This past days someone started a debate regarding English teachers. As one of them, I listened carefully to all the comments, and then talked.

People were saying that to be a teacher you don’t need to study.

They said that to teach English you just need to know English. Extra knowledge (i.e. grammar, phonetics, didactics…) does not count.

They also said that if they could get a job without the knowledge, it was because they didn’t need it.

And there I started.

To teach English, you don’t have to know just English. You have to know its roots and the cultures where it is spoken. You need to know the basics of grammar and phonetics (if not, how will you teach it?). But, for God’s sake, you must know didactics to teach.

It’s not the same to teach kids at preschool than high school students. Adult learners are a very different thing, too.

It’s not the same an activity created to be used following the Audio-Lingual method than an activity that allows multiple intelligences to be on stage.

Then, I added something about salaries. I don’t expect to earn the same than a non trained person. But well, those are just expectations. In real life, I’ve met an actress that was head of the English department, lots of FCE students working as teachers… so, what should I expect?

Is Argentina the only place where non-trained people work as teachers of different languages?What about other places? Are qualifications losing their value?


{October 24, 2009}   Why…

…do adult students always ask us to slow down our reading?
Some days ago, I was doing a listening comprehension exercise, and one of the students wanted me to read each sentence at turtle pace, pausing after every single word so he could get every single word I said.
This is the same student who asked me if we could say “would they like…” after reading “would you like some tea?”

My theory, hope it’s wrong, is that this student has never heard about the word comprehension. Neither has he heard about context or background knowledge.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing him. I just want to see if the problem is that I can’t teach him, or that he doesn’t understand my explanations. It’s the only student with this problem.

The listening exercise I was mentioning, consisted just in saying if 5 sentences were true or false. The text was pretty complex for their level, but with our pre-listening talk about James Bond, and a bit of vocabulary work, most of the students performed excellently.
They had 5 general statements about the short excerpt I was going to read, They had to listen not for details but for a complete understanding of events, and then, try to guess which of the statements were false.

When I saw this student’s answers, I really was not surprised he didn’t get any of them. He is so worried about getting every single word and its meaning (yes, my dear fellows, he interrupts listening activities to ask the meaning of every word he doesn’t know) that he is not able to understand the whole both in reading and listening activities.

Consider this example:

(Teacher reads)

“… Roy shared his flat with his brother, who was also a student. He usually cooked on Sundays, but …”

Sentence in student’s worksheet:

-Roy shared his flat with his brother and two of his friends.

Guess his answer – if you say True, you may understand how I’m feeling.

Since Early March you (and most of the people near me) have been listening to my complaints about a certain place where I work.
That’s it. I decided to quit on October 30th. I can’t stand that people who know nothing about pedagogy tell everyone how to go about classes, critizicing all ideas you have and all the good work you have been doing with your kids. Also, I am fed up of doing lots of work that nobody recognizes (going to bed everyday at 3 a.m.  is not working to live but living to work!)
The only thing that worries me is that I will lose touch with those people I care about who work there… and I can’t think the things some people will say when I quit. The thing is, if I don’t quit now, stress is going to take me over and I will have to quit everywhere.

Am I taking the right decision? What do you think?

{September 28, 2009}   Just pondering…

Why is it that the ones who know have to work and the ones that don’t know are our bosses?

{September 1, 2009}   About heads and teachers…

Today one of my colleagues told me something I still can´t believe. The head called her to her office and said “I hope you remember that during oral lessons both the teacher and the student have to stand up at the front of the classroom. Overweight, tiredness or laziness are not excuses here.”

The girl told me that with the same expression another teacher had told me the same head told her to dye her hair for the following day.

What should be allowed and what should be forbidden by heads? Is there any kind of limit where they should not interfere with your work? I work in different places and under different heads, but I have never received such disgusting or strange comments as the previous ones.

I think I will start an investigation (?) about what a good coordinator/head should be…

EDIT: I found this job ad in google, and the requirements summarize very clearly the things a coordinator should do..

{September 1, 2009}   Tired

What’s the use of preparing emergency lessons if I’m going to be absent and you make me send the plan for the day plus the activities?

{August 13, 2009}   And the question is…

What do you do when you are working in places were you are told to do things that do not correlate?
I am asking this because I still do not understand how to go about certain things in one of my workplaces. Not only does it seem we are doing overtime every single day because of the loads of work we have at home to prepare classes and materials (which I can only use there, since they follow old principles) but also they ask me to work in an impossible way. How can one work “as in a bilingual school” when you meet your students 2 hours a week and they are not allowed to copy any instructions from the blackboard and they just complete grammar exercises in copies of untidy originals? I prepare my own activities adapting some I found in “Sam on Radio” books, but I cannot find activities that follow the ideals of the institution in ANY new book! (I accept suggestions!)
Also, the idea that students can just be taught a reduced amount of vocabulary (e.g., family members for the first level: mother, father, sister, brother) constraints even more the activities that can be used (and I’m getting tired of scanning, editing and printing to get tidy copies…)

Well, that’s it. I updated while having no Internet connection at home. I hope I’ll be back soon!

{July 31, 2009}   FYI

The next 72 hours will be dreadful for me.

Not only winter holidays are ending; I also have to prepare my lesson plans, preparing materials, check modules and tests students handed in before holidays…

I wish I were an organized person 😦

{July 27, 2009}   Why…

is it that Winter Holidays are almost over?

{May 20, 2009}   Thinking aloud again

What happens when old methodologies are used as if they were the newest and the best ways of teaching? People quit. Or even worse, they start thinking that they have to comply to a set of rules that were set by Fred Flinstone & co.

Today I was part of a heated argument where the main point was error correction in little children. I’m not the best friend of the methods and approaches used in the institution, and I pointed out that there is always room for discussion on mistakes. My opinion was the same as that of many: if the mistakes do not cause misunderstanding or lack of communication, they should not be corrected at the very first stages of the learning process.The discussion went on for some half an hour, when someone pointed out the magic results seen by the methodology they use, and then my mind started working.

From what I’ve been taught, read, seen and experienced, children learn what they want when they want. When some unexpected external event takes place, there is a great possibility that children will not make any progress in their learning. And with this I’m not saying that mistakes should be here and there without being noticed. There is a place for everything and a moment for everything, and so, different approaches to teaching come into view.

I’ve seen many different teaching approaches, but going to Sam on Radio’s is too much. Drilling is good, but in the right amount. If your students are being exposed to drilling activities 100% of their classes, they may not be able to work with structures and vocabulary out of the context provided by the drilling activities.

Which is the best teaching approach in your opinion? I’ll go for a mix of CLT and TBL, with a bit of brain friendly activities! And in spite of that archaic knowledge one is exposed to here and there, I’m ready to go on learning and improving my teaching practices.

If you want to enlarge on the topic, you can check these sites:

A well balanced use of error correction

Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism

Principles of L2 Teaching Methods and Approaches

English Language Teaching Methods

PS: I guess these people never heard about the word “Interlanguage”

et cetera