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Clarity of Role and functon in teaching English

Discussion in 'Schools you want to talk about' started by MIchael D. Breen, 27 Nov 2014.

  1. MIchael D. Breen

    MIchael D. Breen Thread Starter New Member

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    Since 1983 I have worked as an organizational psychologist and know that telling people what they are to do in clear terms, and how their results will be measured is vital for an effective and productive organization.
    In my current volunteer position in a Thai high school,I would prefer not to mention the name, I find myself in a state of confusion and anxiety a lot of the time and frustration a lot of the rest of the time, about what I am there to do, what my role and authority are and to whom I report. In fairness I should add that this is after one month out of four, that I am obsessive and tend towards anxiety when my responsibilities are not clear. I also then get critical and sometimes destructively so if I think I am being jerked around.
    But I know that many out there have taught and volunteered in Thailand longer and more successfully than I. So I pose the following dilemmas with a sense of vulnerability and some hope.
    I cannot seem to find out whether my role is to teach or to be there while another teaches. Some teachers seem lazy and some timid to speak in English in my presence. The students certainly are. I cannot seem to find out about what is appropriate content for each of the grades in which I hold classes. Teachers struggle to speak English and at times teach it incorrectly. Do I correct them there and then or later? Or at all? Do I even ask them not to play with their mobile in class. At times it seems to me culturally satisfactory to construct the form of doing something, like teaching English when the matter or the substance is quite unsound, pretense or less politely just shit. Classes are often interrupted for sport or other activities, such as visiting another school to cheer a sporting team. Sometimes I am told not to attend a class I am down to teach because the teacher wants to speak to them in Thai. Why bother to engage an English teacher? Or token English teacher?
    Then there are the volunteers with whom I live. At best they are generous youthful souls wanting to do good. At worst they are immature adolescents visiting themselves on students as part of their gap year between visits to the flesh-spots of Asia. Several could do well to go and learn English before they offer to teach it. Do Thai schools see volunteers as cheap farang fodder who have the time and resources to stay a while in their country and do the odd job? And I realize I am generalizing. I also realizing I am bitching. And the text books! The ones I have seen are severely skewed to American language and for want of a better word, culture, like how to use an ATM machine when there are none in the village or are just crass like the ones from National Geographic.
    What I have written may not be palatable to all. To some, though it may be familiar. I would welcome those more experienced than me to comment on their solutions to similar dilemmas. Thanks if you have persevered this far. Michael
     
  2. ttompatz

    ttompatz Just another teacher

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    You are with an NGO up in rural Issan.
    You are not a teacher and more importantly not an EFL teacher.

    Define your roll:
    - what does your NGO say you are (beyond being an English sound machine)?

    Define your place in the hierarchy:
    - you don't fit anywhere. You are essentially outside the structure - a non-entity.

    Explain why your classes are often lost to other things?
    - You are not relevant to daily life.
    - - Futsal is.
    - - Rice is.
    - - GAT/PAT/O-NET are.
    - - 12 national core values as defined by the NCPO are (at least for this year).

    Why bother with you?
    - they are paying lip service to "English" teaching. If you or your NGO left tomorrow, no one would really notice or care.

    Dump the NGO and find a school that really wants an EFL teacher then learn how to teach EFL in that context.

    And as a parting comment.... white space is a good thing as are paragraphs. Your solid block of text is next to impossible to wade through.

    .
     
  3. bahn_farang

    bahn_farang Well-Known Member

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    First of all what you describe is relevant to many (including myself on some points) when they first start out in Thailand. I will try to comment clearly
    You best learn fast. It will not change but you will have to. Tolerance of ambiguity will keep you happy and if not happy then sane.
    Did you say your background was psychology? How they react to you is not 100% under your control so why fret? Smile, be open and approachable. You could be the first foreigner that they have worked with.
    This is your problem? Sounds like you need to focus on the "cans" that you can achieve not what everybody else can't or isn't doing
    .You don't or they will avoid you/dislike you
    which is the culture and sure as shit ain't gonner change if you get your knickers in a twist.
    Code:
    
    
    You are not sounding very nice at this point - focus on you and stop worrying about everyone else. Think about why YOU volunteered, what will YOU achieve
    so stop and get on with the job at hand
    look behind the content at the reason for teaching it, adapt to teaching a process that they can relate to.

    In summary:

    Stop moaning about things you can't control?
    Start recognizing your own achievements - what did YOU do today?
    See the goodness in other people - or they will just see the badness in You
    If you really can't handle it - quit. You decide your destiny. But know if you do you failed to change the lives of the people you have a responsibility for - the children
     
  4. Mati

    Mati Well-Known Member

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    It gets better. Be your good self and reach out but stay calm, ask many people about detail and then realise which ones are consistent.

