When is school a prison?

I was walking around in my classroom today and I was attracted to a recently written graffiti which on the wall .That graffiti is a multiple choice question in which the writer asked his/her mates the following question:

“What is this place? choose the correct answer: – Prison         -Hospital.”

The writer or another student seems to have chosen the first choice “prison”.

This writing has pushed me to think about what is that that makes our students see school as either a prison or a hospital.I asked some of my classes about why school is a prison for them and they answered in different ways.Some of them think that schools don’t offer what students really need in their life.Some of them have expressed their opinion in written form saying that they study English,maths,geography and all the other core subjects;while,there is no space for other extra-curricular activities.Some students have said that the absence of subjects that appeal to students’ interests really demotivates them and makes school a boring place.The word “boring” was repeated in the answers of many of them.

Other students have said that school is “prison” for them because of the behaviours that come from some of their mates.

So many other writings on the walls of our school reflect the degree of hate that students -not all students of course- have towards school.Among the other writings that you see on the walls of our school are “rubbish”,”Shit!” and the like!

What is important in all that is not the words as such;but, how we can make students love school.The “reflections” that students write on the walls of classrooms while the teacher is busy with an activity or writing on the board show that students have other interests that are not catered for by the lesson that is taking place at the time of their writing.

Schools have to move from top-down systems where everything is decided from the top to a system where students have more freedom of choice.Schools should move into the era where students and teachers have more power on the materials they use,the activities they deal with and how they teach.

You might say that teachers are free to do all that!It’s not the case in our situation.The syllabus comes in the form of ministry circulars,the text-book is agreed upon and authorised by the ministry.The exams and the tests (number,methods,duration….) is all decided by the teacher.The amount of time that is located to a huge text-book  -the syllabus- doesn’t match the huge content that has to be covered,which makes it impossible for a teacher to think of other things except when and how to finish a program in which students will be tested on the national and regional levels.All these constraints are a so heavy load on the teacher’s /the student’s back.

It’s high time for our educational authorities and school headmasters to see extra-curricular activities as a “paradise” for the school and the student.A huge amount of materials (grammar,reading,functions…) dealt with in a text-book doesn’t necessarily mean that those students have learned a lot.It means neither that the teacher has worked a lot or even better.Little is so enough and great when students see it as great.Too much materials leaves no room for the teacher’s and the student’s creativity and that’s exactly the job of old-times ‘ prisons.So,no wonder if students see school as prison.

Look,we shouldn’t forget  that in many parts of the globe,including my country,our children have got more freedom outside school these days than they have in schools.It’s so sarcastic and funny that we keep teaching about human rights,values and freedom of choice ;while, school is the place where that is to be expected less,at least in the present time.

High school students are around 18-20 years old.They are mature and old enough to make decisions and have their own choices.Teachers are there to cater for the students’ needs,and they should be given that ethical right with no reservation.Teachers are the only ones who know what,when and how to teach.They also know that there times where teaching grammar or any other language skill wouldn’t work.So,give them the freedom to skip grammar and do something else that will certainly be of great benifit for the student.I am not advocating an anti-syllabus or anti-textbook view.A road map is always necessary for the goals to be achieved.My view is the road map should be the teacher’s business.The road map can be altered or simply ignored when that is necessary.With the present status-quo of education,teachers and students are obliged to follow a map that might lead to no where.

School should match the kind of life that students are living outside, either at home or outside home; if it is really to be called “school”.

Another graffiti in our school saying "Live the prison"!

How to survive professional death!

I was feeling  death for a few years during my teaching career before I decided to re-survive.My professional ideas were fading away before I had the chance to “water” them and make them green again.Many teachers do truely experience professional death while they are attending their classes,thinking that they are really doing their job.Some of those teachers actually die,while others fight,survive and grow.The chalk and the blackboard are only a small part of a teacher’s job.In fact,no teacher can do his/her mission of educating and teaching if he/she eliminated other important aspects of  his/her profession.

With social networking sites reaching into some of the remotest parts of the globe,no excuses are accepted from teachers who are letting themselves to professionally perish and fade away.Today,so many social networking sites have made it possible for teachers to keep track of the most recent ideas,techniques and innovations in the area of EFL teaching.

Personally,twitter,facebook and wordpress blogs have kept me surviving the professional death of teachers.There are so many other services and sites that help teachers grow and fight the monotony of chalk and boards especially in countries where technology is not yet available within the classroom walls.

On twitter,there are plenty of useful educational hashtags that EFL teachers should follow.Logging into these twitter hashtags will give teachers the opportunity to  keep track of wonderful ideas,chats and resources.

Personally,I usually follow #edchat.It’s a weekly twitter chat where language teachers can post in and comment on other teachers’ ideas.Plenty of resources and articles on teaching are usualy shared with this #edchat hashtag.

Another very resourceful hashtag is #edchatie.Like #edchat,teachers can find very interesting ideas by following this hashtag.If you are interested in using technology in your classes,there is #edtech which is used by some technology enthusiasts.Use this hashtag to get the best of what is shared about using technology in education.There are so many other hashtags.Don’t hesitate to try  them and explore the materials they share.If you are interested in knowing more about these twitter hashtags,go to this page http://www.cybraryman.com/edhashtags.html.

