Teach English in Wangji Zhen - Suqian Shi

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South Africa is a country with a total of 11 official spoken languages, which means many South Africans – such as myself – were required to learn English at an early stage, as it is not their mother tongue. Personally, I learnt how to speak English in primary school, between the ages of 8-10 years old; and I distinctly remember the significant role that my first English teacher played in my learning process. Thus, I have chosen to consider the role of a teacher. It seems, based on the experience of mine and other non-native English speakers that I know, that a person’s first English teacher indeed makes a huge impact on the individual’s appreciation and development for the language. The reason for this, I suspect, is due to the fact that any language ultimately serves as a form of expression; and when used by a specific person will consequently reflect that person’s thoughts and ideas. Therefore, with this reasoning, it seems that a student’s motivation in learning to use a new language lies within their desire to express themselves in that language. From this, one can discern that it is therefore a great responsibility for a teacher to take on, because when teaching English, you are basically teaching a student the tools necessary to express themselves. It is very necessary for a teacher to establish respect in the classroom, not just for their own sake, but for the sake of the students. It is, in my opinion, unlikely that a student will learn effectively from someone that they do not have respect for; and furthermore, will not be motivated to perform well or to engage in the classroom. This could lead to unwanted disruptions and a lack of discipline that will potentially disturb and demotivate the other present students. It is up to a teacher to display a certain agency within their classroom, and to take up their own role as the head of the classroom, so that the students can slot into their roles as students with decisiveness and clarity. This is most necessary because a teacher embodies many various roles in the classroom, that extend further than a simple academic with authority. Namely, a teacher is the disciplinarian, which makes them in charge of creating and enforcing certain rules so as to keep order in the classroom – this will ensure each student has an organised environment in which to learn. Secondly, the teacher is the motivator, and it is up to them to demonstrate the various ways in which the students can enjoy and use the language outside of a simply academic sense. Human beings are especially motivated through play and humour; however, students cannot unearth or foster these things themselves. Similarly, the teacher also acts as a role-model to each of the students, where their own utilisation and engagement in the language is the students’ primary example of what expression is possible once one has learnt English to whatever degree. This could be anything from poetry, classic novels, listening to the latest music, making jokes with puns and wordplay, or simply having a pleasant day-to-day conversation; if the teacher is willing to invoke inspiration in their students, the latter will never be lacking in incentive to work towards bettering their language skills. Fourthly, the teacher acts as an assessor, which again ties in with the necessity for mutual respect in a classroom, because the students will rely on the teacher to give them meaningful feedback; and this will be most effective only if the students should care what the teacher thinks in the first place (i.e. respect their opinion). The feedback given can be in the form of verbal assessment, formal tests and exams, worksheets, etc. The teacher can also, if possible, give more personalised feedback to their students, which will create a sense of belonging and support within the student. Lastly, in lieu of the latter, the teacher also plays a supportive role for the students. One cannot expect the personal lives of students to melt away in a classroom, on the contrary, the classroom is possibly one of the primary places for personality traits and characters to shine through, including those resulting from a student’s home or social life. Thus, it is important for a teacher to have empathy, emotional intelligence, tact and compassion. The teacher may be teaching English, but their real job is to work with people, which always requires a very human approach. The teacher must realise that this is a dominant part of their job, and cannot avoid it whatsoever. It is in these ways that the importance of an English teacher comes to light, and I am sure there are many more. In conclusion, language teachers have a remarkable influence on their students and their learning, and this should not be underestimated in practice.