A little rant

It distresses me that by writing this post I might make some people annoyed. That’s why I’d like to reassure the reader in advance that it is not my intention – this post is not aimed at specific people. Please, don’t take any of this personally.

It’s that I just noticed something. Maybe it’s always been around and it’s recently become salient for me, for god-knows-what reasons. Maybe it’s actually me who takes things personally. The trouble is that everywhere I look I come across a mention or a plethora of mentions of a certain internationally recognised teaching qualification. I don’t mean the type of posts or articles where the author looks at things with a critical eye and questions the current status quo. I’m talking about the type of discourse which people use to promote something they deem good. I’d like to stress that I can fully understand why teachers, who I respect and admire, are proud to have achieved this particular qualification. I’m convinced that the experience was challenging and beneficial. What bugs me then?

I remember I first heard of this highly rewarded qualification at the start of my MA programme a couple of years ago. During the introductory speech the DoS said in passing: “Yes, and by the way, I shouldn’t forget to mention that your two-year intensive course leading to an MA degree will actually be less valued than the four-week X course.” Although I was a little surprised by his rather cruel off-topic remark, I didn’t actually care very much because I was thrilled to be taking part in a programme of my dreams, and nothing else mattered to me then. Anyway, I didn’t even know what course he was talking about.

After my graduation, a brand new horizons opened for me; I met lots of wonderful people (my precious PLN) and I started learning from them. However, I also realised that the DoS was right. You know, I can’t help feeling excluded at times. I mean, when I’m going through the topics of an upcoming ELT-related Twitter chat and see that one, or even two, of them are directly related to the highly rewarded teaching qualification, I can’t but feel discouraged. How am I going to contribute to the discussion if the topic wins? I’ll be automatically excluded. It would be similar to suggest a topic in which people would be asked to discuss the following question: What are the benefits of using Headway? Why did I choose it and how do I work with it in class? Pardon? I don’t use Headway! How on earth can I discuss the topic? And are Headway users a special group?

This reminds me that I once came across a remark that you can never provide truly valuable feedback on an observed lesson unless you hold a certain certificate and not another. Wow. This has really stuck with me. At times it feels like there are two groups out there – the one which consists of the said certificate holders and the other one including those who did a different teaching qualification. It’s Us and the Others.

I felt a similar controversy when people discussed what blog creation tool is best to use. The discussion eventually narrowed down to two tools. It’s quite obvious that you can only say which of the two options is better if you try both of them. Otherwise you can only say what is good for you. If you like something, for whatever reason, you obviously tend to promote it and recommend it. This is absolutely fine. But once you start feeling that you are attracted to one option just because it’s been chosen by the majority out there, you should become alert. Why do you feel like that?

My point is that any type of discourse can become inherently biased. Moreover, by promoting something we like as the only and the best option we may be actually promoting somebody’s profitable business. And those owning the business must be rubbing their hands together. Because honestly, the things I’ve discussed in my post are profitable businesses and I believe that’s how they should be looked at.

 

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
This entry was posted in Education, Just pondering ..., Rants and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to A little rant

  1. Hi Hana!
    I like your rant. A friend of mine once said, “ELT is a very small world” and the ELT market is a very small market that promotes/sells products. Some you like, others you don't. I think we need to try things out and see what suits us. X blog ended up being more suitable for me than my prior Y blog. I have tried Headway and did not like it. No course will ever be more valuable than my MA course. I made something. As for feeling excluded, I often feel the same way but I don't really mind. I can't know/appreciate and follow everything, just the things I am interested in. What I don't know, won't kill me 🙂
    Last but not least, we live in an age where “show”/”sell” dominates. We have to be critical about what we end up buying (metaphorically and literally speaking).
    Joanna

    Like

  2. Hana Tichá says:

    Dear Joanna,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. There's so much wisdom and balance in it. I know you're one of those who've tried all the things I mention I my post. Thus I fully respect your opinion and I truly admire you. You can compare A with B because you've experienced them both. Although it's not always said explicitly, I feel that certain products are equalled with abilities and skills. You have got a certificate, you can teach well. You use this book, you are a good teacher. You don’t use a book at all, you are a superhero.

