Thursday, February 17, 2011
What is a teacher?
It’s a big question. Let me explain how we have worked as a learner > teacher setup for the last 6 weeks with K, our Arabic teacher.
We have the book, we do a units work (3-4hours work in the evening after work, food and Eastenders ) and then visit him on Saturday. He goes through the homework, corrects what we have written, does a bit of drilling to improve our pronunciation and, that’s it. Then we go away and do 4 hours homework the next week. We return to his space and the cycle repeats. We are learning quite alot, but all the real teaching and certainly the learning is done by me, my girlfriend and the book in a social-constructivist space on our sofa when we really don’t feel like it.
I certainly feel that the routine is really helpful. We were useless on our own as ‘independent learners’ (prior to having a teacher) we never opened a book or played with the DVDS, we messed about on youtube, did a few photocopies and that was about it. So the whole setup; having a teacher; a routine; assistance; feedback on mistakes; a space to go and ‘be taught’ all these things have helped.
Our teacher is confident in his ability to do what he does, because he has done so, alongside his main work as a translator, for 2 years. However, his role in actually teaching us is limited. He provides us with a routine, he assists but I would argue he rarely explicitly teaches us. For me a teacher would teach you something, set you on your way and then set some homework for additional practice. I don’t want to do down on this guy but if you are going to call yourself a teacher, teach. Don’t just correct us. Lead us. Make materials for us. Create a game for us to play. Give us a dialogue to do. Write on the board. Focus us on meaning then form. Manage the time. Set lesson aims. Get us to write on each other’s backs. Make us stand up when we are tired. Focus on accuracy and fluency. Be a teacher. Or be a homework tutor, perhaps.
I am fairly straight up when it comes to this question but I am not sure if I am being fair. How would you feel if you were in the same position? Would you say anything? Do you think I am moaning about having to do some work? Is 90mins too short to do anything but correct homework? I must say that we are on our way to achieving our goals and he’s been good at focusing us on this. So if we are learning is he teaching? Is the fact we are learning enough?