When teachers teach things they do not even master

By Omar Bihmidine

Morocco World News

Sidi Ifni, Morocco, August 20, 2012

Many teachers teach things they do not even master. Whether we accept it or not, this is the case with a number of Morocco’s  teachers of English. Of course, some misconceptions about teachers’ mastery of their subject matter may instantly arise, such as the excuse that no one is perfect, that no one is infallible, and that teaching is learning twice by the end of the day.

In reality, these facts always hold true. Yet, it is worth bearing in mind that they are merely flimsy excuses which incompetent teachers resort to in an attempt to conceal their weaknesses. Everyone has weaknesses. But would this suffice to exonerate  teachers of English who still can‘t differentiate between the compound-complex sentence from the complex, or the stressed syllable from the unstressed syllable?

Sometimes, when I read what some Moroccan teachers of Englishi write in English, I cannot help but wonder how they will successfully impart certain language points on their students. When they put pen to paper, a number of teachers cannot, for instance, differentiate between defining clauses and non-defining ones; they cannot punctuate them correctly, either.

At first sight, making a fuss about punctuation and the like may appear trivial. But, upon contemplation, punctuation alone can tell a lot about teachers. It can, for instance, tell whether Moroccan teachers of English think in Arabic or French when they use or teach English. It can also tell whether teachers are heavily affected by interference, and therefore, this contagious defect may move to students.

How can one expect high school teachers to teach these language items in the writing skill, if they don’t master them well enough? Perhaps, one of us will intervene and say that a teacher is still learning and should not be blamed for poor mastery. But, is this convincing enough? I do not think so.

Every year, to have their salaries upgraded, teachers sit for professional competence tests. Here, many teachers have recourse to cheating for the sake of immediate success. Many of them are tested on areas of knowledge they must already master and on lessons they already teach their students.

Cheating, too, can tell us something about teachers’ school days. We must have no doubt about the fact that teachers who cheat at professional competence tests must already have had past cheating experiences as students, particularly because cheating is a habit that develops over time. If they didn’t think about upgrading their salaries at any cost, they would not cheat. It is crystal clear that the noble values of self-reliance and diligence that some teachers lack are needed to impress on their students the verge of extinction.

Are we going to say that no one is perfect just because they cheat? Is it common sense to say that we must not be critical of teachers who make the grave mistake of cheating, especially that no one is infallible? Definitely not! If these teachers really master what they teach, I am sure they will also master what they are tested on. Cheating is a sign of poor mastery of the subject matter, which is a clear sign of their poor background and incompetence.

Frankly speaking, another calamity we are facing nowadays is that the majority of teachers are passive. At a time when they need to impress on their students the fact that production is the principal criterion of excellence, we find that teachers themselves produce nothing. Logically speaking, we can never expect  to hold a revolver, fire and hit the target if the gun is not loaded.

Worse is that the minute many teachers secure their stable jobs with the government, they begin to revel in passivity. So, consistency and constant learning are absent even among teachers. It is no surprise then that students don’t learn these invaluable learning tips at a time when the teachers in question themselves don’t master them. Let us remind ourselves that inertia is contagious.

Even though pronunciation doesn’t matter as much as other areas of a language do, teachers who don’t master it well enough will negatively impact their students. While some Moroccan teachers of English say that pronunciation isn’t the key to comprehension, they forget that their role is to show students the primary rules of learning a foreign language, and pronunciation is crucial to successfully comprehending the structure of sentences.

If we happen to delve into the research Moroccan teachers do to further boost their specialty knowledge and the number of books they read, we will come across shocking cases. Just as the majority of Moroccan teachers don’t practically believe in life-long learning, students too find it challenging to master the skills. As we all know, habits and rapports are contagious.

At this point, the heart of the matter lies in the fact that a large number of Morocco’s  teachers of English still make pronunciation errors. Still worse is that students in their turn make the same mistakes. But, if you ask one of these teachers about their poor mastery of pronunciation, they will tell you that no one is perfect. Yes, no one is! But, isn’t it part of their job to teach correct and intelligible pronunciation?

Anyone can be excused for making errors for the simple reason making them is a sign of learning.  It is normal that teachers can also make errors, but we must bear in mind that their errors beget other errors, those of their students. We must not forget that our deplorable education system is partly due to the teachers who teach things they themselves do not master.

‘Immaculate’ mastery of the subject matter is an attribute of great teachers. “No one is perfect” must never be used as an excuse for teachers who are entrusted to teach true things, not errors. As the number of teachers who teach things they don’t master is on the rise, expect the increasing number of students who do not master what they are supposed to learn at their early stages.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy

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