Welcome to POSTMODERN TEFL!
Have a chair! Tea? Milk? Sugar?
“So – OK. What the blazes is Postmodern TEFL? I don’t remember this from my CELTA. Is it something to do with teaching English with weird art?”
“Err – No! Not quite.”
“Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m not a man of wealth or fame but I have been around for quite a long time as a business English teacher. Yes, plagiarizing the Rolling Stones there (‘Sympathy for the Devil’), which perhaps indicates my generation. I’m actually an anthropologist by learning. That was my university studies. I loved the subject, but never worked in it; much to my regret. I kind of got side-tracked into English teaching and here I’ve stayed. So now it’s time to put everything together. Well, we should do, shouldn’t we? I mean – tie everything up together, make connections, and see what we come out with. In my case, this means ‘Postmodern TEFL’.
No, this isn’t a nonsensical twaddle. I’m quite serious. So too is the subject of Postmodern TEFL. In fact, many EFL teachers and writers have dipped at least a toe into the subject of Postmodern TEFL. However, its importance, both as a pedagogical issue and as an institutional issue, hasn’t been accorded great significance. Rather, its an outlying area of TEFL interest far removed from safe, central pedagogical issues where TEFL researchers usually prefers to tread. That’s rather a shame, in my eyes, for the subject does raise and address core issues relating to the practice of TEFL per se – as this blog tries to point out and illuminate. My role in this blog, therefore, is to highlight these challenges and outline the underlying theories surrounding Postmodern TEFL.
I’ll say in advance that these blog postings are often brief and simplistic (amendment – see next paragraph). In fact, they’re often like ‘back cover blurbs’ – you know, those short, terse paragraphs on the backs of books that try to capture the flavour of the books in as few words as possible. The reason for this, here, is that I’m just outlining some basic issues surrounding Postmodern TEFL. To many TEFL bloggers and teachers, this may be too simplistic. But there are many more teachers in the profession who don’t follow developments through ‘continued professional development’ (CPD); who don’t read up on research; who didn’t engage with such subjects in their university/college/school days; who don’t attend conferences, and have no idea what postmodern TEFL is. This blog is largely for them. I would hope, however, that those more experienced TEFL teachers may also be given some new perspectives to chew on.
I’ll also add, now writing two years later than the above paragraph, that some of these brief and simplistic postings have since been expanded upon. The reason for this is that, in retrospect, I’ve learnt that the subject is too philosophically demanding for many readers even when kept brief and simplistic. I hadn’t appreciated that at the time. I had hoped to take complex ideas and make them comprehensible – and interesting! But when my own, two Directors of Studies, both writers of published pedagogical materials, struggled with the postings – I had to take note. So, rather than simplifying further and washing out concepts and colours, I’ve occasionally taken the opposite path. I’ve gone back over some of the texts to develop them further to my own satisfaction – and I may continue to do so, even if that blanks out more potential readers. Yes, some of the issues are heavy. Avoid them if they are not for you – just as I would avoid complex mathematical equations. They are not for me.
The subject of postmodernism has, in fact, been around for a long time. The more experienced teachers may feel that the concept has been knocked around enough in the world of TEFL, milked of any value, and spat out. However, I don’t believe that. Like many of the topics within pedagogical EL books, only the surface level has been skimmed. Furthermore, ELT research that cites previously published works refers largely to previously published ELT research (just consult any research article). This inward-looking circularity restrains the development of ideas. And so it has been with the subject of postmodern TEFL. Time to think outside the box.
As I said, I’m an anthropologist by training. That was a long time ago, now, but I’ve kept my interest and tried to keep up-to-date with new ideas and developments in the field. Anthropologists are trained to holistically reflect on the whole and on the minutiae; on the inside and on the out. I do my best. I try. On the subject of TEFL I’d like to share these meditations with you. TEFL is undergoing change as a result of the democratization of the internet and globalization. I may hit deep waters as well as paddle in the shallows, but if you fancy a swim – let’s go. Writing this blog is a learning process/long swim for me too.
More detailed Reading: