There are many issues that arise in our ESL classrooms and if these issues are not addressed effectively, teachers as well as learners have to face them throughout the year. What are the common learning issues in Malaysian ESL classrooms? Well, to understand the learning issues better, let me separate them according to these three groups of learners.
POTENTIAL 'A' LEARNERS: Examples of common issues...
Able to understand mostly what they read but unable to answer HOTS and tricky questions
Able to write essays, however, serious errors are frequent and noticeable
Do have ideas but are reluctant to share orally as their confidence to communicate in English is low
AVERAGE LEARNERS: Examples of common issues...
Lack vocabulary yet there is no systematic and ongoing effort to enrich their vocabulary
Attempt to answer all questions in examination but unable to complete tasks according to the requirements
Need a long time even to write a short essay
WEAK LEARNERS: Examples of common issues...
Hardly understand what they read due to their limited vocabulary
Very reluctant to write essays and always end up writing only a few lines
Have attitude problems and are not interested to learn English
The focus of this article is not on the long list of issues in ESL classrooms but it is on teachers' awareness that each issue is actually an opportunity for teachers' personal growth and professional development. Why do I say so? Well, let us say you take an issue among potential A learners - they make numerous serious errors in their essay. If an ESL teacher takes this issue, reflects on it critically and then develops a strategy to reduce errors, then the existence of the issue has given the teacher an opportunity to develop a strategy. When the strategy is implemented in the writing classroom and it is able to help potential A learners to reduce errors in their writing, then it is a success. Most importantly, the exploration and attempt to reduce errors in writing is an enriching experience for the teacher. Definitely, it has also contributed a significant professional growth to the teacher.
Frankly speaking, I am not sure how many English Language teachers are aware that the learning issues in their ESL classrooms are the opportunities to be grabbed. I do not have concrete data. Perhaps, a research on it should be conducted by the experts. Like the quotation below, I have a feeling that some English teachers have the awareness, however, for certain reasons, they just ignore it. This brings us to another crucial matter that is teachers' unwillingness to be engaged in efforts to turn learning issues into opportunities.
I know some ESL teachers may claim that they do want to address learning problems effectively, however, they are not committed to find solutions due to other teaching and non-teaching commitments. This is worrying as when nothing effective is done to address the issues, weak learners who have limited vocabulary will remain the same till the end of the year. Similarly, the potential A learners will not improve their grade in English subject. Perhaps, what is highlighted in the quotation below is true. English teachers must have determination and perseverance. Only then, learning issues will not remain as untreated issues till the end of the year.
To conclude, ESL teachers cannot deny the fact that there are always issues in the process of teaching and learning the language. They must also admit that the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity is. I would personally urge ESL teachers to view each challenge as an opportunity. Trust me, one opportunity could change your life professionally. Do not miss an opportunity that could have changed your students' performance too. I know, we the English teachers do not have much free time to deal with all the learning issues. No matter what, please challenge your limit. At least, throughout this 2018, turn ONE learning issue into ONE opportunity. Start small but earn big! I am positive YOU CAN DO IT!