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Member’s Profile Jason Peppard

 

As the incoming Member’s Profile and Showcase Editor, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself to the readers of TLT. First,however, I owe a big thanks to Damian Rivers for his sound advice and guidance through the transition process, and also to Theron Muller for his encouragement in offering me this position. I have big shoes to fill and will do my best to maintain the high standards set by my predecessors.

By retracing my steps in ELT, I hope to cover all of the appropriate topics for the Member’s Profile column: professional development, professional affiliations, research interests and current projects. I’m sure that my story is not an unfamiliar one.

I came to Japan 6years ago armed with a 120-hour TESOL certificate and a Japanese phrasebook. Feeling slightly burnt out from my youth-care job at a group home for troubled youth, I wanted to go on an adventure before pursuing graduate studies in psychology. Teaching English in Japan was the perfect solution:I could experience a new and exotic culture while making money to support myself,and eat sushi everyday!

My first teaching position was with James English, a medium-sized eikaiwa in beautiful Yamagata city where I still live. My initial training consisted of observing a few classes taught by more experienced teachers and a short informal session with the head teacher. I was a little nervous at first, but jumped in and,to my surprise and relief, found teaching English to be a truly enjoyable and rewarding experience. I had originally planned to stay in Japan no longer than 2 years. When I had reached the 4- year mark, I realized that my teaching adventure was turning into a teaching career and felt the need for professional development.

After researching my options, I settled on pursuing an MA in Applied Linguistics from the University of Birmingham. Although a little more expensive than other distance MAs, the Birmingham courses are among the most respected worldwide, and the university has the highest possible ratings for teaching and research. It was an easy decision to make. The only regret that I have is not starting the MA earlier. It has helped me become a better teacher, introduced me to a large and expanding network of ELT professionals and friends, and has opened several doors, all before even finishing the program. I switched from fulltime to part-time at James to pursue work at the university level and have just finished my first year teaching at Tohoku Gakuin University. I’ve also recently taken on a part-time English lecturer position at Yamagata University.

Currently, my two main academic interests are Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Lexical Approaches to language teaching. CDA involves analyzing discourse to uncover the underlying ideologies or agendas of its authors. I’m primarily interested in comparing how reports of the same events from different media outlets differ according to their respective ideological agendas,and how this can be determined by the authors’ linguistic choices. Although not directly applicable to my current teaching situations, I hope to someday teach CDA awareness to advanced learners.

My interest in Lexical Approaches to language teaching mostly stems from my ongoing struggle with Japanese. The formal lessons I’ve taken have always focused on grammatical structure, much like the dominant PPP approach in ELT. However, when it comes to real life situations where I need to communicate in Japanese, I’m at a loss for words… literally. I’ve come to realize that it does not matter how much grammatical knowledge I have if my mental lexicon is underdeveloped. So,for my dissertation, I’m exploring the possibility of integrating a more lexical approach with a functional syllabus, using corpus-driven lexicogrammatical patterns. I hope to develop a system of syllabus design that is more efficient than the traditional grammatical approaches and easy to customize for specific groups of students.

Joining professional associations such as ETJ and JALT has also been a very integral step in my professional development. I was so impressed by my first JALT conference experience that I felt compelled to get more involved. I have since progressed from avid TLT reader, to proofreader, and finally to the editor of this column, all in a relatively short span of time.

If you too are interested in getting more involved, submitting to the Member’s Profile or Showcase column would be a great way to get started. I’m looking forward to working with you and hearing your story.

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