Confession of an English Teacher

Santona Neupane

“I’ll miss you,” I told my colleague on her last day at work.

“Why would you leave such a good job?,” I further inquired.

Little did I know, that question would produce such a response that would also force me to leave my comfort zone and follow my calling. “Yes, the job is good but it’s not what I want to do. I took this job because I want to teach but if I can’t then what is the use hanging on.” That evening when she walked out of the door I couldn’t help but notice the radiant smile on her face and the bounce on her step. Seeing her like that, I vowed to myself that one day I will have that smile on my face and bounce on my step. Not long after that, I resigned from my administrative duty and resolved to follow my dream: to teach.

With bubbles around my head, I set out to follow my dream. Do I love teaching? Yes I do.  And did I have what it takes to be a teacher? I thought I had. I got my first teaching job on grounds of my passion for teaching, not on grounds of my experience. I was all set and ready to show the world I could be the best teacher ever. But little did I know, I had a long way to go.

The first mistake I made was to assume that I would make a good English teacher just because I loved English.  Confidently I walked in to the class adorning all the English I have ever learnt: Ready to bombard my students with every possible missile of English. The first class ever in my career and I start off talking about myself. My students were just sitting there silently as I told them about their new teacher, the ways they will be taught and the teacher’s expectations. Unknowing to me, by then my new students had already labelled me a boring teacher; one they might never relate to. I talked and talked without ever giving them chance to have their say. I just forgot to create rapport with them. I might have created an impression of someone with good English but at what cost? I was already put in a box labelled teacher not a facilitator. I assailed them with English without realizing their fluency and proficiency level. I was making them bored instead of making things interesting. Instead of teaching them, I was showing off and they recognized me for what I was – a phony show-off.

My school year was dominated by teacher centred teaching. My teachers showed off their English, they made an impression on us and made us feel like a criminal if our English was not as good as theirs. I made it a point in my study to polish my English and people started complimenting me on my English. I never even stopped for a moment to think if my English was as good as they said it was. And I just assumed I would make a good English teacher because people said I had good English. And then I also assumed that teaching English means talking in English. Without even realizing I became what I did not like- My teachers – and did what they used to do. English, English, English, Blah Blah, Blah.

As an English Teacher we have every authority and necessity to use English. Without English our class will not function but with English also if we are not careful about how we use and with what attitude, there will definitely be teaching but I doubt if there will be adequate learning.

My first class went off without a hitch but even on the first day of my career I was quick to spot how little difference I had made in their learning. My class lacked enthusiasm and most of the students were elsewhere.  Had there been a technology to illustrate their thoughts in a balloon like they have in cartoon strip, I would have seen one of my student eating lunch, another one fighting a WWE match, the boy in the corner would be facebooking, some would be rapping and some snoring where as others would be dreaming about their crush and others might be lost in their own world.

I might have been good with my language but my language will not singlehandedly deal with my classroom. My language will not help them learn. My language will only be a tool in facilitating learning. I was boxed and labelled a ‘Teacher’ and to get out of that box, I realized I have to be armed with more than good English.

I made lots of mistakes and in course of teaching I learnt from my mistakes.  There are lots of mistakes I have committed. An important lesson I learnt was that good language may be effective tool in teaching but if it is not accompanied by other teaching tools it will be useless.  As much as language matters in an English class, I also learnt that how certain things are taught matters most. I made a mistake in assuming good English will automatically make us a good English teacher but I learnt that continuous, contextual learning makes one a good teacher.

 The author is one of the editors with ELT Choutari.

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