There are always terrible teachers out there

There are always terrible teachers out there

Just to put my oar in again on the native speaker vs non-native English speaker argument. native speakers can be great teachers or terrible ones… as can NON native speakers. The problem is definitely partly due to the government and schools assuming that native speakers are the only correct option.

Years ago, when I first came to the country to work on a conservation project, then looked for a way to stay here, people told me to teach English, to which I replied that I didn’t know how. “Of course you do - you come from England!” “Well, by that rule, all Thais should be capable of teaching Thai language…” To this, most people then had to concede that they couldn’t in fact teach Thai despite being Thai.

Despite my self-confessed lack of teaching ability, I got a teaching job, and probably messed with a lot of kids’ heads in the early days. But I learnt how to teach, and am now in a position to look at other teachers and comment on their abilities.

And I have to say that there are loads of native speakers out there who have no idea how to grade their language to an appropriate level for their students. There are even plenty of qualified teachers who may have been great at teaching, say, biology, in their home country, but cannot accept that to teach it to non native speakers, they have to change their methods and the way they introduce both concepts and vocabulary.

So it’s not where you come from, but how well you can grasp where your students are coming from.

But it’s true, I’m sure, that part of the problem is the students’ lack of motivation, especially in areas of the country where there are less foreigners. I look back to my own experiences of learning languages at school in the UK - I didn’t see German as very useful - after all, I had never been, and never planned to go, to Germany!

And then a big part of the problem still lies with the Thai concept of learning. Someone said that all their students say “I want to learn English”, and yet seem to put in no effort - well, the education system has taught them that ‘learning’ is just remembering a set of facts or figures. They expect that learning a language involves sitting there and letting the teacher pour the language into their brains. The concept of active learning does not exist for most Thai students of English, and that is the fault of the system, not the students.

Despite this, an increasing number of Thai people DO learn to speak and write English very well. Hats off to them for realising what they have to do, and doing it. I will continue to teach as well as I can, because just a few of my students look like they’re turning into those self-motivated learners - and it’s my job to encourage them.

Lucie


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