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dontcallme
16-10-2009, 11:07
I've been teaching in Moscow now for just over a year. The experience has been really interesting and the majority of my students have been very happy with my teaching ability and their improvement in using the English language.

I've been very surprised by the amount of snobbery displayed by many teachers in Moscow. I've just read an ad in the lessons section by someone claiming to be a "real English teacher". The amount of punctuation and grammar mistakes in his advert was shocking. His main selling point seemed to be little more than saying other teachers are useless and you need a native speaker.

Do people not realise that there are many different qualities needed to teach English?

I have passed a TEFL course and the CELTA. I have 2 years teaching experience part time and just over a year full time. In the last company I worked for in England I was always asked to teach the new staff how to do their job as I have the right amount of patience and the people skills to help them settle in. I do not have a degree.

I would never teach a class that I didn't feel qualified or able to teach. I excel in some situations and in others I don't. I was offered a position in a school despite the fact I have no qualifications or experience taking school children through a curriculum, I turned the job down.

I don't suppose it matters if I can consider myself a "real teacher" or not, but the sheer snobbery I read on these boards and within the teaching expat community is quite depressing.

alterego
16-10-2009, 11:35
I haven't noticed any snobbery but I have noticed more than a few seemingly unqualified teachers. Although in collegiate academia I found both snobbish and unqualified teachers. At the university level they seem to think that if you have a graduate degree, (MA or PhD) then you can teach. A master’s program doesn’t teach one to teach college any more than being a native English speaker teaches one to teach English. However in both areas there are some with a natural knack for it, which improves with practice. I had many professors in college who were nearly worthless and others who were great, so it wouldn’t surprise me to find the same in the English teaching world.

dontcallme
16-10-2009, 12:57
I think part of my issue is that teaching English is such a wide area. There is room for all different levels of qualifications and different personality type.

I've had several potential students asking me about giving them lessons just in conversation. No grammar, vocabulary, homework or preparation for tests. They have just asked me to meet them to chat to them.

With my qualifications and background I wouldn't teach in a university or state school but all this talk of "not a real teacher" nonsense is a bit tiresome.


I haven't noticed any snobbery but I have noticed more than a few seemingly unqualified teachers. Although in collegiate academia I found both snobbish and unqualified teachers. At the university level they seem to think that if you have a graduate degree, (MA or PhD) then you can teach. A master’s program doesn’t teach one to teach college any more than being a native English speaker teaches one to teach English. However in both areas there are some with a natural knack for it, which improves with practice. I had many professors in college who were nearly worthless and others who were great, so it wouldn’t surprise me to find the same in the English teaching world.

kapione
16-10-2009, 13:10
If your students pay you, shouldn't you do as they wish? If they are happy will tell others. Maybe you are having a bad day.... I know this post is a retort to my post , ask anyone here on Expat.ru .... I help people with information,and advice with my experience here in Russia

Sorry Im not as perfect as you, my punctuation marks arent always placed

perfection is possible,but not sustainable

relax, dont be so angry life is too short as the song says "dont worry be happy"

GaNozri
16-10-2009, 13:21
I've just read an ad in the lessons section by someone claiming to be a "real English teacher". The amount of punctuation and grammar mistakes in his advert was shocking. His main selling point seemed to be little more than saying other teachers are useless and you need a native speaker.

Yes, but that "someone" clearly stated that he specializes in "American Style English". There are no punctuation, spelling, or grammar requirement in it.

smchilds
16-10-2009, 14:55
It makes sense for professional teachers to differentiate themselves from those people who “teach” English only to make a buck. (Yes, everyone who is teaching – or doing any other job, for that matter – is doing it to make money, but if it is your profession, the main thing that you do, you are likely going to be better at it and take it more seriously than someone who just does it as a side thing.) I also keep encountering teachers who aren’t really teachers. I took a Spanish lesson with someone who is some kind of doctor in Moscow, had apparently never taught Spanish before, came to me with a decomposing Russian Spanish textbook, and spent the entire lesson teaching me the “Spanish Alphabet” (I have 4 years of experience and passed proficiency in college, which I explained to her). Oh, she also taught me the word for “eggplant.” So, people are right to be wary of people who only teach because it is lucrative and they want to make some extra money (but they don’t care about students, nor do they have any kind of “methods,” understand how to teach, have experience, etc.). So, it also makes sense for “real” (i.e. professional, full or at least part-time) teachers to emphasize that that is what they are. Almost every time I go to a lesson with a new student they ask me, “what do you do in Moscow?” I answer, “teach English.” They are confused. They think I must have some other job, and I only take a few students to supplement my income. Because there’s a large group of people like that. And while they might not be bad teachers, I think it is difficult to be serious and devote a lot of energy and time to what, for you, is only a very secondary job.

What does it take to be a good teacher (of English, or anything else)?:
First, an interest in the students, a desire to help them, willingness to be available if they call or email you with a question. You should remember them in the time between your lessons, and think of things which may be useful for them. You should understand that people are different and you need to be flexible when you approach different people. You can’t just have one system or method that you try to stick to everyone. Yes, you have to be patient. You have to understand your subject and be able to explain it. You have to have decent people skills and not repel people. If, regarding TEFL, someone comes for you for “conversational practice,” you have to remember to let them speak; don’t just rant the whole time about how much your real job sucks, how much you hate Moscow, or how sexy Russian ladies are. You have to engage them in interesting conversation, which is what most private students (especially adults) here want, so it helps if you are a basically educated/enlightened person who reads a newspaper or book from time to time. Frankly, I think having a university education is important for teachers (I couldn’t study with someone who didn’t have an education – or didn’t manage to be extremely educated/knowledgeable in some other way). Really, you can’t even teach kindergarten without a higher education.

