I shouldn’t have lied to the student, but I did.
“Essay writing is an important skill,” I told the students of class Ten, “ because you can win a scholarship based on your essay. You can also take part in school competitions and win prizes. And, sometimes you can also get published in national daily papers.”
As I got ready to teach them the structure of an essay, one student timidly raised his hand and asked, “Sir, have your published your essay in the papers?”
I clearly faced a moral dilemma. Do I lie? Or, do I look like a hypocrite? I lied. “Yes”, I told him, “Once, when I was also in class Ten, I had written a short story and it was published in the Rising Nepal.”
I chose the Rising Nepal as my accomplice to support my lie because the school library only subscribed to the Kathmandu Post and the Himalayan Times. That white lie might have saved my face from embarrassment but it left me deeply ashamed of myself.
I had been teaching English for almost two years then and I had not written or published any article, essay or story. I assigned students to write stories, poems and essays but I did not write one myself. The students had ‘Student’s Corner’ where they posted their short stories, jokes, poems and articles. But, what a shame, there was no such ‘Teacher’s corner’.
The timid looking student made me realize that I was just another pretender who was merely doing the job of teaching. And since then, I had been writing a lot and occasionally getting published in the papers. I also started writing for newspapers and blogs, and started my personal blog too. My passion in writing has eventually led me to work as one of the editors of this brilliant sharing platform for English language teachers.
That was my story and here are some more by other passionate teachers.
In this issue, we have a wonderful collection of writings by teachers who share their teaching ideas, struggles and success stories. Also, a new confession by an English language teacher who gave up teaching but rejoined the profession to inspire students. Please check the Teacher’s Confession tab. Similarly, we too have started posting British Council’s Professional Practices Series in a separate tab. We don’t have any particular theme for this issue but we hope you read the articles and post your comments or responses to start a conversation.
- Unfortunately for teachers doing harm is just one click away– Jorge Correa Rodriguez, Chile
- Lifting Ourselves by our Own Bootstraps: Reading and Writing as Tools for Professional Development – Suman Laudari
- Reflection of a Procrastinating Researcher– Umes Shrestha
- How to teach poem: an action research– Suman DC
- Teacher’s Confession: Pabitra Gurung
- Professional Practices Series – “Planning Lessons and Courses”- Katherine Bilsborough
Unfortunately for Teachers Doing Harm is Just One Click Away
*Jorge Correa Rodriguez
According to one of the leading experts in the field of Mind, Brain and Education Science, Tokuhama-Espinosa (2014), educators, similar to medical doctors, when making decisions about their practices, should think about the following idea: “Do no harm” (p. xxvi). Experts like her are helping teachers improve their practices by translating scientific knowledge derived from the area concerned with the study of the brain: neuroscience. This knowledge is specifically related to learning and education, and the efforts these experts are making intend to help teachers enhance learning in their students from an organic perspective. All of us, as teachers, somehow share the same characteristic: we modify our students’ brains on a daily basis when we teach them.
It would not be incorrect to believe that the lack or abundance of expertise we have on this topic may directly influence learning in students. Consumption of information has changed over the years, and people rely more on technology as the main source for learning. Educators need to consider this change. Thus the main purpose of this article is to reflect on how today’s teachers search, receive and interpret findings and claims from neuroscience, which nowadays are just “a click away”. The final point of the analysis will be explicitly to warn educators about the dangers that embracing inaccurate “neuroscience-based strategies” or products may have on students.
There is no doubt that we are living in the era of knowledge; everything we want to know is there, waiting for us. We can surf the internet to search for, for example, something as simple as a recipe for a soup to something as complex as a scientific paper about the recent findings derived from quantum physics. There are tons of information regarding neuroscience and education. However, this fast availability of information is alas also changing and affecting our behavior – and, changing the way we make decisions. Continue reading →
Lifting Ourselves by our Own Bootstraps: Reading and Writing as Tools for Professional Development
It takes more than a good grasp of grammar to teach students the true power of writing, and this probably starts with the habit of reading, and, only a good reader can become a good writer. As a matter of fact, students need the inspiration to read regularly and to become avid readers. Probably teachers are the best source of inspiration for students to be contagious to reading. So, how can teachers motivate students is by becoming avid readers themselves, and writing and sharing what they read with their students (and colleagues). To this end, this write-up teases out the nuances related to reading and writing habits among teachers and its effect in their personal and professional lives, and importantly, how it affects their classroom performances.
