English Teacher vs Educator

My students from 5th grade have suggested me working in class with Pink Floyd’s song: “Another Brick in the Wall”. I was surprised by the demand as 10-year-old students are not supposed to like those songs. And without even noticing, as I was preparing the song worksheet, they made me reflect a lot about my role as an English teacher.

As regards their English level of proficiency, they are elementary students (A1). Of course they will find the song very challenging, but that didn’t worry me. They are very motivated to listen to the song and I’m sure they will manage with the help of the you tube video and some guiding questions.

While I was writing them, I realised that  I cannot use this song in class without having a thorough discussion about its meaning. What is education? What type of education do we want? Are there right or wrong answers?  What is the importance of  having our own ideas? Most probably my students won’t be able to discuss these issues fully in English. Nevertheless, I believe that even if they speak Spanish, the debate will be worth it. After all, I’m not teaching just English, I am trying to be an educator.

And this brought me to my perpetual professional dilemma one more time… The issue that faces me with cyclical professional crisis. What am I doing there in those crowded classrooms? Teaching English? I don’t want to do that, I don’t believe in that. English is just a language, a tool. Very necessary and important. Yes, of course. It  has opened me lots of doors.  It has put me in contact with lots of very interesting people. It has let me access books in the authors’ mother tongue and has surrounded me with poetry and hundreds of magical stories. However, we shouldn’t forget it is a TOOL, just like Spanish is.

I’m not saying that I don’t want to teach English anymore. No, I love what I do. What I don’t want is  to teach JUST English. English is not the object of study in my classes. It is the MEANS to access a bunch of knowledge. It is the tool that will allow me and my students to access lots of information, to get to know new cultures, different ways of thinking, different points of views; that will allow us to reflect on important issues, defend our opinions and why not, also get to know each other more. That’s what education is all about after all: developing CRITICAL THINKING and SOCIAL SKILLS.

It sounds pretty simple, though, how difficult it is to teach that! To teach our students to think by themselves, to defy our (the teacher’s) points of view. It is very difficult to get them used to the idea that sometimes there are no right or wrong answers. And of course, sometimes it is even difficult for us , the teachers, to give them more freedom to think and take control of the class. It is easier not to do so. We should overcome the resistance to change. Students should be in control of our classrooms:  rethinking and reinventing knowledge; learning collaborately with the teachers as facilitators, not as THE ONES WHO POSSES THE KNOWLEDGE.

Well, that’s all for now folks. What do you think about all these incoherent ramblings of mine?

Posted on September 2, 2010, in Reflections on Tefl/tesl, Reflexiones sobre educacion and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Es muy interesante saber cómo puede uno reinventar su profesión y su rol dentro de lo que le gusta hacer.

    El gran debate de la Educación actual es justamente si el modelo que se utiliza se corresponde con la realidad, con el presente…

    Comparto con los lectores de este blog un video que justamente habla de esto mismo, e incluso utiliza la canción de Pink Floyd para describir el cambio de paradigma que la tecnología y las nuevas generación proponen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmEFefoe-9U

    Felicitaciones por el blog y por aportar conciencia crítica al diseño de nuevas formas de ver las profesiones.

  2. Muchas gracias Lucas por compartir con nosotros este video. A proposito de el la charla de Sir Ken Robinson es una de mis favoritas de TED. De hecho escribi dos posts acerca de ella https://sabridv.wordpress.com/?s=sir+ken+robinson&submit=Search
    Saludos.

  3. Hi Sabri! I think that you’re doing an excellent job in your role as educator; I can see through your words the passion and enthusiasm that you put into your teaching. And I do not think that you’re teaching just English; if you spread the same amount of thought and passion that you put in this post in your classroom, I’m sure your students will learn everything that you say (critical thinking and social skills) and even so much more.
    Excelent post, as always! Have a nice (end of) week!

    • Hi Dami! Thank you for your kind words. As I told you in facebook, it is nice to hear comments from the people we trust. It helps to keep us motivated!

  4. Good post, it should be a must read for unmotivated teachers🙂

  5. Yes Sabrina! You were really inspired that night. I agree with Leila and Damian. You were writing from your heart an it resulted in an excellent post for unmotivated teachers

  6. I’m now at a Foreign Nationals school in China and we have students from all over the world, but mostly from Korea. The curriculum we teach is in English, from British Columbia, Canada.
    On campus we have a Speak Only English rule while in the school… right down to ‘English Club’ if you are caught speaking another language. When I arrived at the school, I was determined to get rid of this rule. But, as principal, I spend a lot of time walking around the grounds at recess and lunch. I was astonished at how much English I heard! I would be behind two kids with low English skills and even before they knew I was behind them I’d hear them talking and playing in English. I know how important conversational language learning is (especially among peers) and so the rule remains.
    However, when in class and the kids are struggling with an important concept, I must agree with you! I think it is really important to think of English as ‘just a tool’ and allow first language explanations and discussions between students! I have especially noticed the value of this in Math where students are trying to understand difficult concepts.
    This was a wonderful, insightful post to read, thank you!

    • Thanks David! I love listening to your professional experience. They are always very insightful.

      • Hola Sa, qué sorpresa que te pidan ese tema, no? Y qué bueno que se inquieten, que pregunten, que demanden, a veces quizás los docentes subestimamos un poco a los chicos con esta idea circulante de que no les importa nada. No creo que así sea porsupuesto, o renuncio! Las cosas son distintas porque es necesario que así sea..igual no me quiero ir por otra rama con el divague…Me gustó mucho tu post y totalmente de acuerdo con que el Inglés, la Lengua, la Matemática o la Historia, son las excusas, o herramientas como vos decís, que nos permiten transitar este camino pendenciero.
        Te mando un besote, Y adelante!
        Mari

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