Friday, 26 June 2015

Set affective filters to high!

Hello again.
Yes, I know it's been a while, but hey, here I am.
You may (or may not) be wondering about the hiatus in writing, and all I can say is that I just haven't felt a truly compelling urge recently. That, and an awful lot of soul searching, accompanied by many Strange And Awful Things Happening.
To put it all in TEFL terms, my affective filter has been ramped up to 11 and my intrinsic motivation has flatlined, and I can't see anything particularly worthwhile about the extrinsic motivations.
More on the reasons for my own passing state of low dudgeon in a moment.

We've all seen students do this in class, even the brightest and best: A lethargy besets them and learning slows down to a glacial pace. At best, they gradually climb out of it; At worst, they just give up on learning entirely, and their English becomes stuck in the grey hinterland of sub-B1 functionality.
What can we do to help students whose performance and attitude dip? It's not an easy task, simply because there are so many factors that have to be taken into account. It might be work or study load; it may be worries about family; It could be a case of self-consciousness and fear of being seen to fail before peers.
Or it could be even simpler. It may be that your lessons are, bluntly, tedious spoonfuls of mental pabulum.
I've mentioned on this blog before that I suspect an awful lot of teaching methodologies are there to keep the teacher entertained rather than educate the learner (Suggestopedia, anyone?), but they can be used to shake up what you do in class. If you've taught the same thing the same way more than twice, give a thought to doing it differently. Not only will you be doing your class a favour, you'll most certainly be doing one for yourself. It's important, as educators, to be on the edge of uncertainty, to ponder the how and why of teaching something new or unfamiliar, or something familiar in a novel way. After all, when we started off, we were teaching something for the very first time and working out the how and the why as we planned. I remember it took me about eight attempts to get the teaching of subject and object relative clauses off pat. I'm still pondering how best to get students to make the link between auxiliaries, verb forms and aspect.
So before you start blaming high affective filters and extrinsic factors for the fact that your intermediate class are staring blank eyed at you, start with wondering what it is you can do in class that may make a change.
As for me and my weltschmerz, well, it finally appears that I have come to the end of the road in this career. That, however, deserves an entry of its own.


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