How to get Government School Teachers on your Side + more on Textbooks

(Thanks to everyone who sent in great comments yesterday! 🙂 )

If you ever have to present to a group of teachers then it’s definitely worth trying the simple exercise below, otherwise you’ll spend all day with attitudes like “but in our country ….” “but in my school …” Doing the exercise, however, gets all their frustrations out there and gets them totally on your side! I guess one of the reasons it was tough yesterday was that I didn’t follow my own “lesson plan” and didn’t do a needs analysis (I just used the one from the week before!) so I definitely did one today.

You’ll also find that just about every teacher has the same problems to deal with!

All you do is….

  1. Split the class into 2
  2. Make one team the “beautiful team” and the other the “gorgeous team” (they like you for this!)
  3. Give one person in each group a pen or chalk.
  4. When you start the music they have to come to the front and write one problem they have with teaching English
  5. Then they pass the pen to the next person who writes another problem on the board.
  6. Keep going till you feel you’ve got all their problems out in the open and stop the music.

If you’ve done the Genki English Warm Up and the Genki English Rules then they’ll be pouring their hearts out on the board (just problems with teaching English – not personal problems please!) And at the end of it you’ll have a whole list of things to base the rest of your training on. For example if the teachers are using too high a level of English, point to where they wrote “kids are bored”, because that happens when the kids aren’t understanding. Or if they aren’t into using music players then show where they wrote “pronunciation is bad” and they’ll be more inclined to try.

Here’s half of what we had today:

As you can (hopefully!) see most of the problems will be fixed with the Genki English and Phonics curricula we’re giving them. But of course they don’t know that yet, so you have to explain which bits relate to which problems. Then you get lots of “Aha, I see!” moments!

Textbooks again

One of the big problems that always comes up is “Syllabus not good” or that there is too much English to teach. I always ask the teachers which syllabus they are complaining about and they nearly always say it’s the “government school syllabus” or something like that.

One of the first things I do in a new country is to study the official framework or guidelines. So I just pulled them out and said “where does it say all that?” In nearly all the countries I’ve worked in it’s hardly ever the fault of the government curricula or guidelines. In fact reading most countries guidelines they practically read like a description of Genki English (as in fact that’s what I based Genki English on in the beginning.)

The problem lies with the textbook writers. If the government is wanting a syllabus full of positive attitudes and communication skills then it is very difficult to make, and sell, a “text”book that covers these things. So what do publishers usually do? They cram the book full of as much text as possible – hence the name “textbook”. Then what happens is that the teachers, who probably have never read the official guidelines, think that they have to teach the book, rather than teach what the government wants them to teach. This is a big problem, especially when you see the Indian ones. It starts off with the Indian Constitution – in English (which admittedly the kids don’t have to read) then moves on to things like:

“The mosquito flew off. The paw struck his own cheek. The blow scraped his cheek. It began to bleed. The mosquito buzzed away. The tiger struck with his other paw. The mosquito flew off. This time, too, he hit himself”

This is first grade. Which inevitably leads to rote learning for hours on end where the kids understand nothing, like this video example below. Just look at the kids’ faces!

In government schools we can’t throw out the textbook. And although we can promise to cover the government framework in our lessons, we can’t promise to cover everything that is in the textbook (that would be impossible.) The hope is that by learning to communicate in Genki English and learning phonics it will help the kids improve their English scores. So that’s what we’re doing, we’ve got a great team baseline testing hundreds of kids now and then also in 6 months and a year’s time, to hopefully get some data for Delhi, to go along with that we already have for Hyderabad, on how the kids’ English (fingers crossed!) improves compared with the control group who just teach like before.

There so many variables and a ton of data, but results are what we need to persuade the people in authority to spread this out to more schools.

Anyway, after all this the teachers were much better today. They did the lesson plans and were cool.

But tomorrow one other big problem cropped up!

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...

13 Responses to “How to get Government School Teachers on your Side + more on Textbooks”

  1. Gumby

    Yikes, and I am complaining about Japan! Looks like you have to deal with rote memorization all over the world.

    Thanks for the pointers on the workshop, Richard. I think this is something I want to try for our workshop in the fall.

    Keep the faith, Richard. The fact that you are busy from so many workshops shows that some people are really trying to make a difference.

  2. richard

    I was much better on this day! Everyone else was saying they’d never seen gov teachers so genki, which is pretty cool!

    I was thinking of putting up a post with the full run down of how to do a workshop. Would that be useful? (It’s pretty long though!)

  3. Gumby

    Yes, it would be very helpful!

  4. Margit

    Sounds much better!

    Really good points, especially the thing with syllabus. I thought about this before. It’s really that way, and I have been wondering why schools or BoEs are trying to teach the way they are (at least in many cases), though the government’s syllabus is to “make kids see the fun aspect of learning English. Communication games. NO writing. NO grammar explanation. No taking ahead the JH English”

    With all what happened around me this year, I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to do a teachers workshop in Summer, but YES, a run down would be great!

  5. Claudia

    beautiful vs gorgeous

    This is just what I needed! I have to give a teacher workshop in August in another country soon. Yay, gonna use this.

  6. Colm

    Hi Richard
    A full run down of how to do a workshop would be cool.
    I also think that a worksheet for (home-room)teachers who only observe a Genki-English class would also be very useful. This worksheet to be filled out before/after or both before and after the class. I think a good worksheet for teachers would focus their attention on the merits of the Genki English approach.
    Do you have such a tool in your arsenal or do you feel it would be a useful addition?

  7. richard

    Hi Colm,

    I’ve a got a checklist that our mentor’s use when evaluating teachers. It has things like “Warm up done with gestures, loud voices + review of previous lesson: Yes / No”

    Is this the sort of thing you were thinking of? Or something else?

  8. Colm

    That’s exactly what I was thinking of as I will have teachers observe one of my classes but they don’t have time to do a workshop with me.

  9. sussie

    Wow, compare that to italian “textbooks” dealing with numbers, colours, food and toys (vocab only, no sentence structure!) for the first 3 years in primary school! There’s no context reading at all until first year middle school when they all of a sudden start memorizing grammar rules!
    That’s why it’s great to see what’s going on in the rest of the world to get some perspective on our own school systems!

  10. Elissa Tremblay

    Teaching is not only my profession but also my hobby and I really like to make material to help the kids to learn easier and have fun to go to my classes. It takes a lot of time though. Every free minute you can find me in my basement at home(Canada) making something that can help me with my (english) lessons. I love Genki English….but it would help me a lot if other teachers could give me some ideas for teaching only one kid at the time….cause that’s MY problem….most of the GE lessons are meant for groups!

  11. Jesse

    I’m teaching Korea and it’s a similar situation. Teachers want to teach the whole textbook and sometimes that means speeding through things. I’ve been successful sometimes at convincing co-teachers to spend more time on concepts, even if that means “falling behind,” by showing them how mastering one concept leads to the mastering the other. After all, if the kids didn’t understand “I want to be a _____,” how can they possibly understand, “I want to be a _______ because ________.”

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