I propose that the best way to get students to learn English is to fire all teachers.
Yeah, you heard me right – fire all English (as a language) teachers. Or, in order to make the transition easier, phase in the layoffs and shift those with usable talents elsewhere. Soften the blow with a nice desk job for a period of time while they get used to the fact that they are NOT needed for students to “learn” to speak English.
Now first let me say that as a teacher trainer, a teacher cheerleader, a person who helps teachers “teach” — you might have a point if you think I’ve lost it and am off my rocker. I’ll accept that but I assure you that this is not the case. I am fully sane and it is only these experiences that has made me realize the absurdity of my efforts and the futility of my job. It is only by going deep into what and why I do (teach) that I’ve come upon this common sense. You don’t need a teacher to learn English and in fact, most teachers contribute significantly to their students “not” learning English very well or quickly. So please – I’m alive serious about all this. This is my confession.
Why is it better to have no teachers?
Well, this would require a book or a lot of time. Or if time isn’t available, money and a book contract. However, since I’ve started, I’ll try and shed some dim light on the common sense of not having a teacher around and letting our students learn language as it should be learned – by, in and of their own volition, need and talents.
Language you see – is not a traditional bricks and mortar subject. It is “of us” and not something we build on nor a kind of knowledge. We “think” with language, so it is pretty hard to “think of” language. As the old Hasidic saying goes, “the eye cannot see itself”. It is something we do, it is something we practice, it is something we experience but it is NOT something of which any qualitative and “knowing” terms can be applied. If you know English, you are not a great English speaker but rather a grammarian, a lexicographer, a linguist or even may I say, a poet. Not a teacher!
In traditional teaching, a teacher “knows” and shares with those that don’t know. Helps them, leads them, organizes them toward the knowing goal. However, language is not about “knowing” (though with tests, certificates, scales we’ve tried to make this round peg fit. What the heck are we doing? A teacher might be “better” at English, true. But this doesn’t give them any right to teach. I might be a better painter than another but would that make me a better teacher — most likely not. No native speaker ever studied his/her subject and they have no entitlement to be a “knower” nor a “teacher”. There is a pretense about their actions, a baby sitting sense about what they do. Let’s get through the day and get on with the charade, they say. It is all Sysiphian, a boulder that goes no where – a perpetual motion machine that only spins in one place.
Next point. Motivation.
We learn a language from need. Now I agree that need can be false and could be simply the need to get a passing mark. However, marks could be given without a teacher. It isn’t that difficult. Once a semester, student take a test and are assessed. If they’ve made progress – they get an appropriate grade. Hire a few pencil pushers – you don’t need teachers. Further, without teachers, the students would have no fall back plan, no one to blame but themselves. Built in motivation! Further, further, language is learned in the REAL WORLD — so let’s get real and allow students to stop wasting their time in our classes and get outside (or in language labs or on the computer) and learn where they can really acquire language – on the street of functional language use.
So I hope you are following my argument. I promise you I will stop soon and you can then pause from grinding your teeth and save on your dentist bills…..
Let’s talk money!!!! Yes, teachers cost exorbitant amounts of money (and let me say here – this “common sense” is only directed at teachers in the public sphere – if students want to agree with Barnum, they are welcome to go spend their $$$ on a teacher). Teachers are a horrible drain on the public purse. Let’s give that money to students who could travel to foreign lands and order pizza in REAL English, talk at the pub in REAL English and learn English as it is meant to be learned – by practicing it with real people and not in some fantasy setting. And yes, if they don’t want to spend it on that – their perogative. Maybe by buying an ipad they’ll also learn some English?
I haven’t yet begun to address all the negative effects of teachers in the classroom – I’ll leave that for another post. I’m sure you are upset enough already.
So let me conclude. Let’s fire teachers, let’s layoff the riff raff that pretends to have some kind of “secret knowledge” . The ruse is up. Let the students teach themselves. Give ’em a mark + or – and that be that. We’d save a lot of pencils and a lot of boring, repetitive, going through the motions, dehumanizing experiences……
Even better if teachers do the honorable thing and quit. You first.
You might also like this post: Learning as a self-organizing principle.