On the seventh day of Geekmas, some blogger gave to me: seven simple statements
Welcome to the teflgeek Christmas celebration! Themed around the classic Christmas carol – but going backwards, mostly because it’s more like a countdown that way:
And seven simple statements with which to teach by: Be Consistent – Be Persistent – Be Buoyant – Be Diligent – Be Knowledgeable – Be Adaptable – Be Human.
Be consistent – we all like to know where and what the boundaries are, particularly when we’re young and we’re still having trouble figuring things like this out, but also when we’re older, because boundaries help set comfort levels. We feel safe when we know what to expect. So as a teacher, the lesson is simple. Either decide or negotiate the way you want the class to be – and stick to it.
Be persistent – by all means try out new behavioural routines, but give them time to work. The classes I’ve had most trouble with can usually be traced back to me thinking “Well that didn’t work, now what?” and trying something new every lesson. Don’t give up. Kids and teenagers in particular (but adults too) appreciate the perseverance. This isn’t true just for behavioural routines but applies to the learning process as well.
Be buoyant – you set the mood as a teacher and it’s important to remember that no matter how crap a day you’ve had, it’s not their fault! I’m not saying you should force yourself into a prozacian state of perpetual smiling – and if you’ve had a horrendous day you might find it useful to share that with the class, not necessarily in any great detail, but telling them that you’ve got a heavy cold or that you’re just having one of those days might help them lower their expectations and meet you half way. Generally though, I think that if you walk in with a smile and an attitude of being pleased to be there – then the learners will also meet you half way there too!
Be Diligent – and I say this as someone who yesterday found a piece of student homework (marked!) that had been sitting in the homework folder for almost five months. What I really mean here is make sure you live up to all the promises you make in class – from “I don’t know, I’ll look it up and let you know” to “Trust me – if you do this in the exam you’ll pass.”
Be Knowledgeable – we’re all fallible and there will always be things that we don’t know. It often comes as a shock to learners, the younger ones anyway, to find that you don’t know everything. After all – you’re a teacher! And as I mentioned earlier, there’s nothing wrong in admitting your ignorance. But if you plan to teach something, you should know about it beforehand. A salutory lesson well learnt from the CELTA was attempting to teach “must” and “have to” to an upper-intermediate group who clearly knew more about it than I did. “Is it the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation?” asked one helpful student. “Erm, must is must and have to is have to” said the confused trainee teacher (but I got better at it!). Know your stuff, or at least look it up beforehand!
Be Adaptable – it’s very easy to get stuck in an educational rut – particularly if you end up teaching the same sorts of classes all the time! If you do teach the same types of classes, you’ll probably have a fairly good idea of what works and what doesn’t and sometimes there can be a danger of constantly trying new things, so that no new thing ever has a chance to become an old thing. Stave off the boredom and experiment with something new – see what happens!
Be Human – when I was thinking about this post – this was the first one I thought of. Be Human. It sounds so simple and makes you think “How could I be anything else?” but as teachers we get cast into the roles that other people expect of us. Students can expect us to be the fount of all wisdom, the authority figure, the confidante. Other people (school management, colleagues, academic management, parents, curriculum writers, local and national governments) all have additional expectations and roles that they thrust upon us. Somewhere in all that, there is also the person that is you! Don’t forget to let them out!
That – for what it’s worth – is what I think! I don’t think it’s an exhaustive list, just seven simple statements to think about! I’d be very interested to hear what you think – and what your seven simple statements to teach by are! (NB – this isn’t a blog challenge, more of an invitational event…!)