Tuesday, January 22, 2008


A little aside: "The Scream" has to be one of the most overused images in the history of blogging since nearly every copy that I found online was linked to one.

Back on topic, California State University students out there know that today was the first day of instruction. If this were back when I was an undergrad, I probably would have felt a greater sense of dread but I'm actually a little anxious to start. I blew off a lot of my undergrad time because I had a fairly easy major (English) at a university not generally very well known for its academics (University of Hawaii). I chose UH because I was more interested in the beaches and women cultural and life experiences that it offered over those I could get in my native California. Simply, I had to get out and live a little.

In contrast, I care a lot more about the education that I'm receiving and, more importantly, shaping and refining myself into being a better ESL instructor and researcher. At SJSU, the TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages - yes, we need a new acronym) and Linguistics departments are merged together and known together as the Linguistics and Language Development department. As things go, it's a pretty small but comfortable department: there are just about 100 graduate students and a handful of professors between the two groups. It is literally the case that you could hang around the LLD office at Clark Hall all day and run into everyone in our program. In fact, just today I was introduced to someone else in the program by a fellow classmate. I had seen this person studying in the halls outside of the LLD office so, with a wink, I said, "I've seen you around the base, soldier."

TESOL and Linguistics students are kind of interesting because, though we fall under the same LLD department, we have different programs and plans that we follow. I would separate TESOL students into three groups: the trench soldiers, the drifters, and the non-native speakers. The first group of students are those who are already teaching ESL at a local community college or adult program and are just slamming through the program as a matter of necessity or formality to get to the next level. These students tend to be older are war-weary and hardened by dealing with school administrations and budgets, are very articulate, what I would consider as the old school ESL teachers. The second group (which I fall in) are those who have drifted around in life, lived abroad and taught EFL as a means to get a visa, and realized that they liked the work and, essentially, are getting a Masters as a means to get another visa in the future. This group is usually a lot rawer and less refined but have a strong personal passion, bordering on naivety, toward the profession. The last group is the newest group of ESL teachers as it's only been fairly recently that a large influx of non-native instructors has received formal training. These students tend to be very serious, hard working, but somewhat distant. Maybe it's the homesickness, maybe it's the extra work that they have to put in to keep with schoolwork not in their own native languages, or maybe it's just that most are just going back to their own countries in a couple of years so there's no need to tie yourself too closely to a place you may never see again.

As for the Linguistics students, I've only interacted with a few of them before and haven't worked out an angle on them just yet. They strike me as being more contemplative and intellectual than the TESOL ones but I'll probably better figure them out in time.

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