Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Take Responsibility

by AJ

"Im probably unfair in saying this, but I think in today's day and age, if you want to improve in a language .... if you are looking for a tutor, you probably will not improve very much in your language studies. If you have an attitude that a teacher is going to teach you the language, I really dont think you are going to improve very much. There is so much content available for people to learn from. And there are good systems... where you can access audio content and text content.

'Where can I find a tutor' probably means 'Im not gonna learn'."

--Steve Kaufman

Just to balance the above quote, I should note that Steve's Linguist system does use tutors. However, they do not play the role of expert. Nor are they responsible for "teaching" the students English. Mostly the tutors act as coaches... helping each learner find productive self-study strategies, providing encouragement and emotional support, and providing opportunities for genuine communication.

The traditional school does exactly what Steve criticizes, which, in my opinion, is why most of them are total failures. Traditional language instruction fosters an attitude of dependence. The students are taught to depend on the teacher. They quickly assume that it is the responsibility of the teacher to make them learn the language. When they learn slowly, or not at all, many assume there is something wrong with themselves. They don't think to question the structure and form of the education they are receiving. Nor do they think to take charge of their own learning. They are passive.

I find this attitude frustrating as both a teacher and a student. As a teacher, I tire of the complaints I hear from students. Some whine endlessly about their lack of progress. They whine about the types of activities we do in class. They whine about their listening ability, or their speaking ability. When I suggest various self-study activities, they pout. After all, they think its my total responsibility to force English mastery upon them.

As a student, this kind of attitude is simply ineffective. In High School I used to do the same thing. I whined about my lack of Spanish ability. I complained that after a year of straight A's, I still could not comprehend a bit of authentic Spanish.. nor negotiate even the simplest conversation.

I carried this attitude with me to AUA in Bangkok, when studying Thai. Read my critique of their program. While I think the observations are accurate from a teaching standpoint,... its easy to see that underlying those observations is a dependent attitude. I didnt make the progress I expected and I put all of the responsibility on them.

Thanks to some self-appraisal, and some good conversations with Steve, Ive finally adjusted my attitude. Ive taken total control of my Spanish learning. I know that I am the only one responsible. This is an empowering shift. As such, I find Im gradually building motivation. Im discovering the strategies and routines that work best for me... the ones which are both effective and enjoyable.

As I see the shift this has caused in my own learning, I begin to question just what it is I should be doing with my English classes at IIC.

Am I really helping them... or am I feeding their attitude of dependence?

How could I change my approach to encourage a dramatic shift in their attitudes? How could I help them find effective self-study strategies?

And what is the best use of the four hours of classtime we have together?

San Francisco, CA