TESOL Transformed; From Job to Career?
by Neal McBeath
I would like to begin by drawing your attention to the fact that there is a question mark at the end of my title. I want you to “notice” this, in Kaplan’s (2005) sense of the term. The question mark is important.
This presentation will not be a triumphalist assertion of the type that we so often read in the press of the Arab Gulf States – every day, in every way, we are getting better and better. Neither is it one of those sub-Stalinist calls to arms – Onwards with the March of Progress – that are issued by enthusiasts for one particular approach to language teaching.
This paper will be a personal examination of some of the changes that have taken place in our profession in the past 35 years. I will start in the year 1974 simply because that was the year when I started teaching EFL, but I did not begin until September 1974, and so we are still, just, within the 35 year limit.
The paper is based on the principal of WHO does WHAT to WHOM, and so the paper will reflect on changes so far as they have affected teachers, the curriculum, and students. All, I would suggest, have changed dramatically in the last 35 years.
Then - The 1970s
L.P. Hartley (1953) begins his novel The Go-Between with the statement “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
In 1974, I started teaching EFL at Southampton Technical College. It was like entering Jurassic Park. It was a place where time had stood still. I was 24. My Head of Department had worked at that college for longer than I had been alive.
Having served in the Armed Forces during World War II, he had completed a degree and had taught for one year at a boys-only Grammar School in a small market town. After that he had moved to the Technical College, slowly advancing through the positively Byzantine layers of titles that went with teaching in Further Education – Assistant Lecturer Grade B; Assistant Lecturer Grade A; Lecturer Grade II; Lecturer Grade I; Senior Lecturer; Principal Lecturer; Reader; Assistant Head of Department; Head of Department – but he had still worked in only one institution.
He never saw the drawbacks of the system. It actually encouraged people with professional ambition to move frequently; to apply for an even higher grade job almost as soon as they had moved into a new post. Those who did not move, could get stuck, and many of my colleagues were in that position. They had given up. Only one of them had ever published an article; none of them ever attended conferences, and the Senior Lecturer in change of EFL was completely unqualified.
Although she claimed to be Swedish, she was actually from somewhere in Central Europe, and had started as a part-time teacher of German. From that she had moved into EFL, because as we all know, anyone who can learn English can also teach it. For some reason that I never understood, she been allowed to branch out into teacher training, and ran courses for both the Royal Society of Arts and Trinity College, London.
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