Monday, 29 June 2015

Discussions---Series 5--ELT Professionals Around the World


Please visit post 68 and come back here. Thank you.
Discussions—Series Five
Topic 42
Challenges faced by English language teachers
Albert P'Rayan Associate Professor of English & Head, Training Cell (KCG College of Technology) Top Contributor

English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers face many challenges in the English classroom. The education system may not be conducive for them, the students may lack motivation, teachers may not feel the need for professional development, etc.

What are the major challenges that you face in your country? What strategies do you suggest to overcome the problems?

You, Yuvaraj Dhanasekar and 3 others like this

assistant professor at Education Development Center
Out put is based on input.This is the Gospel Truth, Input - for example Reading , How many students either Engineering or Arts Students have the reading habit. Either English Novel Or English Dailies, Though teachings are in English, Conversation between the students and faculty is in vernacular medium. To conduct various competition to motivate the students is squarly declined by the management citing, to augment the pass percentage in major subjects ( though students are theoratically passing and practically failing ) and i can extend the matter to many words. To overcome the problem we can change the class room atmosphere into activity based classroom.
Narasimma N. likes this

English Teacher
Top Contributor
I think one of the biggest challenges that I face is that children in China are very much affected by the one-chil-policy but in place almost 3 decades ago. It has inspired a generation of young emperors who, get spoiled a lot by their parents. They are not often used to someone telling them what to do and when to do it.

While the majority of my students are generally well-behaved, I do have a few small princes and princesses who are very much used to having things "their way". On top of that, I do not want to be the angry foreign teacher, so I sometimes have to bite my tongue and calm myself down before handling classroom situations. That, in turn though, has improved my ability to handle these situations efficiently at without losing my temper.
Judy E.Albert P'Rayan like this

I think a big problem are the required curricula. I would require teachers to develop their own curriculum and apply it in the classroom.
Patricia R.Richard Tomlin and 1 other like this

I think a big problem are the required curricula. I would require teachers to develop their own curriculum and apply it in the classroom.

Teacher of English
I have many students who just don't want to study. This is my biggest challenge. I teach English language to young learners (9 - 15) and in every class there are some who are not interested in anything I (or my other colleagues) have to say... I tried all sorts of approaches... I always spend long hours reading to improve my skill, finding out new methods and activities to use in class. At first I blamed myself and kept looking for ways to get them involved, but now, I teach English the best I can hoping they actually learn something. I just don't understand why they act this way.

<I blamed myself>

Keep blaming yourself until you can keep your entire class engaged either with their work, or with you.
Richard Tomlin likes this

Thank you for your reply. In the same classes I have very good students who go to competitions and get high scores, I am happy to see the results of my work. I think I am a good, caring teacher. But there are some children who just don't care about their level of English knowledge, or any kind of knowledge. They never do any homework, never study anything for class. I talked to their family and form teachers, but in vain. I only have two classes of English per week and it is difficult to cover everything.

@Kumar, I do agree with your comment that many students are not used to reading these days. They don't read anything other than textbooks. I don't know whether this is a local or global trend. Others can comment on it. What steps should we English language teachers take to overcome this problem in your ESL class?

@Nelson Bank, are the teachers competent enough to prepare their own curriculum? Please throw light on this.

This is really aimed at those in charge but it's about time we started failing kids in exams. If the people in charge of education insist on your passing everyone taking an exam and your job is on the line if you don't, then quite frankly there is nothing for it. You might as well just do your best and pass everyone. The whole process has been rendered valueless in any case.

It was the same when I taught in England. The recipe was this: College funding was based on pass rates. That pressure was passed down the line to the poor old teachers and Hey presto!. Surprisingly pass rates are virtually 100%. Now I have seen the students, In fact I was one not all that long ago, and believe me, as a group, they are not that good!

While funding and success are linked the system WILL NOT WORK!
That cannot be solved at teacher level. That's a government thing. (I suggest breath holding is not a good idea at this moment in time. Possibly when Hell shows signs of cooling a little more (and other cynical comments like that).)

