By Akeem Babatunde
As the English Studies teacher breezed into the class, he was shocked by the classroom condition. He wasted no time; he turned back and straight to his office. On the corridor, his vituperation was audible. “This set is the laziest I have ever taught in this school,” he lamented. All greetings from passers-by were unintentionally ignored because his mind was completely buried in the contemplation of the appropriate sanction he intended to mete out to the erring students. The class captain, Jagunmolu, sprang up and started after the man. All piteous entreaties to persuade him to return to the class for the lecture were fruitless.
In the classroom, mixed reactions trailed the action of the teacher. “What has he to teach us,” a voice announced. “He will only come to the class to perform abracadabra, speaking words that do not exist in the dictionaries,” another voice reinforced. “We don’t even want him,” the students chorused their rejection. If these students had the power to remove their English Studies teacher from the school system, the man wouldn’t have remained in the school. But they could only grunt their displeasure at a decent decibel level.
Students, irrespective of their age and class, are capable of identifying the sound and real ones among us teachers. What informs their decision is our ability to teach to facilitate understanding. It is habitual of students, especially those in the government-owned schools, to chorus their bogus understanding of the concept taught in the class.
In every class activity, the Primary objective should revolve around facilitating understanding.
How does a teacher facilitate understanding? There is a legion of methodologies a teacher could employ to achieve this in the class.
First, teaching of relevance is important. In my secondary school days, I couldn’t show interest in phrases and clauses for two plausible reasons: my English Studies teacher was unable to explain the relevance of these topics to my linguistic proficiency and only two questions would be asked on the topics in WAEC. So, I decided to ignore them until a grammarian taught their relevance at the university level. The students must be taught the reasons, aside examination, why a topic is essential for them to learn and understand. Take for instance, “Synonym” as topic will enable one to paraphrase a work. Words used by the writer could be replaced by their synonyms. It also prevents one from being bankrupt of words when the need arises. Teaching them the sound system of English language will guide them against incongruous use of words. Examples are:
Thought and taught
Debt and death
They and day
Revealing this relevance to them will ignite their interest in the concept introduced to them.
Another method that can facilitate understanding is to allow the students to form notes themselves. Giving them notes is teacher-centred approach in teaching. This is one of the best ways to measure their understanding of the concept. A student who is able to form a meaningful note on the topic explained to them in class displays an understanding of the topic. All that the teacher needs do is explain clearly to the students.
Besides, the appropriate use of instructional materials is also a vital tool that facilitates understanding. Instructional materials concretize the teacher’s abstract explanation and retain the information in the mind of the students. It is believed that what they see remains indelible in their minds. In fact, it is unprofessional and unbecoming of a teacher to teach in abstract.
Lastly, a good communication skill facilitates understanding. It is erroneously believed that this skill is only reserved for teachers of English Studies. No! At times, the so-called language teachers lack linguistic proficiency and they are unworthy of modelling. It is a skill for all teachers. Poor communication thwarts learning and understanding in class. A Teacher shouldn’t be struggling to explain a concept. They should not be bankrupt of words to employ in class.
Facilitating understanding is key to teaching and learning.
Akeem Babatunde teaches @ Kith and Kin Nursery and Primary School, Ibeshe Ikorodu Lagos.
By Akeem Babatunde