Following up on last week’s post, I’d like to start addressing the language aspect of teacher development today, an aspect I suggested here last week – unjustly so? – was all but completely ignored by our segment – coursebook writers and publishers, school owners and coordinators, ELT professionals dedicated to professional development, and, most perniciously, teachers themselves.
I have since that post spoken to many friends who are ELT professionals – both native and non-native speakers of English – and in the opinions of the vast majority, this seeming ‘gap’ in the market is really there, glaring. Some excerpts (some translated from Portuguese):
– I know a few teachers who did the CAE test at the beginning of their careers and now, 5 or 10 years later, don’t have that level anymore and would possibly not pass the CAE today. Some schools offer free courses for teachers taught by more experienced, more proficient teachers, but many don’t take those courses and keep on teaching lower levels. (…) I don’t know any SIGs or magazines that deal with that.
– Nope. (…) Not a single book (in the area of language development for teachers). They (schools) tend to lump teachers and advanced students under the same generic umbrella. But if an advanced student says “slangs” it’s not the end of the world. If a teacher does, it’s another story I think.
– Some don’t, some do (answering the question of whether teachers care about their language development). Some people don’t really know their limitations and have never had proper feedback. There are people who look for courses and ways of improving, but they’re still a minority, even if there are more people nowadays in that group than in the recent past, I think. As for the ELT market, I think there are many schools that simply don’t want teachers to develop. They want someone who teaches a half-baked class and is happy with R$ 10 (USD 5,00) per hour.
– I don’t know anything that exclusively concerns itself with language development. There are chapters in some books talking about teacher’s development, but not specifically about language development. Richards (2011) talks about the importance of developing confidence and fluency, but does not talk about how to do so.
Some harsher than others, but there seems to be very little doubt in their minds – and in mine, most definitely – that we tend not to consider language development as being an integral part of teacher development. It’s apparently more important – in today’s TD discussions, anyway – to be proficient in classroom technology than in English. Demanding high from our students (or not even correcting their oral mistakes) is also apparently a lot more worthy of study and discussion than proficiency in English. Actually, there doesn’t seem to be a single topic in the realm of TD that is not more important than a teacher’s language proficiency. Now, I’m a great enthusiast of technology in the classroom, Demand High (DH), extensive reading, oral correction, Dogme (not so much) etc, but I just can’t get my head around the fact most of us believe knowing (a lot about) English is not, at the very least, just as important as anything else, or that we somehow take for granted every teacher is linguistically – for lack of a better word – ‘ready’.
Thus, I am very interested in LDT. I’ve actually been very interested in this area for many years, especially as I myself am not a native speaker of English and am constantly striving to get better, to know more. From here on in, I will devote most of my future posts on this blog to the question of (non-native) English teachers’ language development. How can we get better? What’s available for us in terms of courses, books, blogs, apps etc. I hope many colleagues and friends in the ELT area – both native and non-native – will contribute, suggest, comment and help me and any and all readers of this blog to keep on sharpening that which is our most important tool, our most important means and, ultimately, ours and our students’ intended end.
Finally, If you are in ELT, I’d appreciate it if you could answer the following questions. You can do so by commenting on this post or by emailing me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Feel free to remain anonymous:
– Do you think you give your own English language development the necessary attention?
– What areas of the English language do you feel you need to work on the most?
– What do you do to improve your knowledge of English? (What, how often, who with etc.)
See you next Monday!