Bad teachers are good teachers. Yes?

[quote=“joesax”]How slow is too slow? In my opinion, the kind of exaggeratedly slow speech you can hear on popular English teaching TV shows is always too slow.

But in general, there’s very good theoretical and practical justification for using some kinds of simplified speech with beginner level students. This can include changing the rate of speech as well as increased repetition of key content words, and perhaps a reduction in the use of pronouns, as well as contextual cues such as gesture, pictures, and so on.

Brendon talked about comprehensible input, which may actually be on the borderline of comprehensibility. I think this is what Krashen meant by “i+1” (IIRC it’s actually i+ something else now, to reflect the fact that teachers can’t grade their speech exactly to the precise level of every student, and that instead they need to provide students with “roughly graded input”).

But there’s a big danger in being too incomprehensible, and an even bigger danger that students and teachers alike may believe that the students understand something, when in fact they’ve misunderstood it. That’s where decent comprehension checking comes in, which of course is a skill that is taught in language teacher training programs.

So overall I still think that experienced language teachers are much more efficient than inexperienced or untrained teachers (though of course students may find such things as language exchanges useful too). Yes, teachers need to make sure they’re providing an appropriate level of input for students, a level that is sometimes just above their current comprehension levels. But this is still something that needs to be judged carefully, and IMO experience is the only thing that enables teachers to do this.[/quote]

Great advice and points. The post quoted above, answers the questions I was looking for perfectly. Great stuff, thanks for that. :bravo: :laughing:

[quote=“Brendon”]I’m confused by this whole thread. Isn’t a big part of our job providing comprehensible input - English slightly above the students’ level? How can being a “good ESL teacher” not include teaching students to understand fast, sloppy, colloquial English?

Actually I tend to speak at full pace even with beginner students, for general classroom communication. They have no idea what the hell I’m saying for a couple of weeks, and then something clicks and their comprehension rockets up above students of the “Hooowwww arreee yoouuuu” guys.

I strongly suspect that “understanding fast English” and “understanding slow English” are totally different skills.[/quote]
I agree with Brendon. With my beginner kids classes, I talk normal speed (and my normal speed is already quicker than most native speakers, plus I mumble.) True, the language content is simplified, and we’re usually talking about something they can see - flashcards, mime, drqwings on the board, etc. The kids understand. It’s no harder to learn to understand a normal-speed English sentence than it is to understand one said unnaturally slowly - with the advantage that the fast one prepares them for real English.
I remeber once when I had a new Taiwanese teacher assistant in my class of low-level 10-year-olds. I explained to the kids how to do a certain activity, in my normal fast manner. The assistant looked at me like I was crazy - he couldn’t understand me - and was about to try to explain in Chinese when he noticed that most of the kids had understood and were starting the activity.
In Korea I had students who could not improve their scores on the standardized English tests they had to take. Two or three months with me, and their listening comprehension scores shot way up. One of them even admitted that at first he didn’t think my way of teaching was right, but kept up with it because he liked me. When he got a good score on the test, finally, he realized that his problem with listening had been that he had never heard natural English before - the Korean teachers had accents and the foreign teachers all spoke slowly and clearly.
If I’m taking a language class, I want the teacher to talk at normal speed. Yeah, it’s disconcerting at first, but in the long run I’ll be better off. It’s sometimes hard to convince the teachers you want them to talk fast, because so many students complain when they do and insist on slower speech.

It also depends on what you are focusing on.

When one of your primary goals is for students to understand what you say and be able to respond, using varied speed and enunciation can help them out. This goes for pretty much all parts of the class.

If your focus is on teaching them a specific skill, emphasizing a particular structure, or giving instructions for a task or activity, then speaking at speeds where their listening comprehension gets challenged is probably a bad idea.

A good teacher uses “teacher talk” consciously, not as a reflex. Teachers who use teacher talk all the time are not effective in the long term.

This thread has become strictly about speaking speed. Aren’t there other qualities to consider? if a teacher speaks too slow or too fast can’t they still be a good teacher based on their good qualities? :question:

In that case, they would be an “otherwise good teacher” :smiley: .

The original post was saying that “bad teachers” are good teachers for some people because they don’t know to slow their speech down-- which is actually good. The original post wasn’t about any other real quality, although the topic of the thread would seem to be open to any sort of quality that new (untrained) teachers tend to have that would actually be helpful.

Basically, the way I see it, experienced teachers don’t always teach better than inexperienced ones. But most of the time, that’s because some experienced teachers don’t really care and are doing things the way that it will bring them the least amount of trouble and keep their job secure. Experienced teachers who care about the quality of their teaching are almost always better than they were when they just arrived.

I’ll make a few bold statements and see if anyone disagrees:

  1. A person can come fresh off the boat, with no prior experience or background in either the culture or language teaching, and be better than someone who has had training and has been doing the job for years.
  2. Training in the field means a lot more than prior training in an education class.
  3. Many teachers who come here learn to be good at performing in a particular system, and never really become good teachers. In fact, conforming to the expectations of these systems can even make them less effective as teachers in some respects.
  4. How much a teacher cares about the quality of their teaching is the greatest determinant of future effectiveness. Force of personality and talent comes second. Training comes third.

I don’t think that “bad teachers” are good at teaching. I just think that some people that are perceived as being good teachers aren’t really good.