I like several of the points James Gillis made in his posting about professionalism. I started teaching in the 1970s, in my own country, the UK, with noMessage 1 of 4 , Nov 30, 2006View SourceI like several of the points James Gillis made in his posting about
I started teaching in the 1970s, in my own country, the UK, with no teaching
qualification. That was possible in the 16+ sector of education back then.
Later, on the basis of that teaching experience combined with a BA and MPhil
in Linguistics (which tends to impress DOS-type people), I was able to get
TEFL jobs in the UK and Portugal. So I taught for around 6 or 7 years
before I did any teacher training. It sounds like an utterly unprofessional
start in teaching, but my first year of teaching was within the UK state
sector, and that was a probationary year - if you don't do a satisfactory
job, you can't continue to teach. So there was a system of monitoring and
evaluation which encouraged some real learning on the job.
My first teaching qualification was the CELTA, and I only did moderately
well on that course. I think it's an excellent training course (and I'd
recommend the centre where I did it), but the approach is relatively narrow,
as I think it has to be given its targets and time limitation. I did much
(much) better on a 1-year full-time course, the UK state-sector postgraduate
standard training course which I took several years later. In a 1-year
course you can study at depth, and there's time for substantial personal
change and development. You've got time to experiment as well as reflect.
I did both of these course as late career change moves - in my late 40s and
in my 50s.
I was teaching in China before taking that 1-year course of professional
training and I've been teaching here since doing it, and my view of the
situation in China has changed as a result of that higher level teacher
training course. I'm much more critical now of what I see happening here
because I understand more clearly what bad effects are following from some
of the teaching practices here - and can see what alternatives are
available. What now frustrates me more than anything here is the lack of
motivation to change, and I class that as a major lack of professionalism.
I think much of the change that would get better results here demands
relatively little in terms of resources or training, but does demand changes
in attitude and motivation on the part of teachers and educational
management level staff (deans and vice deans within departments and teaching
So, in response to James, I think for me, one of the real criteria of
professionalism is being open to change and development, to improvement in
your own practice, and that all depends on your attitude to the work
situation and will never happen if you don't have internal or external
motivation to change.
I was asked recently by a foreign teacher colleague what I was doing in
China when I was so well qualified, and in a way I found that question quite
shocking. I'm a qualified and experience teacher of English to non-native
speakers - and that's exactly what I'm doing here. I chose China because
I'd studied some Chinese, visited China, and was interested in the language
and its culture. In TEFL/TESOl you have the perk of being able to choose
the work context which satisfies some personal interests. But I wouldn't
have stayed more than a year if the classroom work hadn't also been
professionally stimulating and satisfying - for me, just as much as for the
However, I must admit that in my sixth year here, I'm now thinking of
leaving China - and 3 months ago that was not at all what I was planning.
I've moved up the educational hierarchy from working in xueyuan colleges to
a shifan daxue. The students have to get a higher level score in their
college entrance exam to get into this level college, so their English is at
a higher level (generally), and I'm enjoying the new challenge of teaching
higher level students. What I'm not enjoying is the institutional context.
I'm coming to the conclusion it's exactly the same - and maybe even worse -
than the three supposedly lower level colleges I worked in before.
After 3 months here I understand why I'm so disappointed. I made a
fundamentally false assumption. From 5 years teaching in China and an
enormous amount of discussion about education here, I understood the shifan
daxue in each provincial capital to be a key element in educational
development - including the ongoing reforms with regard to the teaching of
English. So I expected teaching practice here to be the nearest there would
be to being a model of best practice. And I honestly don't think it is.
So, I've moved up expecting better as regards professionalism, and have yet
to see evidence of it. Of course students here graduate with higher levels
of English than did the students I taught in the xueyuan - but they come in
with higher exam scores. One of the most interesting research findings I
remember reading about when I did my PGCE course is how learners can develop
an L2 without any formal instruction. Those who want to learn a language
can do so regardless of the context.
I think the main point of this posting (on re-reading it) is that your own
professionalism doesn't solve some of the biggest problems. And how easy it
is to make false assumptions.
My apologies for a maybe rambling response prompted by James' posting about
professionalism, but it seemed so apposite.
And I do feel better for that whinge!
Shenyang Normal University
MODERATOR NOTE: This thread is beginning to move a bit into the LIFE arena rather than the TEACH arena. Could contributors work towards tying things backMessage 2 of 4 , Dec 1 3:05 PMView SourceMODERATOR NOTE: This thread is beginning to move
a bit into the LIFE arena rather than the TEACH
arena. Could contributors work towards tying things
back into TEACH topics?
Jennifer Wallace wrote:
> ... What now frustrates me more than anythingHow about reverse motivation? I was in Harbin over
> here is the lack of > motivation to change, and
>I class that as a major lack of professionalism.
the summer and visited quite a few schools. I jabbered
at every one of them about having more humour/jokes
in Chinese and English so people learn the patterns.
I jabbered about learning facial/body language as
a primary/secondary to verbal clues. Some were very
open and I collected some contract offers. Very often
the body language was frozen to fearful. I remember
walking into one university meeting room to talk to
eight teachers. They started out showing fear and
uncertainty and ended up ejecting me with comments
like "there will be no jokes in our school."
Now add a conservative hierarchy on top of these emotions.
. . .
