On October 17th, 2010 the Moveable Feast conference was held at Osaka Gakuin University, where the main theme was teacher development, and what we, as educators, could benefit from learning. After first hearing about the conference, I started to realize that the more that I learned, the more that I earned (and, as I continue, it continues). Both learning and earning can be categorized in several ways, and the benefits are rather obvious to those who pursue that type of philosophy.
When most people thing of ‘earning’, with respect to employment at least, the concept of monetary remuneration comes to mind. While this is true in many instances, earning can be much more broadly defined. As an example: earning as defined by The Farlex Dictionary is to ‘1. To gain especially for the performance of service, labor, or work: earned money by mowing lawns. 2. To acquire or deserve as a result of effort or action: She earned a reputation as a hard worker. 3. To yield as return or profit: a savings account that earns interest on deposited funds‘ (Earn). When we, as educators embark on learning in its various forms, the rewards will most likely include the first definition, but will by no means be limited to that definition. The other defined earnings can be very valuable and important as well.
While earning can come in more than one form, learning can come in numerous forms, so for explanatory purposes, three are utilized here( though they can and do overlap): Formal learning is defined as formal learning and study with the end goal of degrees, diplomas or certificates; semi-formal learning includes taking classes, attending and giving seminars as well as at conferences; and informal learning is learning that is done on one’s own through actions such as reading, discussions and media.
The most obvious one and the one that tends to have the most profitable financial results, at least at the beginning (of course, once you get too far, it has the potential of diminishing monetary results later). As most people are aware, the more education one achieves, the better the salary at least in theory ( there is a very familiar quote that states that an average college grad will make one million dollars more than the average high school graduate-but that has been disproven by research, such as from Inside Higher Ed). However, there is a definite increase that can be earned with better education.
The wage increases can and do continue into graduate studies. An excellent case in point is the difference in pay in EFL in Japan from (at least average) English conversation teachers (where a bachelor’s degree is the norm) versus university work (where, at least, a master’s is the norm). But, there are the other ‘earnings’, which include deeper knowledge of the topic (particularly with, but not exclusively with respect to content bases instruction CBI), better understanding of various university systems, research methodologies and academic writing to name a few.
Options available to educators who want to expand into other areas are numerous and include online as well as in traditional class programs. As far as the latter, traditional degree programs are available to Japan based educators. Temple University in Osaka and Tokyo as well as Columbia Teachers College (in Tokyo only) are two large American universities with that option. The in class options not only extend to them. For example, I have an American friend currently in a PhD Program at a Japanese university (Kansai University). So, keep the Japanese university option in mind as well, if considering a traditional degree. Aside from degrees, there are CELTA programmes that are run out of Kobe. As for non-traditional ways of studying, there are numerous options available and those options are growing all the time. The best advice I ever had was to find an area that really interests me, then research it and choose the best place that I can afford to apply to.
There are numerous benefits to this type of education. As a personal example: One side benefit of completing an MBA was that it gave me the added advantage of having experience writing a dissertation with the standard dissertations to it. By the time I complete the degree, I had a deeper background in research methodologies through taking classes in the subject, and then through writing the dissertation. Because of that, I am better equipped to guide students through their 4th year thesis and to advise on some of the options that they have available to them.
As most people who have completed a master’s degree (at least) will contend, the monetary payoff can be immediate and long lasting. Personally, I know that when I completed my master’s of education, it had paid for itself in increased remuneration within two years. Even the MBA (which was expensive) is paying for itself in money terms, but has already paid off in non-monetary earnings with better understanding of the materials I’m teaching and more enthusiasm through teaching classes I want to teach (business and economics). This is, however, a very personal example, and there are other numerous fields one can pursue. The best advice I’ve ever come across is, “do what you love and the money will follow”. (Aaron, 1997)
It is safe to say that through formal studying, we become more knowledgeable and we become better teachers. This is because of any number of ways, including: learning teaching theory, being forced ourselves to give presentations, (after all, being critiqued and peer reviewed raises the self awareness that we all have towards pedagogical approaches to the classroom). In addition, our critical thinking and study skills improve through being involved in formal classroom settings.
Self improvement and learning is not limited to formal learning, going to conferences, attending seminars and taking classes are excellent ways to improve and increase earning power. While it may not seem as serious a route as formal learning and the earning power seems to be more leaning towards non-monetary gains, there are a number of things that can be learned, comprising skills along with knowledge. Keep in mind that I know of several people on hiring committees who were inclined not to hire non-JALT members who were applying for work. Also, conferences (particularly international ones) may have the effect of raising an application to the top of a hiring committee. Aside from that, there are almost always useful ideas that can be gained from attending conferences. Finally, it is a chance to interact with others and (in the case of education oriented conferences) keep up to date with the advances within the discipline.
Not to discount the monetary earning potential with semi-formal learning, there are networking opportunities, rarely found elsewhere in such abundance. This connects with the other side of earning which is non-monetary. This includes keeping up with new trends, and finding that we are not the only ones in the situations we find ourselves in. Confidence tends to build in most who find out that they are not alone. As one participant stated during a final Q&A session, “once the door is closed, it is a lonely profession”, and finding peers to share with is an excellent way of coping.
