A site to share and exchange ideas about English – teaching or enjoying it.

BE is THE verb.

Today I attended a lecture. Big news, I’m always doing that, I even believe it’s in a teacher’s job description: ‘he/she should attend lectures’. The difference today was that I was somewhat ignorant of the topic – I only knew it was supposed to be about something ‘positive’. Well, if I could summarise it in one sentence, it would be “cut down on having and start being.”

I’ve mulled over it all now and as a life-long learner I’m transferring what I absorbed to my life as a teacher. As I see it, a teacher should worry less about having and go for more being in the classroom. Let’s see:

BE friendly – create an atmosphere of camaraderie with your pupils, with people adding something to each other’s lives. Use your knowledge of their habits and interests to bring them to your side and also take that into consideration when planning your lesson: a class of teens will hardly concentrate if you ask them to talk about old age, however, will talk passionately about video games! Discipline is desirable and necessary, rules are of utmost importance, but there’s no need to be a tyrant. Conquer your students and you’ll be able to twist them around your little finger!

BE flexible – teaching is linked to adapting. Learners internalize items in unique ways, so you should be able to expose your ideas so as to cater for your varied audience. There may be visual, auditory, kinesthetic or read-write learners in the same classroom, and your job is to facilitate their job. Talk, sing, use realia, mime, act it out, elicit, use all you can to put your message across in a variety of styles.

BE resourceful – teachers always have a plan B. If you don’t, it’s never late to start. Don’t rely solely on your computer or interactive whiteboard or your notes. Or your memory, for God’s sake! You may forget your plans, the lights may go off, the computer may (it certainly will) conk out. Exploit classroom situations (as they appear) in order to create more meaningful moments to students: investigate their likes and dislikes, steering your class in that direction. Students learn faster if they relate to what is being taught.

BE attentive – every group of students offers a handful of possibilities. It’s not hard to find them – but it’s easy to miss them. The good teacher should have an eye for detail and be able to spot windows of opportunity to teach a certain item of vocabulary or structure which would sound terribly off-place if taught at random. It’s also key to be able to detect what makes your group tick – it may be music, games, sports, films or something totally unexpected. Whatever it is, they’ll be with you if you bring it up now and then in context to please them and provide them with a chance to put their personality into the class.

BE interesting – first and foremost, enjoy your teaching yourself! Have a good time in your class. Reveal your interesting traits to students, let them know you a little. Who likes a boring sulky teacher? Smile at the world and it will smile back at you.

BE good – I mean be good at what you do. Qualify yourself, recycle your studies, sit exams, attend lectures! The fact you can speak English well does not absolutely mean you are a good teacher. The good teacher tries hard, is forever learning, growing, adapting, growing, studying and growing. The English language is in constant change – we MUST change with it. I also mean be a good person. Mean good. Look at your learners in an unbiased way, never give up on them. Don’t label them. Give them a chance. Trust them.

I said in the beginning the lecture I attended was about being and not having. By that I don’t mean to say that as a professional you should not have certificates, knowledge, experience or the like. What I mean is we should consider being more – that’s the way we will fulfill our lives and feel more plenitude in our careers.

Someone once said “The difference between try and triumph is a little umph”. So, let’s be a little more ‘umph’ and keep trying… and being. After all, that’s what we are, aren’t we? Simple human ‘beings’.

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Comments on: "BE is THE verb." (7)

  1. Nelson Toledo said:

    We should definitely pursue more ‘BE’s’ rather than anything else. Inside and outside classroom, I mean. Our teaching should serve any other purpose but meeting our students’ needs. Let’s also BE more interested, inspired and fun, why not? No matter how long and sinuous may the path be, we march!

    • Nelson, the more I live the more I believe in this. BE more, and you’re right – more fun, more “life”. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Mariana Violante said:

    Great post Bete…
    It definitely gets us inspired!

  3. Danuza Gontijo said:

    The more we ARE, the more our students benefit from this interaction between teacher and students. That is, actually , the only way to truly bond with our students!!! I would add one major BE- be thoughtful – think out of the box!!! All students CAN learn, maybe not necessarily the conventional way for all of them. Luuuuved ur post, Bete

  4. Simone Portes Santos said:

    Great post, indeed! Very good to start the semester!

  5. Checked my twitter earlier today and saw that you’d posted another piece of great insight here. it’s great to see another post by yourself, who just won’t let the a good teaching practice unattended (it *is* great to have someone like you sharing your expertise/insights/beliefs, I tell you). But even greater is to discover that such insights/notions/beliefs/mottos (whatever it is), which seem to get the ground ready for our practice to thrive, happens to be one that I’ve been keeping my mind around. I read “be friendly, flexible and attentive”… that is most definitely in sync with the idea of being interested in our learners primarily as people, and only then as students (mostly due to my exposure to Luke Meddings’s notion of teaching unplugged).

    One thing I’ve been thinking about actually is that, being language teachers, we are providing people with a service that they want to profit from, as much as they possibly can. But then, more than just acquiring something they want – that is, other than *having* what we can provide them with, if they really acquire the service we offer, they won’t have anything, but indeed *be*.

    Many teachers will talk about the need to have qualifications either dismissing it, thinking that experience comes from practice rather than anything else, or naively overvaluing it, believing that having certificates and pieces of cardboard with stuff written on them will deliver how good a teacher is. To those, I’ll quote your “be good” bit, which portray what I believe *teachers* (those so-called service providers) should be.

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