1. What are the major challenges facing EL teachers in your country?
Lack of motivation, lack of resources, negative washback of exams, and so on, not unlike any other EL teachers in developng countries, I believe. Changing the 'mindset' is, perhaps, the major challenge! Theoretically (I mean, 'approachwise') we have moved from the old traditional approaches to the current interactive learner-centred approaches, but in reality (I mean the ground reality, the 'classroom') teachers, parents and learners are taking their own time to 'move'. That is like wearing the latest outfit (say, jeans!), but keeping the age-old and outdated ideas 'alive'. (For example, teaching/learning Functional Grammar through rule-based traditional grammar books, just because the books are considered 'holy'!).
2. Are teachers in your country generally members of teachers' associations?
Yes, but these associations are not subject teacher associations! These associations fight for teachers' rights, better wages, better service conditions, security of service, etc. There is nothing wrong with all that. Perhaps, we have yet to reach that stage when teachers will be free to think only of teaching and learning!
3. How well resourced are teachers in your country?
A vast majority of teachers in India are doing a fairly good job, considering the difficult circumstances in which they have to work. Pre-service training in the form of a degree or a diploma is a precondition to enter the profession. Inservice training programmes are periodically oraganised, but unfortunately we do not have an established network for this. Most teachers depend on themselves or just follow their role-model. As Wilga Rivers once put it, ' Teachers teach as they were taught by teachers who taught as their teachers taught!' In the last few years, however, things are changing fast.
4. What technology do you use with your students?
A lot of many means are now at my disopsal. Overhead projector, LCD, Audio CDs, Radio and Television, Computer and so on. All this helps in making the class interactive. The age-old Black-board continues to be widely used, because it's available in all classrooms. Since I do not teach at the primary level, I don't use objects and models in my own classroom. But as a teacher trainer I have to. In our new coursebooks I have included a number of texts taken from the Internet. And I also tell teachers in training programmes about interesting websites.
5. What have you found most useful on the teaching English website?
Teachers are now 'sharing' their experiences of teaching. This, I feel, is as important as the latest word in theory! We all know that teachers learn from their own experience of teaching . But, I believe, they also learn from the experience of their colleagues. The website has given that access to teachers.
6. What classes do you teach? (age, level class size)
I teach under-graduate and post-graduate classes. The age group of learners varies from 17 to 24! In an undergraduate class the number could be upto 100! Post-graduate class, however, is normally of 50 to 60 students.
7. What aspects of your teaching are you most interested in developing?
Aspects of teaching I would like to develop are making teaching more learner-centred, involving the learners in the process, making them active participants!
8. Why did you decide to become an English language teacher?
When I decided to become a teacher I had two choices: Journalism and Teaching! I chose teaching, because I thought I would always be in the company of young learners, which will keep me young, fresh, and 'alive'. To be serious, teacher's job was a little more secure and almost everybody in my family was a teacher!
9. What is the status of teachers in your country? Are they generally valued and well paid?
Teachers are highly respected in India, they are called 'Gurus', 'Acharyas'. However, they are not well-paid. But that is compensated by the love and affection that they get from their students, who would not only remember their teachers, but would do everything possible for the teachers they respect.
10. What is the status of English in your country? Is it widely spoken to a good level?
Hindi is our official language and English is our 'associate official' language! (I can give a long talk on this, beware!) In education, English occupies an important place. Almost all over the country, English is taught and learned upto the secondary level. Higher education is mostly through English! We have a long history of English language teaching in India. Almost 250 years! The number of speakers in English is increasing at a great pace. And it is said (of course, we say it) that Indians are better than most Asians as far as speaking it well! It is difficult to talk in terms of percentages, that is, how many and all that. You know India is a huge country, with its own hundreds of languages.
11. What have you learned from being a teacher?
I have learned that teaching is not as easy as it is usually considered. Teaching may or may not lead to learning (though the whole purpose of teaching is ' learning') It is because, we can control 'teaching', but we can not control 'learning'.
12. What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming an English teacher?
First I would compliment you, if you have decided to become a teacher. Teaching is a noble profession. But remember, it's not easy to be a teacher! You need knowledge of the subject, good communication skills, good class control, confidence and so on. Perhaps more important than all this is whether you really like to be with children. Ask this to yourself. Remember, children are angels, but they can also be devils! If you have to establish a rapport with your students, you will have to remember this. Further, you need to learn to listen to them, then alone they will listen to you.
13. Which writer /researcher has had the most influence over the way you understand learning and teaching?
Paulo Freire-the author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. There are so many others too. (but more about them some time later)
14. What most interests you about ELT at the moment?
Awareness of the fact that there is no such thing as ' the method', there is no such thing as 'the approach'. Classroom experience is as important as the latest word in theory.
15. How do you see the role of the EL teacher evolving over the next 5 - 10 years?
Honestly, I am not an astrologer and yet I can visualise a few things. EL teacher's role will be very crucial in the next 10 years. English is already an international language. And perhaps, it will be the only language that will put the world together! Culturally, politically and of course,from the point of view of economics. It's, perhaps, the only means of realising the dream of making the world civilized.