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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Being an English Teacher

If you ask a tourist how easy is it to get directions in Bhutan, he or she will tell you they never got  lost in Bhutan, not because our towns and cities are small but because most people living in the urban area understand or speak English.
However, the situation in the classroom is different and belongs to a completely different context. Though we learn English right from our elementary classes and though English is the medium through which other subjects are taught still only three or four students in a class of thirty five are good in English in most classes in most schools. Now when I say good in English you may wonder the scale with which I am measuring my students and qualifying them as good. My standards are shamefully humble and I have to do this not because I want to but because I have to. If a student is in class nine and doesn’t know the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’ or if a student is in class eleven and doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘yell’, what can I do but lower my measuring scale. You may say that this is a grave matter for me as an English teacher. Yes, it is and I have thought and tried to analyze the problem so as to solve it but so far I have only managed to think about my students’ English and suffer from headaches.
 One reason why they are weak in English I feel is because they have no reading habit. Reading which is very integral to the development of the intellectual maturity in them. But can they be blamed for this handicap, some may say yes and some no but that is not what I want to ponder on. But again, if the teachers at the elementary levels can set the foundation well then I would gladly thank them for the easy job I will have and not have to yell at my students to make them understand the meaning of the word, ‘yell’. The foundation should be made strong. To me a student is no different from a building, like a building to rise up strong it needs good and strong foundation. This doesn’t only concern English; it is with regard to all the subjects, but English is at the center of this foundation and the teachers should define their roles with profound sincerity. Elementary teachers should be paid more and given more incentives than secondary teacher because they are more important. The government should motivate them to work harder. And what motivation is more motivating than money.
I have tried things with my students. Like making them write journal entries every day, just half a page of any thing that they want to write about. I have tried movies so that they understand the elements of a story well. I even tried music so that they will develop listening skills and with it comprehension skills. They know what an argumentative essay is and know how they should write one. But I have not checked their note books, I have not taught them grammar because I don’t know where to start and also because I hate grammar. I feel when one is too serious about the technicality of language then he or she is barred from that spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings which he or she aspires to put down in verse. So, I admit I have not been sincere either. So, how can I improve my students’ English?

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