Reflections

Contextualizing the courses, part I

We live and work in the time of standardized internationally recognized teacher training courses with exactly 6 clock hours of practice teaching time with real language learners, clearly outlined criteria forming a neatly written checklist and with the certificate which says that one can start teaching pretty much anywhere in the world.

Can there one a recipe for all, a magic spell (called TESOL Course) that turns you into a teacher within four to six weeks? Is a TESOL course taken in country X helpful for someone who is going to teach in country Y (often on the other part of the globe)?

Think globally but act locally. – This is something I first heard on CNN International and this struck me with its simplicity and meaning. I made a quick online search and see that the idea is mostly about being ecologically aware, both for businesses and individuals. At the same time I feel that this belief / recommendation can be easily applied to the context of training teachers.

A lot has been said and written about principles in modern teaching methodology and you can often see and read that Contextual Learning is one of the important ideas. There is a good example on the CORD website, an organization concerned with change in education. Another definition of ‘context’ from a university handbook for undergraduates regarding critical thinking is merely the information that surrounds an idea or piece of evidence and helps a reader figure out how/why that idea or evidence is being used.

Let us get back to learning and teaching English as a foreign language. On the one hand, learning English means much more than learning a new language: it is often acquiring a new way of thinking, new culture (both in everyday communication and business), new beliefs and values, and even re-thinking your own identity. On the other hand, and especially if we think about young language learners and teenagers, this learning is still happening at home, within one’s own culture, and oftentimes, by teachers coming from the same culture and sharing the same first language and very different levels of their own language proficiency.

 Can we ‘marry’ the two ideas – learning a global language at home? Can there be a course with contextualized content and approach and at the same time helping the participants have the Knowledge, Skills, Attitude and Awareness of an internationally qualified effective language teacher? Or does it mean that helping a participant to be aware of the differences in contexts, teaching them (by our own example) that learning the context of the students is a top priority when preparing lessons actually mean becoming this ‘globally recognized’ teacher?

This post was written by Zhenya

P.S. Part 2 is coming soon, and your thoughts and comments are more than welcome!

We look forward to hearing from you.

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