English Teacher Professional Development

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I just read an old-but-recently-ressurected “guest article” over on Alex Case’s blog which got some extraordinary replies. It seems (as several commenters even pointed out – to absolutely no effect!), that many people can’t detect satire even when it slaps ‘em in the face — like John Cleese with a bloody great fish in his hand.


The post is titled “Don’t Do the CELTA” and you can read it HERE. It’s pretty funny stuff.

I’ve actually been thinking about EFL teacher professional development a LOT the last little while. Did you read my previous article on the topic, “The Three ‘R’s of Professional Development“?

I’d really like to get to the bottom of some of the things bouncing around in my head. I’ve asked a bunch of colleagues and ex-colleagues, but I’d really love to try and get the broadest data-set I can. So…

I wonder if you’d be kind enough to:

1. Answer this super-simple 5-question survey:

2. Tell all the teachers you know - who actually care about doing their job well (via Facebook, Twitter, forums, blogs, etc. However you connect with other teachers). You could bookmark it using this little social sites interface-thingy, for example…

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I’d really, really appreciate it. Really.



P.S. When I get enough responses, I’ll make a pdf-report to send out to the folks on my mailing list, or post an article about it on the site for y’all.

Any other questions you think I should add? Or other comments about this one? Please leave a comment below…


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2 Responses to “English Teacher Professional Development”

  1. Lynne Hutchinson-Sor Lynne Hutchinson-Sor says:

    Hi Leslie,

    Many thanks for this thought-provoking questionnaire and for the link to the forum which, unfortunately, I didn't really find funny at all - it's quite pathetic in fact. Bottom line here seems to be "what do we need to earn a living?" rather than "what do we need to do our job in a professional and universally recognised manner".

    It seems to me that unscrupulous language school owners (and heaven knows I've met a few in my time) are more concerned about paying as little as possible for the teachers who are willing to slog for them (i.e. get bums on - or better still, back on - seats, as one person on the forum so rightly pointed out) than if they are delivering lessons which are coherent with the learners'(sorry, clients') objectives and being able to constantly adapt to these.

    As for public institutions, my experience of this in France is that they couldn't give a damn about TEFL qualifications at any level because there's no equivalent to this in the French education system. I've taught to primary school kids because I got the bit of paper saying I could string three words of English together into a sentence - the recognised passport here for TEFL at this level. I've also taught first and second year undergraduate students at the (internationally recognised) university because I happen to have been referred to the head of the English department by a colleague; I'm not sure my BICTEFL certificate was the clinching element on my CV for this.

    Whereby my decision to go freelance and aim for business clients who are truly interested in English for international communication - far more lucrative and infinitely more interesting than institutional set-ups at any level.

    Keep up the good work and looking forward to reading the results of the opinion poll.


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    •  Leslie says:

      Heya, Lynne

      Always nice to hear from you. Yes, pathetic indeed in oh so many ways. Agreed.

      The discussion on that post shows up a number of self-important people (on both sides of the fence, i.e. get better qualified; you don’t need to be well-trained) who apparently can’t detect satire. Or didn’t bother to read the full post, got outraged, scrolled down and left a comment. Or something. I have no idea how that conversation/brushfire got going.

      Still, I couldn’t help but laugh at the original piece, if only in a “because it’s true” kinda way — where the little pressure-release-valve of laughter offset my abject disgust at most of what seems to pass as “English language teaching/education,” “professional standards,” and “professional comportment” in this field.

      Re: The “bums on seats” element to the whole industry, I couldn’t agree more. I was just discussing it with my girlfriend last night (who came in as I was finishing up the email I sent out, and got caught up in what was bouncing around my head. She’s a recently-escaped EFL teacher so she knows the score). We were talking about the phenomenon of bums on seats: When the whole freakin’ industry is based on price-war mechanics and the punters (whoops! right, you are: clients) believe that any ole native speaker (with or without any of the kaleidoscope of qualifications out there, ranging from widely-recognised and good, to widely-recognised but of dubious quality, all the way down to cheap-arsed online “information-dump” courses. Or “training programs” run in some beachside location by “trainers” who hold, at best, a CELTA themselves. All the way down to a colleague’s certification having made a trip through the photocopier and had a brief scrape with some Tippex)… whilever the punters think a native-speaker, with or without qualifications can do the job… well *shrug* what’s to be expected, eh?

      Or maybe the punters aren’t that dumb.

      I do cringe when I see the marketing materials for colleges, though, and they say shit like “All our teachers are highly qualified.” I mean, that just appears to be a standard phrase to include in your brochure, like “Call Today!” No, hang on… if the punters never actually question what “highly-qualified” means, then they are are dumb.

      And guess what? I’m dumb too. Before I became a language teacher I did a couple of community-college style language courses and got stung. Extraordinarily bad teaching! Ouch!

      I find it curious that people always talk about how hard it is to learn a language (whereas it’s not especially; it’s just hard work once you’ve got the right tools/skills) yet think teaching can basically be done by anyone. Weird. And as I said, I guess I was one of those people years and years ago, too. There’s such a gross misunderstanding of what is actually involved in learning a language that received wisdom and existing practice become the status quo, perpetuated with every new generation of language learners and teachers.

      Thanks for leaving your thoughts on the poll/survey, too, Lynne. I hope a lot more people do so as well (**HINT, HINT, folks!**) so that we have some different points of view/input to discuss this stuff further.

      Take care,

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