Monday, 29 June 2015

Discussions--Series 26--ELT Professionals Around the World

Please see Post 68 and then come back here. Thank you.

Discussions--Series Twenty-Six
Topic 93
Anes Abdelrahim Mohamed Lecturer at Kansai Gaidai University
What invaluable lessons have you learned from your students?
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Never to underestimate them and never to overestimate them.
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Don't judge anyone's intelligence based on the low-level of their other language, often they are more intelligent, more educated and more experienced in life than we could imagine.
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Be friendly, not friends. Let them know the difference.
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I learned Patience !
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that to get people interested, you might just have to tap into their interests.
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All about business - such as quality issues. They are the experts.
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Being friendly - definitely - though I don't see any reason for not being friends as well. That depends on that speacial relationship people develop.
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The most invaluable lesson that I have learnt from my students is that they value honesty and fairness. Once the students know that you want their good and are fair they will climb mountains for you. Yes they will test our limits but once they know that we mean business they start delivering. The beautiful thing about this whole process is that we may take a year to know them and assess them but students assess teachers in two minutes. Most of the time their assessments are better than those of supervisors and HR departments put together
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Be kind to everyone, regardless of nationality, religion, stature, etc.
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Hi there
I have learnt many things from my students.. but above all they have taught me to trust, and to be faithful
My students are great..
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The big one - how to be a better teacher.
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How to listen more carefully before elucidating a topic, how to be more patient and caring, how to excel in managing students...
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learning is a never ending process
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If you believe that teaching & learning goes beyond the classroom, and if you believe that grades are not the only indicator of capability, then there's no such thing as a bad student.
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Who we are
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How to stay young in my way of thinking. How to make friends of the young. What problems people face while learning. These are just a few ideas, but Anes, your question is a good one for all teachers to ask themselves. It reminded me of just how much teaching is a "two-way street" and that teachers benefit as much from the experience of teaching as do the students benefit from the teaching. Thanks!
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students are the key to our atmost strengths and weaknesses. There is nothing called a bad learner, but there is a weak instructor. Always be clear and creative.
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I have painfully learnt many times never to judge a student for who they are no matter what I see from the outside. Each one has his or her own story and to be able to take them from where they come has been a truly enriching experience..
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I appreciate the argument about two way learning process. As far as I have experienced never let your students know that you are weak in a certain area. Try to update your knowledge not only about your subject Area but also about modern foods, technological gadgets, and probably about new genres of music as well. Students love to discuss about what they are interested in.
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What invaluable lessons have you learned from your students?
Too many things among them are the value of appreciation, Value, endurance and most importantly to see my students who thought they could not become the best they could be.
Ability to change their mindset from negative thoughts and the most effective positive thinking,
Teaching is also the source of learning. 
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An interesting discussion. I totally agree that teaching is a source of learning. So best teachers keep on learning. I think this year I have learned the following from my students -
* class management
* taking interest in the learning process
3) work hard to prepare for post class activities
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Cultural differences are great. Classes will be dull without them. I am talking her about my ESL students.
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That being with them is the only time I have no stress! Children are the best!
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Determination in learning a language. One of my students watched a movie 50 times, took notes consistently, and made a list of idionatic expressions he used in practice.
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Who will let you know what you need to know right before you need to know it.
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Don't EVER think you have class management off pat, especially with large classes - or with groups of 14-year-olds, come to that.

I have been teaching English for nearly 40 years, but this year I had an obese student (male) stand up in front of another 50 students (uni master's) and show a full 360 degrees nether regions. I basically just told him to put it all away, but the other students said I was rude, in the evaluations.

I had a similar thing happen with a 14-year-old boy, except that he wanted me to feel him up then, when I refused, he started touching up all the girls.HIM I could report to the headmaster. In this case, I got a high five from all the girls. The rest of the boys all got a bit nervous, and stood in line after class to ask if they had done anything wrong (which, in my eyes, they hadn't - but they all thought they had).

So B2 Business English Master's KO, but same level 14-year-old OK. Because the guy was obese, I shouldn't have told him to pull his trousers up? I would have done the same thing if he hadn't been. What is this?

