To put things into perspective, I thought it’d be best to start off with a short description of the students I work with.
Most of my students are from Malay-speaking backgrounds. They have very little exposure to the English language apart from the few hours of English lessons that they receive in school every week. (My school is an hour away from the nearest town. Newspapers and magazines are practically unheard of and television is a luxury that few can afford.). On top of that, they do not feel that there is a need to learn the language as it has very little relevance to their everyday lives (Most of their parents are either farmers or fishermen or they work in one of the many palm oil plantations. A majority of these kids will end up in similar professions.).
In terms of proficiency, most of my students are very weak. In my best class, students can put together a simple sentence but with various grammatical errors. My worst class has students who are unable to understand some of the most basic vocab in the language (“smile”, “speak”, etc).
Needless to say, a degree in TESL did NOT prepare me for this but I’ve since learned to work with what I have rather than wishing for what I don’t.
How about u? What sort of students do u work with? Do share in the comments section! (:
PS: I am currently teaching Form 4 and 5. For those of u who are unfamiliar with the Malaysian system of education, Form 4 and Form 5 students are basically 16 and 17 year-olds. At the end of Form 5, they will sit for a school-leaving exam known as Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). English is a compulsory subject in the exam but it is not necessary to pass the subject to obtain the certificate.