Wednesday 3 August 2011

teach me, please?

I had some great conversations with someone who also did the Tesol course and who had already trained and worked as a 'real teacher' for several years. Mmm good conversations can be like food, nourishing your bones and making you feel content, yet hungry for more. Lucy and I had some great chats about all kinds of things on the bus from Witney to Oxford via Eynsham, and for them I was very grateful. :-)

During our course we observed others teach and we commented on how some people just seemed to have 'the knack' (even if their skills weren't honed by experience yet). Interestingly those people were also the ones we were drawn to in terms of wanting to hang out with them. Perhaps it was the warmth and sensitivity that they demonstrated when relating to all people, regardless of the situation. Basically they were good to be around and immediately likeable. Which brings me to the question of whether this is important with regards teaching. How important is it to be liked by your students? Is it necessary for effective learning? Does it even matter or make a difference?

Sensitivity is a funny thing, and as a pretty sensitive person I've often struggled with the mix of positive and negative effects it can have on my thoughts, feelings and point of view. A good teacher needs to be sensitive to the needs of the students and willing to adapt to them - it's about the learners after all, not the teacher, as we were often reminded on the course! This requires awareness and intuition. I think I'm fairly good at reading people and situations however my problem comes in how personally I take these observations. One roll of the eyes or slouch in the chair and I'm panicking - is my lesson too boring? Too easy? Have I spent too long on this point? Am I being annoying? Do they dislike me? AM I A BAD TEACHER?!

"Am I a bad teacher?" Now that should be my main concern, but to be honest perhaps I do end up worrying more about whether or not I am liked. Does being liked = good teacher? No, not necessarily. And neither does being disliked or disagreed with necessarily mean you're a bad teacher. So I know it's silly to care so much about what people think of me (and this is an issue that exists ouside the classroom just as much as in) - but I wonder how you stop caring yet remain sensitive and retain a degree of warmth? There are many people who don't give a toss about others opinion and who probably teach well but to be honest I'd really rather not have a personality like theirs, which I'd often describe as intimidating, cold or unapproachable.

So do I put on an act, somehow leave 'me', or the deeper parts of me, at the door and pretend to be thicker skinned than I am? Speak with authority even though I'm shaking inside? I have heard people say it's all an act... Actually a few people remarked to me how well I seem to be coping. I laughed and said I just cry when no one's watching. Which is true - I cried nearly every day during the past two weeks. It's also a lie, some people did see me cry, just not the students or other teachers (yet! haha!)

I'm sure I'm not the first to wonder how you gain people's respect and manage to build rapport with them without being a pushover but without being a bitch/male version of bitch either! The middle way is not obvious to me and I envy those who walk it with ease. I may be 'teacher' but I certainly have a lot to learn...

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