Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Those That Can't, Teach

I had been warned by a number of people that have worked as English teachers in the past that my level of English will be affected by daily exposure to people that mangle it despite their best efforts and intentions. I cannot say that that has happened just yet but neither can I say that I find the process too rewarding. Rather I find it painful listening to some of the awful constructions put on the language by some of my poor students. I have empathy with them but it is undeniable that I do ultimately resent having to listen to some of the excruciatingly bad English. Most of the worst is spoken by some of the brighter, more confident students, who both over-estimate their own ability at speaking the language and under-estimate the difficulty, the Protean nature, of the meanings and figurativeness of English.

This sounds churlish, I suppose; you might point out that my efforts in another language might provokes similar pain in another. That is true but my French is better than the English of probably 90% of my students (which is no surprise as I have far greater opportunity of speaking a second language than they have), and neither have I ever taken a French class, other than at school. I learned it on my own and my mangling of the language took place in a free-range environment, in shops, in bars, on the street, on public transport, in bed even. No poor teacher ever had to suffer on my account.

My first couple of months of teaching has taught me one thing, that most education and training is irredeemably compromised and necessarily shoddy. And doomed to failure. We do what we can but as Bernard Shaw infamously said of teachers, 'those that can't, teach'. There is a greater justice in that slur than is widely imagined. Most teachers, even with the greatest will and talent in the world are incapable of teaching most people. Only little slivers of knowledge will permeate the average student's conscience. We mustn't grumble all the same.


Anonymous said...

I think that you are just a shitty teacher. By the way, your written English sucks. You use massive sentences to make yourself look smarter than you are. Also, there is no such thing as proper spoken English. You seem American. Therefore, your accent is a bastardation of the English accent. Therefore, you speak incorrectly.

seanachie said...

I think that the jist of my post was an admission that I was a 'shitty' teacher. But then if you think I 'seem' American without really paying too much attention to anything else that is written on the page you read, then you're not the world's most gifted reader either.

Judging by your terminology (the charming 'sucks', no less) and your IP address, you not only 'seem' American but are. So sad to see such national self-loathing displayed in such a short post. And by the way, I am not smarter than I am, and none of the sentences i use are massive. Some are merely long. Recess is almost over, young fellow, do hurry back to class, now...

alabalanitsa said...

Oh-là-là. Mais qu'on s'amuse ici!
Go on, seanachie, your 'plume' is beautifull. And all about your students is truth, I could say it...;o)