    I’m really grateful you’ve stopped by and took the time to react to this post. I wasn’t really sure whether to publish it at all but it’s been on my mind for some time.

    Hana

    Like

  3. Haha I loved the ” You don't use a book, you are a super hero”. I once taught a course where they did not want to use any course books cause well, they wanted us to do what we thought best. I drowned :p. Sometimes though there is a lot of pressure out there.
    Btw I love your blog. You are probably one of the only bloggers I read on a regular basis cause I get what your saying 🙂
    Joanna

    Like

  4. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks. I love reading your blog too. You know, there's one thing we have in common – we love blogging and we both write a lot! Your last sentence really got me smiling; I'm glad you find my writing intelligible 😀

    Like

  5. annloseva says:

    Hana!

    1) I like your new blog template, it's amazing and dynamic, and it actually says down the page it's “dynamic views template”. Off-topic, but maybe related to blog platform choices. Blogger is somehow very unfriendly in terms of leaving a comment from the outside of Blogger. Nonetheless, when I feel I need to say something, I try and do. And you're with it no matter what we WP-people say. That's great.=)

    2) I can sense your ranty mood and maybe notes of irritation in the voice. And even if I don't feel the same way you do about the highly rewarded teaching qualification, I can understand you very well. It is imo so silly to compare and compete like that in the online world. The worth and value of any certifcate for me is in its real practical application now, post qualification that I have. Which is in itself far, FAR behind any of recognized, publicised, advertised and much sought-after solid international ELT qualifications. What do I (and my students) care? There'll always be a better paper than the one I have, as well as a more intelligent/ professional/ knowedgable/etc teacher. I don't know. I just hope you don't feel discouraged very often because of what people around are saying not even about you =))

    I'm worred my comment is strange and flimsy, but it's my first comment on blogs in a long while. Forgive me.

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  6. Hi Hana,

    I can totally get where this is coming from. I actually never did the qualification you're talking about, rather doing a one-year course after having done my BA in languages. I've always felt that longer courses give more of a chance to let things sink in and to really gain experience. I certainly gained as much, if not more, from simply being in teaching practice for a year, as I did from my tutors at university. I felt the same about the Delta – I didn't even want to do an 8-week version because I knew it wouldn't stick with me. So I took a part time course over 5-6 months.

    I think there may be a case for saying that perhaps some courses (and they might be 4-week full time, or 5-month part time versions) might offer practical techniques (whether that's good or bad) and others may allow you to delve into a subject more deeply. It's horses for courses. As for being valued less or more, that is a sad fact of a market that tries to do one-size-fits-all in many different aspects, and fails miserable a lot of the time because of it.

    BTW I've also had Blogger-eating-my-comments problems before, but I'm not snooty about blogging tools!

    Like

  7. Hana Tichá says:

    Hi Anna,

    I'm glad you like my new, dynamic blog template and I'm happy your comment found its way through the nasty traps Blogger sets 🙂 I've heard about this nuisance before and I don't know why it is so, but now I can value the comments even more when commenting on Blogger is such toil 😀

    On a more serious note, I feel a little embarrassed when I realize how well you can read my mind. You say you detected a slight irritation in the tone of my post and I confess it was really there. Actually, I was kicking around like a little child 🙂

    Anyway, I agree with you when you say that it’s more important what you do after you obtain a certificate or get a qualification. However, I feel that you still believe you need to get one particular type of qualification in order to develop into a good teacher (you say: “I don't feel the same way you do about the highly rewarded teaching qualification”). Or maybe you are only implying that it’s been useful for you, which I would never question. Anyway, the point of my post was that numerous inconspicuous dichotomies exist out there and they may become dangerous over time, like the notorious distinction between NESTs and NNESTs, for example.

