How can we teach the best way possible? Is the material and method the most important? Is the teacher the most important factor? Or are these two factors equally as important?
How do we find out what the best teaching sytem is? Is it due to the material? Is it due to the location? Is there one specific method that is the best? Is it important to know why people want to learn English, and for what purpose?
We have many studies and theories on methods to teach students the best.
There's The grammar-Translation method (GTM) which basically focuses on written texts. Which means that the ability to communicate is not a goal. They focus very much on getting the correct answers towards grammar and are also written test are often used. The teacher is the authority in the classroom which many might remember from the the old school teaching method. The teacher is the authority of the class and focuses a great deal on correct answers regarding grammar. The main focus is on texts and a are often followed by tests. This means that the communicative part is not of importance.
There's The direct (berlitz) method. This method focuses more on the communicative part elvoved around vocabulary over grammar patterns. No translation, and pictures are used for better understanding. The teacher needs to demonstrate and not explain. When the reading and writing exercises are introduced they're based on allready learned oral topics/exercises.
The audio-lingual method. It's a teaching approach much like the Berlitz method, but is evolved around grammar patterns instead. Students gets posivite reinforcements to develop correct habits. It's very important that students are prevented to make errors.
The Silent Way. Here the teacher is passive. The teacher is saying nothing, but merely, I.E; points to pictures and/or letters while students will talk based on pictures pointed at. Which means the students are selfcorrecting and sometimes correcting/helping each other. It reinforces the students to be more selfreliant.
Suggestopedia. The goal is to brake down the barrier one might have in terms of fear. The psycological apect is the main focus, since it's believed that what prevents you from learning is your fear. You might be shy, nervous, feeling you're incapable etc. the atmosphere of the room, people in the room etc should be as relaxed and joyful as possible.
The psysical response. Basically all senses are involved and it needs to be fun. The teacher gives instructions, but only communication is in English. It should be fun and students will speak when they're ready.
Content based, task-based and participatory approaches. Here the topic of interrest is helping students to learn. Topic are introduced to catch interrest in students so that it becomes easier to learn and actually get interested.
Communicative approach. Is introducing games as a great way of leraning. It has an idea of students making errors is a natural part of learning and actually good. It focuses on productive and receptive skills and involves three issue points; a goal, inputs (text, artichle etc) and activities. What is the goal that the teacher wants the student to learn. Input of information, a topic, a dialogue etc. Which will be seen in the activity at the end.
The Oxbridge Method. Is taking a variety of things into account when it comes to teaching. It has a bit of everything. Definately the communicative part is the most important factor. They want students to be able to speak and writing and/or spelling will come later. Students will recieve topics, structures and vocabulary material. In each and everyone there's activities. Its based on listening, talking, playing and it is okay to make mistakes. Only english is used in the classroom. There's no explanations to the students, examples are used to explain target language. Once understood, student should give example with target language at hand.
The Callan Method. It makes the students speak from day one. A teacher is talking all the time and asking questions which students repeat and answers. Repitition, repitition, repitition! No silence and students are allways participating. Grammar is introduced through repitition. Its talkative, but not neccesarily communicative.
These are some of the methods I will look at. Some have the same idea as how to teach. Some is focusing on the communicative aspect regarding learning and teaching. Some the written aspect and so forth. Even some of them includes both. Some the teacher is the authority and others they're more passive if only that. The receptive skills in the callan method and the Berlitz method is more in focus than for example in GTM and The Silent Way. The communicative way includes both. They're all kind of extremes in terms of teaching and/or learning. Except the oxbridge method I think. It's trying to combine the good approaches in every one of them. It focuses on the triangle; Structure, Vocab and on top the Topic. Which makes sence since, structure is needed in the early stages along with vocab and pronounciation. Later the topics can be introduced more. I must say that I agree most with the oxbridge method.
But, what is it we need to teach? Does the student wants to write, read or talk. Maybe all three? Oxbridge is teaching how to talk a language. I think all of the methods has the same in common even though some are more focused on grammar and written texts than actual communication. But they all have in common the fact that you will learn to talk another language.
In a way I don't think any of the methods are on the wrong in particular, since everybody is different in ways of learning. For me, I agree mostly with the Oxbridge method. The Callan is good, because they actually talk a lot and from the beginning, but not really communicative. Thus the Oxbridge method is great because you talk from the beginning as well but with a slower pace and also more focused on the the individual student to a certain extend. Students attend more, than rather a teacher teaching and telling. Here's you're more involved. It's not the silent way where the teacher is passive, but oxbridge does give space to silence for the student if they're trying, thinking or struggling. But the balance needs to be preserved. Also oxbridge is envolved with the students and keeping eyecontact and trying to give the students what they need.
