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I want to teach my subject rather than the English language

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by scienceteacher11, Nov 14, 2015.

  1. scienceteacher11

    scienceteacher11 New commenter

    I am a psychology teacher and worked in the same school for 5 years in inner city London, I enjoyed it but became tired of marking essay with poor grammar it was incredibly difficult to make sense of the work and I spent the majority of my time teaching English rather than developing their knowledge of the subject. I've started at a school in the suburbs with a lower EAL percentage and I am shocked to find that the quality of writing is just as a bad if not worse. I am now wondering whether to try and find a selective sixth form but fear that I'll have the same problems wherever I go. Have all English teachers just got highly skilled at training students to complete exams without actually being able to write clearly? To do my subject you have to have at least a B in English so I'm not sure going to selective sixth form would help. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, I just don't want to be an English teacher anymore! Correcting a few mistakes here and there is fine but constantly trying to explain to year 12 students the basics of the English language is exhausting when I'm supposed to be teaching them about psychology.
    monicabilongame likes this.
  2. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    Why don't you have a talk with the Head of Sixth about this?

    It may well be a problem in other subjects too (History, as just one example) and perhaps there needs to be some wider strategy here.

    Best wishes

  3. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    There may indeed be a need for a wider strategy, as Theo says. English teachers are not solely responsible for teaching students anything and everything related to writing essays, as you appear to believe.

    I'll let someone else have the pleasure of taking apart the grammar in your own post!
  4. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    Ever heard that quote about those in glass houses?
  5. johnberyl

    johnberyl Occasional commenter

    I think the OP makes a fair point. Surely if students have a B or above at GCSE they should be able to clearly express their ideas in writing.
  6. aspensquiver

    aspensquiver Star commenter

    It's interesting to me that you appear to find the placing of the full stop challenging - at least in what passes for your first sentence. Gotta lol.
    Middlemarch likes this.
  7. aspensquiver

    aspensquiver Star commenter

  8. drek

    drek Star commenter

    I don't think the OP said anything about it being the fault of the 'English teachers'. And we can safely assume that writing on a 'forum' about teaching or not, is not expected to be at essay standard
    In schools with an ever increasing migrant population, the EAL strategy is left to individual teachers to cope with. But not under their control. So some classes can have 90 percent EAL but have to sit the same 3 weekly assessment as the rest of the year group. Some secondary schools get new students who can't speak any English at all, run small group English support lessons and I don't know if this is the case in all schools, but it seems to short staffed and without any budget for resources, enough to learn cat bat and so on and so forth for a few weeks, then students are left to cope with mainstream curriculums, as secondary teachers with classes of 33, are not given extra time to sit and translate Shakespeare or stem cell research into Urdu, polish, etc; They tend to do better in maths (numeracy) and English (high internal to external assessment ratio). Although that is changing with the new exam system.
    These students should really be sent to adequately staffed EAL specialist centres, until they are ready, before they can tackle mainstream curriculum English. So I guess it is not the school but the intake you need to look at.
  9. cally1980

    cally1980 Established commenter

    I'd say it was implied Drek, when asking if English teachers just train their students to pass exams. That said, if all these students have reached a grade B in English Language, their grammar should surely be pretty solid surely?

    In order to move forward, pass on your concerns. Could it be that a core group/key skills slot is included in timetables to develop essay writing skills?
  10. purplecarrot

    purplecarrot Senior commenter

    The thing is students can get lazy with their technical accuracy especially those who have the view that grammar is for English but not for other subjects. Experience tells me that when staff insist on accurate work, students generally produce it. Sure they might have a few mistakes that they slip up, but on the whole it's usually almost there. Bear in mind that students can (and do) use 'I don't know' as a get out clause.
    What's needed is a consistent approach to whole school literacy and all staff not accepting poor quality work that's full of technical mistakes. Until that happens and people think that it's the job of English teachers then nothing will improve.Thankfully, lots of subjects are now marking for technical accuracy it'll be a kick for other subjects to stop accepting grammatically poor work.
  11. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Constantly trying to explain..?
    If you have to explain the basics over and over because they aren't following your instructions, don't you think that other teachers have done the same?

    Don't teach them. Set the expectation and reject work which doesn't meet it. As another poster said, it's amazing what pupils (especially the older ones) can suddenly do if you show you won't tolerate a lower standard.
  12. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Ever heard the phrase ' we teach students not subjects ? '
  13. drek

    drek Star commenter

    I'm thinking back to 2008 when teachers in other subjects were categorically ordered by the lead teachers and SLT to ignore grammatical errors, as the new specifications would not "cut marks' for incorrect spelling and grammar. The focus was to increase the A to C percentage at the cost of practising basic literacy skills in many subjects across the board.
    Teacher expectations mattered very little. 'Have high expectations' is a phrase bandied about but most teachers have to lower their expectations to that of their line managers and outstanding teachers, no matter the make up of their group.
    Most have to do whatever they are told to via observation and support not to mention sharing poor practice as a way of forcing lead teacher's bad habits on everyone else!
    Lesson observations became a joke, as observers wanted key phrases hammered home, guaranteed to get marks, taught in the same way one would teach Jack and Jill to primary school students. So lots of card sorts, picture story boards and white boards. Anything that takes time and lots of practice to learn was seen as 'boring'.
    What is happening now is the direct result of school and ofsted interpretation of the 2011 premium pupil Sutton report.
    It was after that that the triple marking, PRP, and quadrupling of feedback increased exponentially.
    We now get office personnel who were retittled as exams directors or some such, sending us guidance on what 'suitable' progress targets for our students should be.
    These are,people who will have never interacted with a child at school, never mind taught them!
    Such students are worth between 430 to 2000 pounds per head for the school.
    many schools suddenly increased their EAL number of students, shortly after. We know what we need to do to increase literacy in our subjects but we have to keep bowing to the latest unproven fad, so we don't have the time to implement them.
    Partly because they come to our lessons on learning walks and expect to see the same lesson in set 1 and set 5. Set 1 has 3 EAL, set 5 may have 30, with one support staff!
    idiots still expect to see the same ridiculous 'outstanding' nonsense in observed lessons.
    The report is idiotic. It suggests that some researched strategies have a greater impact but the report admits the measurements of these strategies are invalid!
    Guess which strategies have the most impact. The ones with the lowest cost!
    Teachers need to produce lots of home made literacy resources ( low cost)
    Teachers need to give extensive feedback (labour intensive but low cost If you use the staff you already have, all SLT need to do here is to increase their own expectations of the teachers they manage).
    There are a few more choice ones and the authors of the report clearly state there is no way to measure the impact of their research but they have gone and analysed their poor data pot anyway!
    What we are seeing in schools is the result of the haphazard way this is being implemented and overseen by inexperienced lead teachers and brash young heads!
    They come armed to the teeth with low cost strategies and policies to implement them!

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