I have to recognize that failing to mention #ELTchat on the part of an EFL teacher is quite a big mistake.I feel sorry for not mentioning this chat (group) which has inspired my teaching in many ways.But,I suppose that making reference to the people below is enough to direct any one ,through their tweets,to this well-established hashtag.(https://twitter.com/ELTchat )

On twitter, also,there are plenty of great and very resourceful educationalists to follow.@StevenHerder, the RoundELT@wetheroundann foreman ‏ @ann_f,International Teacher Development Institute@iTDiprochuck sandy ‏ @chucksandy,Mashable SocialMedia ‏ @mashsocialmedia,Miss Noor ‏ @missnoor28,Jeremy Harmer ‏ @Harmerj,Scott Thornbury ‏ @thornburyscott,Barbara Sakamoto ‏ @barbsaka,Tom Whitby ‏ @tomwhitby and Shelly S Terrell ‏ @ShellTerrell are some of those great people that will keep you alive,and help you grow.The order in which these educationalists are put here is not related to any priority.That’s simply the order in which I have them in my lists.They are all great teachers,trainers and principals.There are hundreds of other interesting people to follow.By simply following some of those in this list,others will be suggested to you by twitter.Some of these people are great educational theorists;some of them are founders of the previously mentioned educational hashtags.Others have very resourecful and insightful blogs and websites.

Before I discovered that twitter is one of the places that will certainly keep an EFL teacher alive and young in his/her teaching career,I had been living with so many great people on Facebook.As in Twitter,there are a lot of great and inspiring educationalists to follow there.On facebook,tens of great articles on methodology,educational psychology and language materials are shared almost every minute if you follow some of those great people.Use facebook to your advantage and search for the profiles of those people whom you think will help you survive the professional death that will inevitably come to any alien and isolated teacher.On facebook,there are hundreds of pages and groups that are interested in sharing ELT materials.Use your search bar to have access to some of those pages and groups.Examples of those interesting pages include: http://www.facebook.com/TeachingEnglish.BritishCouncil,http://www.facebook.com/iTDi.Pro,http://www.facebook.com/groups/falibo/,http://www.facebook.com/FluencyMC ,http://www.facebook.com/groups/matemorocco/.

These are only a few examples of some of those great pages or groups that you might want to follow on facebook.In those pages/groups ,don’t hesitate to send friendship requests to some of the great people who post there.Some of them will accept your friendship invitation;others will certainly decline it!But,at least this will give you the opportunity to follow some of what these educationalists share.

Do not forget to connect you facebook,google+ and twitter account so that you get full use of what your friends share on all these social sites.

It’s not enough to consume what other people have produced or shraed to survive the professional death.It’s a necessity for every teacher to day to have a space where he shares his/her own thoughts with other professionals.There are tens of services that provide you with the opportunity to create a free blog or site.Personally,I have been using  wordpress.com for a couple of years.Other people are familiar with using blogger.Whatever service you choose to use,sharing your thoughts and reflecting on your professional life will keep you grow and alive.It may seem that creating a blog is a little bit tricky in the first place;yet,there is nothing professional with creating wordpress or blogger blogs.I have started my wordpress blog with no knowledge of HTML or any other sites construction staff.Don’t be hopless ! You may fail at the first ,second and maybe third times.But,be sure that creating a blog like this one where I am sharing my thoughts on education or like this where I share some language materials is as easy as creating a facebook page.

It might take some time for you before you post your first article. But,remember that as soon as you start writing,it will be part of your life to reflect on and share about anything that is happening in your professioanl life.Remember also that by sharing you help other people to think of and react to your thoughts and ideas;hence,helping both yourself and others to grow.

Before you start writing anything,it would be preferable if you read the materials posted in some of the well-known educational sites.Using google search will give you a large number of educational sites and blogs that will certainly inspire your writing.Almost all of those people I (@abouaimran) follow on Twitter and Facebook have personal blogs where they share their own thoughts and reflections.On twitter,you will certainly have access to some of those great sites and blogs.

These are some of the things that have saved my professional life.Social networking sites will keep you alive and help you grow.In third world countries where no official professional training is available for teachers,socialising with  professionals from other parts of the globe will certainly boost your ELT knowledge.International Teacher Develoment Institute (http://itdi.pro/) provides teachers with free ELT webinars.Don’t miss the opportunity,a free webinar is coming! Log in there and register for this free webinar.Simplek12 also have free some webinars for teachers to attend (http://www.simplek12.com/teacher-professional-development) .There are plenty of other places where you professioanl life will grow.

Do not forget to serf this great website for learning how to integrate technology into your teaching experience.Russel Stannard is a well-known educatioanlist who is famous for his teacher training videos on the use of technology in the classroom.Here’s his site http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/.Another mus see blog is that of the technology integration enthusiast Nik Peachey where you will find some of the newest idaes and applications of using technology in the teaching.This is Nik’s blog: http://nikpeachey.blogspot.com/

This is enough as a good start for every language teacher to survive and grow.Sharing what you think is part of your job.Seeking continous professional development is part of the job as well.With technology reaching some of the remotest  places on the planet,development and growth has become of no cost.

