The role of the EF/SL teacher in society

As an EFL teacher, you must have already realised that the roles we play are as volatile as this ever-evolving world we live in.

Let’s start by focusing on some of the changes our role has been through in the classroom: We are not the source of all wisdom and power anymore (if we have ever been), as students have their devices (smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks, etc) right there and then to investigate if what was said is the absolute truth. However, we are still a source of guidance. We are seen as facilitators or supporters. Not only do we transfer our knowledge of the content that is being taught, we also transfer our experience. The teacher tends to make the whole learning process more human and welcoming for the students.

What’s more, think about the more informal conversations that are held during the breaks in between lessons or before or after a lesson starts, in which the teacher shares part of his/her own self, such as, likes and dislikes, the interesting pages to follow on Instagram, the TV series they have been binge-watching and so on. This way, the learners’ affective filters and anxiety levels are lowered which facilitates or even encourages risk-taking behavior in an L2 environment.

Going back to the technological aspects of the changes our roles have been through so far, children are now called ‘digital natives’ and they best adults at it. Technology has always been developing, but it was not so relevant to the teaching environment in the past. In order to keep being relevant and calling students’ attention (or very often the parents’ attention), teachers must expand their technological ‘know-how’. The teachers must understand what is appealing to the students and use it (not against but) for the learning to take place smoothly. And this is a never-tiring quest since there are innumerable tools that can be used as a teaching aid nowadays.

Now, think of the society as a colossal classroom, and remember we are still playing the role of the guidance source.

  1. Lexis: Aside from the core meaning that the dictionary presents (denotation), words carry socio-cultural-political overtones (connotation), meant to be clarified or probably presented by a teacher. One of our roles in society is to tell students what is acceptable and what can be offensive in cultures different from that one they are in.
  2. Culture: As we are teachers of a foreign language, we are responsible for passing on the culture of the place the language comes from as well. Teachers should also talk about their previous and current customs, which is likely to better help students to understand why an idiom, or expression, work the way it does.  For instance, the use of the very common noun “book” as a verb, forming the collocation: “to book a table or a hotel room”. A lot of A2 (CEFR) students ask the teachers why some use ‘book’ as a verb. If you tell them that a long time ago, your name used to be written into a book in restaurants and hotels, as to make a reservation, it would probably make the understanding and consequently the use of this expression much easier and more meaningful.

Aside from these two main points, there are other socio-political and many other aspects the teachers should account for, especially if the student is about to travel to another country/city. I will leave this post with a food-for-thought question: What other roles do you think an EF/SL teacher should play in society?

Beatriz Solino de Francisco

Beatriz holds Mod II Delta certificate and she has a Licentiate’s degree in English Language from PUC SP (2007). CPE level of proficiency and she has been teaching for 14 years. She has also been working as an Adults/Advanced courses Coordinator for 4 years at Cultura Inglesa Jundiaí.

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