I am an English teacher with a 19-year experience in teaching. In all this time I have taught kindergarten children, primary school pupils, secondary school pupils and high-school teenagers. Every stage of students requires a different method of teaching, even if you have to teach the same grammar item, for example. What I consider the most challenging when it comes to teaching is the vocational school teenagers.
One might think that it should be the most simple thing to do, as they do not require a high level of knowledge. I partially agree, but only partially. The high-school where I work has vocational classes in the alimentation field, waiters or cooks. They are youngsters who come from different social medium, from different families, from different communities. Getting to school for them is a challenge every day, as most of them commute and have to get up early in the morning to catch a bus or a train. Added to this, we have a ministry that has decided that only one English class a week is enough for them. Besides, the textbook we have to teach has nothing to do with the job that they are being prepared for.
This is where the challenge occurs fir a teacher like me. Should I teach them grammar or not? Should I teach them writing or not? Is spelling important for them?
There is no methodology to help or guide, there is no textbook applied for their field. Therefore what I consider the most important is to teach them reading comprehension, questions and answers, alimentation vocabulary and listening comprehension. This is, in my opinion what they need for life. I consider that there should be an English teaching coursebook for alimentation, one for mechanics, one for electonics etc. We need to adapt to what our society requires today.
In my final inspection for my first degree, I chose a vocational school class as the last activity. I was vey nervous because they had a very low self-esteem, they had never been inspected before and nobody had ever put their trust in them. But I did, I tried to motivate them. We created „Teens’ Café” in one of the classrooms. We decorated it the way they decided, we areanged the tables and created a menu. I tried to use what they had already learnt in their practice classes. Then we decided on the waiters and customers, and of the small talk between the customers, in English, of course. They also chose a background music for the activity. It was fun, they all knew what they had to do and, what was the most important, they loved the idea!
When they had to perform everything they had prepared, they gave their best and proved they were very good at what they were doing. This kind of activity in which they actually see how English can be used in real-life situations, created a bond between me and the students. They began to see their teacher as a person, a friend, a guide, not someone who is there only to grade them. A wonderful and useful experience in which I proved myself that I can do something to stir their motivation, an experience which made them see me as a close friend, a mentor, a guide.