Joined: 12 Mar 2010
|Posted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:30 pm Post subject: balance of speech, quantity and quality
|How do you make a class speak- who don't seem so motivated to speak naturally, for whatever reason? I don't necessarily want to go into deep psychological reasons of why they might not want to speak in class so freely- that their mother didn't love them when they were a child or that they don't want to embarrass themselves in front of the cute girl in the class, except inasmuch as that enables me to actually succeed in making them speak.
I want to make them speak so they can learn better, because I care about them. But I especially want to make them speak more, and get more involved generally, because it makes my job easier. I came up with the concept of the balance of speech in the class. When the balance of speech is towards me, where I do most of the speaking, I feel drained and empty, and I feel they are not learning they are not trying, and it takes so much mental energy for me to open my mouth and I get resentful. Even when I had energy before, this drains me. The opposite is true. When I have an involved class, I might have been tired but the class is wonderful. Every class is truly different.
Now the three elements of a lesson are the students, the teacher and the method, and each one has their responsibilities or jobs, and when any one, or worse, two or even all three fall short, then the class suffers.
Speaking is both in terms of quantity and quality. When the teacher speaks more than 50 percent I think it is not good. But quality is of secondary importance. Are they just chatting, using words they already know, or are they "stretching" using new target or active language. How much good revision is in the speaking and how gentle is the gradient for new material and progress? How frequently does it come? Is the speaking quality or little more than hot air- as when students just keep saying "how are you, where are you from, etc"
Again if the students don't learn I am not as satisfied psychologically but at least I go home and get paid. But if the students on the other hand not only not learn but make me pull them like donkeys against their will, I feel drained and I feel depressed and used and under appreciated and teaching can be draining. I was going to write about that in fact separately but I forgot. Now I might not. I will talk about it here. I have some other ideas for posts instead- more solution oriented ones. But I find a lot is expected from teachers in general. Especially in the ELT profession. What do these countries all over the world expect? They expect to get people with a masters degree in education for a thousand dollars a month coming to their remote cities to teach foreigners English? It is a difficult situation sometimes. But most of this is solved when the students speak and try to be involved.
Sometimes it is the method that gets in the way, the book is inefficient or ineffective or has to be adapted to create speaking. I find some popular methods make it difficult to structure really effective speaking but I am still trying to figure out how to do it. It frustrates me. Also the books seem to have as their goal to dump as much English and American and European culture on the students as possible (aside from faith and religion) in the process of teaching English. They want to be kitchy and talk about James Bond, etc. I can understand some students get turned off and don't want to speak for the books being not as effective, and also annoying. I dislike it when anything gets in the way of a bond between student and teacher.
But the fact is students must speak in the class if they are to be able to speak English. That is why for all of their flaws, I love the direct methods (structured interaction) like Callan and Direct and loath block on block/anything and everything type approaches
A lot is expected of the teacher.
I have in mind to make a list of all possible problems, and then possible solutions that can happen in a class, and then to categorize the problems in many different ways. E.g. problems that effect the emotions. Problems that are easily preventable. Problems that are core and critical, etc. In order to teach well one must solve problems that arise. In order to solve problems one must define the problems. I haven't taught so long now but I have taught long enough to have in my mind impressions of possible things that can go wrong, that I can now try to start to list and identify them. Better than a list on paper is a list in the mind but I may have to use paper as my crutch for now.
I have many students tell me I am a good teacher. Really (they say). They like me the best!. Yet other students complain to the management, maybe that I am not prepared or something. I am not good at being creative. Other times students don't trust that I can try to explain something through context and illustration and they lose patience with me, are intolerant of frustration and not understanding every word immediately. I don't have patience with them because when I learn languages I can tolerate not understanding everything. They need to trust me before freaking out. These some students. But I need to learn patience with their needs. I need wisdom and understanding yet. But I get confused why some students thing I am great and some not. The ones not I have only heard from the management. This has always been the case. Am I that scary? I am hurt, and disheartened, and I blame myself also. I truly want to be good. I don't think this is an easy job but that is why I love it- when it doesn't destroy me.
