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Does 'qualified' mean competent?

 
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Sadebugo1



Joined: 11 May 2003

PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2003 7:43 am    Post subject: Does 'qualified' mean competent? Reply with quote

I have a theory . . . at least a theory that seems to apply in Korea. My theory is that there is little correlation between the amount of qualifications an EFL instructor possesses and his/her ability to do the job well. Specifically, I mean that I have observed countless 'qualified' instructors over my eight years of teaching in Korea who miserably failed in their missions to adequately instruct the students. These instructors held MAs in TEFL or related fields and/or were certified teachers in their home countries, but did no better (and sometimes much worse) than unqualified teachers or teachers with less experience. There are exceptions of course.

As for my background, I had a BA in a non-related subject when I first came to Korea. I did my obligatory year in the hagwon system, two years in EPIK, and now the last five years in a university. I have just finished a distance MATEFL and have found it very useful in revealing the theory behind what I had been doing instinctively in the classroom. It has definitely made me a better teacher, but I don't feel it transformed me in any way.

So, what are my conclusions? Well, first of all, I believe that to some extent, teaching is a talent. Some people have it and some don't. All the education/qualifications in the world cannot change this fact. How many of you have listened to some 'qualified' instructor in the teacher's lounge philosophize about the latest study using protocol analysis and then, immediately go and make a mockery of his writing class? Clearly, academic success does not always transfer over to the classroom. Another thing, EFL uniquely requires teachers to adapt to the educational culture they are currently working in. Some teachers might do well in their homeland and yet, be to rigid too succeed in a foreign country. I have seen many teachers who felt they were helping the students by refusing to compromise in light of cultural constraints. Of course, this resulted in failure. Finally, there are some people (especially in Korea) who somehow managed to survive the demands of their degree program, but have serious character flaws that should prevent them from working with other people. This isn't just hyperbole! I'm sure you've all met at least a few people like this. Unfortunately, they still get hired because the Korean employer sees this as a Western cultural trait rather than a flaw in their respective personalities.

Let me now admit that I am somewhat biased in my opinions above. I came to Korea as an unqualified teacher and had to compete for jobs with those who were qualified. This was difficult for me because I felt like I was doing a much better job than many qualified instructors and received a lot of feedback to support this. Eventually, I got my own MATEFL, but I still see that many instructors are not up to the task even though they have the 'accepted' qualifications.

I don't mean to attack anyone personally through this message. I would just like some feedback on what you think of my observations and any of your own personal experiences on this subject.

Thanks for reading!
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purrrfect



Joined: 03 Oct 2003
Location: In Toronto, dreaming of all things theatrical

PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2003 9:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with you - qualifications don't really mean anything. Good teaching involves being interested in what you're doing and being able to inspire your students.
It's the kind of thing that could come with practice, but I think it has a lot to do with personality, which is something they can't teach in the classroom.
By the way, I could be biased, since I don't have any kind of M.A. ... not yet anyway. I may believe that experience and also innate teaching ability is the most important thing, but as you said schools tend to disagree. So maybe I'll go out and get one of those wall-hangings.
Maybe that makes me a hypocrite. Or perhaps just a pragmatist.
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kimcheeking
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2003 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm with you 100%. I also started in the hogwan industry and moved up to the university jobs without qualifications and have seen "qualified" teachers who can not teach.

I am currently mid MA and finding it useful and fully applicable to my classes. Much of what I am learning is affirmation that I am doing things correctly, but I am also learning new methods and perspectives of events that happen in and out of the classroom.
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Butterfly



Joined: 02 Mar 2003
Location: Kuwait

PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2003 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have found, that there is no yardstick of being able to measure a good teacher however, internationally I have found that an acredited TEFL Certificate (Cambridge or TESOL) can increase the odds of that teacher being a good one. Of course there are positive and negative exceptions to this, of course. Statistically, however, I would say that it increases the odds of the teacher being successful in the classroom.

The measure of this may not necessarily be what one learns on the course in terms of methods (after all its not brain surgery), no, I would say that if someone has gone to the trouble of paying for and taking the course, then that is a good indicator of someone being sincere about teaching. Sincerity in most cases being the key to good teaching.

Funnily enough though, you would think that this follows through to higher TEFL/TESL qualifications. I have worked with a couple of MATESOL people who have been godawful teachers, I think due to their arrogance actually, and that this 'hagwon' work was so beneath them. Students didn't enjoy their classes.

In Korea there are lots of people who just show up here (or plan to), and think that they'll 'teach' because they cant do anything else. These are the people that institutes, schools and universities should avoid. A TEFL certificate is a good indicator that someone does not fall into this category. Fact. The OP writes that he didn't have qualifications when he first came but had to compete with teachers with qualifications when he was in fact what he perceved to be a better teacher. This may be so, but without qulifications he was probably something of a 'gamble' for his employers, a risk that he might turn out to be another Korea chancer. I respect those that took that gamble with him, totally, but as long as this industry is hijacked by people who cant think of anything else to do ~ getting qualifications will separate you from the bunch of chancers who go for the same jobs we do.
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Sadebugo1



Joined: 11 May 2003

PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2003 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with 'butterfly' on a couple of points. First of all, the CELTA/Trinity certificates do ensure that an individual has received at least some training and has demonstrated a motivation/sincerity for the profession by pursuing the certificate. However, one of the criticisms of these programs is that they teach one method and do not emphasize adapting what has been learned to other contexts. In other words, you have a four-week training program, but no provisions are made for equipping the trainee mentally to engage in future teacher development. This criticism actually comes from a program evaluation in the past by CELTA itself. So, statistically, TESOL holders might have a better chance of success in Korea, but it's no guarantee of success.

