First, my apologies for a late posting.
I think it's useful, particularly in the EFL contexts in which I've worked (Taiwan and Korea), to make a distinction between what is practised in front of students and what one is actually capable of doing. The two often don't coincide, which is why the "educators" may seem invisible.
This is partly because the person placed at the front of the room is:
(a) forced to be dependent on and fully use a text and workbook which the school has determined is the most suitable, is what every student needs and which parents have been required to purchase,
(b) forced into an assistant's role by government legislation which does not accept their status as a registered teacher (even though their home country does),
(c) forced to worry about student outcomes because final tests are mandated and results below 80% are seen as failures,
(d) capable of using a variety of technologies but not able to, since there are not enough computers, or the software is not in English, or not all rooms have the same equipment, or
(e) capable of using a variety of approaches but in practice discouraged from doing so because those styles are considered foreign.
I think it is also valuable to think of ourselves as "learning facilitators" rather than teachers, since it is students themselves that construct their knowledge, often from each other or external sources, while we attempt to move them in directions which are meaningful and useful. We do this by being enthusiastic about our subject, by staying focused on where we want them to go, by providing opportunities to practice in a variety of ways, by building on what they already know, by giving them the tools (skills) to move forward, by encouraging experimentation, by regular informal low-stakes assessment which feeds back into the learning, and by expecting them all to improve.
To give you a simple example of what I mean, when I moved to Taiwan I needed some form of transportation, so a friend helped me buy a motor scooter. I'd never ridden one before, but I had ridden a bicycle and driven a car. Thus I came to the task with some prior knowledge. Nevertheless, being from Australia I'd never used the right-hand side of the road, nor the controls on a scooter. He showed me the basic buttons and controls (turn signals, horn, brakes, accelerator) and what to watch out for on the road. He then led me slowly home while I followed him on my scooter very cautiously. He watched me in his mirrors, and at each traffic signal checked if I was OK or offered a few more tips. He believed I could ride successfully and I eventually got home in one piece. Later I read up on the local road rules, scooter maintenance needs, etc. but at the time he gave me the confidence to try it out. To me, that is a great model of teaching. He didn't sit me down and give me a lecture about the number of traffic accidents in Taiwan and their causes, or the 192 or so possible questions on the licence examination, or how scooters are constructed, he just knew what I needed and got me there.
Thanks again for the opportunity to think about this topic and for all the discussion to date. I hope other "teachers" reading your blog will give some thought to these central concerns as well.
Posted at http://jasonrenshaw.typepad.com/jason_renshaws_web_log/2010/08/three-kinds-of-language-teacher.html by: Greg | September 13, 2010 at 03:49 PM