Apr 27

Avoid this in your classroom!

my opinion

Never do this...

Here's a video about something that I think is really destructive in the language (or any) classroom. Any guesses what it is?

Video transcript

I’m always a bit reluctant to give any advice to anyone that includes the words NEVER or ALWAYS because every context is different, every teacher is different and every learner is different, but ‘Never do this’ made a catchier title than ‘This isn’t usually very helpful in most classrooms’ so shoot me!

To be honest, with this particular thing, I do feel quite justified in using NEVER though. If you want to know what it is, keep watching.

I’m Jo Gakonga, I’m a teacher educator a CELTA trainer and assessor, an MA TESOL tutor and I’ve got a website at ELT-Training.com where I make video-based support material for English language teachers at all stages of their careers. Check it out and if you like this, give it a thumbs up and subscribe. I make a new video every week.

OK- let me put you out of your misery- the thing that I think you should never do in your classroom is use sarcasm… certainly not sarcasm that’s aimed against a learner or a class.

When I was in school- QUITE a long time ago!- I had a French teacher who was incredibly acerbic. Probably this was the result of long years of teaching teenagers who had little or no interest in French and I get that it’s a pretty thankless task. BUT he was the teacher, and in my book, that means it was his responsibility to help us along our path.

I still have a clear memory of being about 14 in a classroom with 30 other kids and making a mistake with reflexive verbs. I’d been daydreaming a bit to be honest, and not following what he was saying so when he asked for another example, I fluffed it and I can remember vividly 40 years later how he mimicked my answer and publicly humiliated me. That’s probably not what he thought he was doing but it was how I felt.

Sarcasm is really destructive and I think there are three good reasons not to use it in the class:

#1 It’s an attack and it creates fear and a reluctance to try. If you want to learn a language, you HAVE TO practice and have to try and have to not be afraid of making mistakes. Remember that, as the teacher, you’re in a position of power, so use that wisely and create a space where it’s OK to make mistakes.

#2 It strips all the joy out of learning and without enthusiasm, no one can go far. Ask any successful language learner and I guarantee that somewhere in their background was someone who inspired them to learn the language and that someone was very probably a teacher and very probably someone they liked and trusted.

#3 If all that wasn’t bad enough, the very definition of sarcasm is saying exactly the opposite of what you mean. For language learners, this can just be plain confusing.

I probably don’t have to tell you all of this, I’m sure you’re a warm, friendly teacher and you would never be like this to your learners, but we all have our days (even me!) so maybe the next time you feel a bit frustrated or overworked and overwhelmed, think about the bigger picture, make sure you’re not taking it out on your class and remember that what you say now can be carried by your learners for a long time.

A final thought – saw this on Facebook and it fits here- hope you like it.