Well qualified, just a decade out of date

Ascending standardsIMG_0001_zps810e16ce ESOL lecturersLooking back at these old situations vacant ads, one might realize that with the current standards, what they ask for is out date. Of course, these are the minimum entry qualifications. Now days, the advertisements I’ve seen the entry standards for jobs like the above are much, much higher. Masters in TESOL or Linguistics plus experience. I would love to apply for this job, and, since I do meet the standards for application but sadly, I’m a decade late.

Starting out: Origins

IMG_0001_zpsc472aa15(EPIK 2002)I started teaching in the raw in South Korea, after a short two week orientation at KNUE in Cheongju, Southern Cheongchung province. I say teaching in the raw, because initially it was painful, and without any TESOL knowledge I knew it was horrible. I can only imagine what the students thought. Still, it took me over 5 years to come even what in my mind what I thought was close to being a good teacher. It may have been the deep countryside I was teaching in, but still had a lot to learn. MY co-teachers would have me teach like they do. Even back then, I knew I had to distance myself as far away from it as possible. Amongst my fellow graduates of the 2002 EPIK programme, there were an eclectic bunch of people.

I’d always thought that the students should be speaking more. This initially wasn’t driven by any sort of theory other than laziness. Who wants to speak for the whole lesson? This principle still holds today, though is now backed by firm communicative theory.  Walsh is one, while Thornbury is another.

Ascending numbers with descending requirements

Much to my disappointment, the ESL game in Korea has gotten harder. Koreans (and possibly the rest of the world too) has seen changes and reacted correspondingly. From an observers standpoint, their response has been entirely reactive, emotional and based on what I think is the wrong idea of ‘authenticity’. Authenticity is of course where the Native speaking English teacher comes into the frame, but their person specification stating anyone from North America, is female and a new graduate. That’s a very specific demographic and screams of commercialism of the worst kind. This is what has been touted as ‘McESL’. Glitzy, desirable but with entirely with no substance or containing no academic value at all. My thoughts? The market is saturated, and the businessmen with little or no interest in education can perpetuate their line of McESL. This is certainly not confined to just Korea. Most of North-eastern Asia does this employment practice.

Up-to date

Minimum standards have gone up, but, in light of ‘professional development’ anyone who is serious in a career in ESL should actually keep up. By this I mean professional development. The act of making yourself more eligible for jobs  by gaining qualifications and experience. Very rarely will an employer provide chances for furthering education. As I’ve learnt, professional development or, ‘P.D’ is something you have to do yourself. They can take on the form of on-line courses, attending seminars and webinars. All of which have their advantages and disadvantages. In my opinion, webinars are the best since you’re in the comfort of your own home.

So, for the answer is there, develop within the profession. Spend money on yourself.

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Sub-title task, resulted in nothing sub-par

Cowboypics_zps7a2377d5.jpgI tried a communicative writing task last week, with some results. The students were given a strip of pictures and, they were asked “write the sub-titles” for the strip. I explained it as a movie that was missing it’s sub-titles. The results, were varied, if not entertaining. But, it did get them speaking, as a way of feeding back on their work, they read aloud their neighbours work. After a week of the same strip (though different classes) the results are consistent at both levels. The more able classes produced good output, with some of it often being funny. While the lower level classes and students produced… lesser works. Okay, I wasn’t expecting a Shakespeare sonnet, but given free writing practice, my students never failed to amuse.Snippets_zps234aa95e.jpg

Adventures in CI, atomic fission was the key

Think of the above as a S<>S interaction, with the neutrons, the TL

I had just finished my 4th grade classes, and I tried out my new interaction patterns on the class.

These were essentially changing a weakly dialogic class to something that was more student to student. Drawing on my knowledge of chemistry, I played the role of catalyst. Initiating the reaction but remained unchanged by it throughout. The task in this case was simply asking and answering a question, this going down the line of desks to the end. I had initially envisaged mad scientist style, one row of students asking the target language (how’s the weather?) with the row behind them giving them an open answer (It’s sunny) but it was hijacked by my KET, she made it by column, not row. It still worked either way. Not a bad start, but the experimentation continues. The students in pairs again, ask about the target language, as seen in the short film seen in class. Again, I initiated it, but had no part in the saying of the target language, all the input was from the video.

What was the yield? Most of the students spoke, a few did not. Those that didn’t felt it too embarrassing, but obviously their affective filter. Clearly something is needed to penetrate their ‘lead sheilding’. But the net effect was it was initiated by me, but the speaking was done on the whole, by the students. An experiment in sound if you will.

Audio-lingual, U-RAH, U-RAH!

The Audio-lingual method is one of learning by repetition. That is, having the students repeat the target language, many times.  I hear it was invented by the US military, as a way of teaching its’s soldiers the lingo of the country that they would be based in, let alone the language of the people that they might be fighting. In a Korean classroom, (especially that of an Elementary classroom) Audio-lingua is king, and I’m not talking about Elvis. Students here are expected to read, write and recite the target language.  As a student of the Communicative language teaching method, this is just wrong, as in simply just inane. I can cite that if the context is not set properly, the target language that the student would be saying, means nothing. But what I can get from the students, what is worthy of pronunciation, sometimes isn’t worth the effort at all. They’ve been drilled and drilled with a said response to a question, it can be difficult to get them away from the default response and have them think about a real answer.