Where the Heart is!

Netra Sapkota

As I entered the classroom, my students treated me as a man from a different planet. They couldn’t understand my pronunciation. I thought this was a great disaster and I had never imagined that this would happen to me. Though I was aware that you do as Romans, while you are in Rome, my heart was not ready to follow what others had been doing. I wanted to change the entire scenario of the class.

Teaching English in a government aided school in Nepal is a challenging task! That’s what I was made aware of when I started my teaching career, yet I wanted to be a change agent and did not want to give up but I did not know where I would start.

Though I was a good student in the university, I could hardly apply my learning in my classroom. I started looking for tips, and help here and there like a radar less aircraft. I visited different websites and read several article related to remedial learning.

Next, I considered the age, interest, background of the learners and started teaching in the way that would address their needs. Slowly, my students started accepting me and showed interest in my teaching.

Now all my students can easily tell the basic sentences without any hesitation. Earlier, they didn’t speak any English. When I asked them to speak, they only grinned. Later, I started using tasks, in which they forced to talk to each other to get them done. Reflecting back, I can say that this was because they were and are habituated to prepare only for examination. It took me a while to make them realize the reason for learning English.

Gradually, they started reading newspapers and magazines. Some of my students talked about internet. I informed them about different websites which they could use to learn English. They even started using information on the internet when they were assigned free writing.

Drawing from those experiences, I can now confirm that teaching is facilitating and we need to acknowledge the needs of our students. Now, I suggest my colleagues, who teach English, not to think teaching English is like eating an apple pie. We should spend hundred hours to identify our students’ interest and their back ground information. Gardener calls this multiple intelligence.

People talk about task based approach, critical thinking and inductive learning but do they address the needs of learners in the EFL context of Nepal? Though there are talks about modern approach, method and techniques, I think they all follow what Plato did in his time, grammar translation method, lecture and question answer.

Students are compelled to remind all the unnecessary formula which doesn’t imply in their actual learning. We talked a lot about inductive learning but inspire them to remind structure. They never get free chance to create their own sentences.  When I was young my teacher has a sentence “Ram eats rice.” Could they uplift from that tradition? I have been observed thousand of work sheets about teaching grammar. Can’t we apply them in our teaching?  We can but we have more degrees but less dedication. A teacher must develop authentic materials to boost the level of our learners.

As saying practice makes a man perfect, we always ask them to read but never focus on particular language aspect.  A good teacher must develop a good sense of what to read? How to read?  Why to read? If we develop such a trend in our students English will not be a burden. The trouble is initiation; I would like to change it differently. So every teacher must vow to make it possible.

(Mr. Netra Sapkota, a life member of NELTA, and District Committee Member of NELTA Lalitpur, holds master’s degree in English Education from Tribhuvan University. He is currently working as an English teacher in Mahendra Bhrikuti Secondary School, Ekantakuna-13, Lalitpur. Besides teaching, he is also involved in teacher training activities.)


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