English as a second or foreign language
What motivates a teacher to start in the profession? For sure many reasons make someone begin a career in teaching. Is it pay or job security or is it a fall back option? This being said, initial motivation does not mean that years later the same can be said. The fact of the matter is the evolution of the new teacher into a mature tutor. This is then the professional person who has recognized the true meaning of teaching. This person recognizes their role in helping to shape young minds and impart moral values through education. Teaching has to be a vocation. In part an autobiographical story highlighting aspects of Asian teaching and also analysis, there are many aspects that any teacher has to realize to fulfill true potential.
Certainly, ongoing professional development highlights certain challenges in teaching that a teacher has to face up to. A focal point has to be the realization that students do not really know how to learn. How can any teacher, great as they may think they are, not realize that the students are naive about how to get the most benefit from a lesson? Any teacher has to look at the students’ own learning traits in light of today’s imperative that they both foster lifelong learners in their classrooms as well as become lifelong learners themselves. It’s the teacher’s inspiration that plays a huge part in a student’s education although every student and the class as a whole have to progress to help the teacher get the most out of them.
Different countries have varying approaches to learning and teaching. How does a foreign teacher survive in another country’s learning environment? Any foreign teacher working abroad has to adapt and work within the culture. It can be hard to change teaching methods to what has been ingrained from school through to university. Motivation to rise above some of another country’s inequalities as you see them is paramount. In some of these cultures, students tend to be passive and may be reluctant to participate in communicative exercises. A change in style of teaching to suit these learners’ needs is essential because completely following an Asian model would be alien to any foreign teacher; a balance has to be met. A new foreign teacher would think it is strange to see no encouragement given to the students to think independently while just following the examples of the teacher, who is held in high esteem. Progression as a teacher means drawing attention to many facets of teaching. Inspiration has to come from somewhere. Breaking the barriers that slow students’ learning and build foundations that provoke students’ development has got to be a motivator.
Of course, any teacher would not automatically change their style of teaching. The question is: should they focus more on themselves as a teacher or the students? Which one deserves more thought? It must be believed that a deeper thinking about the children’s role in learning is paramount. It’s just when you see children who have so much energy, who are not lazy per se, using their energy into ignoring the learning process. This does not mean every one of them is mentally challenged; it is the direction they are taking. For example, a fifteen-year-old student kept saying the word ‘brio’. What it meant in his language or English language was not clear, but he would say things like ‘do you brio?’ and ‘I am brio’. This was actually when ‘present tense’ was being taught. The co-teacher thought this student was being disruptive and after class, she had a word with the teacher about it. She went on to mention that he was a hyperactive kid who had problems at home and she was sorry. Basically, that was the end of the story. Many factors come into one’s learning and potential, but there was a child who had energy. He was contributing in his own way. It was the way the teacher dealt with this child’s attitude that had the major factor in his learning. The teacher was glad to have this student taking part. He felt it was a bit negative just to put him down as having problems and forget about it. It was felt the teacher just had to channel that liveliness and educate him to use it properly. To put in bluntly teachers need to see what role the students actually play in the classroom. Similarly, Beth Buchler, educational consultant and director of New-Learning Educational Services wrote that you need a ‘student who is responsible, who takes charge, and who self-regulates in the context of today’s changing learning environment’. A teacher does not change these children overnight and many will take time. Every student has potential. The issue for the teacher is how to overcome their learned behaviors they have in class that is being detrimental to them.
So, why are they not performing? One other factor could be a boring teacher. How can any teacher help a student change their learning style if the students (or even the teacher) do not have any interest or enthusiasm? Referring to an Alexandra Frean’s piece written in the Times newspaper about ‘boring teachers blamed for rowdy classes’. It seems obvious that students will show their bad side when they are bored, but according to Ofsted, at that time, this was a problem in English schools. The report drew an angry response from the National Union of Teachers which was understandable but it happens. An example of a disruptive class comes from watching an Asian teacher conduct a lesson. The students were naughty, but why were they naughty? Was it because they were disobedient or because the lessons were not so interesting? The teacher was shouting at the noisy students at the start of the lesson. They were quiet once the teacher started shouting, but after that, they were back talking again. The teacher asked them to look at the questions in their book and find the answers in the reading. It seemed a very easy lesson plan. Were the children interested? Maybe, they were not interested. All they needed to do is fill in the blanks which were being done by a couple of people, namely by the best students. The others were just waiting for the answers happily relaxed talking to each other. This teacher was not making the class interesting, no wonder the students were back talking. After exiting the classroom for five minutes then entering to an ‘okay let’s check the answers’ loud voice, the teacher went through the answers. The teacher started speaking in their native language then asking for one English word answer at a time. The English teacher speech was mixed with their native language. The answers were now being given anyway so the ones who did not bother can just fill in their book. What was the teacher purpose in this class? Where was the motivation to learn? If you had filled in the answers you would have finished. It must be said that “Yes, you have finished but isn’t the purpose of learning a foreign language for using it in a context that is valuable for the future. The weaker students are just copying the answers while laughing about something not involved in the subject at hand. This new information they should have learned will stay in their minds for a short time”. Basically, it is hard for a native English teacher to see this whole episode and not feel sorry for everyone involved because everyone walks and carries on regardless.
The irony of all this is that the more the students become independent learners; a process “in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others” (M. Knowles), the teacher’s job will hopefully become more manageable. Motivation and interest will take over idle chat and disruption. Teachers can then confidently feel that they are succeeding and be motivated to take their teaching to another level. This will be not only with themselves but also with the other students. Hopefully, the pride the teacher feel from making these students ready for the world outside school and their future will show them the true meaning of teaching and encourage them for many years. Hopefully, this piece of writing has tried to open teachers to this fact.
Bernard-Powers, J., Darling-Hammond, L., Der Ramos, A., Kass, M., LaBoskey, V., & Markowitz, M., et al. (2000). Principles of high quality teacher development. San Jose, CA: The Teacher Quality Collaborative. Retrieved January 23, 2002, from http://www.jointventure.org/initiatives/21st/tqc/principles.html
Boring teachers blamed for rowdy classes
By Alexandra Frean, Education Editor
Critical Issue: Terms of Engagement—Rethinking Teachers’ Independent Learning Traits – Beth Buchler, M.A., educational consultant and director of New-Learning Educational Services
Malcolm knowles, informal adult education, self-direction and andragogy
Supporting and Facilitating Self-Directed Learning