Teach English in Meilin Zhen - Chifeng Shi

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English has become a universal language. It crosses cultures, industries, and countries. It is the language of international communication. Approximately fifty to sixty percent of the content on the internet is in English. The internet has exposed many to new opportunities and is an important part of many jobs and daily life. Therefore, many have sought to study and become fluent in English so they can take full advantage of what globalization and the internet has to offer and improve their lives. This has increased the demand for effective teachers of English worldwide. There are certain personal qualities such a teacher must possess. An English teacher must be culturally sensitive, engaging, knowledgeable, systematic, and adaptable. Cultural sensitivity means teachers need to be aware of what it means to be in a foreign culture with its own set of customs, values and assumptions (Rowsell, Sztainbok, & Blaney, 2007). This will give them a deeper understanding of their students’ way of thinking so that they can tailor lessons to be more effective. Additionally, teachers who are culturally sensitive can motivate students more to assimilate into English-speaking culture because students feel accepted and valued. It also helps the teacher to be more engaging. For example, Japanese society operates on the principle of groupwork. This spills over into the classroom where students are reluctant to work individually. They prefer to work in pairs or groups. A culturally sensitive teacher would ensure that many activities are conducted either in pairs or groups, especially if it is a new topic or skill being taught. A teacher becomes engaging by building a caring relationship with students, being patient, and being passionate. Teachers must have good humour and sympathetic understanding while they guide students with skill and professionalism in order to build a caring relationship. They must also be more accessible and approachable to create a safe environment that facilitates the exchange of information (Broughton, Brumfit, Flavell, Hill, & Pincas, 2016). Students connect more with teachers that show an interest in their likes and thoughts as well as respect them. I found that when I talked with students outside of class about their clubs and hobbies, and even about my interests, they were more pleasant and responsive in class. They were more willing to do activities and felt more comfortable to make mistakes, ask questions and receive error feedback because they felt valued. Another facet of engagement is being supportive. This means that the English teacher must work diligently to create a learning environment where students feel safe to explore, interact, discuss and learn. The teacher must be patient, teaching at a pace students are comfortable with. Rushing instruction discourages learning. Passion is a key ingredient in making classes more interesting and maintaining student engagement. Teachers must show enthusiasm. The teacher must become a performer of sorts, especially in Asian schools where students are under pressure to succeed at high levels that often make them very anxious and can induce a kind of performance paralysis. When students see that a teacher is excited by the subject matter and enjoys teaching it spreads a positive energy to the students that inspires them to be more proficient and confident users of English (Broughton, Brumfit, Flavell, Hill, & Pincas, 2016; Harmer, 2010). A teacher is only good as what he/she knows. It is important for an English teacher to be familiar with the theory of teaching English as a Foreign Language. The teacher should also take advantage of professional development opportunities and connect with other educators to keep abreast of best practices. This knowledge informs pedagogy. According to Broughton et al (2016): “In light of hid knowledge he can then decide what English to teach, how to give practice in a meaningful way, and how to prepare and execute a progression of enjoyable, well-organised lessons.” This enables the teacher to set appropriate goals for students and help students see how the lessons connect to their goals. Students that understand what to do and why are motivated to work harder. The teacher must then be systematic with their pedagogy. This means the teacher must become familiar with the school’s goals and relate his/her own work to the whole picture. They must structure the lessons in a way that connects with the school’s overall scheme of work. They must plan modules and lessons in detail, identify and obtain the resources needed and determine the order of teaching. This enables them to be more adaptable. A teacher who is adaptable keeps track of students’ progress and capabilities and readily adjusts the delivery of their lessons to ensure students’ increased competency. The teacher will need good communication skills so they can reach out to students individually and gain feedback so they can adjust the lessons to foster maximal understanding and interest. This is particularly useful when teaching Japanese students as they are often reluctant to admit lack of understanding as they are rarely encouraged to ask questions or volunteer opinions (Scrivener, 2005). Another aspect of teacher adaptability is having the creativity and willingness to supplement the textbook with other relevant materials or activities. This is because textbooks do not often meet the specific needs and interests of students. Supplementary materials also help to reinforce a topic or extend students’ engagement with English. Teachers should also be prepared and willing to assume other duties outside of teaching. For example, English teachers in Japan are often assigned to help with extracurricular clubs, contests and promote school events. Some are even required to strongly encouraging students to subscribe to additional classes or purchase supplementary learning materials in private language schools. For English teachers to be effective they must empower learners by being aware of students’ backgrounds, be stimulating, friendly, flexible, patient, and highly informed. References Broughton, G., Brumfit, C., Flavell, R., Hill, P., & Pincas, A. (2016). Teaching English as a Second Language. London: Taylor & Francis. Harmer, J. (2010). How to teach English (2nd ed.). Essex: Pearson Education Limited. Rowsell, J., Sztainbok, V., & Blaney, J. (2007). Losing strangeness; Using culture to mediate ESL teaching. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 20, 140-154. Scrivener, J. (2005). Learning teaching: A guidebook for English Language teachers (2nd ed.). Oxford: Macmillan.