As expectations for learning in the language classroom decline, Hana Tichá suggests there is a risk that English teachers will become redundant
These days, English learners can be as autonomous as they wish. There are all those mobile apps, movies, games, songs and books to help them. So, is there any work left for us English teachers? And to what extent may this feeling of redundancy influence our own attitudes, performance and ultimately the job itself?
What do I mean by this? Here in the Czech Republic, for example, the expected outcomes in English no longer match the knowledge and skills that students can realistically achieve if they are motivated to do their best. I believe that, ironically, low expectations from the school system seriously threaten the quality of our work.
Let me explain this. You may know about the Golem effect; the phenomenon whereby low expectations lead to a decrease in performance. I simply fear that once our students come to believe there’s not much that we can actually do for them, ultimately, there will indeed be very little we can offer.
Moreover, every teacher probably feels there is an imaginary threshold in teaching a foreign language. Past this stage, it gets difficult or impossible to satisfy everybody in the class. I mean, you can’t teach C1 language to your best students and leave the A2 students behind, can you? In other words, I’m concerned that most English learners may sooner or later consider us teachers to be rather obsolete or unable to meet their needs, particularly at the secondary level of education.
And, although there will still be some learners who can’t make do without us – those who find it challenging to learn independently or those who see the teacher as a door to obtaining certificates and degrees – it is a rather pessimistic prospect.
To tackle the problem, we may need to look closely at (and possibly follow) the example of Finland, for instance, where the focus is on work across school subjects, including English. This is something which is already applied at some schools here in the Czech Republic. However, it will probably need to become more large-scale if we English teachers want to keep our jobs as well as find them useful and gratifying.