It is generally accepted that certain things improve with age. I have heard more than once that teachers do. Being a teacher for many years and having a close contact with teachers for some years now I cannot agree with this point of view thoroughly. Only those teachers who are able to reflect on their teaching principles improve. Although this reflection can teach you what a good / bad teacher you are, I firmly believe that doing it is of benefit both to you and your work.
When we use the expression ‘ teaching principles ’, we are referring to a broad number of features or elements which take an important role in the classroom; the pupils, the teachers, the syllabus and some external elements such as parents or educational authorities. These ‘principles’ have suffered an important change in recent years due to a new, modern way of considering the learning process. The pupils’ role has turned into an active one, that is to say, our pupils should be more involved in the activity of learning than we were. The teacher is not the centre of the world – considering the classroom as the world – any longer. From my point of view, it is worthwhile considering that most teachers weren’t taught in this way and that a broad reflection has been made and must still be made among us to change both teaching beliefs and attitudes.
Taking the striking change into account, I find a new global view of the different features of the teaching world necessary. I have already mentioned that nowadays the teaching – learning approach is pupil-centred. It must be clearly understood that this change implies a variation of roles in the classroom. Teachers were instructors only. The job of a modern teacher is more varied and complex. Besides I don’t think we should speak about ‘role ’, but ‘ roles ’.
There is a tendency to speak about the lack of motivation as the biggest problem teachers must face, so being a motivator seems to be one of the roles all teachers, not just English teachers, have to take. Bored pupils will not pay attention, that is to say, they will not learn and will probably prevent classmates from learning. I firmly believe that teachers are bound to provide their pupils with a wide range of activities, varied and appropriate in topics and in language points. Besides teachers have to show certain characteristics, such as being open-minded, flexible, receptive to pupils’ needs and worries, to be able to create the correct learning atmosphere. The learning experience, as I see it, should be cooperative, rewarding, rich and stress-free. But teachers shouldn’t forget that they are dealing with visions, ideals, necessities and worries.
Besides being a motivator, the teacher possesses the information the pupils need and is the conductor of the lesson. S/he has to give rules, check understanding, provide models and, of course, correct. Deciding what, how much, or when to correct is one of the biggest problems some teachers have to face. From my point of view overcorrecting can be as harmful as not correcting enough that is why it is so difficult. Doing it wrongly can destroy the pupils’ confidence or create a confidence they don’t deserve. However, it would also be a terribly big mistake not to correct ‘what is said’ because pupils must communicate something coherent and intelligent.
Learners have changed because of global change. First, they were just passive pupils. Now, we expect them to take part in organising their work, negotiating the topic and in suggesting any change they find suitable for the future. They are asked to be collaborative in school activities, as well as cooperative with others / peers to develop their autonomy.
Despite being the most important element in the learning process, neither teachers nor pupils are alone in the education business. Parents should take an important role in the children’s learning process, being behind them, helping teachers to make the process a successful one. Unfortunately, many parents see themselves as the teachers’ controllers rather than the teachers’ helpers. When being notified, for example, instead of trying to understand what’s wrong with their child, they want to persuade the teacher that he or she is ‘ guilty ’, that the way of teaching is not appropriate to their child, that the way of correcting papers is unfair, that ….. . This situation creates an atmosphere of conflict which pollutes the learning process, making it unsuccessful.
The most disturbing element I have realised in the last few years, and the most difficult to handle, is the classroom itself. I think that teachers should be able to get the most out of it, but I have to state that, in fact, it is not the classroom, but classrooms. I mean that teachers have to move from one classroom to another as ‘no-man’s-land ’! It is difficult to make any change in the seats arrangement because your colleagues might reject any change. It is difficult to have wall journal / wall publishing on which pupils can display their work, giving the opportunity to others to read it, and may be encouraging them to do the same. This may irritate either colleagues or headmasters thinking that the idea (wall publishing) is a waste of time, or …….
As a matter of fact everything I have written above is “an idyllic view of the teaching world”, said an experienced teacher in a seminar. “Reality is absolutely different. Classes are full of pupils; some of them are motivated but many of them, not only hate English, because they are very weak, but hate learning in general. Despite the efforts teachers make, if pupils reject the idea of learning, they won’t learn. So what can be done? Probably if we worked more on the affective side of the teacher-pupils relationship, our lessons would improve. But, I am afraid, doing that would mean turning into the mother of about 200 pupils forgetting the role as a teacher of English. Besides all this, help from outside should realise its role in the whole drama of the teaching-learning process. Only when everybody takes part in this drama, starts considering their work and their part in the learning process, will education start being really successful ”, added the experienced teacher.
Adapted by M.Louznadji
From Teachers in Action
Cambridge University Press (2002)