Why my methods are 'simply better'.

Updated: Jan 9




Introduction


This article is a response to a group member who explained why he was a member of the group. I will give my reasons and an explanation of how I operate as a business to improve people’s English skills. That explanation will include aspects of my background as an English teacher in China that have led to the development of my ‘simply better’ methods.


As I mentioned in the introduction, I received a comment from an Apex English Group member who was articulate enough to explain why he, and others, were members.

He made what I realised was a very important and clear statement. This is what he said:

“we are here to find the best method of teaching by learning all the skills and going step by step to acquire language”.


Reflections on my teaching/learning practice


I read it but did not respond immediately because I did not have the right words to mind. I knew, perhaps instinctively, that his statement required some deeper thought -a more considered response.


I ‘slept on it’ and woke up the next morning and my thoughts of a response were crystallising in my mind. I had to sit down and write this before I lost those ideas. Even now, the process of transferring those ideas on to the page might be lost. I think I have kept the main ideas.


So let me begin.


My business is a niche one. I sensed this but his statement cemented it.


Most other businesses involved in English teaching (online or offline) make their money from classes (online or offline). They make a fortune from getting students to return week by week, or even month by month, to pay to learn. I do not do that.


Paradigm shift


My business model represents a ‘paradigm shift’ in language acquisition. Nobody else I know of teaches ‘ways to practice’ English in a meaningful way. The aforementioned businesses teach English and they probably do it well – even if some are taught by non-native English speakers. They fill their students’ heads with grammar rules, new vocabulary, test their ability to complete exercises.


From the beginning, I knew I didn’t want to compete with those businesses. I did not want to teach the basics of English because I knew that those other businesses (and schools) did that already.


Instead, I focused on people whose English level was good but not perfect. I think of what I do as a ‘finishing school’ where students’ English could be ‘polished’ with practice.

Attracting students (and customers) has been very difficult. To tell you the truth, I have not sold one Module. But I keep persevering. It is hard to develop trust on the internet as you might well know and understand. There are scammers out there who, by developing confidence in their intended victims, cheat them out of sometimes huge sums of money. I know I am not one of them but it’s a hard task convincing people that I am not out to trick them into buying nothing.


People ask me to show them a sample of my lessons. I explain that I cannot because to show them anything is to give away my simple but powerful ideas. As I explained I do not do a series of ‘lessons’ in the usual way. If I did, I would not hesitate in showing them samples. Those simple methods are valuable to me, and I cannot – and will not - give them away for free.


Growing the group on Facebook


Setting up this group on Facebook has been the best idea since I started. Until then I was not getting regular followers on Facebook. I have about 130 at the moment but that number has stagnated.


In comparison, the group is expanding quickly. In the last month alone, the group has grown to about 140. That rate of growth is much more than the past three years of having my regular Apex English Tutoring page on Facebook.


That growth has been due to my efforts in drawing people from other English sites. Those sites, often with thousands of members, are operated by non-native English speakers who themselves do not demonstrate fluency. Errors are regular in the quizzes they post and people who respond with single letter answers are not encouraged to give longer answers. There are never explanations of the quiz. The process is ‘pedagogically wrong’ in my opinion. How can people be expected to complete a quiz without some previous teaching of the grammar point, or the meaning of an idiom, for example.


I see them and believe that I can offer much better learning experiences. The way they learn is ‘slow’. It is a slow accumulation of English idioms and grammar rules etc. There is nothing wrong with that but students do not get the appropriate way to put that knowledge into practice. They can continue to learn slowly but incorporate a way to practise alongside that acquisition of knowledge.


So, I set about inviting them to become members of my group. It’s hard work, individually contacting them and inviting them to join – which, pleasingly, most have done. I can see how to grow the group now, by contacting friends of friends. The growth is exponential, compounding like compound interest. The power of Facebook put to good use!

But I am getting away from a more direct response to the statement. I needed, however, to explain that situation as part of a longer explanation.


So let me return to the issue.


The best method of teaching?


The group member said: “we are here to find the best method of teaching”. I thought about this and wondered if I was offering that ‘best method of teaching’. I believe truthfully that I can say ‘yes’, this is the best method. Why? There are several reasons.


1 I recognise students’ abilities and their store of learned knowledge. Students bring with them English that they have learned. Some have more than others but that’s OK.

2 By offering free Basic Lessons, I can develop students (as potential customers of my Methods) to a point where they need to practice; to ‘learn’ ways to practise. Remember, students do not learn these ‘practice methods’ from conventional classes. I am not a conventional teacher. Currently, I do not teach ‘learners’ – people who have very little or no English at all. But I COULD go back to the real basics by teaching the English alphabet. That is a real possibility if it means that I get more customers.


