Why I Teach Simply
Omar Bihmidine is a high school teacher of English. He holds a BA from Ibn Zohr University, Agadir. His writings take the form of short stories, poems and articles, many of which have been published in Sous Pens magazine and ALC Oasis magazine in Agadir.
Sidi Ifni, Morocco,
As a Moroccan teacher of English working under the Ministry of Education, I always believe in the nobleness of this profession. So honored to be called a teacher by my society, I do my utmost to never let any excuse interfere with my duty inside the classroom. No excuse, I reiterate, can ever be provided to justify that we teachers should not work as diligently as is necessary or that we should work only as much as we are paid. Our conscience as teachers must never be marred by intermittent, inescapable laziness. In fact, teaching is the hardest profession for those teachers who take it seriously and the easiest job for idle and lazy teachers.
Despite all that, I must admit that I teach simply, mostly because I believe in the miracle that simplicity works. Also, John Cotton Dana’s adage that those who dare to teach must never cease to learn has also made me adopt the simplicity approach in every step I take in the teaching process. Even though it might bear a different definition to you, simplicity, for me, is the act of teaching my students inside the four walls of the classroom where I try to provide as many opportunities as possible that can be conducive to learning and being self-reliant outside the classroom.
What I also mean by my own simplicity is that I do not set up English clubs at school. I rarely assign extra-curricular activities. I encourage my students to take part in drama clubs, but I have never been their mentor in that venture. No doubt, no one can deny the role these clubs play in helping students perform better and make the best of their learning. But, the fact that I am interested in teaching as much as I am in learning has taken much from my free time. At present, I teach what I have to teach, then devote the rest of the day to developing myself.
Dedicating oneself to teaching alone helps students, but destroys teachers. Good teachers do not only have to teach, but they also have to learn. Learning and teaching must go hand in hand to guarantee successful teaching. With regard to teaching methodology, any teacher can procure some hands-on experience, especially during this era of the internet. Some teachers confuse between learning and teaching. When they leave school, they have to learn new things. Instead of learning, some of them spend more time on learning about the latest methods in teaching even if they are accomplishing their teaching duties well enough.
Learning about the latest methods in teaching writing or speaking is a never-ending process; trying to apply as many of them as possible is a waste of time. What rather pays off is being eclectic as one rummages among the latest in language teaching. Personally, whenever I want to teach a grammar lesson, I usually begin to look for the most appealing method. I usually wait until the time that the lesson comes, then instantly search for the most serviceable method for my session. I am not a language teaching expert to spend my quality time wondering how to teach this skill or that skill. I am a teacher applying what I find beneficial to my students.
What is worth pointing out is whether students learn or not, whether students demonstrate their learning or not and whether students progress or not. What is worth asking is not whether we teach with sophistication or with bare teaching materials, but rather whether students learn what we teach them, using either the textbook or the Ipad. Of course, all these tools are complementary, but criticizing a user of textbooks or that of an Ipad in delivering lessons is of no use. What brings fruition is when students learn and rely on themselves for more future learning.
Not long ago, a teacher of English attended my class, and caught me using bare teaching materials. I was not playing any videos; I was not holding any moving pictures; I was not busy using the interactive board. I was using some visual aids, and writing on the board with chalk. One of the questions the teacher asked me was “How come your students speak good English!”
“Oh, they must be good students! Unlike me, you are so lucky you have good ones this year,” the teacher added.
In all frankness, I do not remember these students speaking good English on the first day they came to my class. Proof is that I teach middle school students, not high school ones. Put differently, I teach blank papers. Nearly all middle school students came to my class, at a loss for words in English. I teach blank minds that have not been taught English before their first year in learning this language.
At this point, I am not trying to prove to you that this works or that does not work when it comes to the teaching field. I am here pointing out that although I spend most of my spare time navigating the internet and using technology for reading, writing and publishing my works via this blessing we have today, I also believe in the power of simplicity that lies in these bare tools: the blackboard, chalk, and visual aids. Just as I staunchly advocate technological gadgets in teaching, I have faith in the power of other simple tools.