A person’s occupation has a profound and unique effect on the way they perceive the world and how they interact with other people. In many regards, this influence cannot be understood as strictly negative or positive, instead, it stands as a fact of the current reality. Goodwin’s article pertains to the existence of a professional vision, a term used to describe how one’s work shapes their thinking and outlook. Goodwin identifies three distinct stages to this process: coding highlighting and making graphical or material representations (Goodwin, 1994). These steps represent the process of understanding an object or an event through discourse and integrating it into new professional practice. Goodwin’s paper is mostly concerned with the professional vision of lawyers and archaeologists, while this piece will focus its look on the practices of English teachers (Goodwin, 1994). In particular, the main focus will be attributed to English as a second language teaching in a non-native country. The paper will examine the peculiarities of the profession, its challenges, and aspects, and explain how Goodwin’s stages fit in with its professional vision. The experience that has influenced my personal outlook on the world and the occupation will also be discussed.
Starting with the occupation itself, teaching English in a non-native country is accomplished in a variety of different settings. Private tutoring and school-based education, online classes, and other types of teaching all give professionals the opportunity to pass their knowledge on to others. Each individual has their own approach to practices and methods of teaching, making this profession have great internal variety. A tutor’s work and expertise further depend on the cultural and linguistic norms of the country they are teaching in. For example, in countries with a primary language of the Indo-European group, learners may find it easier to grasp the word meaning a structure of English than the ones accustomed to the Afro-Asiatic grammar. The teacher needs to take into account the peculiarities of their student’s experiences and their knowledge to effectively organize and phrase new information. Another important aspect for teachers is the age demographic of their audience.
People of different age groups have different models of learning and understanding, impacting the way they can be taught another language. Understanding the limits of one’s demographic and using approaches that resonate with a particular group is a skill any teacher should master, especially an English teacher. Another aspect that divides tutors is their knowledge of the language of the non-native country. In some cases, a person teaching English in a foreign country has the advantage of having higher mastery over the vocabulary, structure, and rules of the language, allowing them to teach others better. In other cases, the non-native speakers of English who teach the audience from their country can gain insight into the particular problems their students face and better tackle them in their practice. All differences considered, the field of teaching English in a non-native country has many peculiarities changing on a case-by-case basis. For the sake of clarity, this paper will focus on a school teacher’s practice. In particular, on the work of teaching English as a second language in a non-native country.
The examination will start with the first stage of professional coding in Goodwin’s article – coding. In this context, coding is a nuanced process of analyzing, measuring, and gaining an understanding of the events through the leans of a particular profession (Goodwin, 1994). The skill can be used to interpret available facts as information that can further one’s professional practice and lead to improvement. In a school setting, the gathering of new information is done primarily through interactions with the other members of the staff and the students themselves. By speaking with other teachers, one can take note of the practices commonly used in a particular school, as well as to get to know the students from another side. If a school has more than one English teacher, having the ability to consult others on their experiences and approaches can also immensely help in practice.
An English teacher’s job is to give and contextualize information to children in an attempt to improve their understanding of another language. This process is accomplished primarily through classes, where a teacher and their students have the ability to interact within the boundaries of a semi-professional setting. The classroom provides a teacher with an opportunity to both dispense the knowledge they possess, and to gain the information they lack. While the students themselves seldom have valuable information to expand their tutor’s field of expertise, by interacting with them a teacher can learn about their personalities and family background. By forming personal connections with the students, an English teacher can gain insight into better ways of tutoring them. An English teacher filters the dialogue they hear to note the facts that can be later used in their practice. Information regarding previous exposure to the language, individual disposition towards learning, the student’s parental figures involvement, and other important data can be gathered and used by the teaching professional. In the process of socialization with their students, new approaches to education can be formed. Coding can also be used to access the student’s grades and test scores. By seeing the student’s grades a teacher can determine whether their understanding of the subject is sufficient or not, influencing the process of constructing a lesson plan. Acquiring knowledge about the student’s performance in other subjects can be beneficial as well, as the English teacher can set their expectations about a pupil’s attitude beforehand.
Another practice that can be subject to coding and is specific to English teachers in a non-native country is using the native culture and language of the country to gain an advantage. Through learning about the country and language-specific experiences of people, a teacher can draw parallels and find unique approaches to delivering new information. Taking examples from the native language and using them to explain harder parts of learning English is an invaluable skill to possess for a teacher in a non-native English country. The experience can also help with the process of identifying and solving individual student’s problems. By having knowledge of the native language, the teacher can understand what inherent predispositions can clash with studying the English language and form a plan for solving them.
The second avenue of understanding the practice of an English teacher is the process of highlighting. It is used to separate and categorize the useful information gained for further usage (Goodwin, 1994). Highlighting is often done on an instinctual level, with the person feeling that some information is more relevant to their practice (Goodwin, 1994). The collected information can subsequently be interpreted and influence a teacher’s practice in a variety of ways. A simple approach towards utilizing the gained knowledge is taken into account when deciding which student needs more practice in a particular part of learning English. Focusing the attention on the students that show signs of struggle may improve their performance through practice. Another method of using acquired knowledge to influence the lesson planning process. By organizing the curriculum around the areas of learning that present most difficulty to the students, a teacher can make sure that the information they provide is thoroughly absorbed. An even more effective method is listening to student feedback when deciding the lesson structure itself. Engaging with the pupils in a form of a quiz or a game of some sort can reduce the student’s aversion to learning and provide a new, refreshing outlook on the teaching practice.
The last stage of professional vision as outlined by Goodwin is making graphical or material representations. This step pertains to the process of using the information gained and understood through coding to construct it in another manner, for ease of use, understanding, or other purposes (Goodwin, 1994). This practice can use graphs, diagrams, forms, blanks, or any other form of organization style (Goodwin, 1994). In the work of an English teacher in a non-native country, this technique finds its use in reviewing student performance and organizing reports. Collected information concerning students’ grade progression can be arranged into a helpful graph to quickly understand the general trends of the student’s learning. Such materials can also be showcased to students, as a way to motivate them to perform better or re-evaluate their efforts in the subject. Another use of visualization tactics comes in the form of writing reports. They can be addressed to both the pupils and the school management, detailing various information regarding student performance and other topics.
Personal experiences also play a crucial role in shaping an individual’s approach to their work and the scale of their professional vision. As for myself, I have worked in a school for the duration of a year. As this timeframe is rather small, there are a number of common practices and approaches I still need to master, although I have had the ability to understand the field to a good extent. Practices of an English teacher in a non-native country are primarily based on general techniques other teachers use. Such approaches include the process of continuous evaluation of their student’s work and the use of the acquired information in the teaching practice. English teachers also interpret available information to come up with better approaches towards delivering information and use visual representations to process large amounts of data. As of now, I am a graduate student in the field of linguistics. I believe that my newfound expertise can significantly influence my teaching practice and help to perform my duties more efficiently. With the gained knowledge of language structure and other peculiarities of linguistics, I can better understand what aspects of learning cause the most difficulty and improve my presentation to students.
In conclusion, the practices of a school English teacher in a non-native country represent the field of tutoring people in English as a second language. Although the profession uses the methods of gathering and analyzing information shared by all teachers, it also has its own unique challenges and approaches. The need to understand student performance in relation to their understanding of English as a second language creates a different dynamic between the pupils and their teacher. The graphs, diagrams, and other forms of visual media are used to influence students and provide context on the teacher’s successes and struggles to the management. In my personal experience, I hope that the expertise I gained studying linguistics can help me better connect with the students and promote learning.
Goodwin, C (1994). Professional Vision. American Anthropologist 96(3): 606-633.