Number one for English language teachers

Norway: From Kristiansand

Hege Annette feels more like a doctor than a teacher as she strives to find the right treatment for her students.

Hello all teacher friends I don't know yet!

My name is Hege Annette, I'm 36 years old and I teach English in Kristiansand, Norway. The town is situated in the very south of the country. I hope you don't think that Norway is the capital of Sweden! From now on you'll know that Norway is a country way up north in Europe, and our capital is called Oslo.

In Kristiansand however, I'm very lucky to have a fulltime permanent job as a teacher at Tangen Senior High School. Our students are in the age of 16 - 19 and they have several choices of subject areas to choose from during their 2 - 3 years here. We offer areas of study within vocational trades, like: arts and design, media, food and service and wood and brickwork.

In addition to this all students take compulsory subjects like English and Norwegian which I teach. I love my subjects and I hope that this love of languages and literature is contagious: that it will give the students the inspiration to really enjoy learning languages. I try to use humor and feelings as one of the motivational keys. On the other hand I don't neglect the formal or the academic sides of language teaching. In my opinion the 'communicative approach' has ruled too long in language teaching and learning. The results of this method have been, and still are, that students lack basic language knowledge like grammar, vocabulary and spelling competence. This also causes demotivation and frustration because of not succeeding in using a language like English.

But the winds of teaching approaches are changing - thank God - now we will have (some teachers have always treasured this of course) a clearer focus on skills and actual/ factual/ formal academic knowledge. Both in teachers' colleges, and in the lower levels of education (primary and secondary school) our government has initiated a new school reform which allows learning to be the pillar in school. Before this (last year and some years back) it was socializing and feeling good that were the main goals in Norwegian classrooms. I guess Norway must be the nation in the world which is best at school reforms (the last ones were in 1994 and in 1997). Some claim that it's because of our oil fortune (what else is there to spend money on...) I think that we are not persistent enough in what we do, we need to be confident in some methods that work beyond time. Like being proud of knowledge and demanding high standards of academic skills from the ones who become teachers. When it comes to English, it is one of the subjects that will be given more lessons according to the new reform along with languages like German, French and Spanish.

Anyway, when I am with the students I can't help being struck by the feeling that I'm like a doctor in a desperate search for the right medical treatment, instead of being an inspired teacher constantly willing to sacrifice all my time to the subjects that I love so much. No matter the salary, the lack of opportunity to study and develop my own knowledge is the real problem.

Still this is what I need to do and what I've always wanted. If you're curious to get to know me, my students or my school better you're hereby invited to get in touch with me. Don't hesitate! We have an international focus some years ahead and I am the coordinator at our school. We'll use English as the instrument to get in touch with young people around the world. Students who are on the same level of education (16 - 19 years old). In the first place we'll use mail as the communicative tool - since it's fast, but I also think that mail contact can be too difficult: lack of lessons (my students have only 2 English lessons per week) lack of good equipment, network problems and last but not least the lack of responsibility to follow up such communication. I tried this out with 2 classes last year (2 times 15 students). We used a network called ePals. It was partly successful, but I think it took too much time waiting for responses. That's why teachers need to make a solid and binding communication first. This year I'll try to use our local network which is easier to use in most ways. In order to succeed we need curious, responsible, skilled and friendly English teachers around the world. So don't hesitate to send this mail!

I look forward to learning more about the English language, about culture, life and how to transform this into meaningful English lessons at Tangen Senior High School.

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