THE CHANGING ROLE OF THE ENGLISH TEACHER
My paper discusses about the complicated role of English teacher in the contemporary era. It throws light upon the important steps, latest technologies and innovative methods to be adopted by the teachers while teaching English. Gone are the days where education was teacher-centered where students were just passive listeners. Now the teaching of English is learner-centered. Teachers are committed to their students and their learning. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning. Though the importance of English is well known many still neglect learning English. A language is a systematic means of communication by the use of sounds or conventional symbols. It is the code we all use to express ourselves to communicate with others. As we all know English is very useful as it is a means of communication. Moreover a strong command of the English language will lead to higher paying jobs, more social mobility, and a great deal of social success. My paper tries to depict the role of English teacher not just as a guide, motivator and evaluator but also as a facilitator. English is a link language. English is the language of the latest business management in the world and Indian proficiency in English has brought laurels to many Indian business managers. English is a means not only for international commerce; it has become increasingly essential for inter-state commerce and communication. This paper also discusses about the importance of four skills Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking. The role English plays in technical institution and the role of English teacher in technical field is also discussed.
My paper concludes discussing about the changing roles of English teacher and it also discusses about the importance of English in engineering colleges.
“When the teacher first meets his class, the matter of motivation must receive his primary attention. The success of the teacher depends on how well he can arouse the interests and motivation of pupils. He will manipulate the class-room situations in such a way that pupils are induced to pursue their goals vigorously and enthusiastically” (H. R. Bhatia).
India is a multilingual country. Each language in India claims the importance and hence language problems naturally arise. English reigned supreme in the pr-independent India. English is now a library language in India. Hence English should be taught well and a revolution has to be brought about in the methodology of teaching this important world language. Through English maximum knowledge can be imparted to students. Prof. Gurrey has rightly observed: “In teaching, it is highly desirable to know exactly what one is hoping to achieve, as it is in all great undertakings. If this can be clearly seen then the best way of getting to work usually becomes evident. We ought, therefore, to consider carefully what we are trying to do when we are teaching a language.” In the words of Prof. P. Gurrey “with careful thought, puzzling out precisely what he wants to achieve and what are the immediate needs of his pupils, a teacher of language can soon become expert in noting the objectives that he should strive for and once he is aware of the advantage, he very soon forms the habit of directing his efforts and those of his pupils on to selected objectives”.
The importance of the ability to speak or write English has recently increased significantly. English is a language that has become a standard not because it has been approved by any ‘standards’ organization but because it is widely used by many information and technology industries and recognized as being standard. The prevailing view seems to be that unless the students learn English, they can only work in limited jobs. Those who do not have basic knowledge of English cannot obtain good quality jobs. They cannot communicate efficiently with others, and cannot have the benefit of India’s rich social and cultural life. Men and women, who cannot comprehend and interpret instructions in English, even if educated, are unemployable. The lack of effort in learning English and the general feeling of not being interested in learning the English language is a plague to the system. This abuse is what the English teachers should fight against. Those who recognize that learning English is their responsibility have plenty of opportunities to do so. Radio and television are good teachers. So are magazines. Students in their young age can pick up English quickly. They are the best fast learners, provided the preference to speak English at schools, colleges, universities, and what’s more at home is made compulsory. Without a teacher or skilled language speaker who can present the knowledge to be experimented with in a structured, graduated, and comprehensible manner, and who can guide, observe, and correct errors in usage, such a process of discovery is often haphazard, and growth in knowledge a matter of accident. Apart from being a useful skill in itself, reading in a foreign language is known to be a very useful and relatively painless way to improve one’s grasp of that language. Considering the growth of international relations of our society with other nations and the extended interest towards today’s growing technology and science throughout the world, learning English language as an international language has found a greater importance. Increase in the numbers of language institutes and their students also increasing interest of parents for their children to learn English can be a good evidence for the recent value of English language in our country. But unfortunately most of the students are not satisfied with their abilities in English after studying it for seven years in their schools. Teachers can improve their methods of teaching by considering the domain of motivation. A number of studies have consistently demonstrated that those who have an advanced knowledge of the English language are much more likely to advance their careers. In addition to this, these studies have also demonstrated that a strong command of the English language will lead to higher paying jobs, more social mobility, and a great deal of social success. No matter what career the students choose, whether it is Engineering or History, having a powerful command of the English language will greatly increase their odds of success. Many people have a poor command of the English language because they don’t read. These people don’t realize that they are destroying their chances of being economically successful. Not only does reading allow building up vocabulary, but it also allows to become more informed, learning things about the world around. In the teaching of English as a second or foreign language today, the approach is no longer teacher-centered, but is student-centered. In student-centered learning, students are active participants in their learning rather than passive recipients; students are more intrinsically than extrinsically motivated; learning is more individualized than standardized. Student-centered learning develops “learning how to learn” skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and reflective thinking. Student-centered learning accounts for and adapts to different learning styles of students. The teacher in this approach facilitates the communicative activities of the students. In this model, communication plays an important role. This approach stresses the importance of learner autonomy and responsibility of the learner’s process. It attributes greater value to the learner’s experience and knowledge in the classroom.
