By Zarela Cruz
Whenever it comes to teaching English, teachers have to face a number of challenges. To start with: are we qualified enough to apply for those positions required in the current market? If so, do we have enough life experience as to speak the same language our students speak? Normally students from expensive bilingual schools have a wide knowledge of the world, not only because of their economic status that often enables them to travel abroad, but also because the teaching tools used at their schools are brand-new. In cases like this, having proficiency of the language is a must, but what about our knowledge of the world? What about general culture? What about conversational strategies not to mention class management?
I have delivered workshops along these years and have been able to see both sides of the coin: teachers who are really committed to do their best and teachers for whom teaching is just a means to have good status and social contacts.
Teachers’ salaries and working conditions are not exactly the most attractive in the market. Besides, this is a never-ending job: once you finish your formal working hours, you have to start thinking about planning, making adjustments to your teaching, revising exams, attending meetings…the list is endless.
WHEN BEING LESS PREPARED THAN YOUR STUDENTS IS NOT AN OPTION
Being computer literate is only one of the options at our disposal (see article on April 5th). This implies more than being a traditional teacher or being tuned with the 21st century student who is almost always connected online. This, in turn, means that teachers should be willing to attend digital literacy training, ed-tech forums, using clouds to share material, among endless possibilities our students are familiar with.
HOW CAN YOU BRIDGE THE GAP?
First of all: Be always one step ahead. Update your knowledge of the language; attend courses, seminars, workshops, congresses, whatever may contribute to enhance your teaching skills.
Secondly: live in the real world: get familiar with the latest TV series, video games, singers, starlets, and take examples from them to be discussed in class from any angle: debate, agreeing or disagreeing, simple exchange of ideas, forum discussions, ice breakers. Eventually, this effort will allow you to know your students better and you may share common interests.
It is a must for teachers not to be left behind. It is true that there is a shortage of qualified teachers to be in charge of specific subject areas, but it is also true that teachers are not motivated enough to work in the schools where they are needed. Why? Because of inadequate working conditions and environment, lack of sense of achievement, recognition... those are important factors to bear in mind. We would love to teach in institutions where our teaching is appreciated and where students are eager to learn as well. It would be really a shame to work in a place where students are more knowledgeable than us, knowing that would mean an instant loss of respect towards our figure as teachers.
What about you?
How would you bridge any existing gap between your students and you?
What drives you to be a more effective teacher?
Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator. She also finished her master’s studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas in English and Spanish. She has also completed a number of online certificates: Teaching the Working Adult, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses. She has taught different courses, programs and levels and has been a teacher trainer, a lecturer and online instructor. This article aims to reflect on the role of the teacher in the current market.