Read! But, Why?
The answer to why we should read is very simple; because “there is so much to learn…from history, from what is going on at the frontiers of science, and from contemporary studies of human behaviour” (Ehrlic & Fu, 2015, p.1). Reading is a good pastime, but for language teachers, it holds even more importance. Reading is a means for professional and personal development.
Notably, if second language teacher does not read or write anything apart from the course book, syllabi, curriculum and a few news on newspaper, he/she has to understand that they are like a professor of business who never worked in business. Indeed, teachers who do not read or write are merely alliterate; i.e. having cognitive ability to read and write but do not do them.
Other Benefits of Reading
Reading expands the knowledge horizon and equips you with the worldview, which is very important for rich discussion in the class. Only by reading, a teacher can realize how a student feels while reading in a second language. Reading a good book presents with multiple interpretations which is essential in critical thinking and learning. More than that, reading can make you a better person as a teacher as you gain enhanced understandings of the world around you.
Also, there are other benefits of reading. It improves your verbal abilities and improves your focus and concentration. As reading is engaging and needs you be seated for hours at a place, it also makes you patient. Not only that, you become more creative, and you will become smarter. Very importantly, according to ABC News, reading increases the connectivity in the brain, giving your cerebral cortex a work-out. Continue reading →
Reflection of a Procrastinating Researcher
I confess: I hate research. Because I am not good at managing time or setting priorities. I feel terrible. But I feel happy knowing that many others too suck at time management and motivation. I am not alone in this world where people wake up screaming in the middle of the night from a recurring nightmare of deadlines, priorities and commitments.
But little did I know that this research – through a painful yet invigorating learning experience – was going to change me into a new me.
Overcoming the inertia
As the final part of my M.Ed ELT program, on October 2014, I kicked off on a research journey with excitement of a teenager in love. However, I landed on the motivational rock bottom so many times that my initial fire cooled off in a few weeks.
To start out, I realized that the concept of language ideologies was very abstract. My topic was: Language ideologies of EFL teachers – beliefs, practices and effects. I felt like I was trying to walk through a vast desert of vagueness. Next, the theme of ideology was something we had not studied during the two-year program. Thus I had to start from the scratch. I started reading articles and books on ideologies, and then, I started losing my mind. To add to my misery, at KU’s library, I did not find any prior research documents related to the theme.
Amid the chaos in my mind, I started swinging from one research topic to another.
May be I should conduct research on pragmatics of English language. Or, may be on student motivation. Or, may be on training of English language teachers. In desperation, I summoned just enough reasons and zeal to crawl out of the confusion and get on with my original proposal. (In an adventure like this, there’s always a yoda, and he kept pushing me until the end.) Continue reading →
How to Teach Poem: An Action Research
Cracking poems had been always an issue for me as a student. The poem usually has to be understood in terms of literal as well as underlying meanings: context, historicity, and degree of expressions. And as an instructor, I was facing the same challenge but in different way. Now the issue is to make them understand and keep them stuck in the lesson.
Now, as an English language teacher, I found the learners were also in my shoes, they too had difficulties understanding poems. Recently, I discovered the ways to solve this issue through action research that was introduced in a massive open online course (MOOC) called ‘Powerful tools for Teaching and Learning: Web 2.0 Tools’ with University of Houston, USA through coursera (www.coursera.org), a free online course provider. During the course, I came across a few Web 2.0 tools, online websites which are easy to use, to edit and to share the content.
Specific context and issues
I have been teaching Language 106: English to undergraduate college students who are 19-22 years. They learn English as a foreign language. In this course, they get familiar as well as improve their four skills of English language: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. For this, the college has formulated three sessions, 60 minutes each for a week.
In the institution where I have been working, there are basic technological facilities of multimedia such as projector, multimedia player, wifi, and scanner and so on, but it lacks a proper computer lab. Continue reading →