Methods of Teaching English
Grammar translation method: Grammar Translation method is one of the popular methods of teaching English. The majority of teachers oppose a change for the better. They prefer to teach by old methods. This method saves both the teacher’s and the pupils’ time. The teacher’s only work is to give word for word meaning of English into the child’s mother-tongue. This method ignores the natural way of learning a language that is through listening, speaking, reading and writing. The students learn to keep the translation and kill the sense. The pupils may say; “The rain is falling” for “It is raining.” In this method the students are passive learners. The roles of the teacher are very traditional. The teacher is the authority in the class room. The students do as she says so they can learn what she knows.
The Direct Method: According to Webster’s New International Dictionary, “Direct Method is a method of teaching a foreign language, especially a modern language through conversation, discussion and reading in the language itself without use of the pupil’s language, without translation and without the study of formal grammar. The words are first taught by pointing to object or picture or by performing action” (K. K. Bhatia: 221). Here the students get many opportunities to listen to spoken English which is very important for language mastery. The student thinks in English and hence can strength his ability of self-expression. This method is the easy ground for written English. The teaching work becomes interesting. The Direct Method receives its name from the fact that meaning is to be conveyed directly in the target language through the use of demonstration and visual aids, with no recourse to the student’s native language. The native language should not be used in the class room. The purpose of language learning is communication. Students should be encouraged to speak as much as possible. Teachers who use the Direct Method intend that students learn how to communicate in the target language. In order to do this successfully students should learn to think in the target language. The students’ role in this method is less passive. The teacher and the student are more like partners in the teaching/learning process. Teachers should reflect on what they do and why they did and should be open to learning about the practices and research of others. They should interact with others and should try new practices in order to continually research for or devise the best method they can for who they are, who their students are and the conditions and context of their teaching.
The Structural Approach: According to Menon and Patel, “The Structural Approach is based on the belief that in the learning of a foreign language, mastery of Structures is more important than the acquisition of vocabulary.” This approach puts more emphasis on pupil’s activity than on the teacher’s. The student is the learner and hence he must actively involve in the teaching-learning process.
Four important Skills of English:
Listening: All language learning begins with the ear. So the teacher must aim at making his learners respond to the target language when it is spoken. The teacher must provide maximum opportunities to his students to listen to the spoken forms of English language. Different audio-aides such as tape-recorder, linguaphone, radio etc should be used by the teacher. Everything in language learning is based on good listening.
Speaking: All language learning begins with the ear. So the teacher must aim at making his learners respond to the target language when it is spoken. Language has to be achieved through practice. That has to be brushed up everyday. A good command of English is generally achieved more through hard work than through some mysterious “gift.” Students should know the proper use of stress and intonation. They should be able to express themselves through short, simple sentence. They should be able to converse in English answer simple questions and ask simple questions. They should be able to talk in simple English about events, places, thing and persons. The teacher should become a good model of speech for the child. A good model will produce a good speaker. The teacher should make use of aids such as gramophone, tape-recorder, radio, etc., during the teaching hours.
Reading: Reading is an important mode of expression. Students should read well and with comprehension. Early expression in reading must be in the form of loud reading. Reading helps the students to get pleasure out of the language. While reading the words should be pronounced correctly and proper intonation and reasonable speed is essential. The teacher should help the pupils in understanding new words and sentence patterns.
Writing: Writing helps to develop good handwriting, spelling, structures, words of active use punctuation, etc. One can master over English if one has learnt the four basic skills:
(i) Understanding spoken English;
(ii) Speaking correct English;
(iii) Reading English; and
(iv) Writing simple and correct English for daily use.