All that is happening now is every student passes his/her exam and the teachers are burning out.

All I can do when I leave the house is do my best for every student whoever they may be and wherever that may lead.
Anna Z. likes this

english teacher at Synergy International Training and Testing
Top Contributor
Hello group. My interpretation of Albert's post is personal experience. I am not a university qualified TESOL or ESL teacher just qualified through a Tesol academy with 6 certifications and an International Teachers Licence. Ok in Australia first, discrimination because of qualifications but able to volunteer to work with students at all levels to gain experience. Next discrimination in foreign countries because of qualifications, but able to get a work permit and teach at all levels.

To me a real ESL teacher is a front line teacher, to boldly go where most teachers fear to tread. Go with your life experience, willingness to learn and grow and not become effected by language barriers, personality conflicts, dirty conditions, poor salary, no resources, racial discrimination and people who say you cant teach.

Ok enough negative, we all come in contact with it, so the challenge is how do we convert it to something useful? Be strong, if you swim with sharks and there's blood in the water be strong, as long as its not your blood use your skills to survive. Try it with your students sometime.

Nelson, yes curriculum can be very challenging from country to country, but as an expert we
have to make it work. Part of the process of sorting the wheat from the chaff.
Mikkel, I have just finished a stint in China so I feel for you, I think Nelson was there to. Problem there I found was to much focus on the GOA KOA, hope I spelt in correct. University entrance exam.

Ana, my experience taught me to focus on the willing, but persevere with the unwilling relentlessly at your own pace. Dont give up just be persistant. A sculptor starts with a piece of stone but inside they know there is a work of art. chip, chip, chip. Education now has become a requirement in many countries and not a choice, is it the students choice or the parents pushing their kids. Ask the question.

Albert, hi. I started my working life at 16 as an apprentice Electrical Fitter and stayed in it for 12 years and became a tradesman. Later I joined the electrical industry for another 27 years, I have read and studied thousands of reference and trades books ( and most were totally boring or badly translated ) but now as an ESL teacher I can draw on and use that experience in my classroom. Many classes now in senior high school I will bring something in, for example a computer tower or DVD player with a tech book and get them to pull them to bits and write down the components and then encourage them to write a short essay on the experience. Usually the girls are better than the boys. There is resistance of course but usually a little grammar coercion homework does the trick.

What don't we learn at school, or what do we forget to have? " FUN."

Great post, Frank. Qualifications don't matter. Passion for teaching, positive attitude towards students and lessons learned from experience matter a lot. I do appreciate your positive attitude. Theoretical background too matters especially for those who are engaged in teaching English at the tertiary level.

 Me
Top Contributor
What I perceive expressed here is one of 'attitude' towards teaching and learning by the management, teachers and learners. Indifference to the attitudes of others (not in harmony with theirs) seems to rule the roost, and it's pervading. When will these join hands to work towards 'education'?

The committed teachers ARE, in the meantime, carrying on with their jobs, braving the odds.
Kudos to them!
Albert P'Rayan likes this

<never study anything for class>

I've had my doubts on whether homework is worth assigning. I guess it may not be good for grading, or maybe it could be extra credit.
I do so much work in class that homework would actually be extra. I get my students to work by constantly walking around the class, between rows, and monitor my students' work and give a partial grade as I walk by each student. They get 4-6 partial grades per class.

<students are not used to reading these days>

I asked a 10th grader in Mexico whether he read anything on his own. "No."

<teachers competent enough to prepare their own curriculum>

I think the point is, Will they ever be? Will we be putting too many people out of work if teachers now have to write their own curriculum?

