Is TEFL Just Entertainment?

songndance011.jpgSome of the activities I use in my English classes would never fly in a language classroom in a public school in the US, even a progressive one. Nor are they used in public schools abroad. We play games and have competitions and get into discussions on topics like “Are celebrities entitled to privacy?” and “Is text messaging a good or bad thing for society?” Are people really learning or is this all just some kind of money-making farce?

I’d say the real answer lies somewhere in between. Private language schools are a business and teachers are often pressed to keep everyone happy – make sure people learn but have an enjoyable time doing it. Sometimes students come with the unrealistic expectation that they will learn English merely by listening to songs and doing roleplays in class…without ever opening a book (or their mouths to speak English!) outside of class. Despite realizing that some mundane things are necessary for learning, the complaint many teachers fear the most is “this is boring.”

I think of it in the following way: many language school students are adults coming after a full day of work, many or most of whom have spent serious time studying English before. They have likely been exposed to traditional methods, in school or at less communicative language schools, and yet here they are in need of lessons. Creating a positive and motivating learning environment is important, perhaps even more so for people who may have had less than ideal past experiences learning English.