The teacher should see to it that all abilities should be regarded as paramount and equal importance should be given to each. General objective of English is the ability to understand, the ability to speak, the ability to read and the ability to write.
Duties of a teacher: Teacher is one of the agents of transmission. Teacher is always a learner. Teachers learn best by studying, by doing and reflecting, by collaborating with other teachers, by looking closely at students and their work, and by sharing what they see.
1. Teachers are committed to their students and their learning.
2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
5. Teachers are members of learning communities
Teacher is the depositor of knowledge. Teacher deposits knowledge to the students. Knowledge is transmitted from teacher to students. Education is not just transmitting what is known. But education is discovering what is not known. The teacher’s duty is to observe, understand and to motivate the students. In language learning teacher plays main role. The teacher removes the biggest language learning obstacles from the learners and creates conditions conducive to language learning success. The style of teaching should be changed into the style of learning of the students. Teacher should motivate the students by introducing many activities such as group discussions, JAM, Self introduction etc. A good teacher should listen and understand the feelings of the students. Care and affection is essential to motivate the students. Teachers are responsible for the behavioral changes of the students. To be effective, teachers must not only be knowledgeable about the content area but must also have the skills and abilities to communicate that knowledge, which necessitates an understanding of student characteristics, pedagogy, and classroom management. To teach all students according to today’s standards, teachers need to understand subject matter deeply and flexibly so they can help students create useful cognitive maps, relate one idea to another, and address misconceptions. Teachers employ a range of instructional strategies and resources to match the variety of student skills and to provide each student several ways of exploring important ideas, skills, and concepts. They understand how to work as facilitators, coaches, models, evaluators, managers, and advocates. They know how to utilize various forms of play, different strategies for grouping students, and different types of media and materials. Teachers observe and assess students in the context of ongoing classroom life. They are skilled in collecting and interpreting a variety of types of evidence to evaluate where each student is in a sequence or continuum of learning and development. They know how to move from assessment to decisions about curriculum, social support, and teaching strategies, to increase the prospects for successful learning. Teachers understand and respect the diverse cultures, values, languages, and family backgrounds of their students, use community people and settings as resources for learning, and involve parents and families as active partners in the students’ total development.
The responsibility of the teacher: Teaching in any venue involves forming a lesson plan, presenting material to students, responding to students learning needs, and evaluating student progress. Teachers should communicate and relate well with students, enjoy working with them, and be able to motivate them. They should have inquiring and analytical minds, and a strong desire to pursue and disseminate knowledge. Additionally, they must be self-motivated and able to work in an environment in which they receive little direct supervision. Limited resources, frequent use of mother tongue makes the efforts of English abortive for want of creating congenial environment wherein the children may participate in general discussion in English other than mother tongue. A teacher that already has experience in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) can exploit her background in language teaching. She should recognize the ways in which her teaching skills can be adapted for the teaching of English. Moreover, she will need to look for content specialists for help in designing appropriate lessons in the subject matter field she is teaching. A teacher must play many roles; organize courses, set learning objectives, establish a positive learning environment in the classroom, and evaluate students’ progress. The main reason is that learning English doesn’t just involve gaining knowledge. An equally important part of learning English is developing skills, and skills can only be developed by practice. Just as a coach can’t make someone a good runner just by explaining how to run, an English teacher can’t make students good speakers (readers, writers, etc.) of English just by explaining English to them. Instead, like a coach, a teacher must help students learn how to practice effectively, and also encourage them to practice a lot – even when the teacher is not around. They need to make English study as interesting and attractive as possible, that students will want to feed themselves. They need to help students’ develop their own plan for studying English, and help students keep their plans – and their interest – alive. Students need to know it is up to them to feed themselves – and not always wait for a teacher to stuff them. Teachers who have a good command of English will have more confidence to use English in class, and also have more confidence when answering students’ questions. Students will also tend to have more confidence in teachers whose English is obviously good, and will tend to look up to them as role models.