21st C leaders for students to learn and for teachers to teach.

idepted to the producer of this picture,whom I don't really know because it's shred on facebook pages.I am not a school headmaster;but,I think that those looking at headmasters and administrators from the outside are more qualified to talk about the deadly aspects of a school leader.I have been teaching for my tenth year now,and I think that  I have gathered enough data about what I think really describes the worst school leader.Here I am disclosing some of those features that you might have also seen or heard about somewhere.

It’s really a good thing for a school leader to listen to his/her colleagues,and have consultants and advisors within and outside  his/her school.It’s a necessity today for any leader to cooperate and work within a group system.Yet,one of the worst mistakes that undermine the image of the leader in the eyes of his/her colleagues and co-workers is when the decisions taken by the leader are not his/her own,and they harm more than they cure the school and the students’ interests.It’s unfortunate that so many decisions are taken by others and put into practice by the school leader without even weighing the effects.

It’s also a deadly mistake for a leader when he/she’s no longer inspiring the school.Leaders should take initiatives,give ideas,guidance and advice for teachers and students as well.Some head teachers are only there and the educational adminstration,unfortunately, knows that he/she’s only filling the gap of the “head leader”.What’s the use of a “useless” leader? What roles is he/she really doing in school if not helping to make learning possible and to make growth and success the story of his/her school?It’s so sad that many school leaders do nothing more than watch who is present and who is absent today and the same tomorrow! A thing that shouldn’t be his/her job in the first place because that’s far under the position of a “leader”.

The other terrible  feature of a school leader is when he/she is killing both the students and the teachers,and depriving them of their motivation and enthusiasm for a better school life.So many school leaders really destroy “their” school by the decisions they take,consciously or unconsciously.So many things are meant  to be positive,and they end being no more than a failure.To err is human;however,it’s too hard when a mistake affects a  whole generation; a whole nation.And that’s why making mistakes is really tough on the society in the domain of education.Enough about this!

So “childish” for a leader is when he/she gets into minor “conflicts” with the teachers or the students.Many school leaders pay too much attention to watching minute details about everything that’s happening in school that they forget about the big projects that the school is in need of.Who will deal with big issues when the headmaster is the one who deals with “absurdities”? It’s the leader’s job to have more open eyes on the outside of his/her school than on what’s happening inside.It’s the outside where he/she should find partnership realtions that will make the school a better learning place for everyone.

So sarcastic and laughter triggering when a school leader is afraid of spending the budget of the school.It’s for spending not for keeping for the coming year.There are many of the school heads who want to get  an “EXCELLENT” observation from their superiors for having kept the money as it was sent to the school’s account.What’s worse is when the leader thinks that asking partners and sponsors for finantial help is “too much”! Some of them think that they are going to pay their own money!

Education is an adventure.We want our students to take risks.It’s NOT POSSIBLE as long as the teachers and leaders don’t take risks.I hope it’s not too long!

The learner is a person!

It’s so frequesnt to hear in the educational theories and spheres ” taking the learner as a whole person”.But,we rarely take this into serious consideration given the number of students we have to deal with,and given the amount of syllabus we have to cover before a standardised test arrives.

Humanistic theories advocate and recommend taking  the learner as a “human being” with all his/her qualities,sufferings and life situations and conditions   while we are teaching him/her in our classes.

As I have already mentioned, so many stressful conditions surround teachers that they completely ignore that the learner comes into school bringing with him/her every thing that he/she faces and lives outside school.

Today,I have lived a case which really “urges” us to take the learner as a whole person before taking any decision or before even starting your “warm up”.I have been teaching a student for the last 5 months and he would more often produce meaningless sounds in class while I am expalining or dealing with my lesson.This “human” would usually laugh in cases where no one else ,but him,laughs in his class.He would utter sounds that I used to consider as  strange enough to be those of a “human being”.I asked many of his other teachers, and they all said that he behaves exactly the same way in other subjects,which dismissed the fact that he had a problem with English as a subject or with me as an English teacher.It was really one of the mysteries I have lived during the last ten years of my teaching.

Taking learners as human being is a fact that must be taken seriously if we really want our teaching/schools to build full humans and citizens.I have learned that this poor adolescent is living miserable social conditions.I have found out ,today, that his father is a well-known delinquent and drankard in his   neighbourhood.So,all the “misbehaviour” of that student is no more than a reflection of the state of instability that he’s been living.Today,I have actually spoken with this poor kid in private and I have learned things that I should have understood from the beginning of the year.This student ahs even said that his father divorced his mother long ago,and that he’s living with his grand-parents,while his mother is married to another man far away from where he’s now.

These facts have given me an insight into the reason(s) behind this child’s behaviour.I wouldn’t try to expalin it more psychologically-a job I am not well-equiped to deal with.I would say no more than THIS STUDENT NEEDS OUR ATTENTION;I am now aware that what he was doping in his different classes is merely for the sake of getting some of the attention and recognition that he misses else where-his family.It’s unfortuante ,however,that many of his teachers are not aware of the situation he’s living,which still opens the door for more criticism and “irrelevant” behaviuor management solutions from his teachers.

