During many years of my school education I’ve encountered too many teachers stiff as if they had a nice stick up their bums. I’ve also met quite a lot of those who wanted to be students’ ‘friends’ – the point was we didn’t really enjoy the idea. When I started teaching I soon realized that finding the right place between those two attitudes would be the key to identifying my own way of being a teacher.
In Poland, at universities, they don’t really teach you how to teach – well, to tell you the truth I don’t think any university would do that, this is something you learn by yourself through your whole life. Very much like parenting, only more children and less time. It’s obvious that any beginnings would be lousy but we develop somehow. When I recall my teaching beginnings (private lessons when I was a student) I can’t help but feel deeply embarrassed (and promise not to let any student give such lessons to my possible child). Today when I see notes ‘an English Philology student will prepare your child to any exam’ I’m like ‘right, good luck with that’.
The most important question you have to ask yourself is ‘what do I want my students to do on my classes’ and teach according to your answer. One day I’ll write what I want my students to do, but for now let’s focus on the basics of teacher – student relationship. Long lost are the days when a teacher was the authority, the keeper of secret knowledge or whatever. Now there’s the Internet and authorities are gone (not that I mind, am hardly a role model). Let’s face it – we can fight an uneven battle or accept it and live on. The only thing we can do is to help them navigate through the tumbled masses of knowledge, urban legends, facts, myths and basically help them find diamonds in the heaps of dirt.
To do that, we must dive into these heaps. Check popular sites, watch popular stuff (arrrgh, the awful experience of watching Twilight! I was really praying for van Helsing!), listen – even briefly – to popular music (that includes Justin Bieber and One Direction, I’m afraid), read what the generation of our students writes. The Internet is the key to their needs, because they express themselves freely. What about Facebook? If you read your students’ walls there’s all you need to understand them, find their hobbies and adjust your teaching to that – making a sentence explaining a grammar construction based on our students’ social life works way better than a simple sentence from the book.
That was my first lesson. And it was good, I hope (my students shall express their opinions).
Now, what about your first experiences?