Discipline and motivation are the staples of our life, the ever-present topic of any educational discussion. I used to treat them in a very simple way. One, I have never had any discipline problems, or if there were some I could always cope. Two, motivation was not an issue since I could always learn what a student needed and create an individualized approach.
I live in the academic research community with a large number of research institutes, a well-known state university and several schools. Until recently most students would come from families of scientists and teachers. Both parents as well as grandparents having a Ph.D. degree is still rather common. It is often said that there are more brains per square meter in our town than anywhere else in the country.
This is a very complicated subject which should be approached with care and tact. There is no modality about it: should we, must we simply do not apply. Young children would rush into the classroom shouting out their news; they would come up to the teacher during a break or simply hang around waiting for their chance to share. There is one important proviso: they do it only with trusted adults. How can we react? There are really only two ways about it. If this comes as a complete surprise and you do not know what to do, don’t.
“I know English already” and “Why do you use a dictionary, don’t you know English already?” Those are among my favourite phrases which I rather often hear from students and colleagues alike. I believe they explain the situation with intermediate and upper-intermediate levels quite well. Let us look at some common problems and some helpful motivational strategies.
ICT is perhaps the fastest-growing phenomenon, the inherent characteristic of the third millennium. For today’s children and now even for their parents, the internet has “always existed”. They are truly a new dot-com generation, and as such they cannot even begin to imagine life without instant communication and access to information tools. Thus the question of whether to allow the use of phones and any other mobile devices in the classroom seems to have become rather academic. As with all the more traditional and simpler teaching aids some strict guidelines are usually in place.
There are several new trends in ELT which are developing right in front of our eyes today.
Those familiar words by Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) have been with me all my life. Knowledge is infinite; there is never any end to our learning new things. Sure, the longer we work the more confident we become. All the answers seem to be on the tip of our tongues even before the questions are asked; all the techniques are familiar; all the coping mechanisms are in place. It is quite possible to conduct the same types of lessons year in, year out. Not only is the national curriculum rather a stable thing; the main grammar themes do not change much either.
After a quarter century of teaching I can share a secret: I have never envisioned myself as a teacher. Like many children, my first dream was that of selling ice-cream (and eating as much as I wished daily). Then I got wrapped up in the dream of making toys; I read all I could find on the subject and tried to create my own dolls with accessories. Through all the ten years of school I was first a participant and then editor of the school newspaper.
In my third year at Moscow university, when I was 19, I was offered a part-time teaching position by my own department to be paid on an hourly basis as a professor's assistant. I got two groups of first-year students, some of them a bit younger, some the same age and some older than I was. This was exactly what a wise student, that inevitable person familiar to all of us as the "class clown", shouted gleefully at our introductory seminar. I asked mildly, " Do you mean that you are ready to come out and teach vocabulary instead of me?" Silence.
Whenever I travel I spend some time learning a few facts about the new place; I also try to learn some phrases so as to be able to say Hello, Good-bye, Please and Thank you in various languages. Today all this is easy, any information is just a click away. Look around you, and you will see most people, especially the young ones, practically glued to a device. Does this mean that everybody is digitally literate? Not necessarily so. I first worked as a translator at a scientific conference at the age of 16.