> ... I think for me, one of the real criteria ofThe Japanese often start development of a new product
> professionalism is being open to change and
> development, to improvement in your own practice,
> and that all depends on your attitude to the work
> situation and will never happen if you don't have
> internal or external motivation to change. ...
without any engineers present. The engineers (read
teachers) know what to do and how to do it. That
knowing restricts creative flow. Even in an environment
where people and the organization are seeking
Part of the matter is that professionals attract/gather
people with similar personality propensities.
Perfectionists do well where we want to make incremental
improvements. Innovators do best where we're creating
whole new forms/structures.
I grew up rural, farming and logging. I'm
trained as a forester with a degree in Forest
Resource Management, and spent many years
engineering roads, cutblocks, bridges, small
villages, airfields etc. In one year I might
engineer more such than many engineers do
in a career. At the same time the professional
engineers in our jurisdiction continually
fight to restrict such engineering by
foresters. We're obviously incompetent and
violating professional jurisdiction.
I'd suggest I was more effective through
practise/experience, and much less perfecting.
We had a seasoning of professional engineers
and our worst blunders were professional
engineer related. To be fair I gladly left
detailed engineering of major bridges to
others, so I wasn't likely to be the one
designing the bridges that washed out
or that failed under a loaded logging truck.
Our worst life loss, five guys bounced
a landing Cessna off a spruce tree at
the end of an airfield (and we didn't
find the crash site for three weeks), was
at a 'perfectly engineered' airfield
that had a strong prevailing wind. The
combination of the wind, the overloaded
airplane, landing in the wrong direction,
and turning, did them in.
Shortly afterward I flew into the same airfield
with the professional engineer responsible
for that location to mark trees for removal
and prevent any repeat. Standing nearly in
sight of where grizzly bears ravaged his
dead co-workers, he wouldn't mark out enough
trees for removal. It was too brushy and
too wet-swampy so he left what we now
knew to be danger trees. I didn't 'correct'
him, I let the surviving locals handle him
and the danger trees.
Professionalism doesn't handle someone who
wants to remain comfortable, and detached
from mucky situations. I suggest that his
'professional detachment' let him view the
situation as akin to a car accident, and
not really his problem. His work and
calculations were right so the problem wasn't
really his. It wasn't a 'professional problem'.
> And I do feel better for that whinge!"mustn't grumble." and we do anyway.
Forget mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now and do it. Today is your lucky day. -- Will Durant
-- USQ-SCNU Kangda, Guangdong, China 32971022
Jennifer Wallace wrote (in part) ... . ... Thanks Jennifer. Good stuff. I have saved much of your advice onto my China Teach folder over the years...as IMessage 3 of 4 , Dec 1 6:51 PMView SourceJennifer Wallace wrote (in part)
> I like several of the points James Gillis made in his posting about.
> I started teaching in the 1970s, in my own country, the UK, with no teaching
> qualification. That was possible in the 16+ sector of education back then.
> Later, on the basis of that teaching experience combined with a BA and MPhil
> in Linguistics (which tends to impress DOS-type people), I was able to get
> TEFL jobs in the UK and Portugal. So I taught for around 6 or 7 years
> before I did any teacher training. It sounds like an utterly unprofessional
> start in teaching, but my first year of teaching was within the UK state
> sector, and that was a probationary year - if you don't do a satisfactory
> job, you can't continue to teach. So there was a system of monitoring and
> evaluation which encouraged some real learning on the job.
>Thanks Jennifer. Good stuff. I have saved much of your advice onto my 'China
> However, I must admit that in my sixth year here, I'm now thinking of
> leaving China - and 3 months ago that was not at all what I was planning.
> I've moved up the educational hierarchy from working in xueyuan colleges to
> a shifan daxue. > Jennifer Wallace
> Shenyang Normal University>>>>>>
Teach folder' over the years...as I have some of the other good teacher-sharers
on these good lists. I use it all or in part when I come back to teach. I will
try anything new to motivate and impart knoweldedge to the great Chinese kids
I'm so privilidged to work with But....forgive my ignorance; What is "shifan
Don..the not always best teacher for China but I TRY!
PS...Since you are at a 'Normal Univ.'...you are teaching teachers. What a
challenge. What an honor. Good for You!!!! Now you talk of leaving. I think it
would be a loss to China. But I think you will return. Like the great many on
this list....we complain...we critize, we argue, we get frustrated but after
all.... we love China...and the Chinese. I look forward to return; my wife and
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... It seems the moderator is worried that this thread is beginning to move a bit into the LIFE arena rather than the TEACH arena. He begs contributors toMessage 4 of 4 , Dec 2 8:19 AMView Source--- Vic Williams <vic@...> wrote:
It seems the moderator is worried that this thread is
beginning to move a bit into the LIFE arena rather
than the TEACH arena. He begs contributors to work
towards tying things back into TEACH topics?
Perhaps that is because Vic went into his thing about
professional engineers. But Jennifer Wallace focused
on the lack of motivation to change, and that is
definitely in the TEACH column.
Yes, teachers tend to teach the way they were taught.
And the movement away from Grammar/Translation toward
the Communicative Approach is further hampered by the
tall poppy syndrome so prevalent in China. No teacher
wants to make a fool of herself in front of the class
by making a mistake in English.
But I am an OF who can see the impressive movement
that has occured in this area over a number of
decades. There are now a number of immersion schools
scattered around the country (many staffed by teachers
who were formed in Anglophonic countries) and I am
constantly amazed by the proliferation of English
Corners. Years ago when I would stroll on a campus
folks would avert their eyes. Now they come
a-swarming (although often with the same stupid
questions: do you like Chinese food? do you like
Jenifer, the glass is half full, not half empty.