    Hana

    Like

  8. annloseva says:

    I did screw up my idea, as I thought)))
    What I really meant by my “I'm not with you on this” was that I'm not bothered and I don't feel the pressure and “discrimination” that you seem to be feeling.

    Like

  9. Hana Tichá says:

    Hi Mike,

    I'm sorry to hear that Blogger is such a naughty child devouring people’s comments. 😀 I guess somebody should do something about it before all Blogger people turn into WP people.

    Thanks for sharing bits and pieces of your professional journey. It’s interesting to see how diverse the ELT world is. That is why I think we should be careful about the way we label things. I believe that everybody should have the right to choose what suits them best; you can see it at conferences, for example; some people prefer practical tips and advice while others are more into the theoretical stuff, which doesn’t mean they aren’t or can’t become great practitioners.

    As you say, it’s a particular market demand that actually makes teachers to opt for a particular qualification, and I don’t believe they primarily choose it because it’s the best available. But this is just a speculation so I’d better leave here. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    Hana

    Like

  10. Hana Tichá says:

    No, I must have misunderstood your message 🙂 Thanks for the clarification.

    Like

  11. annloseva says:

    And yes, blogger has just done it again.
    Anyway, I said I don't have the highly rewarded qualification. That, or any other. Likewise, I am a NNEST.

    Like

  12. Yeah Hana, we do write a lot : ) Sometimes I think someone is going to tell me off for all the bably blog posts. You know what though, your blog is yours, say whatever you want to in it. If you are irritated, vent. I did this week!!
    Re qualifications, my question is: Is there a best qualification? What does best even mean?Who defines best? By doing the 'best', does that mean that you are going to become a better teacher?Does everything have to do with the learner's needs (in this case the teachers) or is it the market's demands?

    Like

  13. Clare Tyrer says:

    I am a CELTA teacher trainer so I am duty bound to extol its merits! I honestly think it is a useful course as it allows candidates with little/no experience to have a range of teaching techniques on which to build. However, sometimes its prescriptive nature bothers me as I find that candidates are 'jumping through hoops' or signposting what they are doing for the trainer's benefit, e.g. “I was going to drill that but you can say it well so…” (nudge nudge, wink wink etc.). For me, the most important thing is to continually want to experiment with your own practice, to think about your teaching context and how reflecting on what you are doing will benefit them. I admire and appreciate your passion and honest reflections. Don't worry about offending anyone. Thanks again for the post. Diky moc!

    Like

  14. Zhenya says:

    Hi Hana

    I loved the little rant post – and the response it created!
    Just wanted to add my 'ranting comment' in reply 🙂 I believe there is no 'paper' or certificate in the world that defines a good Teacher, or helps to give a good feedback, or anything being 'the' or 'best'. I am speaking from my own experience: done one 4-week course in the past as a participant, became a licensed teacher trainer in another (similar but better) program, now working on designing specialized/contextualized courses for teachers. Do I claim any of them are 'best'? – No. As you said, one program is clearly marketed better, and once people invest time, money and energy into doing it, they 'have to' say it is good. Similarly to many products/services we use as customers, maybe.

    Finally, the most important point, I think I read from your post (at least to me): there is an attempt in the (ELT) world to say that nothing weighs more than a certain 4 week program. Nothing, even an MA. Well, I disagree: I think people (native speakers or not) who invested a part of their lives into learning about teaching and learning are much more ready to step into a classroom. With the 4 week course or without – with a good DoS at the school they will serve their students beautifully. Again, speaking from my experience of 'receiving' teachers with that famous qualification and without.

    Thank you for making me think, and for providing a safe space to share these thoughts. Might grow into a post on its own, but needs time 🙂

    Like

  15. Hana Tichá says:

    Then, Anna, you are a living proof that you don't need it to become a great educator and to make your dreams come true 😉

    Like

  16. Hana Tichá says:

    I know how you feel, Joanna; I'm not always comfortable with what I've written and I even have nightmares after I post it 😀 But as you say, your blog is yours.

    Like

  17. Hana Tichá says:

    Hi Clare!

