Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Update on School

With 9 months left at the University of Birmingham I thought I would do a little write up on what I have liked, and really not liked, about it.

To start with the positives-

I have had an excellent tutor and several friends doing the program with me that have made it worthwhile.
It is cheap
It is opening doors for me already

The negatives-

I would sum up every semester by saying "yeah, this is great, but I work in Asia, so no."
Grading is beyond inconsistent, if my grader is in Asia I am okay, if they are in Europe I am fucked.
I've learned very little that would make me a better teacher.
Zero help or assistance from the University, but instead a guidebook that has the consistency of a religious text.


It is a common accusation that academics do nothing of applicable value, and in the study of, say history of political science they don't have to. I feel linguistics should be different. It is a field that offers many avenues for practical use, and yet this program skips out on much of it. We are posed questions to answer in our own context, but our own context doesn't line up with the world of academics and so if your grader is in Asia, and actually working, they will get that and applaud your interviews and research. If they are in Europe they will tell you to discuss methodology and engage with your sources.

As an example:

A semester on syllabus design written by academics.

In Korea the bosses son downloads lessons from the internet and photocopies them. Your intro is from the National University of Singapore and your exercises come from Oklahoma state public schools.

Do I lie or do I attempt to mix this with academia and fail?

I have had a few good grades, and one grade that was way below what I deserved simply because my context wasn't academic enough (to follow the advice I was given I would have to lie). My overall GPA would be around 3.2 though, so I am not doing poorly, but I wonder if I would be doing better if I had just sold out and pretended like the scholars I've read so much about have applicable value. Oh yeah Rod Ellis, your idea to use a method that doesn't prepare for testing sounds like the worst fucking idea I have ever heard great in Asia, we should do that.

To be fair, a number of them have been useful, but some of the biggest names in linguistics haven't set foot in a classroom in 30 years. They are all but useless to me.

That being said, I have learned how to do research in the classroom, which is an important skill. I have also learned how to critically analyze materials for use in the classroom, which is also useful. I have also had many discussions with Mike, Jon and Andy about practical use for this material, so perhaps that is the payoff and the course is just a paper that lets me enter that club where people get to actually do something useful. Also, the program is like 12k. That makes it appealing.

For now, I have just decided to get what I need out of this program, and treat the rest as jumping through hoops. I'll wait til my CELTA for practical training.

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