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  1. #1
    TomUK is offline Member
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    Default SOS! English Teacher Can't Speak English! - What Can I Do?

    I am currently staying in a small village in Isaan (Thailand) and several times I was asked to go to the village primary school to teach a little bit of English. I finally gave in and my idea was that I would attend English classes where the teacher would ask the students to talk to me in English using whatever vocabulary they already know. But what I then experienced made me want to cry:

    I was greeted by the headteacher who could only speak very little English – fair enough, he doesn't teach the language. The students who I was supposed to teach then asked me to come to their classroom. Inside six students where sitting at their desks watching a video which showed English words for Thai food, and in the same room two other students were watching another video about geometry. There was no teacher present and the level of noise from these videos was quite high. The remote controls did not seem to work and so I just pulled the plugs. I then gathered all the students in one part of the room and tried to find out what their English knowledge was like. They were all about 10 years old and their English was fairly limited and when I asked to see the study books they were using it transpired that there were no books. So I then insisted on the English teacher to appear in the classroom and to teach English so that I could observe what English vocabulary the students know. It turned out that the teacher could hardly speak any English – actually the student's English was better than his. He then proceeded to write lists of words on the blackboard which he copied from a notebook, some of them weren't even spelled correctly. I was then asked to read these words aloud and then the students had to repeat what I had said. I personally found this to be a totally pointless exercise. If these words had appeared in a story the students had studied I wouldn't have minded, but these were just random lists (e,g, drama, music, western, horror movie, romance, comedy etc.) with no real life value for the students as far as I am concerned. I was at the school from 09:00 – 11:30 and that's all we did.

    Later I was told that English classes are normally on Wednesdays and Thursdays, so I will go back there tomorrow for some more “fun” , and my hope is that the English teacher will stay in the teacher room while I am in the classroom, because I will not allow a repeat of this farce in my presence.

    I am not an English teacher and I have no teaching experience whatsoever, but I am thinking of teaching the children words from their village environment like house, farm, cow, fence etc. This way I hope these words will have some meaning for them and they might remember them after I have left. I will only be in the village for another three weeks and therefore what I can do will be very limited. I have already given up on the idea of discussing Hamlet in the third week (that was a joke). I would value any input from English teachers regarding what I could or should do.

    By the way, in spite of what I have written above I enjoyed the experience with the children very much.


    TomUK

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: SOS! English Teacher Can't Speak English! - What Can I Do?

    However useless, the teacher is a permanent fixture at the school, so try to keep them on board and when you have to work with him, then don't show him up even if the activity is rubbish. If you work with him, then try to make suggestions outside the classroom so that improvements can appear to be coming from him, inspired by your presence to new heights. If you take him on in front of the students, it will be counter-productive and the barriers will come up. Increments may work better than rebellion.

    Your idea of teaching them words related to their environment is a good one. Try to get that going- it can then be the basis for progress in talking about their lives, which is real communication and learning. But try at the same time to teach the teacher- in rural settings, it's not uncommon to find this sort of teaching and teacher, but I would allow farces in my presence and try to improve them before and after- during is not the time IMO.

  3. #3
    TomUK is offline Member
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    Default Re: SOS! English Teacher Can't Speak English! - What Can I Do?

    Tdol, I appreciate your words. I would very much prefer to work together with the teacher, but he made it difficult right from the start. First, he was nowhere near the classroom when I arrived. I had to ask for him several times before he finally turned up. Second, I would have preferred to talk to him first about what the students know and then to go to the classroom together. Good thing was that I did not have to be introduced to the children. Two students are from my host family and I think the whole village knows who I am anyway.

    After I started the thread yesterday, I was asked by another teacher to attend her class. When I arrived she was teaching maths to some students while another group of five children were watching an English lesson on TV. I joined them and helped with the pronunciation of words. I was shocked to find that the short film was full of bad and incorrect English. Something I had also noticed in some of the English study books my host family had bought. The experience with the female teacher was completely different. She does not teach English, but she could speak it well enough to talk to me, and she also showed an interest in learning more English herself. After lunch I was asked to go through a multiple choice test with a group of students. Each question described a little scene, sometimes with a drawing, and the students had to fill in the correct word or expression. They had all written down the number of the correct answer in a notebook and I assume that was some kind of homework. When I asked them to read the question and the answer I found that some of the students could not read at all. Makes me wonder how they could have answered the questions. Later we went to a different room where we all sat around a big table and I was asked to pose questions to the students: What do you buy? What is your favourite food? What do you like? - I don't think I want to hear the word “banana” again for the next few weeks. Then I tried different questions, but you can only play this game for so long before it gets boring for the students and the teacher. Luckily, we then reached the end of the school day.

    Well, today is another day.


    TomUK

  4. #4
    TomUK is offline Member
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    Default Re: SOS! English Teacher Can't Speak English! - What Can I Do?

    After having tried to teach English for about a week now, I have found out that there is no English teacher as such. All teachers at the school are just primary school teachers, who, without much training and knowledge of the language, have been tasked to teach English in addition to all the other subjects. Their main teaching function is reduced to turning on the English TV program and making sure that the students listen to it. It is no wonder that the knowledge of English these children possess is rather poor.

    TomUK

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