I’m (not) an Expert

Maria Niechwiadowicz


At Ningxia Shifan Xueyuan the foreign teachers are often formally referred to as “English Experts.” I laugh at this title because I find it ironic. I’m really only an expert by default, that is, I grew up in an English-speaking country and therefore, it is my native language. That does not mean that I always speak well or use correct grammar, though I do pride myself in lacking an accent (thank you Midwest home).

The new sophomore English textbook I am using this semester is awesome! It is packed with a variety of material, too much material for a two-hour class once a week, of which grammar is included and emphasized. Despite the fact that my students had a grammar course last semester, they are still utterly confused, so I decided to begin reinforcing their grammar this semester, specifically in their spoken skills.

Do you know what a gerund is? How about a modal?

If you have no idea what gibberish I am referring to, don’t panic, I understand. That was my reaction when perusing the grammar rules presented in textbook. It’s not that I have terrible grammar in daily life (though I’m sure some Modlin out there is critiquing this very blog), but I don’t think about the technical terms in which I form sentences. I doubt many people do, right? Thankfully, the book also includes teacher notes to actually teach the grammar rules, which is great because I’ve had to become my own student! I can’t blame my students for their confusion, for I have been puzzled in trying understand why we do what we do. For example, if relative pronouns (who/that) are required when replacing the subject, but only optional when replacing the object, isn’t it easier to just always include the relative pronoun?

Again, I’m no expert, but rather a teacher who is always learning along with her students. And that I think is more rewarding anyway. :)