Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Coach's Role

by AJ

Like a coach, the teacher has a limited role. The coach cant play in the games. The coach doesnt do the workouts. When it comes down to it... its always the players who do the sweating, the intense training, the defending, the scoring.

The coach is a strategist and a motivator. He gives the players a practice plan and a game plan. He (or She) strives to build the players' confidence... to urge them on to greater and greater efforts.

In sports, this is obvious.

But in education, teachers (coaches) and students (players) alike often fail to understand their roles. Too many teachers are obsessed with control. They work, consciously or unconsciously, to keep students dependent on them.

Students play this game too. Many students believe that the teacher is responsible for their success. If they are not learning quickly enough, they complain about the school. While the complaints may or may not be accurate, the problem is that the student is waiting for the school to change instead of changing themselves.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the student. You arent going to get fluent in a language simply by sitting in a classroom. Not gonna happen. As a student, you MUST seek out the language. You MUST get input outside of class. You MUST take control of your own learning.

As a teacher, if you truly want your students to succeed, you MUST push them towards independence. You MUST fire their passion, encourage their efforts, and help them develop excellent self-learning strategies. You MUST eliminate systems and activities that create dependence on you.

An example: Our school recently had a (very short) discussion about placement tests. Next month we will test all of the students to determine which ones will go up a level.

I argued for using a general English test. The other teachers and the director argued for and decided on using grammar tests that cover only what was taught in class.

I think they are making a big mistake. Testing only grammar that is taught in class, from a textbook, sends the message that what happens in school is all that matters. It sends another false message too-- that success on such a test equals an overall improvement in English.

Far better, I think, to use a test of general English ability. After all, who cares if they do well on a textbook test if their general ability to understand & use the language has not improved. Such a test reinforces the idea that overall language mastery is whats important.. not the content of the textbook.

This is but one small example. The overall point is that our job as teachers (coaches) is to eliminate the students dependence on us. To my mind, a success story is a student who becomes a totally independent and skilled English communicator... who no longer needs me or the school.

San Francisco, CA