    Thanks for adding your point of view to the discussion. It’s interesting to see things from so many angles. I'd like to assure you that I'm not questioning the merits of the course. Even if I wanted, I can’t because I’ve never taken part in it. What I try to address in this post is the fact that it’s been promoted as the only option – the ultimate truth.

    I absolutely agree with your assertion that the most important thing is to experiment with your practice, think about your teaching context and reflect.

    Thanks for your words of encouragement. I really appreciate that! Díky za povzbuzení 🙂

    Hana

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  18. I have never done the courses I think you are referring to either (CELTA/DELTA) although I have taught on Certificate and Diploma courses. I have taken the university teacher training certificate (PGCE) and Masters and suepect these are more useful in many contexts. Perhaps also we need to customise the qualifications for our own needs?

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  19. Hana Tichá says:

    Yes, Patrick. I agree that it's useful to adjust the qualifications to our teaching contexts but once we do so, I doubt they will ever be internationally recognized. This all has just reminded me of the situation in the Czech Republic – secondary students sit the state final exams but no university actually cares about the results and requires the applicants to take an entrance exam. What is the state exam for, then? Thanks for stopping by.

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  20. Hana Tichá says:

    Yes, Zhenya. I'm really surprised by the response the post has created. Ironically, this was originally supposed to be a half-secret post and I didn’t even share it at first but here goes 🙂

    I agree that there’s no paper or qualification that defines a good teacher. I know this, you know this, but is everybody willing to accept the fact? You say: once people invest time, money and energy into doing the course, they 'have to' say it is good. Yes, that’s true. And as I haven’t put money and energy into this particular course, I will obviously defend my view that there are other options out there. Selfish me! 🙂

    You also say: People who invested a part of their lives into learning about teaching and learning are much more ready to step into a classroom. Yes! Definitely! But the question is if they will be let into the classroom at all if they have invested their money and/or energy into the ‘wrong’ certificate.
    I’m glad I made you think. I like your thinking 🙂

    Anyway, it would be great if you came up with a post on the topic as well.

    Like

  21. DaveDodgson says:

    Hi Hana,

    It's good to have a rant once in a while! 🙂 I can see where you are coming from about the qualifications. I have an MA and am now working towards a Trinity Dip TESOL. I am constantly asked 'why that way round?' as if there should be some order (the truth is that circumstances made the MA more 'doable' at the time and now I have an employer supportive enough to accommodate the f2f aspect of the Dip).

    Somewhat contradictorily, when I was doing the MA, I was aware of many people who saw it as in some way 'lesser' than a DELTA due to the lack of observed teaching practice. I felt that was unfair at the time and it still irks me to see 'DELTA or equivalent' given more prominence on high level job ads than MAs. I am only part way through my Dip but I would say the MA was definitely more demanding in terms of the academic level and, more importantly, the level of thinking and reflection it prompted.

    As you say, you should try them both before you can start using words like 'better' or 'more comprehensive'.

    Cheers,

    Dave

    Like

  22. Hana Tichá says:

    Hi Dave. Thanks for your comment and for clarifying your professional context. Maybe I should specify mine too, and imply what it is that probably makes me sad. I did my MA at the state sector, which means that the programme was accredited by the Ministry of Education. Now, the Czech Republic is a member of the EU, so I can't think of any reason why such a programme should not be accepted as valid elsewhere, at least everywhere in the EU. Moreover, I specialized in teaching secondary students (and when I did my BA, I specialized in young learners) and we had loads of teaching practice (internal as well as external) and tons of observation (with the supervisor as well as peer observation). I took classes in psychology and pedagogy too. So I wouldn’t say that my MA was plain theoretical. But still, this wouldn’t mean a lot outside the country. On the other hand, the truth is that nowadays no state school here would employ somebody without a degree obtained at a state university. So it’s really about the context to which we should adjust the qualifications we aim at. I think this is what Patrick (see above) meant. My point was that regarding qualifications, there is some kind of hierarchy, which is not fair because, in my view, the hierarchy was created artificially.

