COTSEAL professional development workshop held at the Berkeley Language Center

On Friday, September 18, and Saturday, September 19, the Council of Teachers of Southeast Asian Languages (COTSEAL), of which I am currently president, held a professional development workshop in facilities (Dwinelle B-3 and B-4) graciously provided by the BLC.

Professional development is difficult to come by indeed for many Southeast Asian language instructors in the US, the majority of whom are lecturers (some of them part-time) barely paid a living wage nor decent health benefits by their university, let alone being provided with or reimbursed for any sort of professional development activities. The only way to really put on a teacher-training workshop for the majority of these instructors in a meaningful way is to find a funding source to pay for all travel and lodging for the event. COTSEAL (which doesn’t have a very large budget to begin with!) had not undertaken such a workshop since 2003, so when I became president, I felt the time had come. Thanks to the grant-writing skills of Sarah Maxim of the UC Berkeley Center for Southeast Asian Studies, we were able to secure funding for about 20 teachers, from around California and many other states in the US, as part of their Title VI grant in the current funding cycle. Additional funding was provided by the various Southeast Asia National Resource Centers around the country, many of which paid partial or full travel expenses so their lecturers could attend.

To make the effects of the workshop more lasting and meaningful, and to satisfy government funders always looking for “deliverables” as quantitative proof of a funded effort’s value, we conceived of the workshop as the beginning of a two-part (and possibly three-part) ongoing exercise for not just individual instructors, but teams of instructors, 3-5 per language (the languages represented at the workshop were Indonesian, Burmese, Filipino, Khmer, Vietnamese, and Thai). After working together on various activities aimed at improving goal-setting and planning in their language classes, as well as developing content-based lessons, each group of teachers will now, as they return to their home institutions, continue to work together long-distance to design, modify, finish, and teach (in a video) two content-based lessons. This will all take place before the next workshop in the series, to be held at University of Wisconsin-Madison in June 2016 (a third workshop, dependent on funding from the Luce Foundation, is tentatively scheduled for fall, 2017). The same participants who attended the Berkeley workshop agreed, when they initially applied, to attend both the 2015 and 2016 workshops, and to work together to complete the designated lessons in the interim.

Engagement and participation in the day-and-a-half workshop was good, and hopefully this will be the start of a new way of breathing life into (and furthering the development of) modern Southeast Asian language instruction at the university level.