English teacher
Top Contributor
I feel that children reluctance to reading is a global trend... Some of the blame can be put on parenting as reading to children should start long before school age .But as teachers I think we can overcome the problem by motivating our pupils in our own ways.By exposing our pupils to stories in which the learner becomes an active reader.Personally ,I choose short stories for my pupils( as they lose focus and get bored quickly) and prepare some engaging activities : information gap or drawing the characters or TPR( total physical response) activities such as read and run ...
It is hoped that when reading in class becomes a fun and enjoyable activity ,learners become more likely to get into the habit of reading on their own and develop it as a life-long activity.
Nelson Bank likes this

Top Contributor
I'd like to address the issue Ana brings up about the issue of motivation in students. When I taught in Singapore, there was absolutely no issue with motivation. Students and parents alike recognised the value of the subject. The adolescent immigrants and refugees that I teach now are mostly equally motivated. Many do not have family with them to give them the motivation. Some are fortunate to have carers who help with practice. As Samia points out, this home environment is crucial. I generally find talking to the families helps a great deal to motivate the students. For the few students who are more disinterested, I generally find some common ground to show them how improving their English will help them. For example, a unit on work would focus on how speaking correctly could get them that first job. Or how it would help them speak with native speaking shopkeepers.

Judith, does your post imply that it is the responsibility of the teacher to motivate the students and if any class has students who lack motivation then the teacher is responsible for students' lack of motivation?

Hello! I really like this conversation and I have a lot to learn from it. I want to mention that I teach young students in a public school, so they have an imposed set of subjects (English included) to study and many of them do not see the point of studying all of them. I believe it is the teacher's responsibility to motivate the learners and keep them motivated all along the course. Considering their age, I tell them it is important to study English to be able to understand their favourite film stars and singers, for travel and so on. Work is not one of their priorities at this age. And most of them like me and my teaching style and I am proud of them. But, as I said in my first comment here, there are some who just don't care, whatever I would do. I tried playing with them, listening to natives on some cassettes I have, reading authentic English pieces, using the textbooks we have in class; I think my classes are not boring at all. Motivating them just wasn't possible. And it doesn't happen in English only; they have the same problems in Maths, Biology and the rest of the subjects they study. I wonder if there is anything else that could be done for them. Their families don't help either.
Albert P'Rayan likes this

The teacher is not responsible for a students lack of motivation. The question really is whether we should recognise motivation as one factor in the ability of a student to be successful in his learning. The extent to which a teacher needs to factor in motivation depends on the age and type of programme the student is enrolled in. It is an interesting question and perhaps worth discussing in a different thread.
Albert P'RayanAna N. like this

At a recent conference in India when a presenter stated that most of his students lacked motivation and she found it difficult to develop her students' language skills, an administrator with 20 years of teaching experience asked the presenter, "Is it not the responsibility of the teacher to motivate her students?" My response to the administrator was this: "Even best motivators cannot motivate all the students. It is unfair to blame a teacher if her students lack motivation..." Lack of motivation among students is a major challenge English language teachers face in India.
Others, please let me know your comments.

I think the teacher is responsible of student motivation to a certain extent. Our job is not just instructing learners,showing what's right and what's wrong .It is mainly involving students in the learning process " tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I 'll learn".There are a variety of highly motivating activities I personally use in my own classes . Songs for instances are extremely motivating as music is said to activate, stimulate and use the entire brain. language games are also a good way to get students engaged ( word seach for instance is good for learners with short-term focus .Funny visuals are also goog to attract learners attention .But if we cannot motivate ALL the students mainly in large classes at least we do our best to help those who are more eager to learn.
Richard Tomlin likes this

english teacher at Synergy International Training and Testing
Top Contributor
After reading all the comments I feel we all share the common ideal. Do the best you can under the circumstances. When you feel tired and stressed, think of the Weeping Willow or a majestic palm tree. These trees have the ability to bend in the strongest winds or storms and stayed rooted into the ground and recover when calm prevails.

We all have different work loads and variations in types of student. Next week my new schedule starts, junior school ( middle school ) 4 classes 105 students age 7 - 10. Two different high schools 3 levels senior high school, 1st school 4 classes 135 students. 2nd school 3 classes 40 students ( lucky me ) total = 270 students. There is no way I could possibly motivate every student, but I try. Stay true to yourself and your ideals and they should carry you through.
Ana N.Richard Tomlin like this

Hi Albert, I want to add to my comment and say. Today I started a new class of 40 students and I had an opportunity to ask them, " why are you here in my class." The students are year 10 and they are moving from general english to international english. I asked the question directly, " who does not like english or want to study english?" " Who is here because their parents pushed them?" I got the expected result, about 5% to 10% indicated that was the reason.

