The original photo found at Beverly@Pack's photostream
Dogme Blog Challenge #6:
Luke Meddings & Scott Thornbury, Teaching Unplugged, Delta Teacher Development Series, 2009.
Can non-native teachers 'do Dogme'? And, if they can't, why not?
NNESTs are judged both by how effective they are as teachers and by how good their English is. I have to say right at the beginning that I find it quite unacceptable for anyone to teach a subject they are not proficient at. And, though we can never become as good as native speakers are, we can, and should, keep learning.
Guess I should explain the title now. You see, most of my teachers were NNESTs. Though I had a few NESTs at University, I feel that I owe everything I know to my non-native English teachers. Some of them were good, others were great. There were one or two not so great ones, but that's life. They used a variety of methods. You will probably find most of their methods terribly outdated, but a few were way ahead of their time. Whatever they did, whichever method they used, they have obviously been successful, for here I am. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
(You can recognise a NNEST by their use of hideous outdated idioms such as: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating" and "It's raining cats and dogs.")
Most of my primary and secondary school teachers used a combination of grammar-translation and class discussions. Speaking has always been considered an important part of learning languages in my country. Serbs are talkative and extroverted and they rarely have a problem when they need to speak, even when their "grammar" is "all wrong". Plus they have an opinion on every topic in the world. Add to that inadequate books prescribed by someone who has never been inside a classroom. Picture a secondary school teacher walking through the door armed with this inadequate book. She does every exercise in the book and she still has half an hour of nothing to fill the class with. What will she do? She will get the students talking and, as I have said, it is usually not difficult to do that over here.
Karenne also asks:
I work with adults. Some of my students are professional people who have really 'made it' in life, but they have somehow failed to learn English (and to really 'make it' in life you have to be able to speak English). Others are in my classroom because they want to change something in their lives and learning English seems to be the right way to start (I wrote about this topic in The Teacher as the Light at the End of the Tunnel). Whether they are successful businessmen or unemployed and trying to make ends meet, all my adult students share one thing - they feel inadequate for not being able to speak English. As a NNEST, I know exactly how they feel. I have been there. I catch them making the same mistakes I once made, I see them hitting a plateau and getting stuck, I see them confused and irritated at the complexity of English language and I remember the days when I felt like that. As a NNEST, the best gift I can give them is to reassure them that, if I could do it, they can do it too. The people I teach share my mother tongue with me, so I can predict where they are going to have problems and what mistakes they are going to make. And I can explain to them that those mistakes are good, they are a part of the learning process and they are going to disappear with time, because that's what happened to me. Sometimes when the students say something incomprehensible in English, I know what they wanted to say because I can translate it word for word into Serbian.
Karenne goes on to ask:
I will never be able to speak English like a native speaker. However, I would say that I have one advantage as a NNEST - I am able to understand how both languages work and to jump from one "model of expression" to the other with relative ease.
You need to understand that I am not 'doing Dogme' at the moment, though, as I have already said, I kind of like it. I am doing the challenge because I would like to learn more about Dogme and then maybe one day... Who knows...
Now let me go back to where I have started this post.
Can NNESTs teach unplugged? I see no reason why they shouldn't be able to do that if that's what they decided to do.
There's something else I keep wondering about: If, as the result of what we do in the classroom, our students learn English , doesn't that mean that we are doing the right thing?
Is the proof of the pudding in the eating? Or is it in the recipe we used?
We hear a lot about learning styles. What about teaching styles?
Just a thought...