Professional Challenges for the Novice, Permanent English Teachers: Some Experiences from Classroom Practices
*Bhim Prasad Sapkota
This article focuses some professional challenges for recently appointed English teachers in government schools on the basis of my own classroom experience. Presenting four major classroom challenges – use of Nepali, negligence of listening and speaking skills, faulty examination system and lack of sharing cultures – I have reflected on my own experience of classroom practices. The article mainly discusses how the narrow concepts of teachers, students, parents and principal regarding several aspects of English language teaching affects novice permanent English teachers in utilizing their learnt knowledge for better teaching and their own professional development.
After a long period of time, the government of Nepal is starting to appoint new teachers by competition, which is admirable action for the qualified, energetic and young graduated students. From the thousands of competitors, only few numbers of candidates get chance to enter the classroom of government school. After entering in to the classroom, they have to implement and perform their learnt theoretical knowledge practically in the diverse field, i.e. Classroom. As permanent teachers thought, the real ground of school environment doesn’t support fully to utilize their learnt theoretical ideas regarding English language teaching and learning. While entering in to the teaching field permanently, every novice teachers as me thought they can easily lead the government school according to their theoretical ideas regarding language teaching and other its aspects like classroom management. More particularly English teachers thought about making good English environment implying new trends, methods, techniques, materials and strategies, recently emerged in the field of ELT but because of the some old rooted norms and practices like concept of seniority, traditionally habituated learners and society and static policies every novice, energetic, qualified and curious teachers compelled to assimilate them with previousold and ineffective colleagues. Because of this reason, the status of English language teaching is decreasing in the government schools.
The present scenario of ELT in Nepal, particularly in public schools is struggling between inner passions, intentions as well as desires of energetic novice English teachers to improve the ELT situation, and traditional intention of superiority on the part of old teachers to establish their own ways of teaching. Likewise, pre-established teachers are also leading the society toward their own ways which is demanding routed knowledge neglecting innovative and creative aspects of the learners. In this kind of present scenario of ELT in Nepal, fresh teachers have to cope many professional challenges which are creating a great gap between objectives and achievements. So being based on my experiences, I have explored some professional challenges faced by novice permanent English teacher while starting their teaching career with the aim of utilizing learnt theories in real field i.e., classroom.
Established Culture of Teaching English through Nepali
Except some cases, maximum use of first language in teaching second language, no doubt interfere the language learning. Harmer (2007) mentions that, “there is still a strong body of opinion which says that classroom should be an English only environment.” It means majority of the people in the ELT field are arguing the way of teaching English using English. But in Nepal, English is taught through paraphrasing, translating and giving Nepali equivalent termbecause of this, ELT situation of Nepal is being worse day by day (Shrestha, 2016). Keeping this fact in my heart, first week of my teaching days, I tried to teach English subject using simple and classroom English language expecting gradual improvement in creating English environment. As I planned, I had taught the importance of English, tried to create positive attitude toward English, responded only queries asked in English and established mutual rapport with the learners which are major strategies to use while teaching English through English that I learnt during my graduation. In my class I found the students are feeling bored from my English to English teaching because of their habit of understanding the English text by teacher’s translation in to Nepali. I was taking them more positively and trying to continue my plan. I was hopeful that I will achieve the lesson’s objective soon or later. But gradually students were rejecting my teaching and demanding Nepali language in the class. Students talked with concern authorities demanding their previous English teacher. Superior English teachers and principal suggested me to teach in Nepali. Some parents also requested me to teach in Nepali because their students couldn’t understand the English. I hadn’t any convincing power to convince students, principal, superior teachers as well as parents behind their strong force to stop me. Up to now I’m teaching English in great dilemma that whether addresses to the demand of learners, society and school or practice my new English to English teaching strategies. This is being great challenges to most of the novice English teachers of Nepal.
Narrow Concept about Listening skill, speaking skill and Materials
Teaching is not only teaching line by line of textbook but mixture of varieties of activities, techniques, strategies and tasks along with modern equipment. Focusing new trends, Richard and Rodgers (2001, p.223) states, new approaches are based on the use of tasks as the core unit of planning and instruction in language pedagogy. For the overall development in language learning we have to cover all aspects and skills of language in our teaching task.One skill cannot be performed without another. Davies and Pearse (2008) mentions, in our everyday use of language, we are continually integrating the language skills or switching from one skill to another. So in language teaching there should be significant integration of all four skills for effective language learning. Not only skills, some modern instructional materials should be used according to the need and call of the day. Ur, (2013, p.212) says, “A large amount of teaching and learning these days is done with the help of technology.” In this way tools no doubt help the teaching and learning task more positively.
