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’.