Saturday, 9 January 2016

We don’t teach English. We teach people. Part I

EFL teachers, especially those who teach young learners, know that they are teaching more than English. One of the things we teach is values.
Most parents recognize the need for their children to have right values and they want to instill these values in their children. Some governments suggest that teachers do it. Some schools expect its teachers do it. Some parents specifically ask teachers to help them out by teaching values.

However, it is important to point out the controversial nature of the subject of moral education and the sensitivities it may engender, since moral education could be perceived as a form of indoctrination. To guard against possible misinterpretation, I would like to point out the following:

·         The nature of the work of schooling involves dealing with issues that could easily be labelled under moral education, for values are manifested in what we do, how we act, and what we say.
  1.          Teachers need not avoid tackling moral issues. Quite the opposite, they should be encouraged to do so not with the purpose of steering their students in the direction of a certain point of view or converting them to a new doctrine, religious or otherwise, but rather to prepare them to think carefully and critically about moral issues. 
  2.          One major issue of contention in relation to moral education is whose values to teach. This issue could be more sensitive in an EFL context where the values of the immediate environment will differ in some significant ways from the values of English-speaking societies. 
  3.      Teachers are an integral part of making sure that each generation, like the generation before it, learns what it needs to know to succeed in the world. It’s sometimes frustrating and tiring, but it’s nothing new.

 As a teacher, one of the most important things you can do is lead by example. There’s no point in asking our students to be helpful and polite when we are not. Being nice, kind and fair is something most of us do naturally (because someone else, years ago, taught us to do it!) but it’s important to remember, especially for teachers of young children, that our students are watching our every move. They are learning important lessons about how the world works by what they see.

In order to implement values education in the EFL classroom, we should centre around creating an active learning environment. Active learning involves building an open classroom climate characterised by intensive student participation and interaction, respect for students and teacher, open discussion, and positive reinforcement.

By breaking values into small, meaningful chunks, stating our expectations, following up during the week and rewarding students for good behavior, teaching values becomes not only manageable, but incredibly helpful to your image as a teacher.

With young learners and in the initial stages, you will need to do most of the work in L1. Learners will give examples in their L1 because they don’t have the necessary language yet. Repeat their contributions in very simple English. Ask the class to repeat key vocabulary and help them to gradually incorporate the words in sentences.

But above all, whether with very young or older children, remember: teaching values takes time and is best done by example!

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