Teachers, step aside please

There’s nothing more mysterious and frustrating to the Westernized ESL teacher than the Asian way of teaching English in jr/sr high schools. It’s no wonder kids have trouble acquiring the language with the way things are.

Pardon the rant, but what’s with the “sage on the stage” teachers everywhere? Do they really believe students are going to learn English passively? Do they think student motivation is going to grow the more they go into detail about English grammar rules?

It’s a shameful disgrace, I tell you. I’ve been around thousands of Japanese students over the years, and nearly every student I’ve met wants to be a good English speaker. I’ve seen it in South Korea, too. In what other school subject can you see this kind of desire? It’s an incredible phenomenon, yet the education system loses these kids by the millions every year because they make studying English incredibly boring, stressful and just lame.

Then they hire native English speakers, people like me. We are everywhere in Asia, placed in schools to teach “Oral Communication” classes. We’re supposed to be some kind of magic pill to get students to enjoy using the English that’s now been tainted in fingernails-scraping-the-blackboard grammar classes.

But we’re a drop in the ocean. It’s like throwing cheesecake underwater; one fantastic 45-minute lesson a week is not going to go far.

Let go of the helm, oh ye teachers and Ministries of Education. You know who you are. Just get out of the way! Your students know a lot more than you about what makes them learn, so please spend more time making your classes active, engaging and fun places to be for them. And many of you should seriously consider taking time off to brush up your English, because even your students are laughing at you behind your backs.

I want to start a student-centered teaching revolution in Asia, who’s with me?!?


2 thoughts on “Teachers, step aside please

  1. I don’t know enough about Asian systems of learning (although I’ve heard it’s a lot of grammar and drilling) but it seems to be the same here, too. I was once failed by an inspector who didn’t like my methods, because he saw me teaching the use of possessive adjectives with short dialogues and games, and the lesson I then gave them consisted of drawings illustrating the different adjectives (i.e.: a man pointing towards himself: MY name is Joe.) , instread of a proper list English / French. I tried to protest, but he said we were here to learn, not to play games, and that what I was doing was not the accepted (understand compulsory) method of doing things. Yet, a week later, I had an almost 100% success rate on the test !!! Arrrgh !!! Really makes you want to howl !!!

  2. Rebecca, your story is so frustrating to read. The ‘expert’ who reviewed your class may need to be reviewed himself! I would guess that his rapport with students can’t hold a candle to yours.
    There isn’t 1 teacher in the whole world who is perfect, we all are challenged every day by our students in so many ways. One of the hardest aspects of our profession is the teacher review process – it doesn’t exist in many schools, in some schools it’s controlled by people who don’t really know what they’re doing, and I’m sure in many schools it is properly managed and people ‘get it’. It’s a crucial part of our job to be able to take criticism from others on how to improve our teaching, but many of us are so autonomous that we’re not so open to it. But that’s a story for perhaps another blog rant!

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