So, you have 2 gays, thrusting away at each other in the middle of a densely-packed 200 student room. I told them to save it for later, and it worked. One of them went on to become a model student. In uni cases, I can't really report them, uless behaviour is life-threatening...
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I really learnt to find a common emotional interest/trigger and walla...applies from teenies to executives. Something magical happens when the focus is shifted from groannnn English language...to a discussion on...EVERYTHING...Stds dig deep to communicate..love lessons.. I am currently experimenting with... how to videos to get this across as if in a live classroom. Any ideas please. Nancy
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With the groups I have had this year, the males only seemed to be interested in sex, while the females were interested in avoiding anything to do with it. The only groups where I managed to achieve a common focus were examination classes and advanced business.
What you learn from your students is that their focus changes every year, their gestures and mother-tongue slang changes every year and they "test you out" every year. Plus, every so often, a really intelligent student asks you a question you have never thought about. Happens less and less often as you get older, but still happens.
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not to give up hope
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Great question! My students have taught me to teach well and that if I give 100%, they will too.
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Be flexible during your lesson, feel the energy of your students and let them help to guide the lesson that you have planned based on their needs. Also, leave whatever troubles you have at the door... whether the troubles be with your personal life, with your work life, with something else... at the end of the day, remember: your students have troubles as well, and they make the time to come to class regardless and try to improve themselves and their language skills. You owe it to them to do the same!
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Well said Nicole - couldn't agree more! Where did the florencian advert spring from ...
With my students I learned to be resilient, patient and honest.
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I've learned from a few of them that it's ok, even exemplary, to admit that a teacher isn't allknowing and that he or she also constantly needs to keep learning.
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How to learn, study and enjoy any language.
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"My students have taught me to teach well and that if I give 100%, they will too."

Unfortunately, in my university environment, I have learned that if you give 100% they will look down on you, and consider that you must be relatively unqualified. You are supposed to look down your nose at them (in my case hard - since I'm 5'1") and act superior.

My advanced class also told me this year that having a drink or a pizza with me would be like fornicating with their own mother!

In ALL OTHER CASES I've found that, if you go the extra mile, they will too.
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Re: Nicole. After having gone in to teach 3 hours after learning that my husband had been killed in an accident, I think I DO leave my troubles at the door.

But what about an environment where the students are all TAKE and no give?

Teaching in any other place than this gives me energy after class, not exhaustion. Yet no place else head hunted me, promoted me and wants to keep me.
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Be empathetic. I never used to let my zero beginners point to the words when learning to read. Until I started learning to read Arabic and could not manage without pointing to the words as I struggled to decode the unfamiliar script.
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My students have taught me the beauty and grit within the teaching/learning process. They have made me a wiser more compassionate person. I am proud of the proactive adults they have become. 
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Be a friend who supports them with a lot of patience.
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Supportive and patient definitely. Friendly absolutely but you are a teacher not a friend IMHO.
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Not a friend - that depends. You cannot stop the natural instinct that sometimes develops between two people that becomes friendship. It depends on the ages of the students, cultural expectations and things like that. If the students are adult EFL/ESL and I am the EFL/ESL teacher, that is one thing - I have lifelong friends from among my past students. If they are 15 or 16 or something like that, even if the friendship is real - there are so many other cultural and social things around that that such friendship can be misunderstood.

However, a desire to be "a friend on purpose" can all to often come across as false - and so counterproductive. Being friendly is great - but it has to be honest friendly, not strategic friendly; being a confidant is also at times important (though can be a double edged sword). Supportive and patient - these perhaps should be part of the examination or whatever to get one's teaching "licence" - you fail these, you fail the test.
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I have also cemented relationships with old students especially in my role as a mentor but I am not sure I could call them in the middle of the night and say help! That is one of my criteria of a true friend.
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True, Jill. All too true.
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The most important thing I've learned is to be genuine with students and to treat them with respect and compassion while encouraging them to explore their assumptions about English and themselves.
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Never give up! The weaker students are the most challengening and rewarding!
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learned to support weak and demotivated students
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NEVER give up on any student! I learned that with with hard work and determination you can find a way to motivate even those who at first seem so hopeless.. your effort will always pay off!
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To be patient, experimental, risk- taking, to value my own skills as a teaching professional, and to never give up!
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Re: Never give up on weaker students.

