In Conversation with Dr Christine Coombe
Sunera Saba Khan
Dr Christine Coombe
DR Christine Coombe, leader in Higher Education and English faculty of Dubai Men's College, visited Dhaka in early December for a collaborative venture with Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA). She led a team of facilitators from TESOL Arabia for conducting an international seminar on 'Teacher Effectiveness' for Bangladeshi English teachers. Christine is the former Testing and Measurements Supervisor at UAE University and assessment Coordinator of Zayed University. She has written a number of books on assessment. During her stay we talked with her and here are some of her thoughts.
How does it feel to be the President of the largest teachers association in the world - TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) ?
Christine Coombe (CC): Being President of TESOL has been a lifelong dream of mine. It has been an amazing experience and one I've really benefited from personally and professionally. The responsibility is tremendous though, and learning about different trends in ELT from a worldwide perspective has been a challenge.
How do you feel about collaborating with BELTA?
CC: To date, TESOL Arabia (the Testing SIG and the Leadership/ Management SIG) and BELTA have collaborated for the past 3 to 4 years on mutually-beneficial projects. We have always been well satisfied with the experience and I hope the feeling is mutual with BELTA.
What events have you jointly organised with BELTA ? Can you please share your experiences with us?
CC: Our first collaboration was a 'Fundamentals of Language Assessment' event in Dhaka where 80+ teachers spent three days together learning about assessment basics. This event took place in 2009. In 2010 the theme of our event was on teacher leadership. This year we focused on teacher effectiveness. I also did a plenary at the BELTA Conference in 2011 and BELTA officers have done featured sessions at TESOL Arabia in 2012 as well.
What are the benefits of on-going teacher development?
CC: On-going teacher development is really the only way to develop. We learn a lot during our degree programmes and on our on-the-job training but nothing beats getting together from time to time with like-minded EL professionals and learning about new trends and perspectives in the field.
What do you see in Bangladeshi EFL teachers which are different from the teachers you deal with in the Middle East or in the West?
CC: The more I travel and meet with other teachers around the world, the more I learn how similar we all are. Having said that, one thing I can say which separates Bangladeshi teachers from those in other countries is their tremendous work ethic and dedication to students and the profession.
What advice would you give to novice teachers or teachers starting out on their professional careers?
CC: I'll give them the same advice that I received as a new teacher. There are many teachers who find themselves in the profession and don't really like it but they stay there anyway. These dissatisfied teachers spend a considerable amount of time complaining about how hard life is and how much they hate their jobs. Socialising with these individuals at the lunch table or in the coffee room can prove detrimental to a new teacher's motivation. So I would advise new teachers not to spend a lot of time with this group.
What message do you have for Bangladeshi teachers?
CC: Keep up the good work and never stop learning!
(The writer is an undergraduate student at the University of Dhaka and also works as a volunteer for Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association-BELTA)