EXCEL Corner by
Do We Really Use What We Know?
Some things have been on my "EXCEL Program heart" lately. Do we just know a lot of information about the communicative method or do we really use it on a daily basis in our classrooms? Do we think ourselves successful English teachers just because we can quote all the communicative data—all the three-stage lesson lingo? Are we producing wonderful activity ideas for the "Classroom Application" portion of our EXCEL homework yet seldom utilizing such with our Ss? When our EXCEL supervisor comes for his observation do we have the best class in our "personal teaching history" but then just do whatever the rest of the school year? Is our teaching from our hearts or just a front to give a good impression to our EXCEL supervisor?
At my old job in the States, the first few times my principal came for his yearly observation of my English class, I really had a super lesson. I mean I planned to excess, created stimulating activities, prepared oodles of cutouts and manipulatives, and even color-coded the sections, so my Ss could understand the directions well. Everything was perfectly amazing! I still taught what I needed to teach for that particular day, but I jazzed it up—A LOT! I wanted my principal to see for himself what a great teacher I was.
I wonder what my students thought, though? Were they just happy to have such a fun lesson, or did they notice that my effort was unexpectedly heightened at the appearance of the school principal? Hmmm…..
When I used to travel out to observe EXCEL students' classes, I really enjoyed watching the effective, creative, and lively presentation and practice stages of their lessons! However, I would often feel let down because they rarely got to the communicative stage. What had happened? In our seminars and homework assignments, we had studied so much about teaching communicatively. I thought they had understood. Surely they could at least execute the communicative stage when I came all that way to observe.
I honestly don’t think they were being lazy. I really believe they wanted to teach well for me, but I wonder if they just had head knowledge. Maybe they couldn't quite figure out how to put their Methodology Reader article information into practical classroom use? Was it that they were so accustomed to their old way of teaching that they couldn't get out of the rut? I don't know for sure. However, I do know that I always wanted something deeper for secondary school English teachers when they came up short in this matter. It just takes much effort and maybe much trial and error, to get this communicative teaching thing right. Even if we still don't have it down yet, this is certainly not the time to give in to hopelessness. Rather it is time to take a candid look at ourselves and then go ahead with expectation. You know what they say, "Practice makes perfect."
Have you heard about the guy who looked into the mirror before leaving for work but didn’t notice that he had some mustard on his face? He went the whole day like that, but no one told him about the mustard. How embarrassing! None of us wants to experience something like that. However, I think we sometimes look into the "communicative teaching mirror" and neglect what is right there in front of us. How wonderful it would be this year if all EXCEL students—in fact, all English teachers—would truly look into that mirror, see what kind of teachers we are (even when no one is watching), and then wipe that "mustard" off our faces. Do you know what I'm talking about? Yes, I think you do. Thank you for listening, taking heed, and teaching from your heart from now on!
A fitting proverb says: “Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly.”