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Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 2:25 am
by fluffyhamster
Sorry if you feel this has been done to death, but I just noticed that it seems they've been discussing this over on the International (Job Discussion) forums too:

In fact, if you follow the link at the second post down, right after 'Gawain reckons not', you'll soon see another link to the englishdroid article (with which I began this thread).

Something that a guy called 'distiller' said on that "Gawain Poll" thread got me thinking:
It's been said before, even by me several times, but I guess it bears repeating that you can make TEFL a joke or you can make it a well paying career.

A lot of people seem to think they can cruise into TEFL with no qualifications or experience and live the high life. You may be able to get a job but not much of one.

You want this to be a serious career? Then get serious! Get a first degree related to education or English, get a certificate/diploma in TEFL or a masters while gaining experience, teach in your home country and then go abroad. You will be a commodity capable of getting ridiculously well paid international school jobs and the dream of living abroad and having fistfuls of cash will come true. How many times do we need to see these "I have no degree, no experience, no money and am not able to count past ten. Can I get paid to hang out at the beach as an English teacher” posts?. One would not think that one could have an unrelated degree or no experience and training and get a good job in any other field so why do people think it is so in ESL? Because you speak English? Don't let your western hubris blind you to the fact that the best jobs, and there are a lot, go to the best-qualified and experienced teachers. I don’t have a problem with people wanting to piss around seeing the world on a shoestring using TEFL as a means, I did it for a while, but I have no sympathy for those who bemoan the lack of progress in their TEFL careers when they have done nothing to improve themselves as teachers or their marketability.
Of course, he's right, but how many of us originally did a first degree in education, or have the money, time or inclination to do a further TEFL qualification?

My (first) degree isn't in education (and if I could choose again I would probably do one in something linguisticy and/or languagey, which might've led into an academic career or at least not teaching-learning the English language), and a lot of the reservations I myself have with further qualifications are to do with finding a good diploma or MA programme that I feel will not patronize unnecessarily and boost me not only a rung or two up the career ladder - with an appropriate increase in pay to recoup the expense - but also be more rewarding and stimulating to me personally (yes, who among trainers would believe that teachers have personal pet interests and possible "research" agendas).

To be totally honest I haven't been saving away for a Dip or an MA so it is a bit academic whether I would do one or not, but I do find it a little disappointing that teachers are held to be a bunch of morons spending their money only on booze and possibly prophylactics whilst somehow also miraculously putting some shekels aside for that eventual course where they'll incredulously cry, 'What, you expect us to buy a thing called "books"?!'. That being said, I suppose I woudn't mind being dragged kicking and screaming through a serious course in e.g. SF Grammar and analysis...but I wonder if at the end of it I'd just say 'Hmm, right, that was indeed world-shattering, what's next on the plough-through?'.

BTW I'm waiting for Dave to OK my becoming a member of the International forums. :twisted:

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 2:54 am
by fluffyhamster
Actually, that Gawain guy gets a bit of flak for moaning about the TEFL industry - some even call him a troll. Of course, I'm not a troll, and even though you may be sick of my moaning also, I do try to take the job seriously and do actually sometimes <<GASP>> enjoy it (despite setbacks like I had thanks to a certain sucks-bigtime school in Saitama prefecture)...

I certainly don't think the average teacher (and I feel I am just that) deserves much more than they currently get (and as we've said on this thread, not every country or school can actually afford to pay much more than they do, unless they aren't averse to possibly subsidizing salaries whilst meeting set-up costs and overheads etc)...but do extra qualifications suddenly transform your average teachers into an above-average one who can command huge pay increases anywhere and everywhere? I really should go back and do that B Ed or PGCE and get QTS, then do an MA, see if it's all true about the land of milk and honey, and if it is, sit back and enjoy the last few years left available to a near-retirement age teacher (at present 34 :lol: ).

Please tell me if you reckon I've gone on a bit too much now about the CELTA, DELTA, probably most of the MAs available, bosses etc - I probably have. :D

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 2:58 am
by fluffyhamster
Oh, nice website link there (to, Dr Jones! :lol:

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 5:28 am
by woodcutter
However many letters you have after your name, the new pretty young female teacher full of energy and with lots of time to spend with the students is going to be more popular than you, unless you are doing high level classes, which you seldom will be.

That's the nature of the normal TEFL job. Those who wish to swank about professorially need to think about doing another thing. And in the end, what's the point of all our theses for what the industry ought to be? It is what it is because of the nature of language. Anyone can teach it fairly well, there are many ways to go at it, and people get in the classroom and then want to relax and have fun, despite their good intentions!

