This is an actual conversation. As far as you know. Just a bunch of guys at the pub talking about the usual stuff.
M: You know what, guys? One thing that always interest and surprises me every time there is a mention of quote native teachers in Korea and job security and the like, one of the first things usually mentioned is qualifications and this word qualified.
A: Yea. Cool story bro.
M: I think it is sort of important. Really. First of all, I don’t think qualified means the same thing to everyone. Here in Korea it just means that you are allowed to work. Doesn’t it?
B: There is no more to it?
M: I don’t know. To me it just means “able to legally get the job, and maybe do it.” I dunno. I really don’t. But my point is that when people rail on about unqualified teachers that is something to take up with their government or with economics in general. Supply and demand and all that.
A: Great stuff, Mike.
M: I am just getting started. The other thing…
A: [rolls eyes and shrugs]
M: The other thing is this idea that training is the obvious answer. Everyone always seems to mention the CELTA, like it is some sort of panacea. Like suddenly all the issues would disappear of the foreign
barbarians teachers got them their CELTAs. Color me unsure. Hashtag confused.
D: What are you talking about. CELTA is awesome! It was the best professional development choice I have made.
M: I am happy for you. Really I am. Yet, I am not convinced it is the solution people seem to make it out to be. Seem to.
B: What are your issues, with it Mr. Mike?
M: Well, my issues are that I am not sure I can see the connection to the jobs that we are reading about in the media. How exactly does CELTA help you if you are a first year teacher teaching 35 students as a quote Assistant Language Teacher in a public school in rural Korea?
D: CELTA is awesome. I learned a lot.
M: Yep. Happy for you. I am still wondering about the connection between the CELTA and the realities of teaching in Korea, especially in public schools, the ones that are all over the news. I am especially curious about the fact that the CELTA seems to be more geared to those teaching adults.
C: That is a fair point. There are other courses from Cambridge geared more for young learners.
M: Ok then. That is another course then. But anyway, everyone just falls back to the CELTA as the default and I am merely questioning if this is appropriate.
D: CELTA is amazing. I learned so much.
C: It is obviously not perfect but it is standardized and this is both a blessing and a curse in some ways.
E: Are you guys still talking about CELTA? Most employers in Korea don’t even know what it is.
M: Yeah, that “or equivalent” tag is really stretched to the extreme.
D: There is no equivalent. CELTA is a amazing.
M: So it is the perfect course for teaching in public schools in Korea? Even if it trends to be more focused on smaller classes in private language schools.
F: Teachers have to make the learning their own. So, while what is focused on during the CELTA is important it is up to the teachers to make it their own and apply it to their own contexts.
M: Ahh, mmm, well I see your point. I do. My point is just that there seem to be some gaps and some differences in the beliefs that underpin the course and the realities of teaching in Korea. I wish I could be more clear because I feel like I am not being clear enough. Maybe it is not you guys, or all of you anyway but what I am saying is I see a gap between the reality of teaching in public schools in Korea and the course
M: And I see a belief that the CELTA is perfect and is the potential solution to all the problems teachers face in Korea. Again, maybe I am not being clear so allow me an exagerated example. As is my wont. So let’s say you learn how to do a perfect PPP lesson on the CELTA.
Chorus: It’s not PPP!
M: Yeah. OK. Anyway you learn how to do a CELTA style lesson.
Chorus: There is no CELTA style!
M: [lets out exasperated sigh, breaks the 4th wall Zach Morris style] Why is there a chorus in this bar? Ok, you learn how to plan lessons on the course in a certain way. Then you come to Korea and you are told that you are in charge of just making sure the students have fun and that your lesson plans and lesson plan style is not needed in this situation. Or that maybe your job is to provide native pronunciation as requested by the Korean teacher.**
D: The CELTA was really helpful for me as a teacher.
M: I get it. I do. That’s great. My concern is how helpful it is for everyone else. In this context.
B: It is a short course and only a certain amount of things can be fit into it, right?
M: That is totally right. Great point. But, at the same time, I don’t think that means that those things can’t be questioned or that one can’t wonder aloud if the course is suited to this particular context. I don’t think the hour limit is some sort of shield against all questions or criticisms.
B: Oh me neither. Sorry, old chap.
F: I think the learning during and after the course is largely up to the trainee. It doesn’t much matter what the course is or how it is delivered. It is the trainee’s responsibility to learn what needs to be learned, reflect upon what needs to be reflected up and make it work for them in whatever context they end up working in. I think it is far too easy to critique a course. I think it is about the trainees making the most of the opportunity.
D: The CELTA worked great for me and I got a lot out of it.
M: Yes, we know. But, F, then by the same logic, why would someone pay all this money and take the time and everything if what happens in the the course doesn’t really matter? I mean what is the point if it is just up to them to make the learning work? Is it then just for the name or the paper or something else? Surely there is an expectation for things to be somewhat relevant and useful for the trainees in their future work environments.
D: CELTA was so helpful for me.
M: Again? Really? Can we admit that there are some things that are not covered in the CELTA, that it is not perfect and it is not the end all and be all? Can we admit that it is not sacrosanct and it is ok to question its applicability to the context we are in? Anyway sorry for the boring conversation. Cheers! Where is A anyway?
**I am not suggesting this is the usually the case or that foreign teachers are valued (or devalued) in any certain way in Korea. I know there are a lot of variety of teaching situations. No offense intended to anyone at all. I simply chose a mostly outlandish example (though I have heard numerous reports of this).