IATEFL BESIG World Blog


Welcome to the BESIG World Blog. Each month we’ve got a different guest author lined up who will be sharing thoughts and experiences on teaching business English from countries around the globe.

  • Motivation: Teachers need it too

    Claire Hart

    Motivating Business English learners is often a challenge. Interrupting the work you need to get done by the end of the day to come to class, having to get to work two hours before your shift starts for class or coming to class because your boss has told you that you have to: these are among the circumstances which can have a negative effect on our learners´ motivation. As Business English teachers, however, we are very understanding of these circumstances. We do everything in our power to motivate: we negotiate clear and achievable learning goals with our course participants and then give them indicators of the progress they are making toward these goals. We vary the types of activities we give them, bring in some new technology- “Did you know that you can download this vocabulary app on your smartphone and use it to practice your English while you´re commuting to work?”  

    Don´t get me wrong, as far as I´m concerned, motivating our learners to learn is one of the most important parts of our job. If they´re not motivated to attend our courses, then we have no courses, essentially.  My point is rather this: that in the midst of all this talk of learner motivation, we might have forgotten that our own motivation to teach is equally important. In fact, learner motivation and teacher motivation co-exist symbiotically. If the teacher isn´t motivated to teach, then why should the learners be motivated to learn?

    Unfortunately though, many of our number are de-motivated. They´re fed up with Mr. X,  who frequently sends them an email half an hour before the planned lesson to cancel it, by which point they were already on the underground travelling to his office. They don´t appreciate the fact that they have to spend additional (unpaid) time preparing tests for their learners so that the Human Resources department can say to the top team: “Look, the money you´re spending on English training is money well-spent.” What can we do to motivate ourselves as Business English teachers? This is the question I would like to pose and go some way toward answering.

    I teach in-companies in Southern Germany and I also have my Mr. X and moments of de-motivation: none of us are immune to them, I think. I would, nevertheless, describe myself as a highly motivated teacher, overall.  Why? Well, here are some of the things which I have found to be effective boosts to my motivation:

    1.  Talk to other teachers who are passionate about what they´re doing and love their jobs. Let them inspire you with their infectious enthusiasm and also ask them practical questions like: so, how do you deal with this situation? How do you cope with this? If you don´t have the opportunity to talk face-to-face or email passionate teachers, you can find them on Twitter. Some of the tweeting teachers who motivate me the most and also give me a lot of practical teaching ideas and interesting links are those whose tweets you´ll find if you search for #BESIG or #besig. I´m often at my most motivated on my return from a workshop or conference though, having spent time exchanging ideas and experiences with other teachers over a coffee or a cocktail and learning useful tips and techniques in the sessions I´ve attended that I can then take home with me and use in my classroom.

    2.  Innovate in the classroom. Don´t be afraid to try out the new ideas you´ve gotten from others, use a new course book or try a different error correction technique. However big or small, make a change to the way you teach and it´s bound to stimulate you and help you get out of any ruts you may have gotten into. You´ll also no longer feel like you´re just running on auto-pilot when you´re in the classroom.

    3. Create your own content which is personalized to your participants´ learning needs, their jobs, their companies and their industries, or adapt the materials you already have to achieve the same effect. I know it takes time, but the positive feedback you´ll get from your learners if you do, does wonders for your motivation levels. It also gives you the feeling that you´re not just some photocopying robot but someone who is actually creating something.

    There are, of course, many other ways in which you can boost your motivation. If anyone has any tips they´d like to share on this question, please leave a comment below and join the discussion.

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  • Copier Quake

    Damian O’Donovan

    You know the scene, the daily queue for the photocopier. Someone is making endless copies of some dull course book. Your first thoughts are of long walks on short piers, but, with a descending tone and just a touch of a fortis obstruent, you utter the ubiquitous photocopier barge-in phrase: ‘Um…Can I just…?

    I’m sick of photocopiers, they should all be scrapped, thrown out of every English teaching and training establishment, whether you teach English for aviation or finance, for packet soup producers or chicken farmers. The buzz, the grunt, the nauseating, noxious fumes, the breakdowns and the sweaty engineer all instil a wild panic in the teacher whose lesson starts in 2 minutes, so hurried that the copy they make of the latest course book page they select at random comes out looking a dog-eared mess of wonky, blurred text. Stay away from the creature in the corner, regard it, like Morrissey does the wardrobe, as a beast of prey.

    And what about that notice from the CLA, ‘No more than 5% of any book can be copied,’ in most cases that’s 5 – 10 pages maximum and the course book is no solution, you need to start and finish one to feel the benefit. Who has a class that stays the same for long enough to do so?

    It doesn’t reflect well on your teaching when you hand out someone else’s out-dated ideas hoping they meet all your students’ needs and fit the perfectly crafted learning programme you may have spent weeks on? It sure wouldn’t impress me, if I were a student returning home with a file crammed with slap-dash, cut and paste exercises. ‘Yes’, I hear you troll: ‘…what about paid preparation time then?’ Yes, what about it, indeed? I have never experienced it in the private sector.

    There comes a time when you have to rely on your training and experience and deny the call of the course book and any paper at all. It’s time to get back to the resource book, what you picked up in your training and to the veritable Niagara of free, up-to-date and copyright free materials online and in your head. Maybe try a little teaching unplugged from time to time. This won’t really happen until the rumbling elephant in the room is taken away; however, for the time being: ‘there is a light that never goes out’.

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