Thursday, February 17, 2011

What is a teacher?

It’s a big question. Let me explain how we have worked as a learner > teacher setup for the last 6 weeks with K, our Arabic teacher.

We have the book, we do a units work (3-4hours work in the evening after work, food and Eastenders ) and then visit him on Saturday. He goes through the homework, corrects what we have written, does a bit of drilling to improve our pronunciation and, that’s it. Then we go away and do 4 hours homework the next week. We return to his space and the cycle repeats. We are learning quite alot, but all the real teaching and certainly the learning is done by me, my girlfriend and the book in a social-constructivist space on our sofa when we really don’t feel like it.

I certainly feel that the routine is really helpful. We were useless on our own as ‘independent learners’ (prior to having a teacher) we never opened a book or played with the DVDS, we messed about on youtube, did a few photocopies and that was about it. So the whole setup; having a teacher; a routine; assistance; feedback on mistakes; a space to go and ‘be taught’ all these things have helped.

Our teacher is confident in his ability to do what he does, because he has done so, alongside his main work as a translator, for 2 years. However, his role in actually teaching us is limited. He provides us with a routine, he assists but I would argue he rarely explicitly teaches us. For me a teacher would teach you something, set you on your way and then set some homework for additional practice. I don’t want to do down on this guy but if you are going to call yourself a teacher, teach. Don’t just correct us. Lead us. Make materials for us. Create a game for us to play. Give us a dialogue to do. Write on the board. Focus us on meaning then form. Manage the time. Set lesson aims. Get us to write on each other’s backs. Make us stand up when we are tired. Focus on accuracy and fluency. Be a teacher. Or be a homework tutor, perhaps.

I am fairly straight up when it comes to this question but I am not sure if I am being fair. How would you feel if you were in the same position? Would you say anything? Do you think I am moaning about having to do some work? Is 90mins too short to do anything but correct homework? I must say that we are on our way to achieving our goals and he’s been good at focusing us on this. So if we are learning is he teaching? Is the fact we are learning enough?


  1. Teresa (from Dublin)February 19, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    "Is the guy teaching or not?"

    Is it really that important? I see your point, Ed, but if you feel that you are learning and improving and you feel motivated...

    Plus, it's not like you're going to spend 5 years learning Arabic with this guy. You just need something quick so you can survive in Syria in 2 weeks time, right?

    (Btw, I keep posting comments on this blog so that you don't stop writing. I find it very interesting and would be sorry if you stopped due to a lack of audience...)

  2. Nice one Teresa. I appreciate it. It's nice to know there's an audience! You can also follow using an rss feed so you get pinged everytime I write something new. We are here, so more soon. the egg

  3. I agree that the lessons seem to be working in terms of keeping you motivated, but then any kind of lessons would have that effect. I also think though that to prepare two absolute beginners for life in a new linguistic environment, you need to keep the lesson focus on speaking, and reserve other stuff for homework only, checking very quickly at the beginning of the lesson. To that end, there do need to be more controlled speaking activities such as role play and games, as you say.

    BTW, hope all is well with the Masters and best of luck in Syria.