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  23. Sandy says:

    Joanna, yes, yes, yes: “Your blog is yours, say whatever you want to in it. If you are irritated, vent.” and Hana, I always find it's those posts I didn't plan to publish which get the most comments!
    As somebody who's now tutoring on CELTA, I agree with Clare about the techniques that it teaches, but also about the jumping through hoops part. One of the things that frustrates me is that there doesn't seem to have been much development in the course over the last few years from the Cambridge point of view, in terms of the criteria and the way they are laid out. Every centre runs it slightly differently, and in some places, very differently, but there is standardisation due to the criteria.
    But as far as I'm concerned it's just one part of a patchwork of qualifications that people can work towards, and it shouldn't be considered the be-all and end-all. These dichotomies you mentioned (like the NEST/NNEST one too) might help us to put people into boxes and categorise them quickly and easily, but they strip us of the ability to assess people on their individual merits to decide whether they might be suitable for a particular situation.
    I'm not really sure what I want to add to this discussion, and it's nearly midnight, but I just wanted to say something 🙂 Oh, and I like the new-look blog too – it made me think back to your post about what the design of your blog says about you 🙂
    Sandy
    PS I've had posts eaten by Blogger too, and have now learnt to copy and paste them once I've finished typing before I click any buttons!

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  24. Hana Tichá says:

    Hi Sandy. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion. You mention standardization, which, in my view, is helpful because it provides a template for assessment, but it also makes things less versatile. I mean, it's the same with any standardized kind of test including FCE, for example. I know students who have taken the test but I can't say they are more proficient that those who haven't. Yet, those who haven't obtained the certificate will have to do so anyway at some point if they want to study abroad, for example. I ask – why FCE? Who decided that this is the only type of exam that will prove the students’ level proficiency beyond doubt? I’m trying to draw a parallel here but this is what my post was about.

    By the way, I always copy my comment before I post it, either on Blogger or WP. It’s always safer. As for the tweak to the design of my blog…. hmm, maybe it implies that I like change but I also like to stick with the old 😉

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  25. mc says:

    I think a lot of us can relate to your little rant or at least have quite a firm opinion formed on the topic. I agree with what you said, 'by promoting something we like as the only and the best option we may be actually promoting somebody's profitable business' and I like the fact that you also brought up the FCE in your comments. This is exactly what's happening with all of these Cambridge exams now that university students are required to have a B1 to graduate. They've created their own little monopoly in the English learning/teaching world. Here in Spain it seems like people only want their certificate now. The love of learning a language has effectively been stamped out. It's frustrating and really disappointing. And there ends my little rant. Thanks for your thought-provoking post and the opportunity to vent some of my own grievances.
    Micaela

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  26. Ah, don't you wish you'd started your careers when I did in the sixties: no MAs, no CELTAs or DELTAs necessary for NESTs. Just get in the classroom and do your best. Hardly any paperwork outside the classroom… A golden age? Maybe not for the students – I'm sure you young things do a much more professional job than I did in first years.

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  27. Hana Tichá says:

    Hi Micaela,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. You say: “Here in Spain it seems like people only want their certificate now”. Well, I’d say that, to some extent, people want what others make them want. I mean, sometimes I think it’s not our fault that we want to obtain this or that certificate. The whole ELT business is to blame, especially for creating all sorts of monopolies. These monopolies seem to have implanted a seed of desire into the minds of employers who, in consequence, try to convince everybody (the customers, as well as the potential employees) that it is best for them to do a particular course, not another.

    It’s ridiculous if you think about it; at some point you actually exchange your knowledge and skills for some kind of material commodity. Once you obtain a certificate, you can forget everything you’ve learnt so laboriously because in most cases, your certificate will always be valid, no matter how much your language/skills have deteriorated by then. So, as many people have indicated in their comments, it’s the life-long learning and the effort we put into our professional development that we should appreciate and cherish.

    Hana

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  28. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks for your encouraging words, Glenys 🙂 I'll leave here because there's nothing I could possibly add to your wise perspective…

    Like

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