"You're only as tall as your heart will let you be, and you're only as small as the world will make you seem. When the going gets rough and you feel like you will fall, just look on the bright side: you're roughly six feet tall." ~Never Shout Never, On the Brightside
On Wednesday my group spent a lot of time talking about spoken grammar vs. written grammar and trying to determine which was the most important to teach. I think the consensus we came to was most definitely that spoken grammar was far more important. I wasn’t quite satisfied with that discussion though. I know from personal experience the students I teach now have no intention of furthering their education (many have Bachelor’s degrees from a University in their country) and really just want better employment, and to them it’s the spoken grammar of being able to navigate a job search process and nail an interview that is most important for them.
Many say that it is verb conjugation in oral speech that makes them sound like an unintelligent foreigner (when this is not the case) that an American employer would not hire. So my focus in class is most definitely spoken grammar. It wasn’t until Friday when we finished our discussion with the Korean teachers that I realized just how important written grammar actually was for this group of people. I never realized how high the stakes were and don’t think now I can fully wrap my brain around the fact that ONE missed question on a test determines whether a learner can attend the university of his choice or not....seems absurd to me when Americans (myself included) don’t really even write with correct grammar on occasion.
It seems unfair, but I suppose it’s a cultural phenomenon that can’t be judged from an outside perspective. It made me rethink my reasons for wanting to become a teacher. Of course I want to teach communication strategies and teaching grammar rules is not my thing, but I do it when I have to. What if I end up taking a position at a Korean High School when I am done with my Master’s Degree? It seems like a likely fit seeing how the Atlanta ESL market and IEP settings are saturated. Korea seems like a good setting for me to gain more experience (seeing as how I already have a little), but after Friday it seems I will have to become a lot more detail-oriented in regards to written grammar if I am to succeed with adults or high school students there. Being a big-picture, idea-based thinker, I’m really good at coming up with activities when it comes to unit plans, but not so good at focusing on a topic such as the use of modal verbs in written grammar. But I suppose I can learn this skill with a lot of practice. Being a native speaker contributes to this struggle, as I’ve never had to think about why we say things the way we do. It adds to the challenge of ESL teaching, but it’s doable. Talking to the elementary teachers from Korea friday (there was one at my table) it seems like their stakes are a little lower, but working with kids brings a whole new set of challenges (namely behavior and parents) and it seems like if you work with kids for too long you get stuck there and not able to move to a different level, but I could be wrong.