I am now aware that this student and similar others misbehave with a view to getting some of the respect they have lost outside school.It’s so sad,though,that they continue to get disrespect both from us and from their peers,simply because we have FAILED to understand their life.We are really obliged to provide our learners with the self-esteem that is lost for them because of one reason or another,and to do that there must be other parts-administration staff-which must know every thing about every student’s life and provide us-teachers-with this type of information so that we act towards our kids appropriately.

It’s really so sad that the people who hold information of this type on our students continue to consider it as “secret” ,and “it might deprive the student of his self-esteem” in front of the teachers and peers.It’s high time that our schools had centers that ” really listen to the student,”and know every thing about his/her life.These are valuable information that would have saved me and the poor child a lot of trouble and misunderstanding!

I am now aware that no student can learn-or try to learn-while he/she misses other valuable parts of his/her life.Self-esteem,recognition and self-respect are essential before learning.

To sum up, we,as teachers,have to be tolerant and very slow while responding or interpretting our students’  (mis)behaviour.We should know that many things happen in our students’ lives outside  and inside school ,and they all affect the way these students behave ,react and learn in our classes.I now aknwoledge that there are  other things that are more important than the lesson plan and the use of a multi-media channel!

I am now aware that so many of the ways I tried to react to that particular student’ misbehaviour were inappropraite and totally missing the point.Because I have talked to him today and because he feels that I am no longer a grammar and language teacher,I am sure he will modify his behaviour.He simply knows that I am caring for him,and that’s what he needs.

The corner-stone of school reform.

So many ideas have been written for years,and maybe for centuries on how to improve and develop education.Many educational theorists and psychologists have spoken about how  schools can meet students’ needs and requirements.Many others have spoken about materials,curriculum and methods.

The motivational theory continues to influence the eduactional sphere,and it keeps on being quoted whenever we want to speak about the relation between students and school.

I am greatly impressed by Maslow’s hirarchy of needs, and I think that it is absolutely the theory that sums up the whole issue of how to motivate students,and,therefore,how to make school better cater for the needs of those who attend it.

In my country,as in many other countries of the world,millions of dollars are spent every year on educational reforms.But,education continues to be the most problematic sector for world governments.And despite the millions of dollars that are spent on making it better,students still continue to lose interest  in attending classes,and the rates of school drop outs continues to raise year after year.

I am not sure if the educational policy makers are aware of Maslow ‘s hirarchy of needs and other educational theories!Probably,as it seems in our daily reality,they are not.

It is plain clear that the people who plan and implement educational theories jump into the higher levels of Maslow’s hirarchy.They have issued many documents and educational circulars about the standards that every student has to meet at the different levels of his/her school life.They have also spent a lot of money on changing the curriculum and printing new text-books….All this is adressing Maslow’s “esteem” and ” self-actualisation” levels of the human needs.

Many research articles have “warned” the educational authorities that to truely reform our schools and to motivate our learners,there are so many things that must happen first in the  students’ lives outside school.

So, to change the syllabus,and to print coloured text-books in Spain or somewhere else doesn’t really target the heart of the issue.What we need is to meet the students’ and the teachers’ first basic needs.First things have to be dealt with first.Numerous educational articles have found that the students that come from disadvantaged families perfrom badly in school.

Our authorities must first of all ensure that those who attend school are not hungry.We have to be sure that the student is not suffering from flu and,still, he/she can’t afford to buy the medecines.We must also undrestand that moral and psychological security comes before learning in the hirarchy of human needs.That’s why it’s of paramount importance to make our students feel secure inside and also outside school.I cannot imagine a student whose father is struggling with bread to attend school in full psychological readiness.No one can expect a parent who has ,maybe, ten other kids and struggling to ensure survival for them, no one can expect him/her to keep track of what his/her child is doing at school.This explains why  the majority of parents never come to school to inquire about their children’s educational difficulties or successs.And this is exactly the same reason why parents don’t come to school even if their child has a problem with a teacher or with the administration.Parents are too busy with the basic urges of their kids and their life.They have little space in their mind to fill with school matters.

An other factor that diminishes students’ achievement and which makes them at-risk children is the illiteracy of their parents.So many parents are illiterate ,and they are,consequently,totally unaware of the importance of education.Because of the high rates of unemployment in our country,and now in many developed countries too, parents believe that education has no  role in their kids’ life since they graduate ,and still remain jobless for the rest of their lives.Our educational authorities,hence,have to make it clear to parents that school is not all about jobs.Parents,illiterate ones I mean,should know the real value of sending their kids to school.But again this can only happen when their first basic needs are met.And to meet their basic needs,their poverty has to stop,and for poverty to stop,they should have jobs.It’s all an endless circle that is highly tied to poverty and survival.

Poverty does not only affect the school achievement of the poor child,but it also affects even the learning conditions of the other -middle class- students who are in the same class.Poor students are more likely to engage in misbehaviour affecting, therefore,both the teacher and the other class mates.This makes the job of the teacher inside the classroom even more complicated.He/she has to deal with various misbehaviour problems while doing his/her primary job of teaching.This also adds another burden to the teacher as he/she has to plan different lessons/activities for the advantaged and the less advantaged student in class;otherwise, the less advantaged one will keep on being poor in every thing.

