As a secondary-level English teacher, it is important that you have good English skills and you feel confident using English to support your students’ learning. Probably you already have good English skills. However, there may be one or two areas of English that you are less confident about, for example speaking in English. In this unit, you will identify the areas of English that you would like to improve, and you will find ideas about how you can do this. By continuing your own learning you are showing yourself to be a role model for your students.
Learning a language is a process that is never complete. Every one of us can practise to communicate better, learn more vocabulary, learn to understand more accents and write more eloquently. By improving your own English fluency, you will benefit yourself and your students. They will benefit from your new knowledge and skills, and you will motivate them to want to learn more.
Good teachers are continuously trying to improve their English. They find that this benefits them in many different ways. Read what these teachers say:
Now think about how improving your English could help you. Write your thoughts in the empty speech bubbles below or in your notebook. If you can, compare your thoughts to those of a colleague.
Whatever your thoughts, improving English can help you in your personal and professional life, and can benefit your teaching and your students too.
Case Study 1: Mrs Chakrakodi wants to improve her English and sets up an English club
Mrs Chakrakodi teaches English at a rural government secondary school. As a student, she enjoyed English and did well in exams. Now she reads and writes English confidently but is less confident with speaking and listening to English. She wants to develop these skills, but has found it difficult because she does not live and work in an English-speaking environment. Sometimes I can’t go to the club because I am just too busy – and that’s true for all of us. But we decided that the club would take place no matter how many people are there. It’s helped me to become more confident at speaking English, and that means I am more confident in my classes too.
Many teachers – even at secondary level – feel less confident about their speaking and listening skills than they do about their reading or writing. Here are some occasions when an English teacher might speak or listen to English. Do you use English for any of these? Tick the ones that apply to you. If there are some occasions that are not listed, add them to the list.
Now make a plan for improving your speaking and listening skills. Set yourself a target.
Improving your speaking and listening skills will benefit you and your students. But don’t be too ambitious! Just choose one or two of the activities listed above. Choose the ones that most appeal to you, and that you can fit most easily into your daily routine. You are more likely to continue that way. You are also more likely to continue if you do short bursts – listening to ten minutes of the radio every day, for example – rather than spending long periods of time infrequently. Find some time each day to practise English. Make it a habit!
Many teachers feel more confident reading and writing English than speaking it. Typically, secondary teachers have studied long texts, and see English texts around them every day (see the unit Local resources for teaching English).
Compare your notes with the ones below. Did you note down anything similar? Do you have anything different? Add to the list if you like.
Things I read in English:
Things I write in English:
Case Study 3: Mr Thapa improves his English through cricket
Mr Thapa is a teacher of languages at a government secondary school. He’s also a cricket fan, and his passion is helping him to improve his English.
I am very interested in cricket – very interested! It takes up all the free time I have. I like to read about players, teams and so on, and I have discovered that there is a lot of information about it on the internet.
Some of this is in Hindi, but a lot of it is in English, and I’ve found that I’ve started to read a lot of English this way. The Indian team is now touring Bangladesh, and I’ve been reading about the matches in English. I don’t find it too difficult, as I have a lot of background knowledge about the teams and players, and I also know cricket terms, as well as words related to sports.
But I’ve also learned quite a few new words and expressions as I’ve been reading. I learned the verb ‘to cash in on something’, and the word ‘hype’. I also learned the expression ‘for starters’. Some of the words I learn are quite useful, and sometimes I teach them to my students too.
Now make a plan for how you are going to improve your own reading and writing skills.
Try to find something that you enjoy doing in your free time and in your own language. For example, if you enjoy reading stories, then read some in English; if you have access to the internet, read about topics that you are interested in. This way, you can make it part of your normal daily life. Buy a notebook for notes about new vocabulary and expressions. Use a dictionary as you read – you may even have one on your mobile phone. The key thing is to enjoy it!
Learning a language is a lifetime process. There are always topics and skills that can be improved. As a teacher it is important to keep up to date with new expressions and current topics so that you can use these with your students in English lessons. This will help to make your lessons more interesting, for you and for your students. They will see your enthusiasm for learning English and be more motivated and engaged.
Local TV channels with programmes in English:
Here are some links for online listening materials:
TeachingEnglish (2012) ‘Programme 6: developing teachers’ English’ (online), 21 February. Available from: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/radio/programme-6-developing-teachers-english (accessed 23 October 2014).
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