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Tuesday, July 31, 2001

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Multifaceted personality

THE PROCESS of learning involves extrinsic motivation as well as intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation can be factors such as job opportunities or social status, while intrinsic are the physical conditions of a classroom, the method of teaching, and more importantly the teacher. If one takes into consideration the teaching of English language, one would realise that most students think that it is an inessential element placed in the path of their success. With the ever-burgeoning interest in professions dealing with computers, technical areas such as engineering, and to some extent medicine, the role of English is totally neglected. The need for English serves presently only for the purpose of qualification. The never-ending debate about the importance of the mother tongue over the English language has become the source of various kinds of impositions by the lawmakers on the hapless teaching and student community. These demonstrations have served to lower the significance of English among youngsters.

Many forget the power of the language, which is essential if one needs to climb the competitive world. It is this realisation that has made youth from countries like Taiwan, China, Japan and Korea spend their hard earned money to go to the U.S. or Canada and acquire the language in order to be part of the new era.

In such an environment, one needs to pay a little more attention to the intrinsic motivation, for students can be galvanised by a good teacher. A skilful teacher with some endeavour can make English Language Teaching stimulating and interesting.

Before discussing the teacher's role, it is to be realised that even aspects such as the classroom and teaching methods employed go a long way in sustaining interest. The classroom is an important aspect in the teaching process. Most classrooms are not well ventilated and added to this problem is overburdened with too many students.

Most educators while discussing the learning of the English language discuss the role of policy makers, the method of communication and the textbooks employed, but they do not discuss an important area such as the teacher's role and the students' behaviour. The teacher in the class should realise that s/he is a multifaceted personality doing various roles such as a controller, an assessor, an organiser, a tutor, and a facilitator. In a classroom, the teacher's role as a controller is important, for, then s/he will be controlling what the students do, as well as what they speak and when they speak. But one should remember that this role is only essential if the teacher has to teach or introduce new elements of language, which need correct reproduction. It would be judicious if the teacher in a language class realises that s/he should not control all activities, for, language is learnt only through interaction. It is this folly that has resulted in students learning the language till Class X but unable to use it effectively for communication purposes.

The teacher is the tutor who serves as a guide and resource person for the students. The students function well if they recognise the teacher as some one who will shoulder their responsibility. Students' behaviour is also important if the teacher is aware of the importance of communicative teaching and decides to use student groupings in the classroom. Group work is an attractive solution to teaching in large classrooms but may be a little noisy. It can be effective in mixed classrooms for handling different types of tasks, from less challenging to highly challenging, depending upon the groups. The greatest worry that English teachers face is the disrespectful attitude of the students. The need to overcome this depends, for the most part, on the teacher. If the teacher is well prepared, has a good command of language and is able to be authoritative, then students tend to listen rather than create problems. Teachers need to be supported by the institution, which would give them a fair hearing and settle a problem amicably.

It is essential to realise that class management is an important aspect in language teaching. Even though most of the language teaching is based on texts, it is essential for the teacher to draw out the language skills and train the students in these. If the teacher is aware of this, then he needs to work a little harder to ensure the success of language importation.

The teacher should also be aware of developing knowledge. This would involve keeping in touch with educational journals and magazines, participating in seminars, sharing classroom incidents with colleagues, discussing teaching methods with other teachers, and keeping in touch with educational organisations interested in language teaching.

Luce Prodromu in the article, "The good teacher" states that the teacher functions as a manager, model, mentor, counsellor, informant, facilitator, social worker and friend. Any language activity can be useless if the teacher does not recognise the roles s/he has to play and does not have the ability to facilitate learning in an interesting and stimulating manner. The teacher should thus have the ability to make the course interesting, explain clearly and concisely, speak well, communicate with all students, show patience, be authoritative and just pay individual attention and help weak students. When attention is paid to such details, the language classrooms tend to become a hub of inspiration and creativity. As Horace Mann states, "A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron."


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