The secret of successful teaching is to discover means of making the pupil like and want to do the things that the teacher wants to do. Motivation is no less important a factor in the reading classroom than in any other area of language learning. Once the class is motivated, more than half the battle is won. Motivation has been widely accepted by both teachers and researchers as one of the key factors that influence the rate and success of second/foreign language learning. One interesting and useful way of activating the motivational components in students is the use of a quotation a day in the classroom. The teacher who has to teach English language through some worth while content has no better resource for motivation than catchy quotable quotes. First, the teachers have to realize that these words of wisdom and inspiration have enough potential for exploitation in the classroom. Next, they have to implement this strategy as soon as possible. From informal interactions, it is learnt from colleagues that they find it an interesting and usable idea. It is hoped that many others will also adopt this technique to motivate themselves and their students for joyful and meaningful English classes. When they get some guidance, especially with moral values, for their life, they have intrinsic motivation. The teacher often ends up presenting language that the students already know. Teachers should make sure that they are adding something new. Prof. John J. Ryan rightly says, “Motivation to the very heart of the learning process. Adequate motivation not only sets in motion the activity which results in learning but also sustains and directs it” (K. K. Bhatia :114). The more one is exposed to the use of language, the better one learns. One interesting and useful way of activating the motivational components in students is the use of a quotation a day in the classroom. The teacher who has to teach English language through some worth while content has no better resource for motivation than catchy quotable quotes. Pre-listening tasks can also be extended to them doing a whole role-play or other long speaking task and then listening to a conversation in the same situation on the CD. The teacher should create an atmosphere in the language classroom which supports the students. Learners must be self-confident in order to communicate, and Teachers have the responsibility to help build the learner’s confidence. The teacher is a resource that helps students identify their language learning problems and find solutions to them, find out the skills they need to focus on, and take responsibility for making choices which determine what and how to learn. To become a competent user of a second language, a student must partake of a linguistic inheritance different from her own. In the classroom it will be the teacher first of all who will play the part of inducting her into it. It is not enough merely to provide students with opportunities to speak in English, as teachers we need to encourage students to speak in a variety of different situations, and hence help them to learn to speak with confidence. The effective use of role-plays can add variety to the kinds of activities students are asked to perform. It encourages thinking and creativity; lets students develop and practice new language and behavioral skills in a relatively safe setting, and can create the motivation and involvement necessary for real learning to occur. Unlike skits, role plays shouldn’t be scripted out in detail; instead Teachers should give the student a general scenario with different elements and suggested ideas for complications to occur. One of the most valuable gifts English teachers can share with students is their experience in language learning, and they should spend some class time sharing their experience with students. So the best kind of role model for students is often a teacher who has worked hard – and continues to work hard – to learn English as well as possible. It is not essential that the teacher’s English be perfect; in fact, sometimes the best role model is a teacher who has obviously had to struggle to learn English, but who has persisted and made real progress. This is the kind of role model many students can identify with, and that will encourage them to work hard in their own English study. Teachers who have a good command of English will have more confidence to use English in class, and also have more confidence when answering students’ questions. Students will also tend to have more confidence in teachers whose English is obviously good, and will tend to look up to them as role models.
Teachers in Engineering Colleges: I am teaching English in an Engineering College most of my students are from English medium school background, inspite of their exposure to the language they are not regular in using English language to communicate among them and I find it a continuous challenge to motivate them to use the language to gain greater fluency. As the first step I always prefer to talk to them only in English. Fluency in English is essential to get good jobs. Even for technical students with good percentage English is must. But very few are trying to improve their knowledge in English. English teachers in technical colleges must continually defend their subject’s importance and place in the Engineering Curriculum. Teachers in technical colleges can’t enjoy equal prestige with their colleagues in the technological departments who feel that science is the only pursuit worth the time and effort of students. English teachers should make English lively and interesting subject to be learnt by adopting new techniques and by motivating the students. They should prove its importance by illustrating real life experiences and by justifying its importance to their colleagues and to their students. A review of related literature shows that the area ‘English Education in Engineering Colleges’ has plenty of scope for development. We need to place more emphasis on the training and development of English language teachers in engineering colleges in India. There is a wide gap between the existing system of language teaching and the desired language skills of the students of Engineering and Technology. The students of Engineering and Technology need better language skills to understand their subjects and for their greater employability. Due to expansion of technological education in developed and developing countries, experts call for intense research into English for Science and Technology. Teachers should be able to choose appropriate methods / strategies for teaching EST like pair/peer work, role play, group discussion and so on. They should use the communicative learner-centered approach while teaching the EST material. To improve the speaking skills of the students Language teacher conducts role-playing activities like interviewing and being interviewed, explaining and convincing on Science and Technology topics and so on. A task-based activity, group work, and so on, generates discussion and provides learners with practice. Students improve their listening, speaking and overall communicative skills. Teachers should design and conduct several role play activities for students to practice and use English in a more meaningful way as a practical language so that the results of students’ learning are quite positive.