Anyways I don't want to depend on too much preparation as well as being too creative. I want the skills to create my own method or course syllabus and structure as well as to improvise, as well as to solve the potential problems that come up in a class, as well as to be able to conduct the class and make it unified and harmonized, as well as.. as well as as well as.. to get them speaking. I believe in authenticity in the classroom, as a teacher. When people always ask my age, I usually ask them back "what do you think" or "why do you want to know" if they are more advanced. That gets them speaking as well as makes them earn the information that they want to get from me. I try be authentic because I think nobody wants a clown. At least I don't want to be one. (Life is too short)
We need to get the students to speak. That is one of the major problems that will have to go on my list. It is a parent problem- a problem that creates other problems. Also the methods or books can bring this problem out, in which case they are grandparent problems- problems that create problems that create problems.
The thing, one thing, I like about this job is that it makes me think and learn even if I am sometimes overwhelmed. I stay sharp and alive, it keeps me on my toes, if I take time to rest and recharge myself when I am not working.
So I need to find the solutions to the problems, strategies that come from insights and good ideas. My classes vary for reasons I do not always understand. Sometimes the classes go well, sometimes not so well. It's the students job to meet the teacher half way, I think, especially if they came their of their free will, which is not always the case with children, although they are used to being forced to go places they don't like. The teacher's job is to go to them half way. I think I do that, I can't see myself not doing that. So could it really be them that don't meet me half way?
Beware of the frustration factor. that is another parent problem i am sure. Maybe it is that. Then again how can I take responsibility for another person's emotional issues without it being someone sick and co-dependent in some way. I want to teach men, not wimps, women not wallflowers. But when I don't...
The balance of speech. When it is tipped towards the students, they learn more. Surely they progress- when the teacher corrects their words. I am sure you are all correcting them well, as they speak. I learned how to correct in general from Callan though I don't always do every utterance, especially when the word are flowing fast. Sometimes I focus on deep structure and getting the message out rather than surface. Sometimes I correct them in my answer, not by helping them say the question right. E.g. Are you go to ___. Yes I am going to.. emphasizing the "going". But it makes no sense to force them to speak and yet not correct them, so I had to include this note at the end of a long message in hindsight in case anyone just lets them utter incorrect words.
I also get sick of when they don't repeat after me when I know what is good for them. These things make me want to quit. Could it be the students? I hate to say student X is lazy or unmotivated. I like to blame myself first, questioning my own approach. But could that actually be the case sometimes? That would explain why some students are a delight, for otherwise seemingly unexplainable reasons. I hate to go down this road.. I expect a lot from myself and from method and I do think without a good method or teacher we can't expect so much from the students, at the same time as when we depend on their efforts the most.. so that is a difficult situation. What can be done? I expect a lot and I think with a good method the students don't have to necessarily put a lot of energy into English outside of the classroom but they do have to follow the method. But when the method is messed up, what then? I actually wouldn't take a course without a good method. I would either study on my own and work out the correct pronunciation from friends or audio, or else I would get a good quality program.
I want to sow seeds in a way that starts paying dividends, and funds my retirement from stressing about lessons and lesson plans, etc. I never want to actually retire from work as a man but retire from the low level problems, I want these seeds sown that pay dividends, that pay interest. That is why I spend time on these forums and pray to God for the spirit to fill me. But I am teaching with a course and at a school that I myself actually wouldn't use to learn English. I am not sure if that makes me a hypocrite or a servant because what I want to do is improve the way things are there and help the students be better off than if I wasn't. I am not sure if I am succeeding, and perhaps it isn't best to teach with a method that I am not fully standing behind. Anyway the staff have been saying they're willing to look into and buy other books so I have researched and given them the info. But I like the experience of trying different approaches. It is how I grow. I like breaking my head a thousand times on a way that I find odd... maybe I am not seeing it right. Or maybe I am just a masochist with a repetition compulsion
Let my students speak, let them be happy, let classes go smoothly and enjoyably for teacher and student alike. Let me be filled and charged. Let us find solutions. Let us keep in mind the holy balance. That students speak and teachers don't lecture. That teachers are enabled by their books to get the students speaking.