Career Crossroads: My Master in TESOL at Canterbury Christ Church University

by Kevin White, Fukuoka (2008-2013)

As the end of my tenure on JET drew nigh, I found myself with conundrum on my hands: I had fallen in love with teaching, inspiring, motivating and sharpening young minds. It was either do an MA in TESOL to hone my teaching skills and get a firmer understanding of language teaching pedagogy, or do an MBA and try to reintegrate myself into the field of banking. In some of the discussions I had with friends about my career/educational choices after JET, 95% of them unhesitatingly said MBA. The reason for this being that I was a native speaker and a certificate in TESOL or CELTA qualification would be more than sufficient to land a job as an ESL/EFL instructor. This line of thinking can be attributed to what is commonly known as the native speaker fallacy, the term I became familiar with while doing my MA in TESOL.

The mind thinks, but the heart knows. In the words of William Shakespeare, “Go to your bosom; knock there, and ask your heart what it doth knows.” In the end, I followed my heart and undertook an MA in TESOL at Canterbury Christ Church University, UK.

Canterbury is a very quaint, historic town in the south of England, home of the world renowned Canterbury Tales. Canterbury also has the distinction of being one of the safest student towns in the UK and the university has award winning facilities, such as its state-of-the-art library. These were not the only reasons I was swayed to join this particular programme. For people who are economically cautious like me, who do not want to be saddled with debt for trying to pay for postgraduate study, this course is economically priced and affordable.

One of the salient features of this course that separates it from other MA in TESOL studies is that it does not solely focus on theory. There is a practical component as well, meaning that the opportunity exists to immediately put all the theory studied into practice. The MA in TESOL on offer at CCCU is best suited for those students who do not want to be inundated with theory but are more vested in their career professional development. In other words, this is a degree for people who want to teach and not do heavy-duty research.

The programme is 12-months long and is two-tiered. The first tier involves doing course work that grants you a postgraduate diploma in TESOL. Some of the courses offered include: Classroom Investigation, Language Systems and Appropriate Pedagogy, Testing, Curriculum Design, Classroom Methodology, and Research Methods in TESOL. The second phase of the programme involves researching and writing a dissertation under a supervisor in order to be awarded the MA.

The university boasts an amazing cadre of TESOL professors with diverse backgrounds and teaching experiences. Dr. Pamela Aboshiha, the programme director, is a very warm, approachable and comforting person who does everything in her remit to address any problems or concerns that students may have. In your classroom discussions, you can tap into a wealth of knowledge by sharing experiences and ideas with teachers from all over the world who, like you, want to deepen and develop their understanding of teaching.

Studying at Canterbury Christ Church University was well worth it. The town is conducive to studying. It’s the right balance of being neither too busy nor too boring. The library has a subscription to a host of databases where you can access scholarly journals and an impressive collection of books and other resources on language teaching. The town is quite small, therefore, commuting is not a problem. If you are into keeping fit, everything is accessible enough that you can either walk or ride a bicycle.

Getting into London takes 50 minutes by express train, 1 hour 13 minutes on the local train. If you are thinking about making a career out of TESOL and you absolutely love teaching, then I highly recommend researching this programme and what it has to offer. As for me, since graduating, I can unwaveringly say that my teaching and implementation of lessons has improved tremendously. My knowledge of teaching approaches and methodologies has been thoroughly enriched and that the MA has opened a lot of doors for me in my teaching career that would have been closed otherwise.