A few years ago, I was an idealistic novice English Trainer who had high hopes for myself. The first few weeks, I was tasked to observe and shadow my buddy trainer, the head trainer. It was a demeaning task, to say the least. I thought I could do better. I was raring to be allowed to spread my wings and handle my own classes. A month later, I was finally given my free pass. Things just started to unravel and go south from then on. For starters, I got a 68% in my graded observation. It was not a grade I was proud of, and certainly not the one I expected. It, most certainly, was not the grade you would expect of a grammar nazi who had a crisp neutral accent that could pass of as a native speaker’s.
What gives? Well, although I did learn sentence diagramming until I knew it like the back of my hand, but what I never learned was how to make topics compelling for students. Granted, I was a student who just got a certain kind of high in my English and Humanities classes. I positively adored writing. Getting down and dirty with the classics was my idea of a relaxing and enjoyable weekend. Getting up close and personal with syntax got my heart racing like no one else could. I soon realised I was alone in my enthusiasm. Most kids don’t like listening to a lecture on verb tenses and taking notes. But that was precisely all I had to offer at that time.
I thought teaching was all about head knowledge and content knowledge. I believed that teachers are supposed to be subject matter experts, so being an effective teacher meant having to prove you’re the smartest one in the room.
Years later, under the mentorship and patient guidance of my training manager, I started building my own repertoire of communicative games and activities. My manager opened my eyes to a whole new teaching philosophy. I realised that teaching and learning is not unidirectional; rather it’s a cycle. My students learn from me as much as I learn from them. I learned that learning is a matter of exploration and not dictatorship. Teachers don’t dictate what should be learned. They may guide their students into certain directions, but true learning comes from being part of one’s own learning process. The more freedom a student has in his/her learning, the more he’d want to be part of it.
Eventually, I acquired a trainer’s tool kit and started filling them with instructional resources. Surprisingly, that kit does not include a lot of books. Instead, they were filled with odd assortments of things– squishy balls, a dipper, a Jollibee bucket, play money, blindfolds, flash cards and a lot of creativity.
I’ve learned that even the best of teachers cannot rely on knowledge alone to enhance the teaching-learning experience. The choice of instructional materials also directly impacts the quality of teaching. Instructional materials support and enrich the learning content. Instructional materials help wean students off the teacher so they no longer depend on the former to impart knowledge. Good instructional materials and the use of media and technology helps re-shape the learning environment to make it more conducive to learning and more learner-centred. The use of such takes a load off the teacher and shifts the ball back to the student to fashion as they please. This makes learning more meaningful and relevant to the student. First, it increases student participation. Second, it also enhances the learning experience for the student because it motivates them to learn and stick with the material better than traditional materials such as books and OHP materials would.
Teachers should be cautioned though that just as in learning, the choice of instructional media and educational tools have to be tailor-fit for each students’ needs and learning styles. It should cater to everyone in the room. Instructional materials should match the students’ learning styles. Therefore, teachers should prepare instructional resources that will cater to each student’s learning style. This would include audio-visual materials, printed materials and even practical application so students have ample opportunity to learn and retain information.