Teaching – What I’ve Learnt so Far

It can’t be denied that teaching is a mixed bag, it can leave you exhausted and broken, or put you on a massive life high. During my brief tenure so far (the accumulated work of 6 months) I have experienced both extremes. I’ve been overjoyed by the work and progress of my students and left scrambling under the weight of my schedule (although, lucky I’ve not yet reached a point where I cannot handle it). So what has my experience taught me so far?

The Kids, my students, they come in all shapes and sizes, each one with a totally unique personality. They are the fundamental key to my profession, I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it wasn’t for them. I owe them a lot. But, like any good teacher, my focus is entirely outward facing. My job is simply to hasten the learning abilities of my students and advance their English as much as I possibly can. It’s important to me that I do a good job. Now there are people of the opinion that TEFL teachers mostly use their positions to focus on travel and other such experiences, as opposed to their actual role. In some cases, I’m sure that’s true, and in a lot of other cases I’m sure it’s not. Sweeping that all aside however, I know I feel I have to do the best job I can; as whilst I may only be a part of my students’ lives for a short time, the impact I will potentially have is much greater. Not to sounds big-headed or anything of the like, but if I can actively improve their English, then I am doing them a service.

Moving on from that minor tangent, I’ve found/ I’ve met students of all abilities, each with different strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to treat them all with the same level of patience and understanding in each area of their linguistic development. The confidence of a child is something that needs to be nurtured. If they feel humiliated, embarrassed or take any such knock, you could inadvertently shut them out of a lesson or more, if you’re not careful.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to teaching. This includes every single aspect of the profession. From lesson planning and structure, right the way down to discipline and classroom management. What might work for one individual or class could be entirely catastrophic if implemented with another. In fact, I have found the more I have taught, the broader and broader my lesson plans have actually gotten. It’s a relatively stark contrast. Throwback to when I first started and my plans were meticulous, accounting for almost every minute and describing how every and any action would be enacted. Now however, they largely consist of boxes carrying titles of the general activity I plan to do, like spelling or pronunciation practice, for example. Teaching is certainly something you grow into.

Patience is beyond a virtue when it comes to this profession. In my experience, although I’m sure this may vary from teacher to teacher, it seems you need endless volumes of the stuff, no matter the level you are teaching. Even your golden classes or favourite students can have their bad days and drive you round the bend, and yes, we have favourites, anyone who says otherwise is telling you a lie. Patience is a requirement to get through the day, to cope with the demands of your students and their parents.

Discipline is a balancing act, its like spinning a dozen plates whilst balancing on a tight rope suspended between two elephants’ trunks whilst they contend with balancing on a small circus ball (one each respectively). When it works it’s a marvel to behold, when it doesn’t, well the outcomes can be disastrous. I’ve seen kids throw their books and bags across the classroom because they can’t sit where they want or next to the person they constantly matter with. I’ve had kids cry, fight and god knows what else in my class. On the other hand I’ve had classes run like a well oiled machine, moving seamlessly from task to task, being both highly motivated and focused. I’d like to say its just the luck of the draw, and it is to an extent, but it also comes down to how well you can balance and juggle.

The solution and something else rather odd I’ve discovered, is how much you lean on what you learnt from your own teachers growing up. I’ve ended up adopting some of their methods and a favoured mentality I always admired: a fun and relaxed atmosphere, but strong and strict when needed. So far it’s guided me pretty well. But I can see some of you now, recoiling in horror at the thought of becoming anything like the teachers that used you haunt your days at school. But you’ll be surprised, when you think about it, at just how similar you are, in many ways, to the adults you grew up around.

Now this is a pretty brief run down, and I have a lot more to learn, discover and see. But after a long day of teaching, my brain is finally beginning to fail me, so I’ll leave it at this. Good luck out there!

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