Yes, there might be some snobbery in the forum regarding English teachers – there is that same snobbery in any field, but here, on a Russian-English forum, it is of course more noticeable among those offering/discussing English lessons. Obviously those people who are professional teachers with some qualifications and experience likely look down on (or are irritated by) fly by night teachers who have no credentials and are just trying to milk the market. I know I once met a Russian guy who taught English (with a terrible accent, completely confused use of prepositions, and some kind of slang which he invented himself), and he got 3000 rubles per lesson (this was 3 years ago). It didn’t inspire me to rant in a forum or denounce him to everyone I met, though I did wonder how he managed to fool so many people.

smchilds
16-10-2009, 15:07
I would like to add:

-Not long ago I started having lessons with a boy. His father told me how the boy had had English lessons with a “real, professional” teacher in the states. He reiterated the professional part, and showed me the notebook they had used (there was nothing so impressive there). He seemed to have the view that English teachers in Moscow are not really professional, and looked at me with that kind of prejudice. And, yes, since I’ve been teaching here full-time for years, and I have a relevant university degree, it did make me feel somewhat defensive.

dontcallme
16-10-2009, 15:42
Of course I teach my students what they want to learn. My point was do I need to have a university degree to chat to someone in a cafe? I think the ability to start an engaging conversation and making sure the student is getting practice and learning new vocabulary is more important.

I'm not perfect and didn't mean to take a swipe at you but I am interested to hear what you think makes you a real teacher compared to others.

Trust me I'm not angry, I was simply starting a debate regarding some comments I've read and heard recently.


If your students pay you, shouldn't you do as they wish? If they are happy will tell others. Maybe you are having a bad day.... I know this post is a retort to my post , ask anyone here on Expat.ru .... I help people with information,and advice with my experience here in Russia

Sorry Im not as perfect as you, my punctuation marks arent always placed

perfection is possible,but not sustainable

relax, dont be so angry life is too short as the song says "dont worry be happy"

kapione
16-10-2009, 18:29
a bad can of worms this thread is , to everyone , just be happy mind your p's+q's

Will
18-10-2009, 23:11
It's hard to add much to what Smchilds writes, but a couple of points hit me pondering the theme. But first I'd lose any notion of "real" teachers per se, that doesn't help at all.
One was a notion a frighteningly experienced teacher told me way back when I first came here, that the key to being a good teacher was to be what she called, in TEFL jargon, a self reflexive practitioner, which was a grand way of saying someone who thinks about the lesson after it's finished. To try to find some perspective on what you are doing and your failings seems so obvious, but it happens so seldom as to need a fancy name. Most people don't consciously think about their work in this way, the urgent drives out the important, but I can't see how we can become really good teachers without being systematically self critical, not that the idea is limited to teaching.
The other point is that it is perfectly possible to be a great teacher with no experience whatsoever, just for a very limited percentage of students is all. I have a couple of students whose requirements are fully met by the fact that I am fairly intelligent, read a lot and have an insatiable curiosity. My qualifications and knowledge of the language are largely irrelevant there. Then others are dependent on my knowing Russian and so understanding what is going on in their heads, some need a decent prose writer, some need the grammar section of Headway in human form, and some need persuading that knowing grammar ever more thoroughly isn't going to help them when the New York office calls tomorrow, ah the comforting certainty of school grammar books, right or wrong and no pesky nuances.
If there's one thing that makes for a "good" teacher it's having a wide range of these, often random, skills. And coming back to the first point, a good sign of a bad teacher is the fact that they say they are a good teacher.
(turns out it wasn't that hard to add much after all)

Will
18-10-2009, 23:15
an afterthought...if anyone gets the impulse to look deeper into the intellectual background of teaching, Lessons of the Masters by George Steiner is an astounding study of the history of the business and its meaning, then Extinction by Thomas Bernhard, an Austrian novelist has some great thinking about being a tutor and the various roles a teacher plays.

Moskauerin
20-10-2009, 20:50
I would really like to thank dontcallme for raising the topic and smchilds and Will for their profound and thorough comments. There really isn't much to add. IMO, just to sum it up, being a good teacher requires two things, both obligatory: good knowledge of the subject + good interpersonal/ communication skills. One does not go without the other to be a really successful teacher. Self-reflection is of course also indispensable.

As for university and other degrees and qualifications: they are a plus, but there should also be experience and a willingness to teach. Teaching just to get money, which was mentioned here, is called "khaltura" (meaning bad, unqualified and careless work).

I received my diploma of a teacher of English and German some years ago at the Moscow Linguistic University, but was never officially employed as a teacher and also did not have much inofficial practice. I tried some individual lessons to some friends/ acquaintances/ colleagues, etc. But I did not succeed. Maybe because I did not have enough experience shortly before/ after graduating, maybe the classes lacked system, maybe my students were not motivated enough. It was not a big disappointment for me, but still I am convinced that I cannot teach anyone a foreign language. I can only explain some things, say what is the correct variant, etc.

When people ask me how I learned two foreign languages, my advice is that it is rather hard toil and I do not know any other way. I was highly motivated to enter the Uni, therefore I started preparing when still at school and continued studying at the Uni.

So teaching English is still a bit of a mystery for me! :)

Bels
20-10-2009, 22:50
Everything has been covered of what is needed to be a teacher. It is common to have the skills and knowledge to teach well. But what about classroom management and keeping a group of students focused and enthusiastic about English. They say adults are the easiest of which is probably true, but what about the classroom management of groups of teenagers and children. That is another important skill of what a good teacher needs. The bigger the group the more difficult it becomes.

Also the skills of what being a real EFL teacher is all about. The ability to teach purely from English to English to those of another language from pure beginner level. Very easy with the children, but the older they are that you teach as a beginner, the more difficult it becomes.