My story of growing as a professional English teacher

Narendra Airi

I adopted teaching as a profession some 18 years ago. My teaching career commenced from a private English medium school. It was after I completed proficiency certificate level examination. In this blog post, I am sharing my experiences from a novice teacher to a professional English teacher. The article explains that how I grow as a professional English teacher. It also depicts what different stages of my journey of teaching passed through.  

Teaching is my favorite profession. It is my passion too. I have been turning my passion into action teaching in different levels and schools. What I adore is standing in front of enthusiastic pupils and delivering something. This passion led me to adopt teaching as a profession. Before I started teaching, I had some exposure of English Grammar and language for the Level I had to teach. After I had completed the examination of intermediate level, I started teaching. I was selected as the teacher after my class observation. In order to perform well and mark good impression on the part of observers, I had gone through all the topics of grammar that I studied in high school level. Furthermore, I went through an English speaking course book to improve my speaking skill. The book incorporated various language functions, vocabularies used in daily conversation, class room language, Nepali –English translation and so on. When I read the book twice, it broadened my horizon of knowledge in using the English language.

After teaching in two private English medium schools for a year, I joined a government-aided school. It was the school where I had studied at lower secondary level. The school proved a turning point in my life both as a student and a teacher. It proved a turning point in my student life in the sense that I could make my foundation of English strong as a volunteer teacher from the U.S.A. taught us.  In the beginning, it was quite difficult to grasp what she uttered. She was the class teacher for a whole academic year. We, the students, were exposed to native tone in English in EFL (English as a foreign language) setting. Gradually I could get what she spoke. The way she pronounced English words or the way she delivered in the class helped me to grasp the native accent. Moreover, the school proved a turning point in my teaching career as I took my further study and teaching ahead simultaneously.  I completed my Bachelor’s Degree (B.Ed in English education) during my service there.

Then I attended training on ‘Interactive Radio Teaching’. All the trainee teachers had been given one set of radio to each. A live program would broadcast from 2:05 to 2:50 pm by Curriculum Development Centre. I had to teach English taking the radio set in the classroom to Grade five. It was a formal training in distant mode. All I had to do was to turn on the radio in the class and make the students listen to. And I had to repeat after the instructor on the radio so that students could understand what was delivered through the radio. The program particularly helped me to improve my pronunciation of English sounds and pedagogical skill.

Moreover, I attended micro-teaching (also called peer teaching) by the end of bachelor’s 3rd year. Later on, I had to teach the 10th graders for one and a half month as practice teaching. I got acquainted with practicality of communicative approach of teaching during this period. The course book that I studied in Bachelor’s level and the practice teaching I was involved in proved fruitful for my teaching. This practice teaching added some teaching techniques, skills and application of knowledge in me. During 45 days’ practice teaching I received feedback from my peers who taught English in other classes. Moreover, my classes were observed by the internal and external supervisors as the subject experts. Thus, the peers’, subject experts’ feedback made me more competent and confident to handle the class and deliver subject matter effectively. To be well prepared, I came to know that the teacher’s guide was helpful. I borrowed and went through it during this period. It has multiple benefits in teaching in a way it provides clear direction to teach English.

Besides I grabbed an opportunity to attend short-term teacher training program which helped boost my performance. After having attended the training, I started teaching the students using learner centered approach. I also learnt how to teach grammar creating situation to the context. Furthermore, I learnt to teach the vocabularies more than just giving synonyms and translating. I grasped some techniques and ideas on how to motivate the students towards learning English too.

While teaching English in grade 10, I felt some difficulty to teach some poems. I consulted several practice books; went through questions and exercises in the textbook and made notes in diary. I could interpret the poems. However, I was not fully satisfied. I went through many hurdles at personal and professional level. On the one hand, I was only job holder in the family and the other I went through obstacles in teaching career too. As I had strong passion for reading from which I could get sheer satisfaction and joy, I pursued my higher study and completed my master’s degree. After the completion of teaching practice by the end and M.Ed. 2nd year, I was offered to teach in Grade XI and XII. I got a decent platform to consolidate the subject matter that I had learnt in campus and university level. In this teacher education program, I studied various course titles such as linguistics, phonetics, translation studies, grammar, semantics and pragmatics and so on. These courses made the foundation of language, linguistics and grammar stronger in me.

