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Main constraints in the EFL classroom

Diary submitted by Darija T., Valencia, 2020

What challenges EFL teachers face within the classroom?

   Teaching, just like any other profession, requires effort and patience. Within the classroom, teachers encounter many challenges and as they get more skilled and experienced, they learn to tackle those challenges with more ease. In this particular diary, I will write about three main constraints which, at least according to my experience, concern EFL teachers. 

   The first one is time management. In the school where I did my TEFL internship, all of the classes lasted 1 hour – 60 minutes, except for one class in the afternoon schedule which lasted 80 minutes. In the very beginning, this was intimidating because I was used to give classes in duration of 45 minutes. I was constantly stressed and obsessed with time. I used to check my wristwatch all the time. The problem was that I was not skilled enough to predict how long would an activity last. Even though I prepared the lesson plan with the time schedule, the real class situation was never just as the ideal one I imagined within the lesson plan. This happens because classes are unpredictable and require response from the students and their reaction is never the same. Sometimes they might be in a good mood, energetic and dynamic which means they will respond quickly to all my questions. In other situations, they are slow, moody and tired, not willing to have any interaction and hope for the teacher to just deliver the class without any queries. Now that I have become aware of this, I learned how to adapt to students and make the best of the time in classroom. If they are in good spirits, I learn how to slow them down by asking more questions about the topic so as not to finish the entire lesson with extra time on my disposal. If the situation is contrary, I encourage them to speak more and skip the part of the lessons I think that are too obvious in order to finish everything in given time. 

  The second constraint I would like to point out here is students’ motivation. Scholars in psychology suggest two main types of motivation – intrinsic and extrinsic. The first one normally implies doing something, in this case – learning English, because you enjoy it and not because you have to. It is something you find fulfilling and rewarding. The latter one implies doing something because you are being motivated by external factors, such as job or money. In other words, you are doing it because of the outcome, not because of the process itself. I’ve asked my students on multiple occasions what triggered them to learn English. On the basis of their responses, I concluded that most of them are extrinsically motivated. They are learning English because they think it will help them in finding a better job, applying for Erasmus experience, moving abroad, etc. This means they neither feel fulfilled while doing it nor enjoy the process of learning itself. In the EFL classroom this might be problematic because students will be focused more on the classes related to FCE or CAE exams they eventually want to take. I’ve noticed that not many students come to classes in which we do popular culture, such as movie scenes or tv shows, even though they are dynamic and fun. Vast majority will attend only the classes which will help them prepare for taking the exam. I try to change this by telling them that language is more than just a certificate they need for their resume. I also try to show the informal version of language, one used in daily life, such as in slangs or idioms. Some of the students react well to it and attend those classes while others remain indifferent and still treat language merely as a tool which will help them get what they want.

   Last, but not least important challenge in EFL classroom is related to unequal level of the students. Even though I teach the class of B2/C1 where all the students should be on the approximately same level, there are many differences between them. This is mostly visible during the speaking classes where better students dominate while leaving the ones of poorer knowledge in the shadow. This can also be seen in the classes where we watch a video and then comment or analyze it. Better students will answer all the questions and there will be no space left for the students whose knowledge is not that advanced. I try to tackle this issue by addressing the latter group of students more. I call out their names and ask direct questions. I also praise them more than the advanced students when they do a good job and in that way strengthen their self esteem when it comes to using English. 

   These are just some of the constraints EFL teachers face in their daily routine. There are many more and they may differ from context to context. Whatever the challenge may be, it is teacher’s role to react to it and try to repair it for the sake of everyone in the classroom. 

Sources

 https://serenitycreationsonline.com/types_of_motivation.html Taken on 27th of February 2020

 https://www.verywellmind.com/differences-between-extrinsic-and-intrinsic-motivation-2795384 Taken on 27th of February 2020

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