If a good-looking good-talking phony rates high, is there hope for us?

Well it is the end of the school year. The school is asking the students for an evaluation of the teachers. Frankly it may be hopeless for many of us.

The problem is not that we failed as a teacher to help our students. The problem is that we didn’t make our students think we helped them. You see, making our students “think” Continue reading “If a good-looking good-talking phony rates high, is there hope for us?”


7 Secrets of Great Teachers

Recently I gave a lecture for Cambridge University ESOL and Higher Education Press at a conference attended by 150 teachers. I told them the 7 Secrets of Great Teachers.

1. Seeing. Don’t always focus but always see. Sometimes we get so busy that we miss what is important. See this video

2. Action. Great teachers use minimal action to achieve maximum result. Sun Tzu and Bruce Lee examples.

3. Independent. Be on guard against the power of conformity. See this video

4. Creative. Capable of outside the box thinking. Can you solve the problem below?

5. Limit. Know your students’ limitations and your limitations. See this video

6. Target. Teach what will be used. The story of Lisa and the year of lost words.

7. Quadrant Two. Live and work in the zone where you can calmly do important non-urgent things and reflect on what you do. See below.

Puzzle: Draw 4 continuous straight lines (without lifting your pen) to connect all the dots.

.     .     .

.     .     .

.     .     .

Quadrant Two:

Why publishers do such a lousy job

[Note: This is the message that was banned by TESL-L editors. They did not want you to see it.]

Do you know why publishers keep pumping out boring useless business English courebooks? Do you know why you have to keep apologizing to the students for the boring lessons? Do you know why you struggle to motivate your students to keep at their lessons? Do you know why so much of the English you teach is not exactly the English your students need?

It is my fault. I will take responsibility.

But it is also your fault. You must take responsibility, too.

Let’s look at the publishers’ mission.

Do publishers want to introduce the latest most effective training methodologies to the classrooms? Do publishers endeavor to prepare our students to be properly skilled in English for their life and work? Do they want to help businesses be able to have employees that are highly skilled and ready for the challenges of the 21st century?

We never really thought about those questions before, have we? But it seems like the answers should all be “Yes!”

Surprisingly, the answers are all “No!”

So what is the publishers’ mission?

Make money.

That’s it! That’s all! It’s very simple!

They don’t love you. They don’t love your students. You do but they don’t. They are not trying to raise the standard of English in today’s businesses or society.

They just want to make money.

What? Did you think they were a charity? Did you think they are Greenpeace or something? Did you think they are some sort of linguistic Red Cross? Gandhi or Mother Teresa?

They are a business. They are interested in three things: Sales, sales and sales.

We can’t blame them for that. They cannot do anything else but try to produce whatever will sell best. That’s it!

Sure, they put some unit in the book that shows someone using Email instead of sending a telex or fax. (Oh, God, using those old books was so embarrassing.) Maybe they are really fancy and show someone using Twitter. Oh, wow, how cute. These things interest and amaze our students for the first two lessons. By the time our students get to the third lesson they are beginning to realize that it is the same old boring stuff in new clothes.

And that is why it is my fault and your fault that publishers are doing such a lousy job and producing such boring business English materials. Their mission is to sell, sell, sell.

And you and I buy, buy, buy.

Of course, we buy and complain to our students. We buy and then tell our students, “Sorry, I know it is boring but it will help your English.” “Sorry, I know it is boring and you are going to forget half of this stuff after you take the exam or after you get the job but that is the way it is. There is nothing I can do.”

Do you want better materials? Do you want something that will excite your students? Do you want your class to let out a collective groan when the bell rings and class is over because they want the class to go on and on and on it was so engaging and interesting? Do you want your students to stop asking you to show them a movie instead of the boring coursebook?

Let’s demand that publishers start producing materials that excite and amaze our students. Let’s demand they make materials that turn English lessons into our students’ favorite subject. Let’s demand that they help us make our English lessons the highlight of our students’ day.

When I teach my college class on Monday, I tell all of my students at the beginning of every lesson, “Hey, it’s Monday! It’s Uncle Dave Day! It’s your favorite day of the week!!!” They moan and groan with smiles on their faces.

I suppose Uncle Dave Day is not their favorite day of the week. I don’t know if they like my classes at all. I get feedback that they do like the classes but you never know for sure.

But wouldn’t it be great if publishers gave us the tools to make our lessons not only interesting but fascinating? Not only informative but unforgettable?

Publishers want to know what we want. After all, they just want to sell, sell, sell. Let’s tell them what we want to buy.

Contact their local office and their head office. Contact their reps. Tell your director and tell other teachers.

Can they do better? We think they can. Let’s tell them.

>Teachers are dangerous examples

>A teacher explained: “I am fluent in my mother tongue because I speak it all the time. But I consider myself a better French speaker as a learner of its rule which I ignored in the former.”
The big problem with teachers referring to their own learning experiences is that often teachers are good students. Of course, that wouldn’t be a problem if our students were good students.

Some of us were good students in school. Perhaps we even sat in the front of the class, got good grades, really enjoyed learning, perhaps found it somewhat easier than our classmates. Many of these kinds of students become teachers. But that actually skews our viewpoints of the learning process and what works and what doesn’t work in the classroom.

A friend and I decided to learn Japanese. We got a book. There were no tapes. I quit after two weeks. Today, my friend has a pretty good command of Japanese. He LOVES grammar, says it’s like a puzzle to him. When he was in school he used to do algebra exercises for relaxation.

Frankly, these kinds of students we don’t have to worry about. They are going to learn English with us or without us or in spite of us. (And we also have to be careful that we don’t look to them as brilliant examples of our teaching skills.)

The kinds of students we have to worry about are the ones who are not doing so well in the class. The “average” learner, not naturally academically inclined nor super motivated. The kid sitting in the back of the class, or at least in the middle.

So when we as teachers use ourselves as examples we have to ask ourselves are we the right kind of example to give us insight into our students needs?