To conclude,if our educational policy makers really want to improve education, they must think of ways to end the child’s poverty first.Only,then,comes reform into the other levels.Only then we can blame teachers and the curriculum for the bad results of kids and of the high rates of school drop-outs.

Are you a 21st century teacher?

I have been wondering about the thousands of complaints I get from my colleagues while I use technology in my classes or wheen I schedule an extra-curricular activity.Many of the complaints I get are about the “you excite the students too much,and they refuse to focus on the lesson”.I would agree that my colleagues’ complaints might be true to a great extent.I accept that the students get hyper-active and too enthusiastic to see what’s coming next even in my classes while using the computer.

I would ,however, redirect my colleagues’ questions and complaints to the following: Why do our students get too excited and active during or immediately after a tech-led lesson? Why do they lose focus in other classes, while they become totally engaged when they interact with technology? These are the questions we should ask ourselves instead of blaming technology for  causing unrest in our classes.

David Ausubel has long spoken about the zone of proximal devblopment within which our students learn,grow and get engaged. I tend to say that the “unrest” that takes place in our classes after a technology led lesson is due to the emotional and psychological unrest that has happened within the students’ inner selves.Being in a lesson that adheres to computers and web tools matches exactly the zone of the student ‘s growth;leaving that class into a chalk- led lesson retracts the student to stages well below his/her emotional,psychological and intellectual well-being.This is a reason already enough to shake the students’ state of the mind and to cause turbulance in our classes.

Our chalk’n lessons ,also,are a lot below Piaget’s stage of formal operations.I would go  further and say that today’s adolescent merits a stage special for his/her own age;they are not only able to operate “formally”, but they can also do operations a lot beyond what some teachers can do.I would’n expect a student that is totally familiar with web2 tools,video editting software,powerpoint slides and a lot more than that to focus on the stories of theMiddle Ages undertaken with “yellow” books and blackboards.If you want today”s student to get involved and engaged in your lessons,don’t blame computers or extra-curricular activities.Blame yourself,blame the chalk and find  a way out! That’s one of  the new teacher’s roles.Embrace technology;embrace your kids.

You would seem too old for those kids looking at you and never relating your lessons,your ideas,to their world.Their world is not  the one where you lived while at their age nor is it the one wheere you are now if you are techno-phobic.Most kids love fiction but not in the way they were told by their grand mothers around fire. Don’t forget that all of them have satellite dishes,and they watch most of their loved stories coming on air.So to make them engaged, do it in the same way.Teach them fiction,teach them critical thinking and analysis not the way you learnt it 10  years ago, but the way they live it today.

All the same,most of us think that extra-curricular activites are “extra”.It’s unfortunate that they are named so! Have you ever asked yourself why do students leave your class and join the “extra-curricular” activities room? Have you ever wondered why do they prefer the guitar,acting and singing to our regular lessons?

I suppose that these are the questions we should ask.We have to make our lessons more or less similar to the extra-curricular activites.Look at the things that you can bring in from those activities into your classes.There are so many things that attracts students to extra-curricular activities that you might use in your classes to make them loved by those you teach.Make your lessons a lot of fun;fun is not the opposite of serious work.Laughter shouldn’t be absent in your classes;if it does, then something serious is happening.Let students use technology,let them see a computer even for a while.

Students love to touch today’s gadgets.So why should you be scared of the mobile phone? Think of how you can use it to the best of your learners.There are plenty ways in which the mobile can be exploited in the classroom.The simplest is to use mobile dictionaries.Think about using the mobile video camera in projects.Give your kids the opportunity to see that the mobile is not bad in itself;what makes the difference is how you use it.Allow your students to see that the camera of their mobile can be used in taking pictures outside school and talk aboutthem in class.Give the students the opportunity to explore the audio recorder of their phones.It can be used to interview their peers and,and to record the teacher’s instructions….

Can you accept the label of “learner”?That’s what 21 st century teachers hould be. In the light of the huge techno-gap that exists between us and those whom we consider learners, an exchange of roles is nowadays cruciel.We have to listen to them and learn from them.There are plenty of things they can teach us every day,especially in relation to technology tricks.So why do you keep saying that you know every thing,and resist to assume the fact that they might teach us so many things?

So let’s make our life similar to theirs;technology rich.Let’s be global citizens the way they are! The job of the 21 st century teacher will not be that easy at all levels. We will face more misbehaviour if our teaching doesn’t match the students’ expectations. We will bee looked at down if we keep struggling with chalk;while those we teach are many steps ahead! They will abuse us with facebook and mobiles as soon as they know that they scare us.

The leaders we need for the 21st century Moroccan schools.

I have seen a story today in my school,and it has kept me wondering about the future of our schools considering the type of leaders we have in the present time.

The story of today has pushed my thinking to write a post on what I think are the most important qualities that a school leader should have for our schools to endorse some of the 21st Century leadership skills.

Our leaders have to understand that it’s high time for them to consider themselves as hosts in their schools and not as supreme leaders.When leaders understand that school belongs to all those who are withing its walls,and to some of those outside as well,the community,only then can they take into consideration the others when they want to take any decision.