I think it was my 3rd of 4th tutoring contract that taught me how feelings can shape attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs: essentially, self-efficacy. It was the 12 yr old son of an immigrant in Canada for whom English was just 'so hard'. Through, my line of questioning, I attempted to prove to him that he actually knew more than he thought he did.

Many years later, I've come to realize just how pervasive the phenomenon is of emotions shaping perceptions, thoughts, and resulting actions.
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Always ask "why?"
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RE friendships: I have a friend - an ex student (Albanian), who I DID call in the middle of the night and ask for help. Took him about 25 minutes to get there and sort things. Only one though... However, I currently have an 18-year-old student I could call in the middle of the night. he would wake his mother, and his mother would come :)

RE students from zero: I wish I still had some! I used to do zero to fair B2 in 2 years (only scheduled lessons). Or, in one case, they gave me the whole company, and I did zero to professionally functional in a matter of months. It really beats teaching people who have been mis-taught for (at least) 10 years previously, which is what I am doing now,

The latter taught me that my course really worked, that someone COULD start from zero and reach B2 in 2 years without extra tuition., and that what I prescribed DID work with adults in various professional roles. I was given free reign this once (although I was with an agency) and it worked! My uni course also worked, when I was able to establish the hours.

It makes me cry to see students who couldn't say a word i English come to visit speking perfect, fluent English. 
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inquisitiveness
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"zero to B2 in two years ... that's a joke" - in which sense?

If the student literally starts off from zero "content" of the language, then isn't that literally zero to B2 - or C1 or C2, regardless of how it was done (just asking, that's all).
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Got you - on the whole I agree with that - that if you have another language to help (regardless of how close or distant it is), then that is not actually learning a language from literally zero. We all use our first (and/or nth) language to help us learn the new language, both overtly and covertly - and, of course, we know what language is for, which is a very big help.

Of course, when we commonly say "from zero to B2" - we mean quite banally "zero content" of that language.

As for the relatedness factor - important, but not necessarily the most important. Interest and determination are the two key factors, while closeness does help in many ways - though in others can be a hindrance; the closer the language, at times the more difficult at times it can be to get proper competence in the new language.

There is a converse psychology at play - if you know the languages are very similar, you get lazy through assumption of similarity; if you know the language is very different, you are more likely to pay attention and therefore to learn more effectively. For Portuguese teachers, Spanish, Italian and French students are the worst. They assume similarity that is not there.

A student of mine - Yemeni Arabic from Saudi Arabia - came to the school I worked at in Brighton (UK) in a January in around 2006 with A1 English - and at the end of the year, in the December round, did the CAE exam and passed it. Admittedly not literally zero content English, but still, he obviously was really interested and dedicated.
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I have also had experiences like Helen's - and have seen them over the last 10 years, as the organisations I worked in dealt with that kind of coursework.

It can really happen - as long as the students/company are really dedicated. The dedication can be things like a local electronics company having been taken over by General Electric, and a local Manager has to learn English to a "porfessional level" within 6 months or lose his job (I have had a few students like this back in the day when companies like General Electric were fanatical about the Language of the Company). Psychologically speaking it makes sombre students - but all being equal, amazingly dedicated learners who even turn their mobiles off in class.

Santander, when it took over Abbey National in the UK, had the same expectations of their British managers, to learn Spanish to at least a working B2 level within a year, and hopefully well beyond that at the end of the second year. Whether reality lives up to expectations is another thing, of course.

More commonly the dedication comes from needing the language to increase business and realising that if you don't speak the partner's language, you miss half of not only the marketing appeal you yourself present, but also the cultural backgrounding and a host of other stuff.