But in the real ground of ELT in Nepal these all ideas do not meet properly. Once I had planned to teach listening exercise. I demanded audio materials for listening but school administration did not provide me. As I learned, I managed alternative way of teaching listening by recording voice in my mobile phone. When I started my listening class students asked me to escape from listening chapter because that was not important for their examination. After convincing them I started the lesson with audio voices and exercise. But class was not effective because students’ regular rejection of that class because they were habituated to left the listening text which was never asked in the exam. I tried to motivate learners toward listening dividing them in to several peers and asked interesting question. They never paid any attention toward the teaching but I tried to my best to achieve the objectives of teaching. That lesson continued up to three days. Later concern authorities suggested me not to teach unnecessary subject matter and not to use mobile phone in the class which was their strict rule. Similarly they scolded me indirectly because of teaching nothing during three days. I have also same experience of teaching speaking skill. So these are also greatdifficulties for novice permanent English teachers in Nepal.
Practice of Faulty Assessment System
Assessment refers to any methods, strategy or tool which helps the teacher to collect necessary evidences and information regarding the learners’ learning progress toward the achievement of established goals. Without the proper assessment, the task, language teaching can’t be success. Regarding this fact, Heaton (1985, p.5) states that “Both testing and teaching are so closely interrelated that it is virtually impossible to work in either field without being constantly concerned with the others”. In this way assessment is a process of teaching which continuously provides the insights in language teaching. In another way the process of assessment is designed systematically which directly linked with other fields of teaching such as, learning activities, designing instructional materials and so on.
For the successful teaching, assessment should be systematic, effective and it should be done for learning improvement. But in Nepal, particularly in government schools, the way of assessing students’ learning is not process oriented but product oriented. For example, in the first terminal examination I requested authorities to design the test according to specification grid. I also requested them to appoint me as a member of examination committee but that was filled by the superior teachers. Later I found that most of the tests were not design according to the specific grid. Reading and writing skills were greatly valued. No any tests were designed for speaking and listening. After checking the students’ answer sheets I requested to all authorities to provide feedbacks on the basis of their progress but no one cared me. All strictly recorded students marks and started usual teaching. I distributed the answer sheet to the learners with some suggestive feedbacks but some superiors talked me about norms of examination which I was breaking by distributing answer sheets. Most of the novice teachers are facing the same challenge that I have faced.
Lack of Sharing Culture among Colleagues
At present time two terms collaboration and co-operation are being very popular terms in the field of language teaching. It is regarded that teaching is a collaborative profession among the colleagues and students than individual action. From the collaboration and co-operation teachers can update with the concerns, issues and discoveries in the field of language teaching in general and English language teaching in particular. Sharma and Shrestha (2015, p.132) mentions that “teacher support helps to develop greater awareness regarding the latest issues and professional concerns and makes empowered on the part of teachers.” In this way from the teachers’ supports a teacher can design his/her teaching activities with varieties of strategies with innovative ideas. Success stories can help the teacher to shape the ways of teaching and reduce feelings of isolation which directly or indirectly related to the professional development of the teachers.
But in our real ground, the culture of sharing good practices and asking help to solve the problems to others colleagues is regarded as the matter of humiliation. Teachers hesitate to ask for help to solve the classroom problem because of fear of being inferior to others. If any teachers shared his/her ideas among the colleagues, others blamed him/her as being over smart beside the senior teachers. Once I shared some innovative practices of teaching speaking skills and their benefits among my colleagues in leisure time at that time I found no one was serious but careless and paying attention to drink tea.Similarly one day I faced a grate problem while teaching a poem, particularly while assessing the learners after teaching rhyming patterns of the poem, then I asked to some senior teachers about this problem but instead of proper suggestions some of my colleagues had raised some questions indirectly about my ability to pass the Teacher Service Commission’s examination.
These above mentioned challenges for the novice teachers are only representative problems but there are other many challenges that new teachers are facing. These problems are being major determining factors to increase the educational achievement, specifically students learning of English language. So for this all concern authorities must have the sense of collaboration and co-operation among the recently appointed teachers. From the administration, there must be equal behaviors to all teachers. New ideas, techniques, strategies, and tools regarding ELT must be welcomed in every school, no matter who practice in the class for the fulfillment of demand and need from the recent age in language teaching. Lastly the students, parents, old teachers and Head teachers should be aware about newness developed in field of ELT and must pull out their traditionally rooted and old fashioned norms, beliefs and thinking which they are carrying in their mind up to the age of innovation.
Harmer, J. ([i]2007).The practices of English language teaching. London: Pearson Longman.
Heaton J.B. (1985). Writing English language tests. London: Longman.
Richards, J. C. & Rodgers, T.S. (2009). Approaches and methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: CUP
Sharma B. &Sherstha R., (2015). Readings in English language teacher Development. Sunlight Publication, Kirtipur Kathmandu.
Shrestha, R. (2016). A Resource material for lower secondary English teacher. Sunlight Publication. Kirtipur, Kathmandu Nepal.
Ur, P. (2013) A Course in language teaching. Cambridge: CPU.
(*Bhim Prasad Sapkota has completed M Ed in English Education from Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, Nepal and teaches at Shree Shiva Higher Secondary School, Kandebash, Galkot, Baglung. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)