3 The third reason is that by offering Basic Lessons in a shortened form – not months of study – people can reach the point where they will be ready to take their English learning to the next level by learning how to practise what they’ve learned – from me or others.

So, let me summarise those points to say that I provide a means to practise English. Students with that prior knowledge can read and understand the simple ideas and processes in my Modules and use them to practise – to improve their English skills. My ‘simply better’ Method: Module A enables students to practise ALL their skills, almost at once in a more natural way. They will practise reading or listening comprehension, be able to respond in grammatically perfect fashion either in writing or by speaking. In turn, because they will recognise that their abilities will have improved, their confidence will soar. That confidence will drive them to even greater levels. Then, based on their success, they will want to get my other Modules – a spelling method, a pronunciation module, an IELTS Speaking Test Module, or a Method for preparing for essay writing or making oral presentations.



Let me now explain some of my background as an English teacher. I am not a trained teacher; my ideas on teaching have come from articles and books on teaching English as a second language while I was teaching in China. While most foreign teachers were content with a year of teaching English in China before going back to their home countries to get ‘a real job’, I saw teaching in China as a longer term ‘career’ so I wanted to improve my practice.


'Unlearning' my teaching practice


Until I completed a 4-week TEFL course, the teaching I had done was uninformed. I taught the way I had been taught in primary and secondary school: lots of ‘say after me’ and ‘learn what I teach you’. This was the way Chinese teachers taught, not just English. This was/is how Chinese students learned – by memorization. I had to battle that system in the way I preferred to teach. I was appreciative of the level of autonomy I had at Chinese colleges and universities. Although the textbooks were set, I could teach how I wanted to teach using them as long as I got results. And I got good results.


I had to ‘unlearn’ the way I was taught to teach at TEFL. But I did not like the way teachers were taught to teach at TEFL. The method of teaching was based on students copying the teacher who modeled dialogues for students to reproduce. I came to realise that what was produced was designed to please parents who were happy to see their children ‘speaking English.’ But none of them could hold a conversation. The schools that hired TEFL graduates were in the business of money making. Parents were happy to pay for weeks and weeks to have their kids taught to speak like parrots. Everyone was happy.


I believed there had to be a better way to teach. So, in the first lesson of every class I had in China, post TEFL, I taught my students the basis of My ‘simply better’ Method Module. By the end of that lesson, students (those who were more proficient than others) were speaking in possibly the longest sentences they had ever spoken in their lives before – and using perfect grammar. They ‘got’ the idea. I could use the technique at any time in the class. I was using ‘real life’ situations to get them to practise their skills of listening and speaking - none of that textbook dialogue stuff that they would have to memorise to use – then rarely use later. I expected them to practise the method after classes as well – again, real life English.

Even with passages of text, students did not have to ‘read after me’ to practise their English in class. Instead, I taught them to skim read to find answers to my comprehension questions then expected them to give me long, detailed answers. Multiple choice answers might have produced correct answers, but I was interested more in getting students to read then give more detailed answers - all aimed at building confidence. My lessons were more ‘conversational’ than conventional rote learning. We had fun.


Developing my methods for the market


When I returned to Australia, I decided to use that Method, as well as other methods, as the basis for a business. I knew, from asking other teachers, that nobody was using my method. I knew my method was unique and I had field-tested it in class after class in China. Yet, I had a hard time ‘selling’ it to educators in Australia. TAFE and Community English classes did not appreciate the power of the method. I doubt whether the method is used in Australian, UK or US schools where it could be implemented as well. Let me say here, that it is only one tool in teaching English. It will never replace the teaching of content or skills. It simply is a means of practice to achieve competency in those skills of performance – speaking and writing English well.


I did, however, fully appreciate the value of the method, convinced as I was by my success in using it and so I developed my business. My dream is to take it international. The market in developing countries such as India, China, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, and South Korea is massive, and I want to be a part of it. I believe it is achievable.


Conclusion


In conclusion, I believe this article has been a worthwhile exercise for me and hopefully you as the reader – and potential student/customer. It has made me reflect on my ‘modus operandi’ by forcing me to write an explanatory article. I am sure I have responded adequately to the member’s statement. I hope that by reading this, the reader will understand better and appreciate more, how my methods (not just my ‘simply better’ Methods) are designed to help students improve their English in a vastly different way – a way that has guaranteed success based on my own experiences.









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