My Teaching Approach
There are several important elements to keep in mind when teaching, but my personal approach will be focused on these three: Joy, Practicality, and Flexibility. Joy, because language learning will be accelerated when learners are in a comfortable environment to enjoy it. Practicality, because a language is to be used, not to be kept in their minds. And Flexibility, because every learner has a different learning style, personality and motivation level, and the teachers must be flexible to facilitate the learning process of any kind of learner. As a Spanish learner myself, I feel great joy whenever I am able to speak to a Spanish person in a real life situation and get my message across; even if it is something as simple as being able to ask for directions (and understanding their response!). These small successes are what I want my learners to feel as well.
Professionally speaking, I come from a hospitality background where I worked as a flight attendant for seven years. While it has its obvious differences, I think there are skills and principles that I could transfer from my past work experience to teaching. For example, I have dealt with hundreds of customers from different cultural backgrounds every single day. This meant I had to grade my language on a daily basis, so speaking in simplified English has become second nature to me. This is why I think learners with a lower level will benefit most from me, as many lower level L2 learners have difficulty understanding native English speakers speaking at their “normal” pace and using slang expressions.
An interesting way for me to teach English is for learners who are interested in becoming flight attendants. People may generally think that a flight attendant’s job is only to provide food and drinks on board a plane, but actually at the beginning of any career of a flight attendant, there is an intensive training for safety and first aid, in addition to service training. As a common language across the globe, English is a pre-requisite for most international airline companies and the training could be done entirely in English as well depending on the company. As safety and first aid procedures normally require urgent action, it is important for the certain terms and phrases to be drilled into their minds so that upon encountering a situation, they can respond immediately. Weaker English speakers could struggle with this if they are not fluent in English. In a class like this, the audio-lingual method may be useful as it focuses on the listening (stimulus) and speaking (response), followed by repetition. Learners should be a good imitator in this case. In contrast, a more communicative method should be adopted for teaching service terms and scenarios involving customers (which could also involve components of safety and first aid). These classes will not only involve memorization but largely involve role plays, where the teacher will give a hypothetical scenario such as “how would you deal with intoxicated customers?” and learners will take turns being the customer and the flight attendant dealing with the situation.
Taking into account the aspects of the course mentioned, I would construct a content-based syllabus, as students will be focusing on a certain subject matter in each class. It would also be important to include skill-based elements as well for the social side of the job (dealing with customers and colleagues). The three main areas of study could be Safety, First Aid, and Service for example, and individual areas will be studied separately. The course duration should not be more than 6 months long but not an intensive course either. The concept of the course is to familiarize the learners with real life flight attendant experiences and not for it to be a stressful experience for the learners. However, as Vygotsky discovered that learning occurs most optimally within the ZPD, it should be a slightly challenging experience for learners as well. Class duration should be approximately 1-1.5 hours.
This is an ESP (or EOP) course, so usually the learners will have a basic knowledge of English and also the target age for this course would naturally be for young adults (18+) and older. The language used in the classroom will only be in English. This is to immerse learners and to get them thinking in English, and to get them out of the habit of using interlanguage, as in the real working world, they need to communicate clearly with customers and colleagues. The level of English may be different from learner to learner, and if the demands are high enough, the class could be separated into a few levels to better cater for their levels. In case the class is mixed, it is important to remember to come to a middle ground in terms of grading the language, so that it is not too boring for the higher level learner and not too challenging for the lower level learner. Higher level learners could also help the lower level learners in case they don’t understand.
As learners have a specific purpose to learn English, they should be quite highly motivated. However, to maintain the enthusiasm, the teacher must keep the students engaged by reminding them why the course will be beneficial to them. Another way to inspire them is sharing interesting or humorous anecdotes. The ultimate goal is for learners to feel comfortable enough to express themselves and make their learning experience an enjoyable one. In such environment, corrections (which will be given minimally) are more likely to be taken positively as well. Although the idea of being an “agony aunt” is not ideal, it is important to keep an open mind and heart to provide a “safe place” for learners. Shyer learners will especially need more attention, as they tend to learn slower than extroverted ones. My role as a teacher, therefore, should be a good balance between a resource, guide, and a needs analyst, so that learners can benefit from my experience, knowledge and compassion.
The macro-skill focus of this course will be listening, speaking and some reading. The material will be constructed by the teacher, using authentic material relating to aviation. Resources could be taken from the internet (pictures), teacher’s experience (ideas of hypothetic scenarios), as well as collaboration with flight attendants who are currently / were flying (friends and acquaintances) or with airline schools that have additional material or facilities. In terms of reading, learners should be able to know how to read labels and manuals so it would be good to bring in pictures of objects like an aircraft door, or a box of medicine written in English, or a fragment of a first-aid manual. The micro skill focus will definitely be on vocabulary and pronunciation. The TL will be focused exclusively on aviation and hospitality terms. Since many visual items may be used to remember the vocabularies, games could be incorporated into the class. Grammar will be rectified whenever learners make mistakes, however, it will not be the main focus of the course.
There will not be any assessments for this course, as learners will face their “true” assessment if they successfully get accepted by an airline company. In any case, I am not a fan of traditional assessments like exams, because it does not necessarily measure the fluency of a student, and some students are good at passing exams rather than grasping the language as a whole. Instead, I prefer to assess learners by observation. One way to ensure their progress, however, is to have the first 5 minutes of class dedicated to revision of the previous class. This way, learners will need to take responsibility and revise on their own.
An example of a class:
· 5 minute revision of previous class material
· Safety – Emergency procedures
o Commands: (Landing/ Ditching) 20 mins (teach with audio-lingual method)
o Safety equipment (new vocabulary). Bring pictures with safety equipment- maximum 8 TL. Learners are to learn them first visually and then to play a game to see if they have memorized. 15 mins
o Role play- Scenario: preparing for an Emergency landing. Students brainstorm what they would need for an emergency landing using the TL they learned in the previous activity. Eventually ss will need to play out the whole scenario using drills learned in the first activity as well. 20 mins
In conclusion, the most important aspect of teaching for me is to maximize the fluency rather than accuracy for any kind of language learning process, whether it be purpose-specific or otherwise. Growing up, I had the chance to live in the US and Australia (apart from my native country Japan), which allowed me to learn English in a natural way; I don’t remember any grammar classes. Although the age factor does matter to an extent, we should be able to acquire any language in an authentic way which does not start from learning grammar. There are many people who demonstrate their fluency in multiple languages, which were learnt in adulthood. Also, I believe it is important for teachers to remember that there is always room for improvement and teaching is an on-going process. It would help if teachers were genuinely curious about their students and never judge anyone because it is obvious when prejudice shows through body language, acting as an affective filter for learners. We should all remind ourselves frequently that an open mind would maximize professional and personal growth.