Teaching English: Lifeless life?

Ashok Raj Khati

NELTA Ramechap Branch

A teacher gets up at 5 am, rushes to the college at 6 am and starts his lesson at 6.30. He gives lectures till 10.30, and then comes to have a meal in hurry. He has to take several classes in a school from 11 am to 4 pm where he is a permanent teacher. He has been working as an English teacher for 15 years. Every year he enters into the same classrooms with the same walls, writes on the same blackboard, opens the same textbooks, gives the same notes that he had prepared many years ago.  He finds that his students are always passive listeners every year except in the first month of an academic year. He usually uses chalk, duster, blackboard, and sometime cassette recorder for listening activities.

He reads the reading texts, than explains them in his own words. Very often he over explains as well as translates difficult sentences into students’ mother tongue. He also writes the answers of questions given in the texts. He himself writes essays on the board, and tells his student to copy that. He gives rules, and explains them followed by some selected exercises while teaching grammar. Moreover, he writes the summary or central ideas of literary texts for students. He does not forget to remind students some important questions for exam in every lesson.

I think he is making his job easy. At the same time, he finds his job boring and to some extent he is not satisfied with his own teaching. He sits in the same office on the same chairs in front of the same pictures of national heroes hanging on the same wall for 15 years. Most of his colleagues are those who have been teaching in the same school for more than 7 to10 years. At the end of the month, he collects his salary and pays out for his all expenses of the whole month. From the next day, he is again penniless.

He is doing the same job for 14 years. No more innovations, no more materials, no more fun, and no more variety in the classroom. In nutshell, he is having a Lifeless Life.

It is the story of an English teacher, my colleague for last two years. I have observed similar kind of story of high school teachers in this particular part (Ramechap district- a remote part of Nepal) of the country. May be this situation is different from that of urban areas where teachers grow professionally. They may have completed required degree from university in their respective subjects. They may be trained. But in this part of the country trainings are taken only as a tool for promotion and financial attainment. Teachers never pay for trainings. But they grumble: Our job is monotonous.

How can an English teacher enjoy his profession particularly in under resourced context of Nepal? In response to my query, Aneta Naumoska, an English teacher for Macedonia commented as follows via e-mail:

Hi Ashok, by writing this text that sincerely touched my heart and raised an issue in the context of teaching English that appears not only in Nepal, but in many other places worldwide! Honestly, I have several examples to add to yours that I don’t even know how and where to start! You made an excellent point by exemplifying what I am avoiding at all costs to become in the future as an EFL teacher!

One of the factors that according to me hinders teachers thoroughly enjoying their profession and finding satisfaction in it is their lack of eagerness to become an active part of the worldwide ELT community, to share experiences with their colleagues from all around the world by attending (or presenting at) seminars, conferences, workshops and the like. From such passive colleagues I have noticed that their absence and non-involvement in such places makes them lose interest in the fact that the English language is constantly changing and speeding in the fast track! Such involvement with other colleagues surely opens your horizons on a number of ELT issues!

My experience in teaching (as well as attending many ELT classes as a passive observer) has shown me that being innovative, resourceful, and many other things, comes from the teacher himself/herself … not from the textbooks they use in class or other external materials (like handouts). Use every single source of knowledge and materials that is available to you and adapt it to the teaching situation, and to the different students and their various learning styles.

This way, we teachers not only bring novelty to the classroom, but we also stay young at heart!

All the best,

Aneta Naumoska,

An English teacher, Macedonia

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