Michael Lessard-Clouston has worked in ESL/EFL and teacher training for 30 years. He is presenting Christian Virtues and Intercultural Communication: Foundations, Examples, and Resources at CELT Seoul 2016. We welcome to Michael the Chronicles of Hope Korea blog as the final interview before the conference on June 24-25.
How did you become involved in Christian English language teaching?
I first taught ESL part-time to grade eleven students at a high school in Montréal during my third year of university. I loved it, so after graduating I worked for two years in China with ELIC, a great organization. I felt at home and enjoyed teaching EFL and training English language teachers, and I’ve mostly done something like that ever since, in Canada, Indonesia, and elsewhere. During 10½ years in Japan, I helped create an M.A. program, in which I then taught required and elective courses for five years.
Next I moved to the U.S. to work at Biola University (near Los Angeles, in sunny California), and for the last 11 years I’ve directed an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and taught wonderful students in both its on campus and online M.A. TESOL programs. I tell people I enjoy learning from my students, so I have simply never left university!
I’ve also been involved over the years in CETC, CELEA, and CELT conferences. I co-edit the International Journal of Christianity and English Language Teaching, and I’m grateful to work with marvellous colleagues like Xuesong (Andy) Gao and others, such as John Liang, Michael Pasquale, Kitty Purgason, Rich Robison, and Mary Wong.
Can you give us a quick overview of your presentation?
My Christian Virtues presentation draws upon my experience in teaching intercultural communication, and my recent research on virtues. It will first lay some foundations from the literature, and then note seven Christian virtues and examples for them from my on campus and online intercultural communication classes. Finally, I will introduce various resources, including articles, books, and websites, that Christian teachers might consider for reflecting on such virtues and incorporating them into their classes.
I will also be presenting on Publishing in Applied Linguistics and TESOL Periodicals, to provide helpful information and answer questions about how teachers and researchers can go about preparing and submitting articles for publication in English. I’ll draw upon my experience in publishing, reviewing, and editing articles for newsletters and journals.
Can you provide one example of a Christian virtue that you have reflected on and how you integrated that virtue into your own teaching?
Hospitality is a Christian virtue that has received some attention in the literature, and which I feel I’ve learned to incorporate into my classes. I do that on campus by creating a welcoming class atmosphere, and by showing hospitality to my students, for example by getting to know and care for them as individuals, but also by doing things like bringing snacks and drinks to share together during our break half way through class, or sometimes hosting the class at my home. I actually worried more about showing such hospitality in my online classes, but I was thankful that in discussing this topic a number of students gave examples of hospitality in our class online this past semester, including through our weekly devotional discussions, and taking time to do life together as we share prayer requests and pray for one another amidst our busy lives as teachers.
What are some of the foundations for understanding and reflecting on Christian virtues?
Virtues are simply significant values within a particular culture, and the seven virtues I will be focusing on hold special importance for Christians because they are highlighted throughout the Bible – including compassion, gratitude, hope, and humility. While as Christians we hold to absolute values, we also recognize, as Adeney (1995) argued in Strange Virtues: Ethics in a Multicultural World, that our understanding and practice of virtues is very much relative, since we are sinful human beings and all virtues (as well as vices) take real cultural forms. This is important for ESL/EFL students and teachers, who expect to be dealing with people through English across cultures, to be aware of cultural acts that reflect the virtues we wish to exemplify to others as we communicate.
What are some helpful Internet resources on Christian virtues for teachers?
If people are looking for academic and other resources, they should definitely check out the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. A free e-book to download is Jason Baehr’s (2015) Cultivating Good Minds: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Educating for Intellectual Virtues.
Especially for practising teachers, I recommend ESL Lessons Based on Virtues from the Southern Ontario Cooperative of ESL Ministries. I’ll introduce these and share about other resources for teachers to look into during my presentation at CELT 2016 Seoul.
What questions should a language teacher consider when trying to integrate collaboration into their teaching?
I’m looking forward to the conference to discuss that question with others! However, it seems to me that collaboration is in essence all about working together to achieve particular goals. So questions that come to mind include: What is my goal as a teacher? How might I help my students best work together to achieve it? What strengths can we draw upon in doing so (and what are potential weaknesses to avoid or minimize)? Also, how might we celebrate positive collaboration when it occurs in and out of class? In SLA we argue that lowering the affective filter is key to helping students learn and practise communication, so a final question might be, how can I create a classroom atmosphere conducive to potential collaboration in learning and using English? Perhaps virtues could be useful in this regard, so I encourage people come to my talk!
Adeney, B. T. (1995). Strange Virtues: Ethics in a Multicultural World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Michael Lessard-Clouston has worked in ESL/EFL and teacher training for 30 years. He is author of Teaching Vocabulary (TESOL, 2013) and numerous articles in periodicals such as the Asian ESP Journal, Canadian Modern Language Review, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, Language Culture, and Curriculum, NECTFL Review, and TESL Reporter. His scholarly interests include corpus linguistics, intercultural communication, second language acquisition, and vocabulary learning and teaching. To access many of his publications: https://biola.academia.edu/MichaelLessardClouston.
You can still register for the CELT Seoul 2016!