My next comment may be a shocker to some but I told those students they are welcome to stay or leave but I will not allow them to interfer with the learning of the other students. What do you think their reaction was?

Me
Nelson, aren't you being a little pessimistic? Curriculum writers are no special breed; they must have had their share of teaching and may have qualified themselves with a certificate/degree. I'm sure almost all of us participating and contributing to the 'discussions' have enough experience that should stand in good stead if we were to write a curriculum. Don't you agree?
Albert P'Rayan likes this

<families don't help>

Try showing up at their home for a parent-teacher conference.

@Frank, I think they all stayed and accepted your conditions.This is exactly what I tell my students. And at first they all agree and things go just fine until we get to more difficult stuff like conditionals or passive transformations or essay writing. And then some just stop working and stay behind no matter what you do. Teaching goes well enough, they don't interfere with it, but they don't prepare anything for class. And I would like to see all my students interested in studying. Am I an idealist?

<not allow them to interfere with the learning of the other students>

Some, the unmotivated ones, voluntarily went to the back of the class, and quietly put their heads down on their desk and didn't make a peep for the rest of the class?

<we were to write a curriculum>

My point. OK, maybe some of the outside curriculum writers would not have work. I think that outside curriculum/methodology is very important for new teachers.

Greek Teacher at E-Learning and Distance Education
The challenge for EFL teachers in my home country is basically the pressure put on teachers by parents and Language School owners regarding the material that needs to be covered every year. In my opinion, it just doesn't make any sense to be asked to cover the whole book, do ALL the exercises (because parents complain that they have paid the book and you can't get away with skipping exercises) and at the same time reduce the teaching hours!

The problem with parents sometimes is that they just can't compromise with the fact that the teacher is not always to blame. I've been lucky enough to have met adorable kids with very caring and understanding parents, but I've heard stories from fellow teachers about parents who keep blaming the teacher even if their kids hardly ever do their homework. I also think it's reasonable to skip some exercises if you consider them too easy for the level of the students or if you believe they are just repeating what you've done with your class in the previous exercise.

As for Language School owners, the problem sometimes is that in the name of profit they tend to disregard the fact that not all students learn at the same pace, resulting in groups that lack homogeneity. This leads to problems in the long run, since good students may get bored of too many repetitions, while weaker students may feel they cannot follow.

However, if you manage to build a solid relationship with your students you don't easily get disappointed by the outcome of your work. They always find a way to show you, their parents and your boss how much they admire you and appreciate your dedication to them. Bottom line, they are who we should care about!

It comes back to those paying the bills being in charge. That and quality
don't mix. I have no answer I'm afraid.

Me
No, Anna, you're not. Every 'caring' teacher thinks along those lines you have. Despite the odds, continue to 'care'!
Albert P'RayanAna N. like this

I do care despite everything. But I am afraid they would appreciate my efforts too late. I feel I have to focus on the students who study hard and have good results and try not to lose the others on the way. Thank you for your advice.
Albert P'Rayan likes this

Hi Eirini, just read your post. Something like your observation came up in another discussion. What you say is pretty spot on the money. In our experience the majority of private language centres are not run by educators they are run as a profit making centres.

When you realise the amount of money being generated in education and training centres then you get to appreciate the focus of these people. Low overheads and high profitability.
Hi Richard, in your earlier comment it is starting to happen. In Malaysia about 2006/2007 the number of students failing the national exam was quite high. The Govt in its wisdom lowered the pass mark, Write your name correctly then 50% of your score. Have a look at them now. They have just finished their Teacher retraining program nationwide using Educators,
Administrators and Mentors from overseas. Now phase 2 has started, reinforce, validate and evaluate. Lets have a look at the end of 2015, could be some surprising results.

