“Forgive me Lord for I have sinned”....
This is a confession post. I’m a coward. I really am. For this post is a rant AND a reflection about someone I observed but didn’t have the guts to give feedback to (because it’s someone of a senior position and not to risk losing my job). My only hope is that the person mentioned reads this and takes it all in the stride of teaching life. I’d like to reassert that my intentions here are NOT to criticize, but to sincerely give feedback and in fact, suggestions on how improvement can take place. On a personal note, though, I quite like this person; jovial, helpful and kind towards me. It’s the TEACHING that took me by surprise.
Let’s name the person as The Observee. And the situation goes like this. I was requested to observe a senior teacher who’s “highly expertised, having vast experience in the industry and published teaching material to gauge whether you’re comfortable teaching this class”. Naturally, my expectations were high. Can I be blamed then?
So I entered the class equipped with a notebook and a paper. I think THAT came as a shock to the observee (perhaps I wasn’t expected to bring it notebooks?). I took my place at the corner fo the classroom. Let me paint a background potrait of the classroom:
Number of learners :
16 (class duration 2 hours)
Learners age :
19-26 years old
Country of origin :
South Korea (and I couldn’t help smiling to myself)
Classroom arrangement :
And below are a list of what I observed, and a short elaboration of my thoughts:
Objectives were clearly stated
It’s always important to write down the objectives on either side of the whiteboard. It gives the teacher and the learner a sense of focus and direction, and helps keep teachers “on track”. I was glad that she wrote it down on t whiteboard, right at the beginning of the class.
Used color-coding techniques
She used different colors to highlight differences that learners needed to notice. I am a strong believer of using different coloured marker pens to highlight similiarities or differences in a language point. Colors lend a visual component to learners, suiting different learning styles.
Good rapport between teacher and learners
We’ve got to agree that no matter how skilled a teacher is in teaching, building a good rapport with learners play an important role in the teaching and learning environment. Rapport is based on trust and possible similarities (or even indifferences) between teachers and learners interests. When a learner trusts the teacher, there’s usually less opposition from them when requested to complete a task. There are many ways a teacher can help build rapport with his/her learners : – teachers exuding a positive, passionate and emphatetic nature; body language; sense of humor among others. Good rapport builds a strong bond, and a strong bond greatly aids in classroom management. I believe the observee has built a pretty good rapport with her learners.
Having said the above, now we come to the part that’s difficult to digest, at least for me. I’m going to start treading on dangerous grounds here, but am going to do my best to be as diplomatic as possible.
Booming voice projection and EXTREMELY high Teacher Talking Time (TTT) (nearly 90%)
Having lived in South Korea for a bit, I’ve inferred that Koreans, generally dislike booming voices, people talking loudly, sudden loud guffaws in a quiet environment (I’m stating from my observation). I nearly jumped out of skin when her voice boomed from time to time, something that the observee really needs to look into. When teachers project their voices loudly, it engenders a sense of authority and enforces the teacher-student hierarchy. This can sometimes be a barrier in reaching out to learners. There are two possible results from this; learners’ affective filters might be raised so high up that they cringe into their protective shells OR the learner might storm out of the classroom. And both affects learning negatively and disrupts the class.
Also, the learners were hardly given a chance to speak at all. Most of the time, the entire classtime seemed like a “lecture” more than an “English teaching” class. It was made even worse with the observee authoritatively kept reminding learners – “don’t speak Korean”. Well, to be fair to the learners, they weren’t given a chance to speak in English at all! I strongly suggest that the observee takes a second look at her lesson plan, and make changes to her design to infuse activities that encourage learners to communicate (pairwork, group work, in threes) and express their ideas to one another. These kind of little tasks are the ones that help to consistently build learners confidence in using the language.
Unacceptable Grammar Mistakes in Spoken language
Or rather, speaking Manglish (Malaysian English) in the classroom. To be honest, I’m quite proud of Malaysian English. It helps me feel a sense of connectedness with fellow Malaysians; it makes us laugh together and understand each other even better. But I believe as teachers, we have different roles to play in different places. Although I regrettably say this, Manglish is perfectly fine during non-ELT related social gatherings. However, it is of crucial importance for the teacher to speak fluently, clearly and as accurately as much as possible in the context of the ELT world (classroom, conferences, workshops, online disucssions).
The thing is, we all make mistakes. Sometimes even as a teacher, in some situations I do get nervous and accidentally utter structures that are grammatically incorrect. But I almost immediately notice it and apologize to my learners, and these occasions of uttering grammatically wrong sentences, are very very rare. As a teacher, I have trained myself to unconciously watch every word that I say in the classroom. It doesn’t mean that I speak slowly; it just means that I’m mindful in my utterances.
Well, the mistakes she made were one too many to be considered as unintentional tongue slips. And these are her exact words:
“I’m stand like this…”
“She laughed heartedly..”
“This important for your spelling…”
“Please look what I’m doing…”
“It is not the heart very big sized…”
I was quite apalled at hearing her speak in this manner. I confess that I wanted to save my job and not sound “over the board” by pointing out her mistakes and voicing out my observations of the class. I looked helplessly as she taught them “laugh heartedly” is correct; I couldn’t help wondering if she had noticed the disinterested and blank looks on the learners’ faces.
Never mind that.
This post is a way of me repenting for not speaking up to the observee. But I hope she reads this and thinks about what I’ve said. I’m learning. You’re learning. We’re all learning. To err is human but to err, realize, repent and grow is divine…
So here I stand, in front of you, sincerely apologizing for not doing what I should’ve done as the observer…
“Forgive me Lord for I have sinned”....
(courtesy of http://www.themashupradio.com)