Sunday, May 27, 2007
My teaching year
The school year has more or less finished for me here in Thessaloniki. My students have taken their exams and the language school where i work has closed down till the summer courses begin in June. So, I suppose this is as good a time as any to look back at what the year like was for me in teaching terms. Think of it as a State of the Union address for EFL/ESL in Greece.
In many respects this year has been just like last one. Although I have learnt an enormous amount about using internet an computers in teaching my ability to translate these skills into practical classroom practices has been hampered by a number of problems which haven't disappeared since May 2006. Technophobia, lack of equipment and a widespread ignorance of computers and internet has meant that in school my attempts at introducing new computer based ideas into the classroom stalled.
It's very hard to teach using the internet if there are no PCs or indeed any kind of technology that wasn't invented in the 70's. Audio cassettes and the occasional VHS video are about the limits of what is acceptable. This meant that that I was reliant on students being able to have access to a PC and internet at home. Yet even using this as a means of teaching was frowned upon and it was made very clear to me that it was not approved of. It distracted from the more serious goal of getting students their certificates.
Once again the lack of control over what I teach in class meant that integrating more up - date methodologies was limited and this, of course included the use of "new" technology. Exam practice, endless discreet grammar exercises, long word lists were once again the order of the day.The fact that students do well in their exams is, I suspect, despite all this not because of it.
On the other hand the students I tutor privately benefitted from using technology in a more creative way. I used blogging, vlogging, DVDs, digital photography, video and social networking tools to allow them them to use their language skills in real life situations. I think that their blogs alone (see here and here) show how much fun they found this. So much so, that Some of them have been teaching friends how to blog.
Using an ordinary digital camera's ability to record video has also been a major boon to me at all levels, whether it be preparing an CPE candidate for an interview or allowing nine year olds record themselves singing in order to improve their performance.
As far as next year is concerned I think that I'm not going to use the internet in school. The obstacles are too many and the resistance to innovation too fierce. I work too hard and my commitments too many to waste my energies on battles I cannot win. This is such a pity as I really wanted to explore the possibilities that things such as the Horizon project offer school. However, without the backing of the administration this is not feasible.
I will continue using the internet with my private students as I do believe it has really made a difference in many situations, especially with learners who have become bored with more traditional teaching approaches. I have seen disaffected teenage boys who loathe learning English work their butts off to improve, simply because we started doing activities on the computer that were based on their own particular hobbies and interests, be they football, cars or Star Wars.