This leads us to another quality that is needed in our current educational leaders.Decisions have to be taken in a sharing and collaborative way within the school boards and bodies.Leadership is sharing and collaborating not  taking unidirectional and bureaucratic decisions despite the rest of the school community.Students are there,and they are directly affected by any decision that is taken by their leaders.That’s why it’s necessary to take their existence and role into the utmost priority.Many  wrong decisions are taken in their absence and they just accept them because they trust us.The leaders should know that they are responsible for those kids,and they really have to care for them.

Leadership,we should assume,comes from the bottom not from the top.Our leaders should understand that what gives them power is those whom they “administer” and not those who have appointed them.This means that decisions should be taken with respect to the needs, the conditions and the environment of those who are to be affected.School leaders don’t have to execute non-practical and unsuitable  plans and decisions.This would be possible only if we take the children in our schools as ours,not as means to make money or to be promoted.

Today,we also need leaders who know how to motivate and boost their partners’ self-esteem and motivation.A lot of things inhibit a teacher’s and a student’s work in and outside school,and the school leader shouldn’t add more burden to the school stakeholders.In our schools,there should be leaders who know how to make differences between the different people who are under their supervision.These differences should stop being on “friendship” and personal relations.They should be made on professional performance and efficacy.

Linked to this is that our leaders should stop evaluating the performance of the teacher in a half in hour observation or depending on what they get from other people within or outside school.Evaluating a teachers’ efficacy has to be on  a long term process.It should be made depending on the teacher’s overall performance,on the students’ results,on the teacher-student relations, not on the teacher-administration relations.

ooooh,it’s in the end but so heavy I think.Today’s leaders have to be “literate”.They have to be equipped with some of the 21st century skills.It’s still so sad to find out that our leaders in schools are ICT illiterate.It makes me so desperate to find out that leaders think of the computer as a waste of time,and see the internet as a tool that instills bad behavior into our school life.It’s so killing to find out leaders who are scared of the student’s mobile camera and of facebook or twitter.Most of them know nothing about social networking sites except what they heard during the Lybian and the Egyptian uprisings.Leaders of today should have access to web tools that should be of great benefit to everyone in school.The leaders of today should know that a mobile phone is not bad in itself.It’s just the way we use or see it.They have to know that a mobile can be used to take photos,photos can be used in projects,projects develop speaking,listening ,reading…if this is what they -leaders-assume to be learning.

ah,again,our leaders should know that learning is not only within the walls of an enclosed classroom.They should be taught that learning takes place every where within and outside school.They should learn that extra-curricular activities are vital to an adolescent’s life,just the same as play is for a four year old child.Leaders of our present schools have to know that presentations,drama,singing,drawing…build different things.At least they make school loved and enjoyable.

For all these qualities to be in our leaders,they have to read,research,communicate and above all they have to listen to what the school says.

The death of an EFL teacher- part2

In my part one of the things that really kill an EFL teacher,I talked about certain issues that are related to technology integration and the ICT illiteracy among some head-teachers.I then concluded that to prepare our schools and students for the future,we have to allow more money to stream into professional development both for teachers and school principals as well;otherwise,we will be bypassed by the new generation of internet children who are already better than their head-teachers in this domain.

In this part,I will be dealing with the so many other things that hinder the teaching of English as a foreign language in our schools,and maybe in so many other parts of the world.In the coming paragraphs I will be dealing with things that strip the language teacher and learners of their freedom to take control of their classroom processes.

Most of the modern teaching theories and approaches such as the competency-based language teaching,the standards approach and the dogme ELT stress teaching towards a competency or excellency level.These theories adhere mostly to the view that teaching should be driven by learning and not the opposite.In other words,the proponents of these approaches see that our teaching has to focus on what the student has attained in his/her learning process.Teaching can only move into another skill or competency level if the previous goal(s) of the previous level is/are attained.

Many of the official documents and directives that are adopted in our school system urges using the competency-based approach to achieve the standrads that are outlined by the educational authorities.There is no problem with setting certain standrads that might lead our schools to common and clear goals.

The biggest puzzle lies in the contradiction between setting standards and goals that every student “must” achieve before the end of a certain level,and fixing the number of curriculum units that have to be covered,maybe before that student attains those goals.It’s a big irony to adhere to a competency-based approach that aims to “produce” competent learners,and,at the same time, forcing those learners and their powerless teachers to finish an overloaded syllabus.

As there is always a hidden syllabus behind the texts and the lines every student faces,there are also hidden policies and ideologies that do what they don’t say.The teaching of EFL in our country is producing  no more than short-term parrots  — short-term they are because what they can regurgitate lasts no more than a few days.This is the automatic result of forcing the teacher and the student to deal with certain isolated and mechanical linguistic items by the end of a specified period of time.We are by consequence of these time guidelines coerced to turn our classroom into an Olympics stadium where every learner is struggling with his/her prefered sport to reach a gold medal;and yet,in our stadium almost  none of them gets to that end because the distance they have to run is much longer than the time set for it.

Other factors that make us teaching in a vacuum ,and which are related to the aforementioned ones are the focus on exams and testing.We have instilled in our kids an “exam and grade”only culture.They  no longer consider their existence in school as a preparation for the present and the future as well.The exams-focused syllabus has made them exam-oriented machines.This has made them and their parents as well unaware of the other valuable things that are among the school’s mission including the instillation of values, critical thinking,independent and life-long learning and every thing else that builds a strong and resourceful citizen.Testing at the end of every unit,at the end of every linguistic chunk,at the end of every term and at the end of every year has created  generations  who  learn-if there is any learning- only for the test.

