Last night I chatted with a young English teacher from Bagan Datoh, Perak. She claimed to be green in the teaching profession and that my postings helped her. On reflection, I thought it is worth discussing the issues we chatted about. First, we talked about whether "Life's Brief'Candle' is about life or death (tell me what you think people). I am inclined to think that it's about how short and temporary life is and how much we have to make use of it to the fullest. No point regretting like Macbeth or Lady Macbeth (if you consider the full play) after all the bad deeds they had done...We are all 'players' in this temporary life and we bear the consequences of our actions.
The other thing we talked about was the idea of teaching English for proficiency...not to pass exams. Okay! I can hear you screaming already with this idea of not teaching for exams!!! Hold your horses...Just think for a second...stop and think. If every English teacher teaches with improving proficieny as the aim, then he has nothing to worry about. He (and she of course- no gender bias intended) will not teach to the test and shove down students' throats copious exam-based materials (cloze tests, mcq, context questions etc.) to make sure they make the grades. Instead, the teacher will think of teaching strategies and materials to help students improve their proficiency. If your students are proficient, they can handle any tests. Do you agree? Obviously this has implications for the kind of materials we bring into the classroom. I think we need to reassess the materials we bring to the classroom seriously...we have not taught if the exam-based photocopies are doing the teaching for us!! Where is the part that we really teach?
This reminds me of a stint last year where a group of teachers and I had to handle a workshop for slow learners (there are no excellent or poor learners, there are fast and slow learners- I believe this firmly). There was a mismatch in terms of what the school wanted (carry out an exam techniques workshop) and the students' language. They obviously didn't have the language (proficiency) and there we were trying to give them tips on how to answer the SPM English paper!! As a result, teachers had to use 80% of Bahasa Melayu and translated almost every sentence in the reading passage (materials)! I was glad when it was all over because I had felt uneasy from the start- it wasn't the right medicine for the problem they had. Was this the right approach? Are exam techniques useful for slow learners?
Do you teach to make your students pass exams?
Do you teach to improve their proficiency?
Tell me what you think.