Pity The Poor English Language Teacher?

The poor English teacher of today, with so many demands on their time and expectations. At times we hardly know where to turn. There are more and more students in fewer and fewer classes and even those classes are expected to be taught with less and less resources or fewer and fewer hours. The results however, both on the part of learners and the administration, is to produce better and better English language production skills.

Some Critical Impact Factors

Some of the key factors English or Foreign Language teachers face can include the following:

o Large class sizes

o Limited time

o Insufficient resources

o Mixed ability students

o Students with learning disabilities

o Behavioral problems

o Administrative demands

o Personal restrictions

Briefly, let’s consider the first four of these in turn and how they can negatively impact an English EFL, ESL or foreign language teaching and learning class room scenario.

Large class sizes

How many learners are in your EFL or ESL classes? 10, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50 or even more? Average class sizes continue to sneak upwards as administrators attempt to extract the maximum profits from gross institute or departmental revenues. The EFL or ESL teacher then is caught in the middle struggling to teach English or foreign language skills to a growing number of learners in each class group.

Limited time

Ouch! According to statistical data from language research institutes, the minimum number of hours for an English EFL, ESL or foreign language class to be successful is around five – that’s the minimum, they say. In an increasing number of universities, language institutes and primary / secondary schools, the class room contact hours are going down. Many such places now pose learners with only three hours or less per week of actual language instruction.

Insufficient resources

“How many of you have all the resources you need to teach your English classes?” When I posed this question to a group of my students in an EFL Teacher training course, none answered to the affirmative. Not only do they lack sufficient contact hours, but are lacking sufficient teaching resources as well.

Mixed ability students

No matter what level you may teach from pre-kinder to kinder, from primary to secondary school or at the university and adult levels, learners within a particular course group will be of varying or mixed ability. There is virtually no such thing as a “homogenous” group of learners in a class. Even when learners come from the same socio-economic background, are from the same country, ethnic or language group there are bound to be vast inequalities in their abilities.

These four factors can have a substantial impact on the effectiveness of the English EFL or ESL language teacher. With more and more students in fewer and fewer classes and even those classes are expected to be taught with less and less resources or fewer and fewer hours. The results however, both on the part of learners and the administration, is to produce better and better English language production skills. The need then is for solutions to an ever-worsening series of problems. This will require the full cooperation of both teachers, administrators and to some extent, the learners themselves. Additional factors which can negatively impact the EFL or ESL class room, teaching and learning will be addressed in the next part of this series.

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