Our students now no longer recognize that language is part of their life.They fail to see that communication and dialog is at the heart of human existence solely because they are tested on discrete parts of language.I suppose that language teaching has to be taken as part of the student’s life in all its processes :from teaching to testing to practicing.To achieve this, teaching language has to be done in a “conversational” manner where learners choose what they will talk about and study.This learner-initiated conversation should be the corner stone of any teaching/lesson as it shows clearly the level the students have attained in their own learning.Today,we teach following what others have supposed our kids know,which is a kind of false prophesy.I suppose that the availability of technology should make us,teachers and learners,free from commercial text-books that pre-suppose what our learners know and what they should know in a fallaciuos way.The dogme ELT is so far the only approach that touches such a point.Freeing teachers of heavy materials deosn’t make their responsibility easier.Yet,it’s only then that we assume complete burden of the student we make!

Social networking sites and web2.0 tools should be available for every student and evey teacher within the walls of the language classroom,not somewhere else in school.Only in this  way can the teacher at the spot decide about where his/her students are and where he/she should take them.I suppose that the primary purpose of teaching is exactly this;it’s to know where our kids are and how they are there and where we should lead them later.In schools,however,that’s not the case.It’s clearly obvious now that teaching is driving testing and not vice versa.We are even supposed to do a certain number of tests/quizes before the end of a certain time,and this makes it clear that the primary purpose of assessment in various schools is no more than to assign a grade to a student.

All this has produced no more than dead teachers and dying students.All this has produced no more than train-like teachers and students;they know only one direction.It’s going through the exam.Our EFL has to stop producing machines.We have to take the humans as they are made first.We have to make them creative and able to think.Our students should be  critical thinkers enabled with the highest order skills that are necessary for a globally competing citizen.

Unfortunately,our schools so far have produced no more than people who accept every thing they are given.Focus on exams,constraining us to a certain time and a number of units that have to be covered during the year leaves no place for creativity in schools.There has to be times where everyone,students and teachers, think and ask questions.There must be circumstances in which I wouldn’t be obliged to stop my student from discussing a personal problem in class while this is why language is created in the first place.Our students must feel that the language class is different from other classes.If the mission of EFL teaching is to teach “the passive”,”conditionals”…and the rules,that’s no longer language.It’s some other subject.Speaking;voicing our inner selves,conversing,and talking with each other is the prime mission of any language,and EFL teaching has to make that clear within the schools. Our students have different talents,skills and dreams.They have the right to be provided with the “time” and materials that allow them to be themselves.We don’t have to teach English 24 hours a day seven days a week to produce fluent learners.Less than that will be needed if that learner is taken as a human being not as a machine.And for a learner to be taken as a human ,language should be seen as a means for conversing ,and not as a set of grammatical rules that must be mastered and tested.

The death of an EFL teacher

So many people are born everyday;many die biologically and still many others survive in death.I am witnessing the death of an EFL teacher right now,and I am ,consequently,  watching the death of the EFL teaching in many places.I am not going to speak about places where education is the last thing the authorities might think of.The biggest problem is when EFL teachers die in a country where education and training is getting a “lion’s share” in the budget,and it is considered the second or third priotiry sector in our country.

I am feeling the smell of death approaching me,and this is my tenth year of teaching English in Morocco.I feel envy while following my friends from the western countries on facebook or twitter,or when I hear them in online webinars speaking of continuos professional development and the degree they have achieved in the integration of technology in their language teaching.I get puzzled when I remember that my country spends so much money on technology integration,while in reality there is nothing of that.I can only see and feel every factor that might kill an EFL teacher,and hereabout I am disclosing some of those killing ghosts that are haunting me.

I ,and so many other EFL teachers I know,always try to integrate technology into my teaching ,and I mostly try to use technology while doing projects.Yet,all the skills and techniques that I am trying to use have been developed from my own interaction with friends and colleagues online.I have got most of my teaching  online from what teachers such as @Tomwhitby , @shellterell and @russellstanard share on social networking sites.I am indebted to these great educators and so many others for allowing the new techniques and ideas of ELT to reach into me here.Without this,one would survive in death as I haven’t seen any professional training about teaching EFL in my area for over four years.This really kills those of us who follow and know what other people are talking about on the web.

Can EFL really die somewhere in the world?yes,absolutely.It will die in places where teachers still rely on outdated methods and techniques in their own teaching.It’s in fact dying in places where students are better than teachers in their ICT knowledge and where teachers are even more literate than their supervisors or head teachers.

I am not saying that students shouldn’t be better than teachers.However,an ICT illiterate teacher is more likely to resist change,and he/she will tend to switch off a child who is keeping track of the newest things in technology.Likewise,an ICT illiterate head-teacher is more likely to hinder any new ideas that come from an ICT fan teacher.I have seen many cases where head-teachers put hinder using technology in teaching for mere predictions and outdated claims.Hence,this type of head-teachers are in the greatest need  for professional development,or they would better quit the job if we are really preparing our kids for the future.