I also agree that employers are taking a chance by hiring new people with no experience and/or qualifications. However, I don't think that the odds are greatly improved (at least in Korea) by hiring the person who does have higher qualifications. Perhaps, the solution is to require a demonstration class as part of the interview. Another option (like the Middle East) would be to have a three month probationary period built into the contract. This would allow the employer to release an employee who didn't meet the minimum requirements.

I know, I'm dreaming!!!
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kimcheeking
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2003 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sadebugo1 wrote:
Perhaps, the solution is to require a demonstration class as part of the interview. Another option (like the Middle East) would be to have a three month probationary period built into the contract. This would allow the employer to release an employee who didn't meet the minimum requirements.


I also fully support this, and in fact I know of 3 schools that require a teaching demo. Additionally I have prepared a 45 page portfolio of hand-outs and materials I have developed for my classes. Furthermore I have a web site that is integrated with my classes and a file folder of typed lesson plans for the entire semester. All of these are ready for me to present to any employer at an interview.

A good teacher is a prepared teacher regardless of qualifications.
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ratslash



Joined: 08 May 2003

PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2003 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hell man! what i've been saying from day one of arriving in korea.

i've seen so many chumps who are qualified and are cr*p teachers. the kids are bored and the classes or uninteresting.
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Skarp



Joined: 22 Aug 2003

PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2003 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Indeed. Qualified doesn't guarantee any ability at all. Same goes for any job/profession. Be it medicine, law or teaching qualifications mean it's more likely the person is competent- but far from certain. Demo lessons are the way to go if an institute really cares if people can do the job. 20 minutes is enough to see if someone has the right idea and attitude.

However - I would recommend that anyone who wants to teach more than one year to get a TEFL cert, and anyone with 2 years plus should look at the dip TESOL or DELTA. It will make you a bettet teacher, even if you were OK to start with. However, it's possible to pass these exams and go back to all your old bad habits......

A lazy teacher is a bad teacher. Preparation is maybe 60% of a good lesson.

Skarp
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rapier



Joined: 16 Feb 2003

PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2003 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have to agree with most of whats been said. However I get sick of people saying qualifications mean little. I worked and saved 6 months to afford my CELTA course, ended up qualifying 2nd place, and it gave me a lot of ideas and a head start in teaching. I've seen plenty of unqualified teachers making classic mistakes teaching- they just haven't been taught the basic groundwork.
Having said that, even the best qualified teachers are innefectual if they are lazy/unmotivated, or have no resources/support/encouragement from management.
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Sadebugo1



Joined: 11 May 2003

PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2003 4:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rapier,

I don't think anyone is trying to diminish the value of your qualification even though it may sound that way. I think the point is that there are some people who all the qualifications in the world won't help to do the job better. This seems to be especially the case in Korea. I feel like my MATEFL has helped me a lot, but might not help some of the other 'instructors' I've worked with in the past.

And, let me clarify again, I didn't mention the CELTA in my original post because I believe that that program does better prepare people to be teachers. The difficulty of completing it almost guarantees that a lot of weak people will be weeded out.
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Butterfly



Joined: 02 Mar 2003
Location: Kuwait

PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2003 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sadebugo1 wrote:
Rapier,

I don't think anyone is trying to diminish the value of your qualification even though it may sound that way. I think the point is that there are some people who all the qualifications in the world won't help to do the job better. This seems to be especially the case in Korea. I feel like my MATEFL has helped me a lot, but might not help some of the other 'instructors' I've worked with in the past.

And, let me clarify again, I didn't mention the CELTA in my original post because I believe that that program does better prepare people to be teachers. The difficulty of completing it almost guarantees that a lot of weak people will be weeded out.


Yes, Sadebugo1 you speak as a now qualified person, and are thus qualified to comment on qualifications in my view!
Like Rapier what annoys me a hell of a lot is how the people who generally say that EFL qualifications dont make a good teacher (or in some cases say that they aren't worth anything) are the people who don't have any. Justifying themselves. It really annoys me.
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Arthur Fonzerelli



Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Location: Suwon

PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2003 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

qualified = white skin, no experience, recent grad with no idea how to speak up for himself/herself...
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Sadebugo1



Joined: 11 May 2003

PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2003 6:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Butterfly,

I guess the moral of the story is that qualifications are inherently a good thing and necessary in this profession. However, at least in Korea, they don't seem to be a consistent indicator of success in the profession. In the end, it depends on the quality of the person rather than his/her qualifications.

No pun intended!
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