Archive for July, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

How to Be a Popular Teacher

By David Barker
Author and Publisher of Materials for Japanese Learners of English
Japan

As anyone who has ever worked in a language school or other educational institution will know, it is a fact of life that some teachers are more popular than others. Come to think of it, anyone who has ever been to school will know that! I remember from my own school days that there were huge differences in the way the teachers were regarded by pupils. Some were loved and respected, while others were despised and ridiculed. Of course, it is not the case that the most popular teachers are necessarily the best teachers, and teaching should never be a popularity contest, but it is a matter of common sense that a teacher who is popular (or at least, not unpopular) with his or her students will probably find it easier to be effective in the classroom.

Like most teachers, I would like to think that I am generally popular with my students. Having said that, I am reminded of a survey in Britain that found that almost 80% of drivers believe that they are better than average. I suspect that a similar result would be found if language teachers were asked to assess our own popularity!

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Friday, July 8, 2011

The Elevator Pitch

By Dorothy Zemach
ESL Materials Writer, Editor, Teacher Trainer
Eugene, Oregon
Email: zemach at comcast dot net

I take an aerobics class several times a week. The same people tend to show up at the same class times, and after a while, we get a little friendly, although locker room chit-chat tends to revolve around exercise or the weather. However, recently, one of the women I talk to revealed that she is a high school biology teacher. That prompted me to mention that I work in education as well, in ESL. She said, “Oh, I have a number of international students in my classes. I have to go soon, but… what is one thing you could tell me about international students that you think I should know?”

Oh, my. It’s a big question, isn’t it? There is so much more to tell than just one thing! And yet… she’s out the door, and she doesn’t have time for me to cram my career and my degree into her head. She really does just want, at the moment, to know one thing. One thing that might make a difference, that isn’t too hard to understand, that can be communicated quickly.

Here’s the one thing I chose to tell her: That some of the mistakes that students make in writing that look like very simple things—mistakes with a, the, and choice of prepositions—are actually very high-level mistakes. They do not (necessarily) indicate a poor command of English, and cannot be cleared up in a few hours of study.

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