I had an inkling that training teachers might be rewarding, but so far reality is exceeding my expectations. I’m currently teaching an intensive TESOL (TEFL) teacher training course. Here we teach Korean EFL teachers skills and methods so that they will be able to teach using English-only and also so that they will be able to teach for communicative competence. The enrolled teachers come from all over this province, Gyeong-sang-buk-do. They have taken a month away from their children, husbands, wives and lives in order to improve their teaching and English language skills . Their desire to improve, despite their perceived shortcomings, has been motivating to say the least.
Although the teachers have a deep need to learn, they are also facing personal and professional obstacles. Many of the teachers arrive to the program with low self-confidence when it comes to teaching English; even if some of them have been teaching the subject for over fifteen years. Their lack of confidence arises from their limited practical training in teaching English for communicative purposes. The Korean education system encourages teachers to teach for the test, which is limited to grammar translation and reading decontextualized texts. In this kind of system there is no need for teaching communication skills. Another obstacle is that some of these teachers haven’t often used English to communicate. They themselves have only had to use English in order to pass the grade and achieve their goal of becoming a teacher. Once a teacher, the need or the chance to use English to communicate has almost been null. With such an education system and experiences against them, it is hard to understand how the light of communication still shines within them.
Regardless of the limitations, the desire to communicate exists. I feel their desire when they are all ears during my lessons and when I have to ask them to stop their discussions in order to move on to the next task. It is a language teacher’s dream to have a class of students who talk too much in the target language. I also see the desire when at the end of my lessons they thank me for all the work I put into preparing. When my students are motivated, I’m inspired to plan a great lesson. Their gratitude and determination has helped me realize that motivation is contagious. It also makes for a substantial teaching bonus.