David Knott

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In the Arabian Gulf States, many Western-educated teachers spend their spare time around the water cooler complaining about how their students don’t do this or that, or how they can’t compare to learners in country x, y, or z. While it is anticipated that teachers arrive in a job with a certain amount of “baggage” related to their experiences and background as both students and teachers, the question arises of whose responsibility is it to accommodate whom? Is it up to local students to transform themselves in order to meet the expectations of foreign teachers or vice versa? Most teachers would hope that there is a third, middle ground where teachers and students come together, as there is not one solitary way to teach and learn English. Investigating this issue leads to the critical pedagogy of Freire and Giroux, as well as the cultural concerns of ESL teaching identified by Canagarajah, Crystal, Kumaravadivelu, and others. The many theories are less of a concern to the actual teachers who day-by-day grapple with their students’ strengths and weaknesses, constantly seeking better ways to succeed with those students. Therefore, rather than the unreality of water-cooler talk, the focus of this paper is on the reality of the ESL classroom in the Gulf States, investigating specific, concrete ways that committed teachers have tried to move beyond their own perspectives and limitations, working to democratize their classrooms, switching up their teaching to best engage and utilize the interests and aptitudes of their students. The study examines various teachers’ ideas ranging from ice breakers, class activities, assessments and feedback. The goal is to demonstrate successful approaches that might encourage other teachers to critically evaluate their own practices and continue to push themselves to implement new and different pedagogies to help their students.


critical pedagogy, culture, alternative, teaching and learning

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