Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fresh Start

OK, so in the past, this blog has been a supplementary space for a grad course I teach called "Critical Pedagogies in TESOL".  It has more or less been a dumping ground for reading materials, reflections, and teaching resources for students who take the class each Spring.  That means that every June, when the course concludes, the blog goes into hibernation.  For a few reasons, I think I'm going to try to change that.  First, I have relocated and I am no longer in Korea.  Second, I've accepted a new job and I have been assigned a class called "Methods in TESOL" (or something along those lines).  So I find myself in the midst of new beginnings, but I also find myself challenged by a very familiar question....  how is it that social theory, the study of culture, and even educational philosophy can be useful to English language educators?  That's a question that's hounded my work in teacher education for several years, and it's a question that I believe can only be answered by example.


I'm going to try to use this blog as a space for examining classroom ideas, some of the results of these ideas, and as an opportunity to examine how my interests in critical theory, cultural studies, and educational philosophy actually matter to my decisions and my life as an educator.  I'll also give in to the urge to do a little theorizing from time to time and perhaps include the occasional rant on current events or happenings in our field. 

Over the past century teachers have been cast in a wide range of roles:  specialist, technician, organizer, facilitator, activist, deconstructor, reflective practitioner, intellectual, psychologist....  In some ways I think it's a shame that we use only one word to describe this job that we do.  The word "teacher" has a fascinating capacity to mean whatever an individual or a society needs it to mean.  Suggesting that there is only one 'job' (to teach) or one word that can encompass our individual and social roles leads to the misunderstanding that one can simply be a 'good teacher' or a 'bad teacher'.  Of course, there are some people who are better at explaining concepts, at facilitating discussions, at discerning students' interests, at planning activities... but the idea that one can simply be a 'good teacher' and that 'teaching' can be understood outside of a particular local context overlooks the complexity of our work.  

To put this another way, I view teaching as an intellectual, emotional, and social practice of adapting to and defining educational contexts.  The ability to change, to be challenged, to rethink one's work are crucial for anyone concerned with the social and cultural consequences of their work.  Such concerns require us to increase the range of possible learning outcomes rather than to define them beforehand--discovering pedagogical possibilities rather than applying mastered techniques.  But this goal is incredibly difficult in a time where concepts like efficiency, objectivity, and accountability discourage risk-taking and sustained reflection.  So I would like to dedicate a little time to exploring ways that creative, intellectual, and social components of teaching and learning can be fused with the more pressing demands of teaching activities and classroom methodologies.  So....  here's to a (sort of) a new beginning. 

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