Ann Loseva

ELT Global Issues – Ann

ELT REPORT FROM RUSSIA  AnnaLoseva140x150

ANN image 1

To be honest, I am rather confused as to from which angle to approach this issue. I have worked with all age groups at all stages of education system except for pre-school. I have friends and fellow teachers who work in different types of institutions. I hear plenty of teacher talk in my staff room and just a little bit of it beyond its doors. Yet my experience is limited. It’s one particular private school, one university, one in-company ELT service provider, all located in Russia’s capital. Do they reflect the overall situation in Russia’s education? Probably they do. And yet I don’t feel comfortable drawing conclusions judging by my experience only. I am cautious to make generalizations here. For every point I could mention from my years of work or personal beliefs there would be found a dozen counter-arguments. It is a slippery way.

Education issues are causing heated debates everywhere in Russian media now. The Bologna process, state exams and subsequent changes in secondary education curricula, the introduction of paid secondary education in state schools across Russia: These are burning problems and, as it happens, they are followed by a lot of rumours, negativity, rejection and public disapproval, to put it mildly. What I’ll speak about may not be the most critical issue but it’s something that bothers me, something that I can relate to and that I can hopefully bring change to.

My concern is young teachers of English. I know dozens of young teachers, girls my age or younger, teacher training university graduates like myself, who flee from schools or education system in general. But wait… didn’t I run away from a school myself? That’s exactly what happened. I could no longer stand working in a school. Of course we should take into account all the factors and in each particular case of escape the factors might vary, but I dare say they won’t vary all that much. Low salary, work overload, teacher-parent issues and (as 90% of my case) the working atmosphere in general. Well, I’ve found my place after all but many don’t.

And yet the above-mentioned are not the reasons that worry me the most. There are a certain percentage of teachers willing to work in schools. After a while some of them burn out. A school year’s routine can be tiresome and can easily turn to a bog. This comparison is not accidental. I’ve heard the term more than once used by older, more experienced, and tired teachers. Burn-out results in further passivity towards development. It is caused by lack of motivation, inspiration and drive. I’m sure wherever you are you know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen these educators who might have once loved teaching; educators who used to be creative, unconventional and daring but over time have lost their interest.

There are two qualities that unite disinterested teachers: they are closed-minded and not informed. Well, it can easily be fixed, if you ask me! We need to show how exciting it is to be a connected English language teacher. We need to introduce them to web tools, international groups, communities and social networks. We need to encourage them to always remember to develop. My strong conviction is that at pedagogical universities would-be teachers of English should have a chance to learn about the global side of ELT.

I don’t know whether I will be a teacher for all my life or if there’s something else in store for me. Yet if I do teach for the rest of my life, I hope I will never turn into a Whining Teacher. It’s easy to find a Whining Teacher. They are ubiquitous and universal. It can be true that their universal whining is fair and logical, whereas their complaints reflect a teacher’s realia in any given country. I don’t want to become one as I want to believe, as I take my own little steps in order to look back one day and say, “Yes, I’ve tried. It might not have worked but I did my best trying to make a difference.”

 

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Anna Loseva

Anna Loseva teaches English for Physicists at Moscow State University in Russia. She also works as an in-company teacher and is very much fond of introducing Reading Literature in her classes whenever appropriate. Anna is passionate about teacher AND student self-development and she strongly believes that fruitful education process is driven by the mix of positive thinking, inner as well as outer motivation and avid curiosity. She's an incorrigible reader and a lifelong learner who's caught between action and contemplation.

10 thoughts on “ELT Global Issues – Ann”

  1. It is so true that in time teachers become burnout due to various reasons and above you have mentioned most of them. I do do believe that being connected and part of a group that is after life long learning can be a solution for that. Every word you have mentioned here is so true and I guess is also valid for many countries whose problems are alike. Once again thank you for pointing this issue out in this blog. This is one of the examples of the good use of social media and blogs among many. Sharing and being connected are the crucial key words, I believe. Thank you Ann.

    1. Hi Levent,

      I wonder which of the reasons above can relate to the situation in Turkey most. Where do you teach? What are teachers’ realia in the context you’re teaching in?
      I would like to conduct a survey aimed at finding happiest teachers! =) Do they work at kindergartens? schools? universities? Are they freelancers? Or the institution doesn’t matter..

      Great to know you’re sharing my view!)

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, no matter what (glitch-related))

  2. As a former teacher of English in secondary school (left 2 months ago), I really think that Anna’s description reflects the situation in province too, as I am from Perm region.
    But I doubt that it can be fixed in any way. If teachers are paid 300$ a month, they will never feel how exciting it is to be “a connected English language teacher”. Maybe “at pedagogical universities would-be teachers of English have a chance to learn about the global side of ELT”, but they will not come to school to teach, they will, certainly, follow Anna’s way.

    1. Dear Galina,

      maybe you’re right. Basic needs of a human go first, so unfortunately you can’t quite enjoy the fun of being a connected teacher when you live in terrible conditions. Maybe..though I can tell you that this financial issue does not have to do solely with Russian education. In many countries teachers are grossly underpaid. At the same time, I do believe that people do not become teachers because of the money, this is quite in the open that the salary is going to be low. There’s some other kind of motive. If this motive is strong (and it can get way stronger by becoming connected – and by sharing!!), and if the outlook is open and positive..well I am naive..)

