I'm pleased to announce a new page on 'Teacher Greg's Education Home'.
The motivation for it came from my desire to engage the many colleagues with whom I work, in a conversation about ELICOS (English Language Intensive Course of Study) and EAP (English for Academic Purposes) programs and how they operate at my institution. Like many workplaces, the pressures of just keeping on top of the teaching have meant that opportunities for genuine discussion, sharing and reflection have become rare, formal meetings have become ineffectual, and inefficiencies have naturally arisen as a result.
'TESOL forums' will be a chance to recover lost ground, to re-ignite the discussion, and to move forward in more practical ways. It will take some effort to 'sell' the idea and overcome the hesitation of others, but I'm taking the first steps while hoping this will lead them to continue the conversation.
Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history. -Joan Wallach Scott
Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. -Maria Robinson
I sent this email today to respond to a posting about a principal who threatened a family with serious consequences if they stood in the way of their son completing a standardised test. The original post is here:http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2012/04/tell-bully-principal-how-you-feel.html
I hope you will look at the case and consider taking some action too.
Sadly what your vision statement lacks is the same respect, acceptance, celebration or valuing of parents. In fact it doesn't even mention parents.
You can hide behind rules if you like - I suppose your job depends on it to some degree - but it is more fundamental to recognise that parents, not legislators, have the primary responsibility for the education of their children, and for the choices of how and where that will happen.
So, I do not agree with your approach to student Joseph. It will do nothing for your attempts at forging a school-home partnership, especially if your approach is that the school is right and parents are wrong. This is an unequal partnership at best, and sounds quite hollow given your threats of intervention.
Sure, you have the 'discretion' to contact CPS, but equally you have the choice not to. If you want to work with parents, I would respectfully suggest that such an approach would be counterproductive.
More fundamentally, you are violating both the rights of Joseph and his parents. I refer you to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (a much higher authority than you quoted in your email). In particular, I would highlight:
(1) governments should respect the rights of parents in guiding their children (you do not)
(2) governments are to assist families in nurturing their children (you are trying to separate them)
(3) when making decisions, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinion taken into account (did you even talk to Joseph?)
(4) children have a particular responsibility to respect the rights their parents, and education should aim to develop respect for the values and culture of their parents (if you don't respect their values, how much less will Joseph do so by following your example?)
I suggest you should re-consider your position, apologise to Joseph, his family, any other students and families you have abused, and, finally you should act as an advocate for families rather than their adversary by lobbying for them with legislators in your State who obviously are disregarding rights accepted by the US government on behalf of the country.
Gregory Quinlivan (Teacher, parent, and grandparent)."
First, my apologies for a late posting.
I think it's useful, particularly in the EFL contexts in which I've worked (Taiwan and Korea), to make a distinction between what is practised in front of students and what one is actually capable of doing. The two often don't coincide, which is why the "educators" may seem invisible.
This is partly because the person placed at the front of the room is:
(a) forced to be dependent on and fully use a text and workbook which the school has determined is the most suitable, is what every student needs and which parents have been required to purchase,
(b) forced into an assistant's role by government legislation which does not accept their status as a registered teacher (even though their home country does),
(c) forced to worry about student outcomes because final tests are mandated and results below 80% are seen as failures,
(d) capable of using a variety of technologies but not able to, since there are not enough computers, or the software is not in English, or not all rooms have the same equipment, or
(e) capable of using a variety of approaches but in practice discouraged from doing so because those styles are considered foreign.
I think it is also valuable to think of ourselves as "learning facilitators" rather than teachers, since it is students themselves that construct their knowledge, often from each other or external sources, while we attempt to move them in directions which are meaningful and useful. We do this by being enthusiastic about our subject, by staying focused on where we want them to go, by providing opportunities to practice in a variety of ways, by building on what they already know, by giving them the tools (skills) to move forward, by encouraging experimentation, by regular informal low-stakes assessment which feeds back into the learning, and by expecting them all to improve.
To give you a simple example of what I mean, when I moved to Taiwan I needed some form of transportation, so a friend helped me buy a motor scooter. I'd never ridden one before, but I had ridden a bicycle and driven a car. Thus I came to the task with some prior knowledge. Nevertheless, being from Australia I'd never used the right-hand side of the road, nor the controls on a scooter. He showed me the basic buttons and controls (turn signals, horn, brakes, accelerator) and what to watch out for on the road. He then led me slowly home while I followed him on my scooter very cautiously. He watched me in his mirrors, and at each traffic signal checked if I was OK or offered a few more tips. He believed I could ride successfully and I eventually got home in one piece. Later I read up on the local road rules, scooter maintenance needs, etc. but at the time he gave me the confidence to try it out. To me, that is a great model of teaching. He didn't sit me down and give me a lecture about the number of traffic accidents in Taiwan and their causes, or the 192 or so possible questions on the licence examination, or how scooters are constructed, he just knew what I needed and got me there.
Thanks again for the opportunity to think about this topic and for all the discussion to date. I hope other "teachers" reading your blog will give some thought to these central concerns as well.
Posted at http://jasonrenshaw.typepad.com/jason_renshaws_web_log/2010/08/three-kinds-of-language-teacher.html by: Greg Quinlivan
| September 13, 2010 at 03:49 PM
In the field in which I work, EFL (teaching English as a foreign language), high-stakes standardized tests are alive and well.
Unfortunately a significant number of students in Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan are not. Why? Because they chose suicide rather than continue their miserable lives as students preparing for these tests.
How can we slow the death rate? We have to cut off the demand for the results of such tests.
Where is the demand coming from? Well, if you look at these excerpts from the sites of the three major language tests – IELTS, TOEIC and TOEFL – you’ll see that just about every government, educational institution, company and organisation in the Western world (and up to 190 countries) demands these tests. So these are the people that need to be convinced of the need to stop.
“IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, New Zealand and South African academic institutions, over 2,000 academic institutions in the United States, and various professional organisations. It is also a requirement for immigration to Australia and Canada.”
“Today TOEIC® test scores are used by more than 9,000 companies, government agencies and English language learning programs in more than 90 countries, and more than 5 million TOEIC tests were administered last year.”
“The TOEFL® test (Test of English as a Foreign Language™) is the most widely respected English-language test in the world, recognized by more than 7,500 colleges, universities and agencies in more than 130 countries.”
I doubt if the proponents of these tests publish suicide data. Perhaps someone should ask them if they are even aware of, let alone care about, the effects their examinations are having on the lives of so many millions of students. Clearly they are making considerable amounts of money selling these products, but how much of that are they putting back into student counselling and health education? When does turning a blind eye become impossible any longer?
While the questioning of standardized tests on the basis of our growing research base into assessment reliability and validity is well and good, and we can waggle our fingers at those bold enough to attempt cheating, I think there are larger issues at play in using them as the sole or major criterion for making life (and death) decisions.
I can only hope that the discussion will broaden and become part of the mainstream dialogue of those working in this massive educational industry.
Posted today at http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/2010/06/22/undoing-the-damage-of-high-stakes-testing/#comment-1189