A LETTER TO THE TEACHERS OF ENGLISH: 24Teacher-friendly students and student-friendly teachers [Archives:2003/664/Education]

September 1 2003

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,
If you read the history of ELT, you will find that it has taken about 30 to 40 years to realize that the learners should be treated as human beings; I'm referring to the humanistic approach to teaching English, which made its existence in the 1970s. Earlier teaching philosophies treated the learners as 'machines' or receptacles for receiving information and the teachers or the textbooks took the center stage in the classrooms. The humanistic philosophy insists that the learners are to be treated as human beings with flesh and blood and more importantly mind and the teachers should gear their teaching methods to trigger their minds off so that they can participate in the classroom activities. Another important feature of the humanistic approach is not to hurt the learner's feelings while correcting their errors or while they are attempting to take part in the classroom activity. The teachers are made to realize that the self-esteem of the learner is as important as that of the teacher.
So, it is important that you treat your learners in as friendly a manner as possible, considering them as partners in the teaching-learning process. Believe that they are intelligent and can contribute to the classroom activity, if they are motivated and encouraged to do so. It is said that today's children are more intelligent than yesterday's children – that's we; then, why don't we exploit their potentialities for the benefit of the teaching activity? This is possible only when you let them realize that you are sincere about it and treat them in a friendly way.
You will agree with me that our students, at least those in the cities, have access to the internet facilities; I see adults crowding the net cafes these days. You can make use of this and ask them to collect information related to their lesson; for example, when you teach the lesson 'The United Kingdom' in Pupil's Book 5, you can ask them to collect information about another country, say Japan, from the internet. You can set this a task for a group of students so that it will not be a burden to one student. I think such activities will make them feel 'great' and bring them closer to the teacher; they will definitely develop a liking for the English classes.
I would like to stress that the girl students should also be given opportunities to explore these possibilities so that they may feel that they are not left behind; I find that there is a lot of thrust in the empowerment of women in this country and this will be a step in the right direction.
Being friendly does not mean that you lose control over the class and let loose the students to chaos. Be friendly and be firm; treat the students with respect but pull them up when necessary. After all you know what is good for them. I am only addressing my fellow teachers who wrongly think that the class has to be kept 'under the thumb' in the name of discipline; who think that students know nothing; who think that the teacher is the 'all knower' and the only source of knowledge.
Student-friendly teachers have always been successful as they make the students teacher-friendly. Be friendly but firm; be kind but strict. Good luck.
Yours fraternally,
Dr. M.N.K. Bose