Minggu, 29 Maret 2009

Teaching English as Foreign Language (Approach & Method)

Oleh : Nofel Nofiadri, SS.

I have been teaching English since 1999 starting at a small English course for Elementary School Students where English became a content for new curriculum at that time. I realized that I had no idea about teaching (approach, method, technique or strategy), unless I tried to implement my knowledge and my believe about English in a form of transferring spontaneous energy in a classroom full of students. Practically, I put them in the room with tables and chairs, and a big wide white board before the classroom. The core of my syllabus was the goal of making them to think about English as something easy and fun. Unconsciously, I underwent the frame that I have lived to the world of English which became a soul of my teaching approach and method.

The marker in my hand scratched a full sentence on the white board and underlined each part of the sentence into subject, predicate and compliment. I taught them something syntactically. I gave them a lot of drilling of any sentences appeared on the white board. I was happy, because they pronounced as I asked them to. The stress of the teaching process of my debut class was to influence the pupil with my belief that the very important one in learning English was the awareness of tenses and structure (grammar). The exercises I gave them truly showed what I really intent to. Had been satisfied with my own goal, I looked up their hand book at school to see how I could build a bridge between my class and their class at school. My happiness turned into a challenge how to make them better by performance in their classroom at school. I drove my idea by giving them a lot of drilling and providing them with question and answer. I did direct correction to any mistakes they made. Structure and tenses were very important. Mr. Amri Isyam, my structure teacher at Bung Hatta University, gave me much influence to my teaching style. It doesn’t mean that my conversation teacher was not good. A flashback, my teachers at junior high and senior high did the same thing to me and it really constructed the paradigm of my own learning and teaching English. The result seems like I am the operator and they are a robot. Sometimes I feel now that I was operating computer.

My experience with those elementary school students ended up because of cash flow showing business had to stop. English was a new thing for Elementary School students at that time and parents did not fully support their children for something they still doubted. My teaching experience kept running. I took an offer to give a private course for some staffs at Garuda Indonesia Airways Company in Tabing. The station manager told me the goal of that course which was to make their staff able to speak English because their company dealt with global business and Multilanguage context. The class was taken place in their office during the midday brake, about 45 minutes with 5 pupils. This class was smaller than y Elementary Students class which involved 23 students. The office classroom at Garuda was having a medium size of white board. I did it again to what I have done for my debut class for elementary school students, the same method but quiet different in strategies. We had a lot of question and answer but less drilling by considering I was afraid to treat them like a child by doing a lot of drilling. I felt that this class brought me into a new way of teaching English that is to communicate although I did not know theoretically about teaching because I was not studying at Educational Dept.

I did some improvement to my teaching quality because the money was good to me as a student. My first adult students at Garuda felt tired of structure and tenses. They tended to ask me how to express something in English rather than to memorize some lines I wrote on the white board. I involve a serious discussion with the station manager to make a great change that white board and note book had to be dismissed from the classroom. Finally, he took my idea. I did not bring my marker anymore but I provided them with articles about flight that I got from internet and some models of conversation that could be happening at the airport. They liked it a lot. Everybody tried to speak more and our classroom could be in the office, on the minibus if we went eating out to restaurant, or in a café. It was affordable because the company truly supported the course, and the station manager is an easy going person. My conversation class had an advance because the day before the class I have involved a lot of conversation with one of American Native speaker who worked for UNP. Her name is Catherine. I think my class was not teaching as I though but it was just sharing discourse from my conversation with Catherine and retell again to Garuda classroom. I still didn’t know about approach and method for teaching language at that time. It was just a natural progress. The class must be over because airport became a busiest place after 9/11 tragedy and so Catherine was sent home to San Francisco. Teaching became more interesting but I lost my class.

At the beginning of 2004, I got a teacher training because I passed the test for teaching English at English Language School in Padang. I was really familiar with lesson plan which was telling me sequences of classroom process that consist of three main parts: introduction, exercises and production. My interest on teaching was back. Introduction part consists of explaining about language mechanic (phonology, morphology and syntactic exploring). Drilling is there as well. Showing pictures and describing them to the learner was conducted in order to build a circumstance and to have student schemata before the course touched the language target. At the first ten minutes, teacher dominates the classroom by giving explanation and drilling. Sometimes, listening was involved at this introduction part. At the end of introduction part, teacher gave a round up question to evaluate and to reinforce the material given. At the second part, exercises, students did some exercises in the hand book and work book (Spectrum). This second part, the reinforcement was happening by experiencing students with structure exercises and language function by having exercise on response of the conversation dialogue from the work book. During this exercise part, teacher usually put on some songs while he/she was observing students desk to desk. This second parts took about 20 minutes maximum. The third part, production, will involves students on pair work interaction, group interaction and class discussion. Teacher could create own material or derived from supplement materials such as: Grammar games, a conversation games, reading games, speak out, and role play. The Academic Director suggested a least during this session instructor supposed to give one games, pair work, a role play and class discussion. My Academic Director was graduated from UNP. He knows many thing about teaching, I though. Teen class would have more games, intermediate got more pair work and group interaction and advance level would have more group and class discussion. I felt like finding my mother after lost direction for several year teaching experience when I was teaching at ELS. Since then, I read some teaching method and strategy from BBC English and some journal on ELT. My communication with my senior instructor and some native speakers there was really helpful. And now, I know it seems like communicative approach what I have tried get close with. I realize it was not there enough. My curiosity walked down to a place where teaching is a professional thing and full of scientific study. I attended UNP on September 2004.

During my study at Bung Hatta University, my interest was about linguistics, a big influence of Prof. Anas Yasin. I did drama performance several times and writing poetry on wall magazine at English Dept of Bung Hatta was part of me. I involved in a rock band and I had some experiences about MC. I was an entertainer as well by joining an Event Organizer. Everything was turned up into teaching English when I was sitting at English Language Teaching Program at UNP. Some controversial things messed up my mind. It was still a challenge.

2005, I got a real freedom to manage my class since I worked for English Dept. of Imam Bonjol State Institute for Islamic Studies Padang. Speaking I was my first class at there. Great contribution of my course at UNP opened a wide road for me to do and to experience more about ESL instruction approach. I have tried from traditional approach (grammar translation, audio-lingual, direct method), Transition (silent way and suggestopedia) Community Language Learning (TPR, Natural Approach, Prof Zainil’s AFM) and CLT (Task Base and Computer Base). I don’t know yet whether I understood fully about those approaches and methods but I found it was a slot which theory never comes into a correct practice. My frustration reached its time bomb. It was exploded in the middle of class discussion with Prof. Zainil on TEFL/TESOL course. My immature emotion and ethic turned into an over reacting by pronouncing “Those methods are bullshit for my classroom”. Prof. Zainil was angry ( I think) by my statement so then he never stop explaining them again in an overtone. I was so sorry. I know here now, I don’t understand fully about those approaches and methods and I went blind to make it happen into my classroom. Now I am reading those books again since I retook this semester. What I found how Communicative Language Teaching should be applied in Indonesia context where English as Foreign language is a need to build a bridge between theory and practice.

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