Understand Your Teacher

This is the transcript for Episode 23 of English with Stephen about why you should understand what your teacher is doing in class.

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Hello everybody and welcome to English with Stephen, the podcast that helps you learn English as quickly and effectively as possible.

My name is Stephen Greene and today’s topic is Understanding your Teacher. I don’t mean understanding what they are saying, which is obviously important. Hopefully, you can understand the questions your teacher asks and the way they speak. If you can’t you need to talk to your teacher immediately about this problem.

No, what I would like to focus on in this podcast is understanding what they are doing, why they have chosen to use certain activities with you in class.

But first, a quick introduction.

Before we get started, I’d like to tell everyone about an exciting new project. On my Facebook page, English with Stephen, I have recently launched a series of videos called Two-Minute Wonder! The idea is that I will introduce an English idiom or phrase and show you how to use it in under two minutes. If you are interested in this then you can search for me on Facebook at English with Stephen, or you can find a link to my Facebook page on my site EnglishwithStephen.com. On that site, you will also find links to my other social media like Twitter and Instagram, as well as a transcription of this episode.

Now on with the reason why you have to understand your teacher.

Let me tell you a story as an example.

I was once giving a teacher training course. We had a variety of people, some with lots of experience and a few with no experience at all.

One of the best teachers we had on the course was 18. She was a student and had absolutely no experience of teaching. Nothing.

I asked her how she had acquired her talent for teaching. She told me that once she had a teacher who, after every activity, asked the class what the purpose was of that activity. Because of this, my trainee teacher understood the rationale for each activity. She understood what she was supposed to be learning. She understood why she was doing the activities.

And, as a by-product, she understood how to teach.

This got me thinking. Do my students know why I ask them to read and answer the questions? Sure, they think they are going to learn English. But do they really know why this activity is going to help them?

I think it is important that you know why you are doing activities. It helps you to identify the important parts of the task. It also helps you evaluate if you have been successful or not. But most importantly, it helps you to commit to an activity. If you know why you are doing something, you will usually do it with more enthusiasm.

Some questions you can ask yourself include;

  1. What language am I practising?
  2. What skills, for example reading or listening, am I practising?
  3. Is this activity the best way to practise this language or skill?
  4. What is the teacher’s objective for the class?
  5. What is the teacher’s objective for this activity?
  6. How does the teacher think I will learn from this activity?

This last question is very important but quite difficult for many students. A good teacher should have a theory for how people learn. Every activity that the teacher uses should agree with that theory. After thinking about a few different classes, it should be clear to you what your teacher believes about the way we learn.

So, as you are doing an activity ask yourself what you are learning, or what you are practising. If you cannot think of an answer, don’t be afraid to ask your teacher.

Don’t be confrontational, like ‘Why are we doing this?’ Instead, be more gentle, like “Excuse me teacher, I am interested in how that activity helps people learn English. Could you tell me?’ It is probably a good idea to ask at the end of the class or by email. Make sure you ask about a specific activity, and not the whole class or the whole course.

Some teachers will be nervous about explaining the reasons why they do their activities. But, so long as you are polite, most good teachers will happily explain their reasons. In fact, good teachers just love to talk about their activities or educational beliefs and could probably talk all day on this topic.

Have you ever asked a teacher why you were doing an activity? Let me know what they said in the comments. Or tell me about an activity that a teacher has done with you that you found very helpful.

Don’t forget, you can find all the transcripts and links to previous videos at my EnglishwithStephen.com. You can also follow me on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

I hope you found this podcast useful!

Speak to you soon!

A young girls looks pensive infront of a blackboard. Title: Learning Strategies: Understand your teacher. Byline: Why your language teacher does what she does by English with Stephen.
Why am I doing this?

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Subscribe to the podcast here!

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