Teach English in Huhe Machang - Xing'an Meng — Hinggan

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"Have you been to Paaariiissss? Have you been to Roooome??" The pictures were cute, bubbly. The accent on the tape was lilting, comical, the product of an Englishman faking a Texan accent. This was one particular unit, regarding the present perfect tense, from the first textbook I ever taught out of. Or, from out of which I ever taught. Overly simplified, yet somehow overly grammatical. And strangely prone to sudden bursts of frivolity. I don't remember much else from that course book, apart from this silly little Texan boy whose mama had called him on what was probably a rotary phone in her kitchen, to ask how her little boy was doing on his big European tour. I wish I could remember the name of that book. Alas, it evades me. When I think back to the 90s, I think of Headway. Rewards, maybe. Wasn't that the 90s? Wow, have books changed! The last course book I ever used was Face-to-Face. When it came out, I thought it was the best thing to ever happen to teaching. I used it for years, before realizing that it wasn't what my students really wanted anymore. Although it may have maintained a modicum of value in the classroom, it had also grown dated, and certainly didn't seem to be what my adult students were looking for anymore. Times had changed again. They always do. Over the years, I have used a great many course books. They made for an easy guide for when you had too heavy a schedule to be preparing your own lessons each and every time. What I liked about them is the way they are topic based, with plenty of material for vocabulary building and conversational prompts, before moving on to highly structured grammar or usage of English points. Skipping around the activities in a course book can become an ingrained habit, to the point where you can easily do it without ever having seen a particular book before. Once you are comfortable with any and all of the grammar you may face, and with the formulaic style of course books, any book will do. Times change and the books change with them, but the grammar points and formulaic approach remain the same. So while it is true that the exercises in course books have evolved over the years, I ultimately feel there is good reason they are less popular than they once were. For one, you can get any grammar explanation you want online. With the plethora of sites to assist students in the ESL learning process there seems little need to fork over so much money for a paper-based book. Even paid online programs such as Babel or Rosetta Stone have ceded to free sites like Duolingo or Quizlet. So why would anyone pay a hefty amount of their salary, often in places where buying power is not as strong as in the Western world, when they can get it all for free? While I appreciate that books have made attempts to roll with the times, often giving keys for access to online supplementary content that is often quite good, there are just too many other sources of equal quality that students find more attractive. And there is something else to consider. As you mature as a teacher, you may find that you need less and less of a guide to orchestrate a successful lesson. I often find that a notebook, pen, cell phone recorder and one English usage textbook in tote, like the good, old classic English Grammar in Use, is all one really needs. This may not be the case for more crowded classrooms, but for smaller groups or one-on-one lessons it certainly applies. Even in larger classes, there are so many online resources where you can simply search, download and print, or even better just bring the material up on a screen or project it to save paper. Which brings me to another point. The amount of paper waste we have it in our power to avoid is something every teacher should by now be taking into account. While some use of paper is of course unavoidable - I am particularly fond of nice shiny new notebooks for motivation at the start of a course - it strikes me that much of the published material we traditionally use in the ESL world winds up with such an excess of unused pages. So many books barely touched that find their final resting place in the back of a closet or the bottom of a trash bin, entire sections unread or unwritten in. It seems that digital material is the best way to avoid all that, and a teacher's thoughtful selection of material could go such a long way towards making English teaching more environmentally friendly. To sum up, we are in an age where the usage of the course book should be re-evaluated. As books get better, it is an easy thing to switch them up. No student benefits from using an outdated textbook, especially when he or she is averse to the contents. And as times move on, it is worth considering that the course book be phased out with an eye to more digital class content. Thought should be given as to whether a course book is truly a necessity in today's classroom, and in those cases where an alternative can be had, perhaps we should make the effort to retire the course book for good.