>One teacher confided, “The first thing I do is to explain why I’m asking for change.”
I’ve had entire classes rebel and reject me when they thought I didn’t teach enough grammar. I’ve been told I was the worse teacher a particular student ever had (and he was an adult.) I have taught in classrooms with a big “No Pain – No Gain!” sign over my head that the students’ regular teachers had placed to make sure the students knew that learning was supposed to be an academically masochistic(1) experience.
A teacher has two options in these situations.
A) Go along with what everyone wants. After 10-12 years of grammar translation training in school they have at least reached low intermediate level — so just give them more of it.
B) Help them learn about learning and teach them about teaching.
This is the same thing a doctor does when he introduces a new therapy, drug or treatment. He explains the research. He explains the results. He explains the problems with the older and the advantages of the newer. The doctor teaches you. He doesn’t say, “Well, if your mother always said cod liver oil will heal anything, then let’s try that.”
We have to explain the history of English teaching and the advances that have been made in understanding how the mind and language works. We have to sell our methods and set their minds at ease. I tell my students about Dell Hymes. I tell them about Krashen. (I’m going to have to start telling them about Mert.) I don’t follow a Krashen plan (nor Mert plan) but I mention these things to show them some of the ideas involved in current research. I think we have to hit the problem head on. Teach them exactly why we are going to do things differently and really sell it. Teach them exactly why they don’t already know English from their previous learning experience if it was under strong Grammar Translation.
Of course, this doesn’t preclude the possibility that cod liver oil is just what some people needed nor the possibility that many people learn best with a strong grammar translation method. I had an American buddy who loved grammar. To him it was like a puzzle. We picked up a how to learn Japanese book with lots of grammar in it and after three months he was speaking Japanese and I knew nothing.
But if Grammar Translation and Audio Lingual are so great then everyone in China should be speaking English fluently by now.
(1) A willingness or tendency to subject oneself to unpleasant or trying experiences. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)