Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Night School
I just enrolled for all my classes for next semester. I am not so thrilled with my schedule. On Tuesdays, I have class from 3-6 pm again, and then on Mondays and Wednesdays, I have class from 12:40-2 and 6:30-8:30 pm. Given that class schedule for myself, it means I'll probably end up teaching in the mornings. I may end up with 12 hours days. Ugh.

This latest dissatisfaction brings home again how irritated I am with this program in the first place. I have decided that when I was trying to find the right grad program for me, I answered my own question wrong.

I: What do you want to learn about?
Me: I want to learn about how people learn languages!

What I meant was, "I want to learn about how people's brains take in and process the acquisition of second languages."

Had I answered the question in the more detailed manner, I would have ended up in a different program most likely. Something like psycholinguistics or straight-up applied linguistics, with none of the pedogogical influence dealt with in TESOL. Yes, understanding the techniques people have been using to teach students in the classroom is important, and very important in some kinds of SLA research. It is important to explore the efficacy of various techniques, to try to understand what students actually take away from various teaching methods, etc, etc. Lots of research is being done in this now, and that's great for the growth of the field.

Unfortunately for me, I don't find teaching techniques interesting. I don't care about how people are being taught in the classroom. I am currently taking the Methods of TESOL class, and we spend all sorts of time learning about how foreign languages have been taught through the past 100 years, how they are being taught now, and the various techniques teachers use for past and current vogues of teaching. In the end, though, the basic consensus is that teaching methods and style all come down to the teacher. If a teacher really likes using recasts, or explicit explanations, or pair work, or any of the other buzzwords, then that is what the teacher will do in the classroom. New techniques may get incorporated as fashions come and go, but it all comes down to the teacher's choice. I'm a teacher in the classroom currently myself. I know it's true. And I do not care.

I really find pedagogy boring. I've known this for a while. I knew it in Japan; I knew it before that whenever anyone asked me if I was going to use my Spanish major to teach Spanish in high school. I don't want to be a language teacher in the schools. I want to study how people acquire languages. I want to do research. Everyone in the TESOL program assumes, (rightly, I admit), that I want to be a language teacher, and I find the classes very frustrating because for me, they are concentrating on the wrong thing. Argh!

What's more, the program is easy. Grinnell seems to have left me somewhat over-prepared for graduate school. The readings are easy, the writing isn't terribly demanding, and I am not engaged with the material in most of the class discussions, at least not to the same intensity or depth that I was in classes at Grinnell. I spoke to an MSU undergrad in the SLA class, and she said that even at MSU, this class is not so challenging. Perhaps it's because of the incredible number of international students in the program, leading to a different standard for writing assignments, etc. It kind of makes me wonder what my papers for my professors in Chile were really like, and how much slack they were cutting me.

The news isn't all bad, of course. Supposedly, after next semester, I will get to take more linguistics classes, including the 9 credits that will overlap with the applied linguistics MA I hope to double with. I just have to get through this year first, with all of what I consider to be the annoying requirements. Oh, for the days of a college without core requirements. Grinnell spoiled me.

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