Teachers, preachers, or...: goals of church-based volunteer ESL instructors
For many years, Christian churches have been used as sites for education, including language education. Within churches, ESL classes are often staffed by volunteers who provide tutoring for adults. Recently, the ultimate end of Christian ELT in general has been a subject of debate among academics and professionals. On one side, researchers are concerned that certain Christian educators are more devoted to the prospect of converting students to Christianity and Western values than teaching English. Conversely, researchers who support the work of Christian educators argue that moral devotion to one’s faith augments rather than hinders teaching, and that the hallmark of a Christian teacher is love for students. This study does not evaluate the appropriateness of incorporation of faith or the ethics of Christian educators. Rather, this research attempts to determine whether the speculated goals of Christian ELT in this debate are corroborated by church-based ESL instructors. The study consists of a survey of 14 educators or former educators at Baptist, Presbyterian and Catholic churches in central Alabama, along with three supplementary interviews. Participants were asked to rank a list of goals according to importance and accomplishment in the classroom and explain their motives for teaching. Overall, it was determined that teaching-based goals are significantly more important than faith-based goals for this group of educators, allowing for limitations regarding self-reporting and disclosure. Further inspection suggests that Baptist educators may incorporate more faith-based goals into their teaching than Catholic, Presbyterian or non-denominational educators. It was also found that teachers identify themselves as teachers only or occasionally friends to their students, and building relationships with students is important to this community of practice.