Hi Ana, just stay cool and in charge. Rome wasn't built in a day. They are your students not your children. Just reading your short post I can see quite a lot of expressed emotion, I may be of track and impolite ( not intended ) but I feel you need to step back and have another look. Imagine looking through a window of a classroom and try to imagine whats happening. Consider role - reversal. If I was the student.
Ana N.Richard Tomlin like this

Yes, Frank That is what I will do. Thank you for your words. I thank everyone.

Every English language teacher faces challenges in the English classroom. Some teachers treat challenges as problems and fail to enjoy their teaching career. Some teachers treat challenges as opportunities and try to tackle the challenges creatively.

As an English language teacher, how have you handled your challenges? I'm sure you have some interesting anecdotes. Please do share your experience with us.

Yes, I do face many challenges in my classes and the most recurrent ones are : fighting over seats and taking stationaries without asking for permission and sometimes refusing to hand them back. another challenge is that they don't line up before getting in class they come in running ,shouting pushing ......so, for the first problem I explain that they don't own the seats and I can't seat them the way I like because I have large classes( up to 36 learners in one single class) so I suggest that : one pupil seats on the "problem seat"and the other sits where available and next time they switch seats and they keep on doing it. It works.

For the second problem I set an example for them and ask them to follow ( I ask one learner politely to give a pen( a good opportunity to teach them making a polite request as it is part of the curriculum and real life) and then I give it back and thank him / her .I do it as often as the problem arises again. For the last problem I mentioned I made a short list of rules on hand sheets and asked for their parents signature ( so as to engage their parents and make them responsible (in a way) for their children behaviour ). My rules were simple but efficient . they were as followes :
1- line up
2- get in class one by one
3- don't shout
4- greet your teacher
5- sit down
6- keep quiet
I keep reminding them of these rules every day . it woks,too.
Ana N.Albert P'Rayan like this

Good evening group. Rereading the posts now I can see a positive and meaningful attitude shift. I can sense that the feeling of being alone or isolated is starting to fade. I had a new student the other day and his name jolted me a little, it is Johari. When I was doing my course in Counselling we did a module on the Johari Window. If you can find the time to have a look I think the methods used may be of benefit at some time, also the website www.simplypsychology.com lots of interesting information. Not so much for the student but creating a positive mental attitude for the educator.
Samia you have started the ball rolling, good luck and be persistant.
Albert P'Rayan likes this

Thanks Frank

The thing I would like to change most in my classroom today?
The idea that the teacher teaches or 'gives' the student English.
I help my students learn English for themselves. I have good students that work hard in and outside of class and can speak well. I have 'less good' students that do not study hard and they progress 'more slowly'.

I have adapted my thinking thus and I sleep the better for it. (That is not the same as working less in a 24 hour period. I still work as hard as ever, it is just I don't feel responsible for the success or lack of in class. Both of those impostors belong to the student)

And if I get a difficult parent? Well honesty is always good. I have x students and y minutes. That is a maximum y/x individual minutes per student. This is what I have done, This is what the student has done and this is the result. Now what do we do?

English Teacher at Sichuan University of Arts & Science
Challenges? Crikey, where do I even start with this one? Leaving your home country, your friends, family, hobbies, pets etc. to go to a strange country where you don't know anyone and can't speak the language would be the first. Then you have the classroom size. In the UK, teachers rarely get more than 15 students to a class, in China there are 40 or more students in a class. There is a lot of ambiguity - you get no syllabus, no guidance, nothing. You are basically thrown into a class and told "Go and teach them English". You are responsible for everything - designing the syllabus, planning the lesson, assessing the students, invigilating and marking exams etc. Some students may decide to sleep in class, do other work during your lesson or not bother doing their homework and the school tells you that you have no power to discipline them. Sometimes, what the school wants you to teach may not even be English - it could be culture, history, geography etc. Then when the lazy students fail the exam, the school says "Oh, you must not fail too many students because if you do the administration won't be happy." Amenities in a foreign country, especially developing ones, may be way below the standard that we are used to in the West. There may be no central heating so keeping warm during the winter in places like China is a challenge. The gas, water and electricity supply is constantly cut off for several hours at a time and western drugs and medication is not available at local pharmacies. Boredom is a problem - there is often little to do during days off and evenings.

