EL teachers: Native Speakers or not?
A friend tells me about her grandson who just started school. There is one big problem: the primary school teacher suddenly resigned, the school cannot find a substitute, so all those 25 children are shuttled from one teacher to another. What do they learn, how does this unsettling experience form their first impressions of the whole educational process? We do not need to elaborate on the importance of the very first homeroom teacher, of the role they play in every child’s life. Sadly the same disquieting tendency can be observed in other countries today.
I have been a member of several teacher associations for many years, and there is a wealth of experience to share with my colleagues around the globe. The first one was of course at school where I worked. Traditionally, all the teachers belong to what is called “a methodological association”, or department. There is one for every group of subjects: the local language and literature, mathematics and science, foreign languages... All the schools are members of their district, city and regional organizations,with various events held annually for each department.
The essence of teaching is sharing! I believe I had an epiphany thanks to this topic. Indeed, first we learn, then we come to work, and what do we do throughout the whole academic year but share our knowledge with students and colleagues? Gathering new information, developing professionally, accumulating more and more experience are all part and parcel of our daily life as human beings, teachers and (with luck) parents. One of the first problems we encounter when we just begin is the following: how not to over-burden our audience?
Is skype communication face-to-face?
Nina MK, Ph.D.
The old Grammar-Translation method is very much in evidence, and has been for many decades. I believe this is partly due to the fact that many older teachers who were taught in the rigorous curriculum framework are still quite active. The cycle continues, and it is not necessary bad or obsolete. Our current topic is twofold. One side refers to the course book usage per se while the other one raises the question of a systematic grammar syllabus. Which one is the best way to learn a language? Can we disregard a textbook? Is it possible (gasp) to teach grammar without a coherent manual?
When I started teaching the senior students at the local university, my boss the head of the foreign languages departments issued a fair warning. The head office, he explained, wanted there to be a translation course for seniors who had already passed their examinations in English and whose grade was not lower than 4 (B) in the national five-point system, 5 being the highest one. Several professors had tried to organize the new course and failed. I was the youngest, a newcomer, a freshly-minted Ph.D., the only staff member to have graduated from Moscow University.
Twenty years ago ICT in the classroom was quite a new phenomenon; anything we used was enthusiastically welcomed. Most schools got fully equipped computer labs and internet classes; teachers learned how to use the new technology. Not every family could boast a computer at home; not every child had a cell phone; the very name Smart Phone was unknown. Instant communication, instant access to any information for anybody and everybody still was in the realm of imagination. Students would make lines in front of the school internet class or at a library waiting for their turn with ICT.
No man is an island; neither is a woman or child. We are all part of the whole called Humanity. One of our tasks as teachers is to help children understand that. If any of us happen to be not just teachers but also trusted responsible adults, our students would bring in their worries, problems and questions as well as share their joys and woes with us. The younger they are the more open they may be. Each day we may be greeted with a veritable barrage of information about families and friends, with the concerns which may range from a small conflict at a playground to world events.
Recently a group of former students who celebrated their tenth graduation anniversary came to visit me. They presented me with a nice bouquet of flowers, then exchanged quick glances, formed a circle and sang, “You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out...” That was the very first song, the first game we played in class when they were eight years old! This little episode reminded me a simple truth I learned thanks to them two decades ago: with the young children anything goes.