    Thailand is a mind game, do some graphs, write down detail about names, positions and make sure you get the important ones on your side. Read and watch movies with English subtitles, place yourself in the teachers and students shoes. My first year passed in a swirl of heat, concentration was difficult, staying at the same school made it easier for me to adapt. Forums like this one kept me sane ;)
     
  5. SundayJam

    SundayJam Well-Known Member

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    Great responses Ttom and BF.

    I once taught an entire year with hand-outs because the book was totally inappropriate to my subject. It was probably my most successful year teaching, but it required a lot of work. I teach the same kids 2 years later and the results are obvious. Well, the results are obvious when I compare teaching the same level handed down from the so-called lazy teachers. I found that I could teach the students things like critical thinking, and enthusiasm for academics. Don't worry, your efforts big or small will make a difference in these kids lives.

    Good luck to you.


    The rest is just...what it is.
     
  6. MIchael D. Breen

    MIchael D. Breen Thread Starter New Member

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    Thanks,
    Michael
     
  7. Cal Roy

    Cal Roy Well-Known Member

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    Tell your "helper" Thai teachers they can have a break and you will take care of the class yourself. Then it is up to you what you do.

    Never correct a Thai teacher unless it happens to be your last day. They think you are unnecessary because they already teach English.

    You need to get where you are the teacher for whatever time you have with the students so you can gain their attention and respect. The Thai teachers are crutch for both the students and you.
     
  8. MIchael D. Breen

    MIchael D. Breen Thread Starter New Member

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    Thanks for the hint about white space. Agreed about what is important and what is essential:Rice. Agreed about the cynical appointment of ferang "English teachers" But will stick with the NGO or Not for Profit as I find I am making some progress with some of the students and a former teacher around here with whom we are developing a series of essential words, their Thai meaning and Thai sound along with the phonetic English word.
    Anyway ,Thanks, m
     
  9. JasonBowser

    JasonBowser New Member

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    Teaching English language can be a difficult task. So, before teaching to anyone first of all you need to have complete knowledge of Grammar first so that you can make other understand it.
     
  10. Gor Blimey Guvnur!

    Gor Blimey Guvnur! What the duck ! Staff Member

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    LOL ... me finx we av a troll ... keep em comin ....:smile2:
     
  11. bahn_farang

    bahn_farang Well-Known Member

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    Can't hear a word he writes - ignored!
     
  12. Clown

    Clown Well-Known Member

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    To the OP: care to share the terms of your employment? Who benefits when you volunteer?

    Remember Michael Douglas in "Wall Street"? Yeah,it's all about the money, the rest is just conversation.

    Me, I'm at a language center in Vietnam. Minutes from the beach in Halong Bay. The owners cannot speak English. And they marketed an IELTS class without consulting with me or minding who they rope in. Now I've got some total beginners.

    Then there are classes with special needs kids. VN teachers make 4-5 Million Dong or < $ 200 full time. But they cannot get anyone to help me with xx 10 year olds?!? There's Jack. He shows his affection by jumping on my back and clinging to my neck. (Glad I haven't toppled over yet). He loves to contribute - SCREAMING "Angry Bird says..." or now "NASCAR 2014" - a game?

    Some teens have been at this center for years. The cost is very high - we are talking >10% of the family's gross income AFAIK. Same old $#$#@$#@@ grammar, all day long. They yearn to speak, to read a real book. They want to have some fun!

    Many are doing homework after 10 pm and the schools are merciless.

    While I'm not volunteering, I've spent hundreds of Dollars on books and will now order 20 chess sets for young kids so that they can learn to play. Try sourcing an Oxford English-English dictionary or "Enyd Blyton's" books in Vietnam!

    The organizations are often effed up Please bear this in mind, OP.

    Regarding one's position, here parents seem to think that a Western teacher can do no wrong. Visit some school and feel like a Bee Gee in the 70s! :thumbsup2: Grandmothers will bring their granddaughter to you to speak. And students sit next to you when you have a private conversation,openly eavesdropping.

    You could get a job within hours and make some $ 1,000 more. Then it would be up to you if you want to help someone. I paid a half-orphan's tuition at the government high school. You could get a paying job, then see if there is something you care to do...
     
  13. SundayJam

    SundayJam Well-Known Member

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    I would check my grammar before giving advice on it. Irony is one of the most enjoyable topics I've taught my students.
     

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