However, enough of that. I think it would also be fair to mention some of the advantages and rewards of working in EFL in a foreign country. A rent-free apartment and a generous wage means I get to save lots of money every month. The university I work for is really generous - in the 3 months that I have been in China, the expat teachers have been taken out for expensive dinners and excursions to other cities, all paid for by the school. Students in China are generally well-behaved and respectful towards their teachers. But the greatest reward of all is neither monetary nor tangible: the satisfaction of knowing that the school and your students appreciate you for all the hard work that you put in!

You are right, Kim. It is great to feel appreciated for your hard work. All that you say happens in my area, too. But as someone above said, we should always consider challenges as opportunities to act and keep up the good work. Good luck!

Teacher at Oulu-Opisto
In Finnish high schools the first year students are eager to learn and participate, but sometimes the third year students just don't stress at all about school. They know what they can and cannot do, and it will be very difficult for the teacher to try to teach them something new. A few years back I was teaching a two week -stint in a school and asked the students at the end, what they thought about my teaching. The feedback was mostly positive, but what struck me was that a few teenagers had written: "I was never good at English, but...:" Who told them they were not good at English? Or did they figure it out because of the grades they got in school?

Me
I taught English language to students in grades between 9 and 12 in Ethiopia; most of them had no food to eat once what they brought from their homes--a kind of dry food made from false banana roots--was consumed they'd be hungry for the rest of the week and yet they'd be active in class; in fact, even during strikes against the then reigning monarch (1968--1977), they'd come back to attend my classes and a few others'; there was hunger in their eyes as well. In Nigeria, too, students were eager to learn (1977--1984). And on the last day of my six-week long teaching practice in a local high school in Poonamalle (where I live now) as part of the B.Ed course, tears welled up in the eyes of students of class 8 and 9 whom I'd taught, and they innocently asked how soon I'd come back. I was equally moved, told them I wouldn't be coming back for I was already working as an Assistant Professor in an engineering college, they were visibly upset. Even in SVCE, where I taught for 20 years, students were very proactive.

I'm sure my skills as an enabler were only part of the story; my being humane had to do a lot with my success story for 43 good years. I guess I got lucky and continued to get lucky, I guess.
samia S. likes this

Many thanks for sharing your experience. We feel inspired. We salute you.

The moral of the story is that a teacher should be humane, empathetic, and resourceful. A great teacher touches the lives of his/her students. How many of our students will say this to us: "You touched me and I've grown" ?

Me
Hi Albert
you stated in your last posting this: 'As an English language teacher, how have you handled
your challenges? I'm sure you have some interesting anecdotes. Please do share your experience with us.'
As a teacher of English, I never faced any challenges but as a classroom manager, yes. Inattention and indifference to class activity was one of them. Whenever I saw one doing something other than listening, responding, writing, I 'd let my eyes stay on that student a little longer than I did as part of constant eye contact with the whole class, and that would result in squirming. Or I'd abruptly stop speaking/explaining and every student would look where I was looking, that would cause embarrassment. Or I'd call the individual to my office, ask after the family and his routine and stop without touching on his/her behaviour. That would baffle him/her and the result was beahviour correction. Sometimes someone would challenge my correction in pronunciation and I'd ask them to refer to Daniel Jones' dictionary next time they had a library class; in the next class, on my asking, the student would claim ignorance about the notation; showing appreciation for the effort, I'd explain the notation.

I wish to share an anecdote. A student came running to me one day and said he'd been suspended for misbehaviour (in Nigeria). I went to the Principal and narrated the boy's side of the story. He immediately ordered for reopening the issue and found the boy not guilty. The boy was so grateful he said his father was offering a permanent job at his organisation at Lagos, the then capital, that would pay four times my salary with other very attractive perks--an all-furnished bungalow, an imported car etc. Of course, I declined the gracious offer.
Jani K.Albert P'Rayan like this

Are there moments or segments in time when we can make an impression or impact on students with the possibility of making a lasting impression?

