UNLIKE the hard sciences, the teaching of English in schools has to be the work of much ardour.
It is not a question of dealing with equations or formulas but with conveying feelings and registering emotions. That’s why English cannot be taught dispassionately.
A teacher of English has to be moved by empathy and emotions.
Over the past 22 years, I have worked with, met and observed scores of good, dedicated English Language teachers but whenever talk turns to the subject of poor teaching, fingers inevitably get pointed at a teacher’s race, level of education or years of teaching experience.
Truth is, good teaching has more to do with a teacher’s personality, character, attitude, values, personal beliefs and intelligence than anything else.
Yes, a good English Language teacher is an organised person. Her lessons are well-planned, her preparation thorough and her teaching progresses from simple to the complex and abstract.
She is aware that teaching is her core business and she takes it seriously.
I have, in fact, seen English language teachers teach with such attention to detail that it is as if their lives depended on it!
They are on the right track because they see teaching not only as a means of livelihood, but as a profession that needs and thrives on passion. Therefore, they make it their business to teach well — teaching briskly, efficiently and in a business-like manner.
In their classes, they give clear presentations, speak clearly, are expressive and easily understood. They also use a wide variety of models, aids, examples and methods to ensure understanding of the material taught.
It was John Milton Gregory who said: “The teacher must know that which he would teach. Imperfect knowing must be reflected in imperfect teaching.”
Teachers have to be charming, lively, interesting, fun, creative, interested, giving, engaging, encouraging, warm, amiable, pleasant and a hundred other things just to melt their students’ hearts.
Sallina Hussain, the principal of SMK Sultanah Engku Tun Aminah said that in order to make the teaching of English fun and interesting, the teacher should vary his teaching methodologies and use teaching aids such as songs and videos related to the lessons, adding that, “You are bound to have a class of bored students if it is talk and chalk all the way.”
Sallina who teaches English to Form Four science students pointed out that many students tended to complain that their English teachers were boring. She said it could be due to the fact that they always adopted the same approach for every lesson. For example, they could be too dependent on textbooks.
“You may make your lesson interesting but we only have the students in our class for five periods a week, i.e. 200 minutes,” she said.
“You need to sustain that interest through other activities outside the classroom such as the ones carried out by the English Language Society.”
She pointed out that the students also needed to have a keen interest in reading because you can pick up quite a bit of English through reading.
Sallina who started out as an English Language teacher in an urban school here was later promoted to the Johor Education Department as an English Language officer. She was made principal of her current school in 2011.
Despite her tight schedule as the head of an all girls school, she still continues to teach English, stressing that it is her passion to teach English.
Sallina has this advice for unqualified teachers who are required to teach English: “Keep your chin up and never say die. There are many additional materials on English out there and even online. You just need to scout around for materials that would suit the students and pick up valuable tips from experienced teachers.”
When asked how we could arrest the decline of the English language among students, Sallina said English teachers needed to be creative to come up with various ways to make English language learning workable and meaningful to the students.
“You can’t just rely on the forty- minute lesson. Get them to write journals, make reports based on their experiences, use the New Straits Times, discover new things through English and keep them occupied with lots of interesting English activities,” she said.
Meanwhile, an applied linguist and literacy enthusiast Datin Dr Maimunah Abd Rahman said teachers should use hands-on activities to get students to talk and these would help to reduce the fear of speaking and writing in English.
“I foresee that the English language classrooms of tomorrow will soon transform into rich, exciting and enhanced literacy environments where teachers and students have fun as they work together to foster literacy in the English language,” said Maimunah.
To all English language teachers out there, love the language. Individually, in your own special way, summon your deep-seated creativity and innovation to teach the language in the most simple and interesting way.
Source: New Straight Times