Teacher’s skills for communication and mediation create the classroom atmosphere. Students acquire language when they have opportunities to use the language in interaction with other speakers. Being their teacher, we may be the only English speaking person available to students, and although our time with any of them is limited, we can structure effective communication skills in the classroom. In order to do so, in our interactions with students we should try to listen carefully to what they are saying and give our understanding or misunderstanding back at them through our replies. Good language learners are also great risk-takers, since they must make many errors in order to succeed: however, in English classes, they are handicapped because they are unable to use their native language competence to present themselves as well-informed adults. That is why the teacher should create an atmosphere in the language classroom which supports the students. Learners must be self-confident in order to communicate, and we have the responsibility to help build the learner’s confidence. In this context, the English teachers of Engineering colleges have a very crucial role to play. Besides teaching English as a subject for comprehension and expression, they have to act as facilitators in shaping the communication skills and personality traits of the Engineering students. The students of Engineering and Technology need better language skills to understand their subjects and for their greater employability. Due to expansion of technological education in developed and developing countries, experts call for intense research into English for Science and Technology.
Evaluating Students: The teacher is a resource that helps students identify their language learning problems and find solutions to them. We should find out the skills they need to focus on, and take responsibility for making choices which determine what and how to learn. We will serve as a source of information to the students about how they are progressing in their language learning. Students learn languages when they have opportunities to understand and work with language in a context that they comprehend and find interesting. Students’ refusal to take responsibility for learning English does not affect only their own welfare but their family members, the dependents and others too. Planning group work activities in discussions, games and role-plays, preparing listening, reading and writing activities that connect meaningfully with students’ felt needs and with pedagogical aims, as well as allowing more spontaneous conversations to take place. In all of these interactions students have opportunities to discover and fine-tune linguistic habits. They can experiment with these habits, undergo the consequences of their actions in the comprehension, incomprehension and corrections they receive from their interlocutors or readers, make adjustments in light of those consequences, and draw inferences about improved performance in future interactions.
Conclusion: Mental development pre-supposes a good command over language. Our mind develops through thinking, and is impossible without language .Language is a tool of both thinking and communication. It is a tool which has to be used effectively in acquiring knowledge and mastering facts in education. We develop the power to think and reason on a higher plane only through language. It is the basic tool for social communication. Language is in fact a potent means of personality development, which is the aim of education. Language helps in the mental development through listening; speaking, reading and writing. Self – expression, communication of idea, reasoning, and thinking all depend upon the facility with which an individual is in a position to use the tool of language. Therefore a good system of education must emphasize the teaching and learning of language. Teachers must ignore small acts of mischief of their pupils. They should treat his pupils kindly and sympathetically. They should help the emotionally disturbed pupil and should give him their confidence. Opportunities for self-expression are helpful in creating emotional stability. Through activities the teacher can help the students to express themselves. In the class-room, the teacher should create situations, where there is willing desire for healthy competitions, if the child is treated with love and affection; he feels secure and thus develops self-confidence. The child must be allowed to move about in a wider sphere, so that he develops in the art of self-expression and command over the language.
Prof. S.N.Rao rightly says: “In formal learning situations, motivation or motivating the pupil to learn is the principle par excellence.” Motivation concentrates the attention and energy of a person on the activity or knowledge to be learnt. Teacher must provide incentive to motivate students. The teacher must try to develop permanent interests in the pupils and at the same time he must motivate the students before teaching any particular person. Dr. Mohan has quoted R.C. Sweat (1966) who proved that “when students were told by the teacher how well they had done in their course and also encouraged to do better it resulted in more favourable attitudes and better performances”(K. K. Bhatia : 117). Teachers should enthuse, the learning spirit among students. Teacher’s guidance from time to time helps in reading only useful books and material. Finally, without a teacher or other skilled speaker who can serve as a linguistic exemplar, someone whose example can be followed, a learner is likely to miss out on important nuances in language that can only be communicated from person to person. Teaching requires the ability to communicate ideas well, motivate students, and be creative.