I believe that now is a time for me. In Indonesia this is the start of 3rd semester, an unnatural and frustrating time of holidays, senior students preparing for National Exams and University Entrance Exams, the classes below graduating to the next level. Problems here are when seniors sit for their exams all the other students come to school for an hour and then go home. Usually loose up to 6 weeks of lessons and preparations.

But now the master plan kicks in. From Monday, module tests, evaluations, powerpoints, handouts on writing ( 2 essays a week ) Increased listening tests, more interactive group discussions on latest media highlights. In esscence for me I will push my students as hard as I can get away with.

Following week remedial and re-evaluations, more focus on course book.
Following week after that, student/ teacher role reversal. The students will play a more active role in classroom teaching materials, research and preparation. The idea of this is they will to play a more active role in the class and class management.

At the end of January is the start of Chinese New Year. Not a big problem here, but the dynamics for February will change. Its a very labour intensive time with research, material preparation, marking, evaluating, entering the results on the computer but for me its sets the mood for the coming semester and provides me with a headstart on semester and final exams student evaluations.

Usually when the school ask's for test reports and results mine are already completed. Also I do not need to falsify student results if they have a poor performance on test day. Continuous assessment works for me.
Albert P'Rayan likes this

Hello Kolipaka Lakshminarayanan, Yes, I do have many interesting anecdotes. I never treat challenges as problems. I treat them as opportunities. This positive attitude has shaped me and I passionately advocate it.

I worked at Kigali Institute of Science & Technology (KIST), Kigali, Rwanda for five years (Feb 2000 - Dec 2004). I had the opportunity of heading the department of English at KIST for three years. This helped me have many useful interactions with my Rwandan colleagues and students. Most of the students at the institute were survivors of the 1994 genocide. Each of them had many tragic personal experiences. Many students were irregular to classes. Some of them were passive listeners. Like these there were many other challenges.... It was very difficult for expatriates to understand the Rwandan students' psyche. My expatriate friends had many unpleasant encounters with the students but my experience with the students was different. My greatest strength was that I could mingle with students freely. I listened to them and made them trust me. From their sharing I could get a clearer picture of the genocide. I enjoyed my students' company. My positive attitude towards them had positive impact on my teaching too. I got excellent feedback for my teaching. I'm still in touch with some of my Rwandan students.

Me
Hi Albert
Am I happy to see another teacher with such commitment and care. May you continue in your chosen path and enjoy satisfaction in the process.

Freelance English Teacher and Trainer, Writer and Marketing coach and consultant for freelance teachers
@ Albert: You said...
'The moral of the story is that a teacher should be humane, empathetic, and resourceful. A great teacher touches the lives of his/her students. How many of our students will say this to us: "You touched me and I've grown"'

Yes, agree. But this isn't the only 'challenge'. And I am possibly hijacking your thread. Apologies, in advance!

One of the most gravitating problems that demoralise teachers is the inability to achieve recognition for the work they do. Social culture recognises the value of teachers, yet at the same time belittles the value by turning a blind eye to the costs of having teachers.

Freelance teachers (in particular) are often suffering from centuries of cultural and commercial influences which have placed education low on the scale of “admirable” achievements. Education is no longer seen as a life-long investment.

When the natural needs of a freelance teacher raises its head to ask for more (respect, better conditions and money) it creates a threat posing a block in a freelance teacher’s head. He loses his ability to negotiate.

Losing confidence to negotiate the life he needs or wants to produce better conditions is not going to motivate him to give his best. The cost of not asking and getting fair value (respect, better conditions and money) will damage any self-respect and income.

This is a challenge seen from another perspective; the business side to running our teaching services.
Ivy Antonette E. likes this

Sorry, had to leave the computer...

I am, of course, talking about the challenges facing all teachers outside the classroom. The business aspect of running their teaching service.

<We feel inspired>

Who 'we', kimosabe?
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