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 9:33 pm
by fluffyhamster
So I need a sex change too now?! :roll:


Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:08 pm
by lolwhites
Don't worry Fluff, men age better. So long as the pretty young things are students, not staff, your popularity is assured, I'm sure. :wink:

Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 3:53 am
by fluffyhamster
Hmm, I don't know about men aging better - depends on what they're doing (vice-wise), doesn't it! :D :wink:

Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 4:11 am
by fluffyhamster
woodcutter wrote:Those who wish to swank about professorially need to think about doing another thing.
Hmm, interesting phrase there, woody. I fully agree with you about the silliness of swanking generally (exact degree of silliness depends on what the thesis was about), but then again, I've never really understood or ultimately had much time for those who say, 'Pah! Linguistics! What's the point of that!'. There's a lot more to linguistics than Chomsky and (S)LA, and the values involved in ELT are becoming ever more complex (or rather, they always have been, it's just that now we seem more aware of the complexity and can't always remain on the surface of things apologists for simply "teaching" "English" - thinking about the issues involved does increase the scope and perhaps therefore the quality of what one might (then) be teaching, even if it is ultimately just still English in my or your book). ... 2626#12626 ... 4667#14667

Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 5:55 am
by woodcutter
Linguistics can help. It can also hinder, if one uses it to show off one's jazzy terms and prowess at the board. I used to have a terrible maths teacher like that - a fine mathematician, he would do wonderful proofs before our very eyes, while we gazed on bemused.

If it helps you to understand what is going on and explain the real limits of our simple explanations, good. However, new teachers generally avoid getting into difficult areas, and that can be good too. It isn't necessary for the students to get too hung up on "why", and many experienced teachers want to dump most of the grammatical instruction, don't they?

As we discussed with Sally, there are not big differences in the results produced by different teachers. Old grammarians may lose their flair, their energy, creativity and ability to remember names. Thats why many schools actually discriminate against them. As you get more experienced you can improve, but the margin of your improvement will likely be small, the instruction you give will not be that much better than before. You can also lose your mojo.

People who wish to pull the drawbridge up after them are a little bit despicable. We most likely all kicked off not knowing where we were headed, wanting to travel, intimitated by all the grammar. Would we have entered this profession if it was necessary to have a horribly expensive MA in cant from some money grubbing university? Would the backwater Ukranian schools benefit from that general policy?

Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 6:38 am
by fluffyhamster
The problem as I see it is that there is so much knowledge that gets skirted around/just "discussed"/alluded to, if not downplayed, dumbed down or just plain ignored on most courses. Teachers then fall back on tried and tested but ultimately not terribly ambitious methods and materials, in the "full" knowledge that the real deal is sitting gathering dust on some library reference shelf or thesis depository.

Obviously, the job of the teaching industry and profession as a whole is not to dust off those books and begin quoting from them verbatim (although when it comes to learner, and the better of the native-speaker dictionaries at least, I wouldn't see the harm), but to incorporate those findings into a form the students can relate to and enjoy. Until such time as the average textbook expands itself considerably to more resemble a dictionary in terms of page count and width, I just can't see learners making the progress they otherwise could. There are tens of thousands of conversation catalysts, and all the language one could ever need to plot a course through those fulfilling conversations, sitting there unused.

I think I've said all that before somewhere else here on Dave's.

Just rambling here....

Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 7:33 am
by revel
Good morning all!

Just rambling here, don't take me seriously.

If pay depended on the official letters I could stick on after my name, then I would be at the bottom of the scale and my colleague JC would be at the top. And yet, in the recent student survey given to adults, I was rated well above JC in all areas of teaching (preparation, presentation, enjoyment, participation, general knowledge of my subject). JC and I both make the same hourly wage. What's the problem here?

In this business, as in most in the service industry, earnings depend on customer satisfaction. JC fortunately only gives 16% of the classes to this group, where I give 48%. Unfortunately, another teacher, without the capacity to satisfy the needs or wants of these students gives another 16% of the classes. Finally, there is another 16% given by a pretty competant teacher like me. That means that 32% of the class is long, dull, boring, uninteresting, while 68% of the class is satisfying. (I know the numbers don't add up to 100%, but you get my point). The students simply don't come to those 32% that are dull, often only showing up for the other 68% which satisfy their needs, wants. These people are not obliged to attend class (well, once they sign up they have a limit of absences allowed by the State, which is paying for the course) and, to be honest, this class is my bread and butter. If word of the dissatisfaction gets back to the State, the State will look for another academy to give these courses. Work will be lost, I will lose work. I am working hard to make sure that there is a continuance to this work, in part because I believe that language learning is a life-long process, and in part because I have to eat and pay the rent. And yet, I am working with at least one teacher who evidently doesn't see the connection between giving interesting, even fun classes and the continuance of working as a teacher. We are, I repeat, paid the same hourly wage despite these facts.

Since in my case we are obviously talking about a business and not an educational facility, it would only be correct to reward the teacher who ensures a healthy life for the business with better pay. That teacher is doing this work through the development of materials, the extra time put into looking for props, tailoring the class to specific dynamics, etc. The other teacher, upon receiving such a poor evaluation, ought to be put into the "boring, uninteresting, seems like high school language class" pay scale, that is, minimum wage to fill the hour. Better yet, that teacher should be put into the street at once and the hard working teacher should be given those hours (as long as there is time in the teacher's schedule), but basically, as there is evidently a difference in the quality of the product, there should be a difference in the price paid. A BMW costs more than a Ford.

