A reflection on the context of Saudi Arabia
In this category I will reflect on my experience as a trainee teacher. First I will shed some light on my background and then I will discuss the great opportunity I had in the UK studyingEnglish Language Teaching (ELT), which widened my scope. In Saudi Arabia getting a job as a teacher of English is challenging as it is a competitive atmosphere and native speakers of English are preferred. There are certain criteria that have to be met, such as holding a master degree, having a high level of English language proficiency, and being aware of new teaching methodologies, materials,evaluation, and testing.
I came to the UK with a modest knowledge of ELT, no confidence, no clear vision of my future, and from an atmosphere where the teacher plays a central role in the classroom because teaching methods are still undeveloped (see, Almansour , 2009 and Alseghayer,2005). In addition, Zaid (1993) and Alhazmi (2001) highlight the unsatisfactory outcomes of the teacher preparation course followed in Saudi Arabia as a result retraining of teachers becomes a requirement. Alzahrani (2009) points out that teaching methods, teacher and materials causes a low-level of proficiency in English among Saudi students. As a previous student who had experienced a similar situation,after becoming a teacher I wanted to work in an atmosphere where there are elements of creativity, originality, interaction, and intellectual growth. I discovered during the Teaching Practice (TP) course that teaching reflects all these elements which I was looking for, which made a real change to my beliefs and attitudes toward my job. I used to believe that I was not born as a gifted teacher, but what I found goes in line with what Harmer (2007: 23) states, that if a teacher learns their craft, which is acombination of “personality, intelligence, knowledge, and experience”, then they can become an effective teacher, which I am aiming to become as a competent teacher.
The six month teaching practice course, involving preparing lessons,observing colleagues, and receiving feedback enriched my knowledge of the theoretical and practical basis of ELT to realize my essential multi roles as a facilitator, monitor, participant and observer. I found out that I am more effective as a teacher when I thinking about how to facilitate things and make the learning experience authentic, interesting and useful to me and my learners, as their progress,growth and success is mine, and this is the real reward of teaching.
I used to organize the whole process of producing a lesson by initiating questions concerning the subject of the lesson, taking into consideration the material,the students, me as the teacher, and classroom management. I found this brainstorming process quite useful because it allowed me to reflect on what I had and how I could make the most of it prior to planning. The book we used, “Language Leader”,is to a certain extent academically oriented (see Kempton, 2008), and there were many things we tried to present it in an interesting way. From this point of view I used to ask the following questions: Is the material suitable for my learners? Does the partI choose contribute to and connect to subsequent parts? Does it fit within the time allocated? Is it easy or difficult? Is it short or long? Is it authentic and interesting?What are the objectives stated in the teacher’s book? Do I need to design other activities, adopt, or replace tasks? So I always have alternatives and plenty of thoughts.
After looking at the materials I think about how I can make it fit the students, considering theirs needs, interest, age, culture, nationality, background,level, and individual differences, since these are very important aspects to make sure it fit with the goals stated , materials and activities designed(McDonough &Shaw,2003). As a teacher I try to visualize how I can present it in different ways so as to improve my performance. I also ask myself the following questions: Do I feel comfortable about delivering this information? Have I read enough in secondary sources in addition to the teacher’s book? How I may make it interesting? Shall I talk about something personal to encourage my students to speak up?? Am I well planned and have I organized everything in advance? How can I make my role effective?Overall, I practiced how to make boring lesson into a very interesting one.Our observer used to say to one of my colleagues, that if the students only follow the book then they can do it alone and there is no need for a teacher. Her words kept me thinking about how to turn things round and make them more interesting, enjoyable and authentic. But I had to be careful as it might be a perfect planned lesson but does not work in the classroom as may one of the element in the whole process is lost such as in my second lesson about Media mixed ability class and timing were difficulties that I faced as I had three tasks to be accomplished ( warm up , new vocabulary , reading newspapers’ headlines and reading a text) . High level students finished within the assigned time but low ones could not that was really difficult moment as I asked advance students to discuss the next question and I tried to help the other group explaining unknown words. I regretted that I did not give them sufficient time as low level. I had to think on my feet as I talked over while they were still working but I realized it is all about learning something from my class not finishing the tasks. I could do that better if I had an idea about their class profile as I would encouraged good students to work with low ones so I mix the classroom kindly without obviously explaining the real reason. I learnt that group or pair work is more effective when students could help each other and help the teacher as well.
Al-Hazmi, S. (2003) EFL Teacher Preparation Programs in Saudi Arabia: trends and challenges. TESOL Quarterly 37 (2), 341–344.
Al-Mansour, N. (2009) Bilingualism and the Need for Early EFL Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. J. King Saud Univ., Vol. 21, Lang. & Transl., pp. 1-12,Riyadh
Al-Seghayer, K. (2005) Teaching English in Saudi Arabia. In Brain, G.(ed.)Teaching English to the World : History, Curriculum, and Practice. London :Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Alzahrani, . (2009) Saudi Secondary School Male Students’ Attitudes Towards English : an Exploratory study . J. King Saud Univ., Vol. 20, Lang. & Transl., pp.25 -36
Harmer, (2007) How to Teach English. London: Pearson Longman.