In the course of time, I joined a residential Military school in western Terai of Nepal. On the very first day, when the students had enrolled, the school organized an orientation program for the first batch. I had been assigned the responsibility to host the entire program. I did not have any difficulty to teach English and to speak in English. But I had never got the exposure of public speaking in English. I did not have much idea on how to conduct a program though I know what to speak.  The principal just gave me the program details. I went through it. It struck my mind. It was the first time I was going to host a formal program in English. I mustered courage, I made notes; prepared rough draft; read it. Then I consulted one of my friends in the telephone who had the experience of conducting such program. I was well- prepared to host the program. I hosted the program. I received good feedback. It shows speaking in English in EFL setting is not an easy task. Furthermore, these types of real life contexts are really instrumental to enrich the professional growth. Like me, many students hesitate to speak English in different situations. Therefore, positive attitude toward target language can definitely enhance learning of the language. It also indicates that the abstract knowledge (competence) is to be brought out (concretized) through performance. The competence of an individual has to be sharpened through performance.

After I had attended 23rd international Conference of NELTA, I received a congenial atmosphere to learn more. The key speakers from foreign universities, presenters belonging to the expert groups and practitioner groups gave wonderful sessions. I received many insights on various issues and topics in ELT (English language teaching). Likewise, a mentor, my principal, who usually assigns me to work on various responsibilities – proof-reading the articles, writing articles and editorial for school magazine, writing proposals and certificates in English, inspires me to improve my writing skill. It shows that attending conferences and collaborating with experienced teacher or mentor helps to grow professionally.

Where there is a will, there is a way. In other words, every problem has a solution. During my teaching career in the school where I have been teaching for 8 years, I taught several course books in English. Almost every year or sometimes after 2 or 3 years the course book are changed. Moreover, a teacher has to teach three/four course books in a class. The teachers have to work hard to perform well in the class. I am not the exception. I taught an English Course book which mainly dealt with English literature to the 4th to 7th graders for two years. In other genres of literature, I had no difficulty. But I felt difficulty to teach poetry. It doesn’t mean I was unable to teach poetry; I could teach poetry to the students; I could interpret the poem. But I was not satisfied myself. Later I found myself less interested in poetry. It shows that teachers’ area of interest matters a lot in teaching learning process.

It is said handwork pays. Working as a teacher, I teach 4 to 5 periods a day. Besides classroom teaching, the teachers have to conduct co-curriculum activities in the school. Not only this, the teachers are assigned various other tasks- writing proposals, reports, certificates for various purposes, and articles for annual magazine and so on. Among the four language skill writing carries comparatively a greater importance. In this connection, the words of Francis Bacon are worth-quoting ‘Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man.” This quote highlights the importance of writing. Furthermore, writing is considered to be more difficult than other skills of language. One has to read a lot to enhance writing skill.

To conclude, in the journey of my teaching, day-by-day I began to feel more excited and motivated. Moreover, I felt more confident and competent. It was possible because of the readings, working with mentors, peer observation, feedback from the experts and most importantly my passion for teaching, a positive attitude toward the English language; an internal motivation to perform better.

Through my journey from a novice teacher to a professional teacher, I come to a conclusion that it is not difficult and impossible to transform ourselves. One needs to have desire to grow and enhance the professionalism in the course of time. He/ she needs to update to adjust him/herself in the changing context in a regular basis. It is possible only if he/she is dedicated, inquisitive and studious.

The author:

Narendra Airi is an M.Ed. from Tribhuvan University and the head of English department at Sainik Awasiya Mahavidhyalaya Teghari, Kailali.