While this broad category may overlap in some ways with the semi-formal, there are a number of things that differentiate it, and make it and make it valuable. With respect to the earning potential as far as money is concerned, it is seemingly the weakest, although, I do know of several cases where teachers are hired because of the specialized knowledge that they acquired through informal learning. The best examples are in IT, but I have also seen it with film studies and geo-politics. As an example of the latter, I do know of one British teacher who is teaching in a lecturer position at a university without a graduate degree due to his acting experience.
The area of learning includes, watching TV news, reading books, experiences and discussions (among others). The biggest payoff might be with the better and more knowledgeable classes that the instructor can provide. Recently, at Konan University’s ‘Peccha Kucha’ night, there was an excellent presentation from one university teacher who uses Dungeons and Dragons in his classes to teach. That, I believe, shows that if the teacher is enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate about the topic, it can easily translate into a good and worthwhile class.
As an example of informal learning, I was introduced to the concept of Peak Oil, and I started reading up on the concepts of oil as well as world population, and the idea that sustainable growth might be an oxymoron. As a result, I’ve developed several lesson plans on the exponential rule of 72, world population growth and peak oil. I’ve used these materials in classes that were first, second, and third year university classes as well as a corporate class. I have also given several presentations on these concepts at several venues.
Several years ago, I was given a book on outsourcing (for personal as well as business work) and read it through looking for materials for homework assignment for an MBA course. I was unable to use it in my course, and I thought it was not very useful for me as an English instructor in Japan. However, while preparing original materials for classes, I was reluctant to photocopy from other text books. So, I went to a website that was on the book ( www.odesk.com ) and outsourced a number of drawings to the Philippines where it cost me less than $100 to get 12 illustrations (including the one above that I use for ‘homework’ with my original materials).
One way for educators to keep a record, as well as using it as a tool for self development, is the academic CV (curriculum vitae). An academic CV is different from a resume in several ways as an academic CV is a complete record of your academic work, without descriptive adjectives, with three main areas, research, teaching and service. In other words, just the facts. Being a complete record, in can become quite long sometimes going 20 or 30 pages. Listed is a brief overview of differences between a resume and an academic CV.
· ACADEMIC CV
1 or 2 Page(s)
· Just the facts
Power sales tool
· Details of all academic work
Broad strokes of abilities
Tailored to the job application
While the academic CV may or may not be used as an employment tool, it can be a very valuable asset (though a suggestion would be to add a 1-page resume if adding it to a teaching job application). Because there are few hard and fast rules for academic CVs, a suggestion might be to start with the name, address and then education (starting with the highest obtained, then moving down) and then student activities. This is followed by publications, presentations and then chronology of work (academic only) with all classes listed by academic year starting with the most recent. Next, include student advising, class projects, and memberships.
Because of the lack of set rules for the academic CV, adjustments can be made to the CV. As an example, if your publications are weak, then abbreviated abstracts can be included after the title of the publication. If, on the other hand there are a number of publications that you have, use of APA might be a more appropriate approach. Even if this document is not for employment, it can be a very powerful tool in assessing where one’s strengths and weaknesses are with respect to one’s career. The academic CV can become a flexible record that is more a living document that is added to as achievements are made.
From the employer’s perspective, reasons why an academic CV can be very useful include the professionalization of the EFL industry, changes in the job market, fewer jobs with more competition, and a stronger acceptance of their use by hiring committees. And from the personal side, the CV can be utilized as a scorecard that helps with career decision making (see below), it is a complete record of what one has done professionally and it allows the educator to have a ‘hidden agenda’ where extra work might be performed if it enhances the CV. As Tom Peters stated: “Ask yourself the following. In the last 90 days, what have I done to improve my resume?” He goes on to challenge the reader to complete the sentence “My Principal ‘resume (CV) enhancement activity’ for 90 days is…”And ‘The next year…'”(Peters, 1999)
One suggestion is to introspectively look at our careers through a balance scorecard with the CV as a centre of reflection. By doing so, it is easy to see the strengths and weaknesses that all of us have.
The balanced scorecard was something I adopted and reconfigured from a corporate strategy tool, which is used as a performance management device (Merchant & Van der Stede, 2007). It has been adapted to an academic CV so that educators might want to consider where their strengths and weaknesses lie. While not all areas are covered, the large amount of information from an academic CV is found in the four areas and shows how it balances. The only one major area that might be missing for people in Japan would be their Japanese language ability.
Aaron, R. ( 1997). Bloom Where You Are Planted. Toronto: Raymond Aaron Group
Earn. (n.d). In The Free Dictionary byFarlex.
Lakin, T. (2010, September 15). College sports can change your life. Retrieved from rise.espn.go.com/all-sports/articles/Recruiting/college-sports-benefits.aspx
Leaderman, D. (2008, April 7). College isn’t worth a million dollars. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/04/07/miller
Merchant, K. & Van der Stede, W.A. (2007). Management Control Systems. Harlow, Essex. Financial Times/Prentice Hall.
Peters, T. (1999). The Brand New 50. New York, NY: Random House.