Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Teacher's Role

by AJ

This was my first week teaching the advanced students... and it went fairly well.

However, I find Im constantly thinking about one important question-- how can I maximize time spent in class... and use class as a spark to fire the students self-learning efforts.

In other words, what is the purpose of the class? These students are all advanced. They are capable of reading and listening on their own. Do they really need a teacher at all?

The honest answer is no. They dont NEED me.

I think thats an important point for most teachers to acknowledge, especially those teaching adults. Weve got to let go of this idea that we are somehow responsible for the students learning. We are not. There is absolutely no way you can make a student learn.

Whats more, if a student relies solely on classroom instruction... they will almost surely fail to learn the language. Class is not enough.

In the past, I thought of classroom instruction as the main component of language learning... and self-study activities as supplements. I now think the reverse. Self-study has got to be the central component...

I see the classroom as a means of community building. Its a place to recharge, to get encouragement, to share learning strategies, to play with the language in a relaxed environment. The teacher is a nice supplement, a resource tool who can answer questions and provide quick clarifications.

Another thing the teacher can do is to encourage self-discipline and effective learning approaches. Perhaps our best service is to teach the students efficient ways to use their language study time. Ive been devoting more and more time to this kind of activity. I often print blog posts from Steve Kaufman or Stephen Krashen or others.... then discuss the ramifications of their ideas to language learning.

Specifically, Im working to undermine their dependence on textbook-based classroom instruction... and instead point them towards authentic materials such as books, comics, newspapers, podcasts, audiobooks, TV shows, movies, conversations,.... This week we read Steve Kaufman's article about the ipod revolution... and discussed his assertion that the ipod could make traditional instruction obsolete.

There is a role for teachers. Hell, even Michael Jordan had a coach. But our role is dramatically shifting. Increasingly I see my role as that of a consultant or strategist.... Im much more concerned with helping my students maximize their own learning efforts than "giving" them every bit of English they need.

In the end, theyve got to find it themselves.

San Francisco, CA