Topics are varying and are occurring events most of the time, which doesn't mean they're outdated events and it gives variety, which keeps the interrest of the students. They see written texts and hear them being read out loud which gives their receptive skills attention so they can apply it to their productive skills. Though I must mention that the written skill isn't being focused on directly, but after they've mastered English to a certain degree, they will know how to write. Regarding variety, William Cowper, which was in the fashion industry, once said; Variety is the spice of life. I agree and it makes oxbridge dynamic and interresting. All in all oxbridge has the good parts of every method more or less. One thing, regarding topics, could be to get the students to bring a topic each so they discuss something that definately are interrested about. But a teacher should always be prepared with topics in case students don't bring any. That way students can get even more encouraged. Which also means that a topic introduced by a teenager, one in the mid twenties or what ever age it might be, it will be diverse in terms of age and interrest. Furthermore, there's an age to everything or generation, you might say. The younger generation might be interested in different things than old people.
That's the method's boiled down, with more attention to the oxbridge system though, since it's what appears the best in my opinion. The Syllabus in The Oxbridge System and how the materials are being used. Furthemore there's often pictures, games, there's written texts, interactions, discussions, debates, roleplay etc. All these, great to communicate and stimulus for your brain and learning. The teacher is also mentioned as a guide, that should keep control of the class, but rather a playmaker of topics etc than an actual teacher telling the student how things work.
But a great system, great material and great syllabus' etc, is that enough to teach a good class?
I think it's a great start if not half of a good class. But a teacher once told me what my favourite text book was. I told him i didn't know, I couldn't remember any. But what I could remember, and I can remember all of them, is the teachers i had. Good and bad. Which leads me to the next important issue, which in my opinion is the most important part.
How can we be the best teacher? Does that involve adapting the classes and/or material into something that fits your personality as a person? Should you go ahead and put on an act in order to become the best teaching figure there is? And what is the perfect teacher?
An important question would propably be; Who are you?
These questions, I think, is essential in order to become a good teacher.
There's no such thing as a perfect teacher as every student is different. One that can teach the majority and helping the ones that might need different approaches. Which can be difficult in a big class. Therefore we need to focus on how you reach the majority. But then you loose the menority most likely. How can we try to get everybody? That's impossible. Because there's no such thing as a perfect teacher.
But there's is the perfect teacher you can be. A teacher definately needs to be prepared. Preperation is a given and very important. But in the preperation lies, as well, how you make the class and the material work best.
The perfect teacher you can be is to focus on your strengths. You cannot be someone you're not. A teacher needs to find his special ability that he/she knows best and feel most comfortable with and also he finds most fun.
The secret to learning is humour (which is relative), but if you don't enjoy or believe in yourself as a teacher, how can the students?
I will give an example:
A friend of mine, who's working with kids from the age of 2-5, created his own character. But first he was studying and was getting stuck in school. He finally came to the field as an intern. He didn't understand how to become a good educator for the children even though he loved them. His Mentor then told him he could be whoever and whatever he wanted. He grew with the task and the responsibility of working with these young human beings. He slowly adapted the best way he saw fit to become a good educator for kids at this age. He started wearing a new colourful outfit everyday. He started using what he called; ”The YES hat.” He would wear that once a week and all, and I mean ALL kids, stood in line just to ask him about something they knew would never be allowed. They would ask; ”Can we have soda tomorrow at lunch?” He'd reply with the biggest smile; ”YES! I will find out if that's okay!” But he never did something that wasn't him! He found that he was great by activating the children, but when it came to being in charge of the food, the other educators would be better and be in charge of that. I know this example is regarding kids and not necessarily about teaching, but the point is he became a great educator for kids. He found his own self and his own way of being the best educator he saw fit. He came to manage the very first institution he worked in, and helped building up two other institutions and they're know both very popular.
There's different things to this story.
He found his own niche, the thing that he was best at and made it better.
He knew what he wasn't good at and found how to compensate for that.
He enjoyed himself and incorporated different events/games.
All these points are connected to one another
He basically became the perfect educator that he could be. Furthemore, he wanted to!
This is my point in order to become the perfect teacher you can be. Find your strength(s) and work with them and bring your personality with you. We need, as teachers, to coach, encourage and stimulate the students the best way we can. We can only do that if we're ourselves in there doing what we know we can best with confidence. In fact you're your own student, so you have to teach yourself to be comfortable and you will enjoy yourself and the students will learn. But first you need to want it! And allways remember; Preperation is ofcourse of utmost importance!
As Mr. Myiaki once said; ”There's no such thing as a bad student”
Find out who you are and teach yourself to become the perfect teacher you can be. The first approach should allways be yourself, cause that's where it all starts. Be comfortable and bring yourself and it will spread to the students.
Good teaching method/system (Oxbridge) together with the perfect teacher you can be, is what makes the best class for the students.