


Second, our political/social views impact our classrooms - to some degree. (My own, like yours, are relatively liberal and therefore certainly 'correct,' I'm proud to say Cool ).

I will hazard that it's near-impossible to keep one's views entirely out of a classroom, particularly when one is teaching immigrants to an Anglophone country. However, I'd think that it's a weak teacher who would have a real need to promote his or her own views with students.

For example, like you (but much less), I've some experience with Saudi students, and certainly I'm not going to try to change their views on things like evolution or the position of women in society. However, what happens in my classroom is a different story: women are equal there and we may use discussions of dinosaurs to elicit past tense practice (in which case I'll tell them they don't have to believe what they are talking about: it's only language practice!!). I've had a couple of dinosaur lessons turn into reported speech (Canadians say that dinosaurs walked the earth......but the Quaran tells us that....). Fair enough. Shift the language focus. (Focus on dinosaurs because we were taking them to the big museum in Alberta.)

Overall, I guess successful immigrants need to internalise a certain level of change from their own societies to integrate. The degree would vary dramatically depending on circumstances. The role of a language teacher in this process should probably be primarily student-driven (back to negotiated goals:-)).

I hope this makes some degree of sense! Overall, what I'm trying to say can probably be boiled down to: my personal views influence my approach to teaching to a fairly high degree (though I don't inflict this on just any student group!) while my personal views on life/society/culture influence my classrooms to a much lesser degree, and mostly only in response to student interest in them.

Best,
spiral
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12057
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2011 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear spiral78,

Regarding your first point, I think I'd make it more specific - that people who become teachers (and not only language teachers) would likely tend to emulate any teachers they had, the ones whose methodology was especially effective in teaching them. Also, I think that good teachers don't remain static, employing the same techniques/approaches to teaching year after year. Indeed, when it occurs to a teacher that not all students learn in the same ways (including the way they he/she found most effective,) then he/she probably begins to use a lot of different techniques/approaches within the same classroom, making his/her selection on the basis of what he/she discerns as the various learning styles of the students in that particular class.

At one of the places I teach (Santa Fe Community College,) each ESL class has a "civics component," which can consist of a series of hours spent on certain topics: immigration/naturalization, jobs and workers' rights, shopping and nutrition, parenting, etc. The students get to pick the subject matter. from a long list of possible topics. My classes are all mixed, of course, men and women, mostly Hispanic. I don't think I'm guilty of too much generalization when I say that the Hispanic culture has a tendency towards male primacy and, among the males, there's a likelihood that male philandering is regarded as much less serious than female and that homosexuality is usually seen as something to be derided.
So, where I'm leading with all this is do you think it's "proper" that when male Hispanics in my classes defend male promiscuity and express disdain for gays, I argue the opposite opinions, that there shouldn't be any sort of "double standard" and that homosexual individuals should be given the same rights as everyone else and should never to bullied or ridiculed.
Or am I injecting my own values into the classroom too much?

Regards,
John
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9135
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
that people who become teachers (and not only language teachers) would likely tend to emulate any teachers they had, the ones whose methodology was especially effective in teaching them. Also, I think that good teachers don't remain static, employing the same techniques/approaches to teaching year after year. Indeed, when it occurs to a teacher that not all students learn in the same ways (including the way they he/she found most effective,) then he/she probably begins to use a lot of different techniques/approaches within the same classroom, making his/her selection on the basis of what he/she discerns as the various learning styles of the students in that particular class.


Actually, I participated in a study sponsored by a UK university which addressed just this issue. The ultimate findings indicated that on the level of approach and method, the vast majority of teachers do not particularly emulate past teachers of their own (on affective levels this tended to be true, and in terms of some aspects of methodology, but at the approach level did not have significant impact in this particular study).

I agree that effective teachers do not remain static, but the focus of the study I am referring to was 'change in ELT.' The findings indicated that change is by no means simply achieved or widespread among teachers - the findings in this case indicated that teachers tend to be very much wedded (at the approach level) to those of their own early years, whether they defined those as effective or not.
One study is obviously not the last word on the subject (though this one covered several thousands of practicing ELT teachers on two continents). However, in my experience leading in-service professionalisation training and CELTA equivalent courses, a teacher's own early learning does seem to play a very dominant role in his/her approach to teaching and learning overall.

Some of the discussions on Dave's over the years would further support this theory, I think:-)

I'd suggest that approach and method are not generally so fluid as you seem to feel - though I expect that there are some very flexible types out there - and perhaps you are one of them - more power to you and your ilk!!


Quote:
So, where I'm leading with all this is do you think it's "proper" that when male Hispanics in my classes defend male promiscuity and express disdain for gays, I argue the opposite opinions, that there shouldn't be any sort of "double standard" and that homosexual individuals should be given the same rights as everyone else and should never to bullied or ridiculed.
Or am I injecting my own values into the classroom too much?


Again, I think that the standards need to be different for immigrants than for those who are either EFL learners studying the language in their home countries, or who are in Anglophone countries on a short-stay basis. Assuming that your hispanic students are immigrants, I'd agree that you are likely correct to inject more PC ideas, as they are likely going to encounter them in their new society. Whether you change their minds is another question, but at least they should be aware that their views are unlikely to be well-received in the general population.

I think that's an entirely valid goal of courses for immigrants: consciousness-raising about the values of the society they are entering.

I recall making sure that some of my immigrant students to Canada were aware that Canadians tend to see people who throw litter in parks and other public places as uneducated and low class Wink
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jpvanderwerf2001



Joined: 02 Oct 2003
Posts: 1073
Location: New York

PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have been teaching/managing EFL for over a decade. I am currently taking an M.Ed.-ESL (distance) from a US university. There are certainly aspects of ESL that I hadn't really thought of as an EFLer: Government testing standards, socially driven aspects (such as acculturation for students), emphasis on L1 learning, and interdisciplinary subject teaching are all areas that I rarely, if ever, have touched on during my time abroad. As I hope to return to the US market at some point in the future, I'm glad to be learning about this now.
In the end, I can see why ESL departments might think twice about hiring EFLers without proper training specific to US schools.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 3000
Location: Mesopotamia

PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I can see why ESL departments might think twice about hiring EFLers without proper training specific to US schools.


Not exactly, since many of us EFLers most likely attained our TESOL-related grad degrees (with ESL teaching practice/training) in the US before heading overseas. The "foreign" in EFL shouldn't literally label us as foreigners and alienate us from the ESL teaching community when we return stateside.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12057
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear jpvanderwerf2001.

I EFLed (as a teacher/DOS) for over two decades and then returned (in 2003) and began teaching ESL here in the States. I've been doing that ever since. I haven't had any difficulty in fitting in to to the new environment.

I think many/most EFLers tend to be rather good at adjusting to new surroundings, new requirements, and new aspects of their employment. If they weren't, I suspect they probably would have had a lot of trouble in meeting the demands of EFL.

Regards,
John
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