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Professional Development

Originated by Birmingham MA TEFL/TESL students

May 08, 2009

We feed off one another's energy - and Joanne has oodles


A recent success story in the classroom
I am lucky – success stories are in abundance this job-hunting season – yet on the surface they appear to have little to do with English language study. I work in the English department of a Catholic, female, private junior college in a rural city in northern Japan. We are the last junior college in Tohoku that maintains a separate English department. Junior colleges in Japan were historically the ‘finishing schools’ of Japan, the focus being on domestic sciences and manners. This basis remains but has been modified to suit student needs in the 21st century. Now, more commonly, students transfer to four-year universities or start work in companies rather than move straight into domestic bliss.

The success story rushes in – she just got a job. The success story is bubbling over with happiness, relief, excitement and anticipation. She will be working for the regional branch of a national bank – one of the best jobs our students can get. The student wanted to tell me straight away, “Thank you for your help,” she says. Sharing students’ successes is a precious experience. I know that she will not need English at work; she may never even speak English again. What was it then, the ‘help’ I provided, if not the ability to speak English? Why did she rush to tell me?

Maybe it was my belief in her. Maybe it was the encouragement I provided when she was stressed. Maybe it was every interesting snippet of information she soaked up that kept her motivated. Maybe it was every smile, every laugh, every enjoyable moment shared that kept her heading on the right path. Maybe it was the learning process – not only of English study, but of leaving high school behind and becoming an independent woman. Just maybe I did help her. Two years is a short time but immeasurable in the distance traveled from nervous beginnings to blooming confidence. I was one small part of her success, and for that I am thankful.

The big successes are the culmination of a myriad of small successes in the classroom and general college life. Language learning should be a pleasant experience, an experience marked by achievements. It is the responsibility of the teacher to make sure that every student accomplishes tasks, reaches goals and realizes their own unique potential.

Know your context. Know your students. Know your strengths as a teacher. Aim high.

A thought or idea in progress
My first degree back in the U.K was in Gender Studies. Recently I have begun to include gender-based research in my language research. This has increased my interest and broadened my future research fields.

From teacher to teachers
Learn Japanese (or the local language) and Japanese mannerisms. This not only provides a hefty dose of self-confidence, but enables participation in the greater arena of education (including non-teaching work). Becoming a professional is about involvement not ignorance. It is about taking on responsibilities and fulfilling them. It is about sharing the workload with our local colleagues.

Joanne is just embarking on a journey that will surely be spotted by interesting encounters. She can be reached at:

Editor's note:
"The" place to relax and unwind

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Hi Joanne! Thank you for sharing your story. I was just wondering if you'd like to tell us more about the ways in which you have been incorporated gender-based research into your language research.



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