What all this really means in actual language level and competencies is of course another thing. We can never really equate a good B2 level in English or Spanish with what would be the equivalent of a native speaker at that level, let alone with a native speaker of the language with the same job skills set.
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I have learned that I should keep on learning,and that each student is unique and should be handled in a different manner.I have also learned to be patient and to teach with strictness and at the same time on a friendly basis. I believe a teacher should have psychological skills which I think will naturally develop along the process of teaching.
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In companies, it was more or less as Rod says. However, you get so angry you "eat your elbows" (as they say in Italian) when the company effs over your student and wastes your collective time by assigning them to some place where they will not be using their newly acquired language - especially when they are close to retirement age and have been forced to learn a language they really, really didn't want to learn in the first place (and to travel miles to learn it) only to, basically, completely earn the right to a pension. That was the PPG effect (Pittsburgh Paint and Glass). Maybe someone just had to spend out the budget, and some students who weren't going to need were roped in. On the other hand, PPG DID allow me to gain a lot of experience teaching students who had very little schooling and did not speak standard Italian (some of them could barely write). But there was no B2 level involved here: they were techies. Infinitives, future = will before verbs, etc. They just had to understand other techies, as PPG was buying up all over.

I think that, today, it would be hard to find a student in Italy who had zero English (content), as even little ones have Peppa pig, while the older ones have English music, English ads and so on. In these cases, with a "zero" student, it's a bit like "connect the dots".

However, up to 2005, I always had a class at university where half of them came from tiny little places in the mountains up near France or down in the south, where cell phones didn't work and which sometimes couldn't get TV either. The lucky ones had a bit of German, the less lucky ones a bit of French. Both of these varieties would also have spoken a dialect of course.

I used to set the absbegs (as we called them) against the "false beginners" and it always gave me such a thrill to see the former overtake the latter by the end of the first term. Most of the time, the false beginners had been taught their English by a teacher who had never been to an English speaking country, and were struggling to make sense of the conflict between what had got them good grades at school and what I was teaching them now - most of which, of course, they thought they already knew. It was humiliating for them to be put in my class, which was a further psychological downside. So I shouldn't be crowing about things really. Fact is, the vast majority of the false beginners did not make B2 in the 2 years, while the dedicated ones in the absbegs did. Remember also, that Internet was not an option for anyone in these classes. Otherwise, they would not have been at the level they were. Most of them were not used to mobile phones because their home area wasn't covered.

In 2006, the Revolution started... 

Me
I was teaching Milton's Paradise Lost Book IX to undergraduate arts and science students in the 1960's when a student asked me: Sir, why should we learn Milton at all? I was speechless for almost a minute and the hundred and odd waiting. I said I have no answer to that question. Thank you for asking. My conscious mind didn't engage the problem but my subconscious had started thinking about the relevance of a syllabus to a set of students (I also saw the inadequacy of the syllabus to teach English as a language) and had set the tone for expressing my thoughts on these in the 1970s and later, too through several articles that got published in the States and India.

I not only grew as a teacher improving every year, I also began to think about the approaches and the methods recommended by white experts and diligently followed by brown experts and saw flaws, especially ignoring to focus on reading skills which nonnative learners in nonnative environments required to pursue higher studies that are offered only through English.

I saw even English medium students struggling to express themselves while facing an audience and that made me train my students in public speaking.

In one sentence, my students made me what I am as a teacher.
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<< I think the industry should be sending out this message loud and clear.>>

Why would it? There's not much interest in qualitatively testing learner competence apart from tests such as TOEFL, IELTS, etc and that's holds true for ESL, EFL and other language programs. And as my thread on interpersonal communication skills reveals, there's not much interest in attempting to measure such skills (assuming they too can help rate of SLA) and possibly because no one can agree on what they are. While language aptitude tests do exist, they're not widely used. Did you note that not even David Thornton seemed aware of the 21st century one I'd brought to his attention? I'm still awaiting his reply:
<<I shall comment on CANAL-F when I have finished looking at it ...>> 9 days ago
(see: https://www.linkedin.com/grp/post/3460329-6009367808050212868?goback=%2Egna_3460329)

As for other determinants of success, has anyone even bothered to objectively assess degrees of motivation(s)? Along with intrinsic/extrinsic, S. Thornbury describes instrumental, integrative, intrinsic, and resultative in his 'An A to Z of ELT'.

My point in all this is that if the more we know about someone's ZPD, the more we can maximize the learning potential not only of the strongest but also, and---this may seem paradoxical to some---especially of the weakest.