Readers in Council,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I agree wholeheartedly with Steve Hampshire's exposition of the merits of professional pedagogues in the classroom over the unprofessional breed of foreign English language teacher that is so common in Japan ("Not just anybody will do," September 12, 2004).
I have met and known a lot of foreign English conversation teachers in Japan, and my ears have also received their fill of polemics dismissing the merits of professional qualifications and certification in education as a pre-requisite for doing this work in Japan. The people who voice this position are usually those who have come here for a lark, thinking the job is easy and a way to make quick money. Then, they confuse the status of being a teacher with the act of teaching itself. Lastly, their notion of professionalism rests more in a serious approach to the work (which they mostly lack anyway), than in a full and sound, rigorous and thorough preparation for it to begin with.
Most importantly, I have never heard (real) professional educators claim that their professional training is not useful, beneficial, or necessary in the performance of their work here as language teachers. It is only the unprofessionals who dismiss the merits of official teacher qualifications. That by itself compromises their argument and moves me not to consider their position. Is their argument an affectation put on to mask an embarrassing gap in their resumes? The day I hear professionally trained and certified foreign English language teachers dismissing the value of their training in the performance of their jobs here is the day that I might begin to consider there is something to it.
In the meantime, it would be nice not to read any more letters in the newspaper by writers trying to explain how ignorance of English grammar, ignorance of teaching technique and education theory, ignorance of and disconnection from professional trappings and obligations are a good thing.