Teach English in Dagui Zhen - Ankang Shi

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There has been a lot of research into the teacher’s roles in communicative language teaching, and today’s classification is pretty extensive and detailed. Most teachers are aware of such well-established roles as facilitator, organizer, planner, counselor, etc. Besides, it is quite easy to find description of basic roles on the Internet should you have any questions on what each role comprises. Here I would rather talk about the roles that stand out for me due to my personality, temperament and work experience. The first and the most fundamental is the role of a motivator or, as I like to call it, a driver. I believe this one lies both within and beyond classwork. There is one and easier part here, which is to encourage your students to act and take initiative in class. It requires interesting context which is relevant to students’ background and tasks which match the level and the personality. Another part, more difficult to manage, is motivating students to do homework, especially project work, such as surveys, research, recorded roleplays, creative essays. Here besides the context and the task itself, you need to establish rapport and trust, you need to become a significant personality for the students, so that you could involve them into a really challenging effort. And certainly you yourself must be driven by the task for them to catch this drive. It goes easier if you have a lot in common with your students, but if not, then you have first to look into what might interest them and then take on this interest too. Let me mention here an example from my experience. I typically feel insecure about roleplays, because many people are reluctant to act. And once I decided to take this challenge with a pretty bright group of adult students: I prepared a roleplay of an argument for free practice. In order to encourage my students to take up this hard job, I provided lots of support. First we saw some funny videos showing people arguing including a hilarious piece on evolution from “Friends”. We had a laugh, of course. Then we identified the strategies used in the videos and worked on useful language. Finally I let each pair of students pick a role card and a few strategies and asked them to prepare, perform and record the roleplays using their choices outside the class. I could see it in their faces that the task was really challenging. I told them I could see it and I also told them that I had tried hard to make it interesting and that if they tried too, we would get something extraordinary. And I told them I believed in them. It was a kind of inspirational speech, I would say. So, not all, but two of the pairs managed to bring their records to the next class. It was clear that they had planned and practiced really well and played with energy and spirit. Moreover, they had added some funny pictures of their characters or some cool sound effects. We all listened to these audio plays trying to identify the strategies they had used, and we all laughed and praised the actors. It was a great success and one of my most memorable teaching moments. The second role which is vital for me is the role of a presenter. This one is played within a class, most often in a PPP model but also in a different lesson type. And it is my favourite. I like telling fascinating stories and I imagine that each lesson is one fascinating story, whose parts are all nicely connected and whose climax, whose centre is the presentation. Everything else is around the beautiful picture called presentation. Lead-in serves as an introduction and practice stage naturally develops from the centre, supported by smooth bridges. A lot depends on presentation: students’ interest, understanding and involvement, which all affect their performance during the practice stage of the class and their overall learning results in the long run. I always try to keep my presentation energetic, logical and relevant. By relevance I mean the context of the presentation should be meaningful for students, i.d. related to their backgrounds. Where I usually get ideas for lesson presentations: for example, once in class one of the students told us that she and her friends had found a sick pregnant dog in the street. They took it to the vet and now are trying to save her and her puppies. Everybody listened to her with interest. I made a mental note of this story and now I plan to build one of my presentations around animal charity. They say and I agree that people most willingly talk about themselves, so if you want them to speak, give them a change to speak about what relates to their lifestyles, opinions and routines. Finally, I would like to write about the role that I need to work on most. And this is the role of a monitor during free practice pair work or group work. I know well that the teacher must not interfere during this stage, but solely observe and collect errors for post-activity analysis. However, I often end up taking part in students’ conversations, reacting to their ideas or opinions. I am genuinely interested in what they say, so it is hard for me to keep this interest down to myself. I could say “Wow!” or “Really” or add a joke or ask a question, etc. Currently I am trying to minimize such interference so that students do not feel my watchful eye kept on them all the time. These have been my major highlights and concerns regarding the teacher’s roles.