An illiterate head-teacher is unlikely to praise and recognize any creativity on the part of teachers.This is the most killing thing in our profession.I know that most of my colleague teachers expect one word of admiration from their supervisors or head-teacher for bringing about something new,these teachers would refrain from letting their minds explore any other time if they see that people around them don’t even understand what they are doing.So many people would really wonder and keep asking questions whenever they see me taking a laptop to my classroom.They always think that I am playing music there.

How about the standrads?When you open the educational circulars and you read the official documents,one would imagine himself/herself in Fineland!The official documents emphasise linking our ELT teaching to technology.Among the 5Cs in our standrads is the “Connections” and “Communities” standrads aiming at enabling the students to connect their English language to other disciplines including technology,and the “Communities” standards aims at using English outside school to reach into other communities using technology.That’s absolutely perfect!Yet,in reality ,do students have access to technology in schools?Do they have internet connection?Can they use English outside school with their parents or friends?Definitely no!So there is a huge gap between what’s in the books and what’s in the real world.This is absolutely an other killing factor for those who love to embrace technology and to use a standrads-based approach.If we really believe that standards provide a framework for applying the syllabus and for knowing where our kids are going,we have to provide the necessary conditions and materials for applying a standrads-based syllabus.We have to decide between preparing our children for the future or saoking them in a school which they find irrelevant for their own lives, which is a reason for them to quit school or at least to misbehave in a monotonous and meaningless lesson.

So much I have to say next about other things that  kill both an EFL teacher and student in relation to syllabus,testing and exams.That’s in part two of “what kills an EFL teacher”.

What do children value most in school?

I had been shaking my head for a long time before I finally decided to start putting my ideas,my thoughts,the things that puzzle me ,that make me angry or happy in my teaching days into this site.You cannot imagine that this space was created a year ago but I have never been able to write any word till I have finally come to an agreement with myself as to where and when to start.

There are,absolutely,so many stories that happen in our everyday lives ,and that we want to share with others.And since I have no one to share with in my real life,I cannot make the nights of my wife so sad by the things that happen in my school.I will,therefore,throw them online lest they find a reader or two!

As to the story of today,it’s not really something new in my professional life;but,as I was following my great friends on twitter today (@abouaimran) I  had to reply to a question put there by @SimpleK12 about what is important most for children in school.I really thought that children forget the teacher’s knowledge of the  skills as well as technology tips or any other matter as soon as they feel that they are ignored ,abused or marginalised.Hence,my answer to @Simplek12 ‘s question on twitter was “democracy”.

Today,as I was heading towards the door of my classroom in the end of the session I found out that one of my students left a handwritten note on my bag.The note says exactly ” Please teacher stop racism,please!”. I cannot decide about the definition of “racism” for an adolescent.But,I am absolutely sure that someone in my class was feeling down today.I was really sad as I felt that I might have said or done something that was not appropriate.I am sure that I was monitoring homework tasks on modals and my words might have hurted one of those who didn’t do the homework.

I remember I didn’t say any of those bad words or insults that might be considered racist.I remember that I was dealing with my students all in the same way.And I thought that I was behaving according to the interests of secondary school students who are taking their baccalaureat exam in the end of the year.

This lesson has taught me,though;that students are very sensitive and that they give more attention to our words and our feelings towards them that our methods or garmmar lessons.I have learnt that I have to take greatest caution lest I offend on of those I value most in my school,students.I know now in real-not from theory-that students care more about relations with teachers and less about what the teacher is saying about the syllabus.

I-or we?-have therefore to stop thinking that to be a good teacher,it’s enough to master the topic ,and it’s enough to make it clear to the students.There so many unnoticed things in our classes.They are unnoticed because there so many absurd parts in the human beings.The teacher trainings ,therefore,have to focus more on those unseen parts of the student and less on the things that can be reached from a google click such as how to make a lesson plan fgor a reading text.

Our teaching has to take the whole child into consideration for it to be successful and here’ s where the dogme might have some strenghts.Were I using this approach and not forced to follow a prescribed syllabus that has to be finished,my students would have voiced his/her feeling out.The humanitarian theorists were absolutely right in saying that the child’s inner fellings determine how much learning takes place in the classroom.

But,don’t you see that the teachers’ inner feelings have to be taken into consideration first.We are bieng treated as machines that have to perfoprm certain tasks-finish the program by the end of the year- regardless of what happens in our schools or classes.How  would a teacher-machine then have enough time to look for the unnoticed things that pass by in his/her class?It’s completely impossible I think unless the student is brave enough to stand and say what he/she feels.That’s another story because our educational system is not building such a oerson fornexactly the same reason.We are focusing on how much that has to be covered and we ignore that in this “how much” almost ,nothing is learned because so many things happen at once in our classes and they are left unresolved.

I have to deal with this situation tomorrow.I should know what happened exactly and I have to understand the meaning that is used for “racism” in the mentioned note.I am sure that “racism” should have gained a new meaning in my class today since I am teaching students who are culturally,linguistically…of the same race.

Our teaching has to stop  being machine-like.There must be times to stand up and reflect on what’s going on in our classes.The hidden things that we don’t see have to be uncovered if the filter(Krashen’s) is to be lowered.

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