So there always seems to be lots of talk about natural talent. As in someone either has "the language ability" to be a good second-language speaker or not. I totally get this concept in areas like elite sports or orchestra-level music, because hard-work can only get you so far and you definitely need the genetic edge to make it to the top. But, there are plenty of people out there who have no natural talent in music, or sports, or language ability that can become competent in their chosen area through time and effort.
This summer, I'm working as a guide for scuba divers who already have their certification cards. In theory, they are totally competent to look after themselves, and just need a guide for navigation, and to organize tanks, and lunch, and the boat trip. And there really are some excellent divers, who are more experienced in the water than I am! And these people are a joy to guide, and it becomes just a fun, non-stressful dive for me. I relax, and spend my time looking for the small, interesting little things that these people seem to appreciate. And they point out cool stuff to me. And we have a good time.
And then there are those totally ridiculous divers who essentially need me to hold their hand. Some of these people even have 10 or 15 dives, so really should have a handle on the basic things like how to get under water, and stay there. I need to be vigilant almost every second of the dive in order to make sure everyone gets back on land, alive. On the breaks (and in the water), I give these people hints and tips in order to help them become better divers. I make what I do outrageously obvious, so that it's almost impossible not to notice and emulate. Except, they just don't care and the second dive will go the same (or worse!) than the first.
So, what am I saying in this long-winded kind of way? If someone wants to be good at something, they will be. If you want to be a good scuba-diver, you'll take a tip from an instructor and put it to use on the next dive. You'll pay attention in the water and see what your guide is doing and imitate them. You'll ask questions and focus your mind before the dive.
Those that want to be good English speakers, will be. They will study outside of class and ask questions in class. They will talk to the teacher after class, just for a bit of conversation practice. They will email the teacher to say hello. They will find foreign friends or penpals. They will watch English movies or TV or read English books, just for fun. They will find an extra class they can take to practice what they're weak at.
As time goes by, I think that maybe the teacher doesn't actually matter beyond the very, very basics? Like teaching someone how to set up a scuba tank. Or, teaching someone the alphabet and the basics of how to read. Thoughts, comments?