Will leave you with those thoughts.


Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 7:51 am
by woodcutter
FH, You talk about your ideas so theoretically, it's difficult to give them the hard spanking they no doubt deserve!

How many new textbooks do there have to be before some dictionary sized volume tickles your fancy? Plenty of people have had a go at writing them. The problem with textbooks is that they are textbooks. Each teacher can find their own road to solve that problem, a way to humanize, to adapt. Linguistic accuracy will be a positive in the endless quest, but a common sense methodology and empathy may rank above.

Linguists certainly won't never create no magic textbook. They won't come up with a corpus of super-sentences.

Not sure if Revel is on my side, but I guess so, since I am qualification bashing and praising energy...........

In the end, y'know (I'm turning into Blair now), I'm just saying we ought to be more positive about the status quo, more supportive of the diversity, the wild, dirty and rainbowic world of TESOL. It's a glory of the age!

Posted: Thu Mar 17, 2005 6:30 am
by woodcutter
By the way, a little fable for Revel.

Let me introduce Teacher X, a handsome Californian boy, one time teacher in a dreaded Korean "Hagwon". TX thought the job was a joke and rated himself a poor teacher. I observed him once, and he was very, very polite, but gave the students little chance to talk. The quiet students said nothing at all (it was all open questions). He used to look for an opportunity to launch into a "spiel", as he called it, a funny tale from his own life, with which he would make the students laugh, and he would drag it out as long as he could, hoping to hear the buzzer ring for the end of class.

The students liked him very much, especially the older females, and the kids who were very shy, and forced to study by their parents. He usually won best teacher of the month award, based on how many students in your class the school retained, and got a bonus. Did he deserve it?

Posted: Thu Mar 17, 2005 7:00 am
by fluffyhamster
I think he'd deserve the award in some respects: he was providing some genuine, heartfelt input and no doubt improving the students' understanding of English, western humour etc.

What he'd need to then do though, of course, is make sure that his performance was copied or emulated in some way by the students, and not lose sight of how difficult it is for students to take the floor for longer turns if they don't have a good grounding in the grammar and phrasing of shorter turns (if we can assume and accept that there is probably a lot of overlap linguistically in between the more obvious of the discourse markers etc); from the sounds of your fable, he didn't do any of this, and as we all know, listening is a necessary but not sufficient condition for (accurate-and-fluent) production.

And the moral is...

Posted: Thu Mar 17, 2005 7:32 am
by revel
Good morning!

What a lovely day it is today! Spring is making an early start of things here in Sunny Spain, after a long, boring, cold, very cold winter.

woodcutter's fable is an example of the incredible force of objectives in the classroom. It is evident that the objectives of young TX were to fill the hour doing something he enjoyed (talking about himself) while keeping the students happy so that he could fulfill his other objective, which was to collect his hour's pay. The students' objective were possibly to enjoy that obligatory hour of English without having to directly participate too much. Those objectives were met and TX got good marks on his teacher's survey. The administration's objective must have been "keep the students in class with few complaints" as rewarding TX for his performance demonstrates.

However, had the objectives been more in the line of helping the students overcome cultural interferences, or pronunciation problems, or just good old learning grammar and vocabulary, had the students had that objective or the administration, or even TX, then those objectives would not have been met and TX would not have been applauded for his work. In the example I gave earlier, the objectives have been to help students with a certain level of English take advantage of that level and use it in their communication with others in the working world. As my classes are hands-on role-play and pronunciation workshops, the students feel that they are truely working towards those goals, they are saying things that they might have to say when English is required of them in the future; whereas, in the classes with the other teachers, they are listening to long, dull explanations of gramatical items and doing fill-in-the-blanks exercises ad-nauseum, an activity that does not comply with the objectives. The students demonstrate their satisfaction with me and their dissatisfaction with the others based entirely on if the objectives are being addressed. That role-play is more fun than listening to lectures about the three plus zero conditonals is a happy side-effect, but it is not at all the objective.

Should TX have been awarded as he was? Bosses don't award teachers unless they are doing what the bosses want them to do. Again, TX was evidently doing his "job", so yes, I suppose he deserved the garlands. Naturally, I would not hire TX myself, or once hired, I would either insist on a more serious set of objectives and their necessary preparation and execution, or I would set his feet in the street to look for a job in an academy where his "talents" would be better appreciated.

In the agency in New York City, we had all kinds of "teachers". When the student wanted to really study and improve, I usually took the classes. When the student was looking for friendly chat, as he or she had not friends in NYC, I always handed them over to Ken, a pleasant English actor (who was always doing the Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady" in regional tours), well read, well traveled, and a good conversationalist. Those students were happy with Ken though he rarely taught them anything besides a curious vocabulary word here or there. They were happy because they could passively sit and listen to him, throw in the occasional question, maybe even offer the occasional anecdote, but basically listen to this pleasant man talk about himself. Some students want just that.