What do you do when you and your supervising teacher have completely conflicting pedagogies?

I am teaching English in South Korea right now, and I am firmly rooted on the affective learning side: that students do better when they enjoy themselves; that language processing happens with greater automaticity when the walls (and all that noise that comes with the walls of “i hate this/i’m not good at this) are down.

There is research to support my point of view.

Krashen’s Affective Filter Hypothesis, if you like to err on the side of Krashen, states that comprehensible input ( language that is juuuuuust above a learner’s current level) will not turn into acquisition (you won’t grasp and hold and internalize and use the language you were just exposed to) if it is filtered out before it reaches the brain’s language learning facilities. And in this case, the things that could filter it out are low self-esteem, anxiety, etc. 

Additionally, the Center for Applied Linguistics cites Rubin (1975) in suggesting “that good L2 learners are willing and accurate guessers; have a strong drive to communicate; are often uninhibited; are willing to make mistakes; focus on form by looking for patterns and analyzing; take advantage of all practice opportunities; monitor their speech as well as that of others; and pay attention to meaning.”

Although research has shown that it’s difficult for a language learner to be truly uninhibited, things like “positive self talk,” practice, and authentic language situations can combat their language inhibitions.

I think these factors are strongly effected by affective factors. In many language-learning environments, people find themselves afraid to use the language they’ve acquired because of fear of making mistakes or discomfort. However, I think that a comfortable classroom environment coupled with naturally engaging tasks can “get students talking.” I am a teacher who doesn’t care what you talk about–just say it in English. 

I believe that my job as a Native English Teacher is not to provide students with an Academic class–it’s to provide them with a learning environment that facilitates conversation. From there, it’s my job to do my best to help students understand rhetorical and semantic conventions of conversation with an American Native English speaker.

My coteacher, however, believes that language learning can only be achieved through blood, sweat, and tears. At least, that’s what I think she believes since every time I propose an idea she wants it to be more academic. She can’t see the point in teaching English through purely enjoyable activities. It must be difficult.

Now at this point, there are some things to consider. Whereas I am a linguist fresh out of graduate school armed with all my theories, my coteacher is a woman who has been teaching EFL for 17 years. Plus, she actually learned English in a foreign language environment, to the point where she now has achieved automatic processing of academic and conversational English.

On the other other hand, my coteacher is the exception for EFL students. I’m sure that she must have been a highly motivated English Language Learner to have reached this degree of acquisition. Many of our other students are competent English test takers and fairly decent English writers, but when I stop them and ask them what they’re looking at in the halls, that is when they freeze up.

What I’ve learned as a teacher in my four-month stint, however, is that difficult for the students pretty much means difficult for me. Tedium for them means tedium for me. A class they hate = a class I hate.

And who benefits from a class everyone hates? Especially in an environment that is supposed to encourage language flow and language processing with a Native English speaker? 

I’m not quite sure how to articulate this to my supervising teacher, but after reading up on it a little more, I am more confident that there is a method to my language-teaching pedagogical madness. Any thoughts?

 

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