IN the olden days, great teachers were the recipe for students’ achievements, as shown in a number of literary works.
Professor Higgins transformed flower girl Eliza Doolitle into a duchess with an impeccable speech in the 1912 play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.
Miss Moore helped her ignorant students realise the value of life, education and respect in the 1972 short story The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara, while Miss Orville made the rambunctious Roger behave in another short story, Miss Awful, by Arthur Cavanaugh.
It was challenging to make students learn then, and the job gets tougher now.
To respond to Dr Sankaran Ramanathan’s dilemma, “Why are we teaching English in Bahasa Malaysia?” (NST, Oct 21), it is actually a strategy used for economically disadvantaged learners in suburban and rural areas.
These students feel de-motivated and insecure when their English teachers teach in English until familiar Malay words, or, in certain cases, dialects, are heard.
This is also how we get students to participate, to turn the chalk-and-talk method into a sharing session.
For, there is an inner voice in every student that whispers: tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me, and I learn. (Benjamin Franklin).
Nevertheless, English teachers should minimise the use of BM and choose the simplest English words when providing information or giving instructions. As students adapt with the now-familiar English words, teachers should use a higher level of English vocabulary.
Nowadays, students’ competency in English takes educators in universities by surprise, and some lecturers may assume that pedagogies used by teachers in the students’ alma mater are the reason behind their low scores in tests.
The blame chain goes down to the students’ previous teachers and parents.
School is the students’ second home and they long for attention from teachers. It is important for teachers to forbid less and advise more.
Harsh punishments will result only in negative consequences that put everyone under pressure.
Effective teachers maintain a cordial relationship with students as well as engage in conversation with them.
In the process, teachers should identify problems and rectify the situation.
Psychologist Thomas Gordon suggests teachers modify the learning environment to reduce student misbehaviour and to overcome apathy among students.
Truth be told, students yearn to learn in a joyful, safe and satisfying surrounding. They crave for a fun, stress-free and relaxing lesson. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Teachers may need to treat lessons like a playground — a place full of energy, excitement and passion — to cater for students’ needs, interests and preferences.
Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore said: “Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”
Muhamad Solahudin Ramli, Marang, Terengganu. NST Letters 31/10/2014