      Thanks a lot for your comment! It means a lot to see Russian teachers online and active!! Thank you very much.

  3. Dear Anna Loseva, Well written and a very sane piece that is. Thanks. I am a journalist from India working in Oman. Was in and out of teaching, a profession, though not not very well paid, I enjoyed for seven years. I strayed into the media looking for challenge, and found none. So, am planning to go back to teaching in my home state in Kerala, India, with an English language academy of my own. I am an admirer of the Dogme method, and will be using technology, social networking and Skype to connect my students to English teachers and students from around the world. It would be a great advantage for me and my students to be associated with highly motivated people like you. Regards, Pradeep

    1. Dear Pradeep,

      Thank you so much for the comment. It is interesting to read it for me also because journalism is one of the options I could consider as a challenge for myself, like you did several years ago! And so it’s quite important to read tou’re going to get back to teaching, that must mean something for the value of this profession. Something to think about, too. I wonder what the situation with ELT is in India by the way…
      I wish you a smooth way in setting up your school and with amazing ideas that you have I am sure you will succeed! Will be pleased to be associated with you, too!

      Best,
      Ann

  4. Nice post! Frustrating facts but true. Like Ann, I am also a teacher trainer university graduate who worked at school just for one year. Work overload, no support from school administration and experienced fellow teachers, preventing any initiative to improve the learning process and thus fear to be turned to a bog of school routine (bravo, Ann, absolutely right comparison) – these are the main reasons of my escape. It all happened a while ago, in the “Soviet” times but the problems are still the same.

    Nowadays the largest age group of teachers – from 40-50 years old. Every sixth teacher is a working pensioner. If you are older, you are more aware of things that can go wrong. Older teachers already accumulated emotional fatigue. Without young teachers who are able to make adventurous deeds, admit mistakes, make breakthroughs in new, implement bold ideas, we will grow children that cannot make their own decisions. They won’t be accustomed to risk but go with a flow and hope that someone else will arrange everything for them. That’s why lack of young teachers are of great concern.

    Social status of a teacher is low. Being a teacher is not prestigious now. It is clear that it is impossible to quickly raise the prestige of the profession, paying the adequate salary. It is a matter of time and the question of many educational reforms. But it is necessary to create an emotionally positive atmosphere in schools. School administration should do this in the first place, so that young teachers would feel themselves full members of the educational process and working at school became a stimulus to their self-development.

    As for me, I am teaching for more than 15 years now but not in school. I am a freelancer and a private tutor. Working in school? No way! Because of all the above mentioned reasons.

    By the way, only one graduate of eleven in my university group went to work at school and is still working as an English teacher. She is not a whining person, positive and optimistic. She would love to be connected and sharing but she so overloaded that has no strength to do it. And she is lucky to work in Moscow school because her salary is two to three times higher than that of teachers in Russia.

    1. Larisa, thanks a lot for this story, it is a huge, very valuable addition to my post!
      There must be happy school teachers somewhere in Russia, right?…

      As for the bog – ironically, the only kind, amazing teacher I got to know and talked to a lot during my 2 years of working at school told it to me one day. She said if I didn’t quit within the first three years I wouldn’t quit at all! She meant well for me.

      To be honest, I can’t promise to myself that I won’t accumulate emotional fatigue (as you have brilliantly put it) when I have worked as a teacher for 30 years…it is a tough JOB to stay curious, interested, active! I believe it refers to any profession, really.

  5. Dear Ann,

    You’ve trodden on such sensitive grounds, yet managed to do it ever so delicately and got your points across. I completely hear you. I’ve never taught at a school, but yes, we do have similar situations in the Malaysian educational contexts as well. School teachers have a lot of administrative work to complete that it sometimes takes a huge chunk of their lesson planning time. And yes, then they do end up becoming whining teachers. However, I’ve also met teachers who are very highly motivated and do their best in the Malaysian classrooms. It’s amazing how dedicated they are, and these are the kind of teachers Malaysia needs.

    Another point well brought up is the fact that even in Malaysia, the social status of teachers is definitely not at the best. Although I teach at a university, I’m probably looked up if I mention that I’m a “lecturer” instead of a “teacher”. But I stick to being a “teacher” and end up getting comments like “OOOOOH, you’re a teacher” (and you just know from the trailing tone the kind of impression they’ve got).

    On the overall, I wish our teachers here would also be able to see “the global side of ELT” and perhaps, this will change their ways and roles in the education system.

    And I too, hope to introduce this change to my fellow teacher comrades in Malaysia.

    Again, we’ll walk hand in hand from different sides of the globe, Ann.

    Warmest regards,
    Ratna

    1. Dear Ratna,

      It’s the same story here about the public reaction. I say I’m a teacher – people are unimpressed. Although here this mostly has to do with primary and secondary school sectors. Being a university teacher is almost a big deal by itself, mainly because theoretically you’ve got to be at least a postgraduate to hold a teaching position at the university. In practice, it’s not happening, which I’m happy about as I consider it unfair. If I’m not a postgrad it doesn’t mean I’m a bad teacher! Well that’s an entirely different topic actually, I’m digressing as usual)

      I really hope we meet one day soon!

      Thank you very much!

      Cheers from Moscow,
      Ann

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