Kathleen M. Bailey
kbailey [at] miis [dot] edu
Prof. Bailey: I have always wanted to be a teacher. As the oldest of six children, I was constantly making my siblings “play school”—with me as the teacher, of course.
I completed my undergraduate degree in English Literature at the University of California at Santa Barbara and stayed there another year to earn a secondary school teaching credential.
After a brief stint of teaching junior high school in southeastern California, I lived in Uijongbu, Korea for about a year. In both contexts, I had students who were language learners, but I was totally unprepared to help them.
Those experiences motivated me to study TESOL. I was very fortunate to be able to attend the MA program at UCLA and later to complete the UCLA Ph.D. program in Applied Linguistics.
I guess being a teacher lets me draw to my strengths. I’m a bit of a performer, and I enjoy communicating with others, both in speech and in writing. Teaching is fulfilling and energizing. I’m never bored.
Ana Wu: You were the 1998-1999 President of TESOL. In 1998, the Board of Directors of TESOL approved the Nonnative Educators in TESOL as a caucus, which then changed its name to Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL. As the president, why did you support its formation? Could you tell us the impact of its creation?
Prof. Bailey: The non-native speaking teaching issue was a concern whose time had come. TESOL was moving into a stance where advocacy was viewed as a key part of its mission. The foundation of the NNEST Caucus provided a forum for like-minded people to discuss the issue, publicize concerns and successes, and support one another.
From my vantage point, the caucus has had a very positive impact. It has promoted publications and conference presentations and made many members of the profession aware of NNEST’s concerns.
Ana Wu: As professor and past director of the Intensive English Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, do you think that in an ESL setting, having a rich diversity of English varieties among instructors would be a great asset to the international students? Why?
Prof. Bailey: I believe that having a diversity of English varieties represented by a program’s teachers is a definite asset. Most of the English learners we teach will encounter people who speak with different styles, accents, and lexicons—whether those encounters take place in face-to-face contexts, via the media, through telephone conversations, or elsewhere. To expose our learners to only one variety of English is to limit the range of Englishes with which they are familiar.
Ana Wu: You are a researcher, plenary speaker, and professor. You also lead a consulting team. What advice would you give to NNES novice teachers who want to have a fulfilling teaching career in an English spoken country or in their home country?
Prof. Bailey: I know most teachers are desperately busy and that many people in our field must hold two jobs to make ends meet. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it’s important to continue our own professional development—by reading books and journals, taking courses, attending conferences, and learning new skills.
I would also encourage novice teachers to share their own good ideas—whether that sharing happens at school with colleagues at brown-bag lunches, through blogs or websites, in conference presentations, or in publications. Sharing our own ideas can lead to many benefits for ourselves as well as others: increased exposure and confidence, critical feedback from other professions, and opportunities to travel and meet new people.
Ana Wu: You have always been very enthusiastic about the TESOL Leadership Mentoring Program Award, a program which helps under-represented groups within TESOL become more involved in the work of the association. Would you tell us why?
Prof. Bailey: The TESOL Leadership Mentoring Program is one of the most important initiatives the organization has implemented. A number of key TESOL leaders who came through this program have served on committees and task forces. Also, several members of the Board of Directors got their start through the Leadership Mentorship system. I am thinking of people like Aileen Gum, Maricel Santos, Andy Curtis, and some of the key NNEST educators as well as people like Lillian Wong, Mabel Gallo, and Fernando Fleurquin.
I am constantly amazed at the number of promising young people who don’t really see how talented they are or how much they have to offer. The TESOL Leadership Mentor Program provides a mechanism for developing some of those talents and channeling them to the good of TESOL—both the organization and the profession.
Ana Wu: Thank you for this delightful interview!