Teachers...Be a MASTER

Education is a two ways process; teaching and learning. It involves two parties, the teachers and the students. I personally believe that improving students’ performance requires efforts not only by the students but also by the teachers.

An effective English teacher (good teachers are sometimes not very effective), should be a MASTER in the language. Let me define the word MASTER; a person who has great skill at doing something. Students expect their teachers to be an expert, who could answer all questions and solve any problem. Sometimes teachers become their walking dictionary, providing meaning for words that they are too lazy to look up in dictionary (never let this become our students habit; make them bring their dictionary to school everyday). The question is, can we arrive at their expectation?

It is acceptable (I think) if we are not very fluent, or having accents of certain dialects in our speech. This is obvious when it comes to teachers from Kelantan or Terengganu. However, proficiency is crucial. We must be proficient in the language. Teaching something that we don’t really know is very risky for we might end up humiliating ourselves in front of the students.

What if we are not very proficient in English? After all, it is our second language too. In most cases, teachers themselves do not have the opportunity to practice the language outside school. Classroom is the only place where they could actually use the language. What should we do then?

Let’s go back to the basic. First of all, know the grammar rules by heart. A simple grammar book written for school students would do more for us than the advanced ones. Then, think of the most effective way to teach them to our students. It is best to teach grammar in context (I will discuss this in the next issue). Some rules are best explained in tables and formulas. Next, be well-informed. Read! Books, magazines, newspapers, articles, e-books, blogs or anything in and about English would do. It will develop our language skills, enrich our vocabulary and structures, and introduce us to terms and expressions used to express a particular idea. Apart from speaking, writing is actually a good practice. While writing, we are making use of our knowledge and skills. It is okay to make mistakes in the first draft. When we edit our writing, we are going to see where we make mistakes. We can ask our friends or colleagues to do the editing. They might see mistakes that we do not. Make reference if we are not sure about something.

Nobody is perfect. It is okay to look up to certain people (who claimed to be “pakar”), but never too much that it makes us loose our confidence. Feel good about ourselves. So what if we are Malay and teach in rural schools? Be positive, look for advantages instead of weaknesses. We can be a MASTER too. If our students are weak, simplify everything to adapt to their ability. We are in charge, remember! At the end of the day, it is our teaching and tips that the students take with them to the exam hall. Believe me…nothing compares to the satisfaction from hearing your student saying, “Teacher…I got A1. Thank you!”

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