The English teacher holds a beacon and lights the language pathway so that we may understand, experience, emote, speak, persuade, think, critique, comprehend, analyse, imagine, problem solve, play, influence, wonder, inform, create, listen, appreciate, sing, relate, and express.
We are each born, as wordless babes, into a world of language. As we discover our voice, we learn to give expression to our inner selves and begin to interact with the world around us. We think in words: the images, sounds, colours, and emotions we experience, are made sense of through language. Our ability to listen, read, understand what we see and hear, to speak, to write and communicate our intended meaning, has a lasting impact on our lives.
I am interested in the views of the English teacher, how they see their role and how that role has evolved over time. I had a chat with Erin Normal, a secondary teacher in Victoria, Australia…here is what she had to say about English teaching:
An English teacher’s role is to enhance students’ literacy with texts of all forms…it’s not just about the written word, but also the spoken word and critical literacy skills such as the interpretation of media.
The most important thing about teaching English is to engage the learner. English is a language which in many ways you can never tick off as having successfully ‘learnt’ – it is a continual process…and a person needs to enjoy the challenge of constantly learning. An English teacher who can inspire this in their students is setting them up with a lifelong interest in English.
The difference between a good English teacher and a great one? Mmm…perhaps the same as above – engagement. But also, actually being able to improve the outcomes of students, which is very difficult sometimes. It is easy to say, “Oh, you simply can’t spell.” and give up on a student, but to find strategies that will enable each individual student to improve – now that’s a great teacher!
It seems to me that what makes an English teacher stand out from other teachers is how late they stay at work. 🙂 Ok, so that is a bit of a joke, but really, speaking just for English teachers here, there is a vast amount of preparation and assessment time that students, parents, and to some degree other teachers, just never see.
With under ten years in the classroom, I’m a relatively new teacher, but in that time I have noticed teaching has become much more specific with the curriculum becoming more related to skills and grammar. It will be interesting to see how English teaching develops over the next decade.
I have only taught in Australia, but I imagine teaching here differs from other English speaking countries in as much as we tend to focus on Indigenous perspectives, and we have the advantage of our multicultural background to draw on a really wide range of texts and ideas. Australia could be a bit more relaxed about language too, in that Australians have their own slang and their own version of English. As well as this, our multicultural background means that often our students do not necessarily come from an English speaking background, so meaning can be more important than perfect grammar.
The most important thing to teach students is how to tackle new words, unfamiliar meanings, etc.
The most difficult part of teaching English is helping students when writing. Things like spelling, for example, do not come naturally. It is a really difficult thing to teach someone how to write well or how to spell when it does not come instinctively.
Learning English is incredibly beneficial, apart from being a conduit for basic communication and expression, it is widely spoken across the world.
I became an English teachers because I have a love of literature.
In year 7, we give a ‘hamburger’ analogy for essay writing. This is my ‘best teacher moment’ because you stand back and see the light bulbs go off as they realise what essays are all about…it’s a great moment!
If you are an English teacher in an English speaking country and would like to share your views, feel free to contact me – I would love to hear from you.