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Automatic English For The People

Friday, March 10, 2006

A Better Use of Time

by AJ

Having cautioned against too much preparation, Id like to balance the equation. I dont believe in detailed lesson planning, as a general rule. But I do believe in MASSIVE amounts of reflection and self-training.

Spend your extra time thinking & learning.. rather than "planning". Far better, I think, to read a book about learning theory than waste hours making a detailed handout. Far better to tape yourself teaching... then review the video for self-feedback. Far better to attend conferences, to read interesting blogs, to keep a teaching diary (on paper or online).

This kind of activity pays off in a way that "lesson planning" never will. Truth be told, if you are teaching your native language... and have a bit of experience... there's no need to waste hours doing lesson plans.

What is absolutely crucial, however, is to grow as a teacher. That means learning new skills. It means improving your presentation. It means more knowledge about language acquisition,.. and teaching approaches. It means taking LOTS of time to know your students as individual human beings... what makes them tick?

It also means exposure to weird, fun, crazy, interesting ideas that seem to have no relation to language education. To be a great teacher.. you must be a great human being. Theres no faking that. If you are boring as hell in "real life"... youll be hard pressed to become interesting once you step into the classroom.

Furthermore, innovation is born from the marriage of strange links. Keep reading the same things, in the same narrow field of education.. and you are unlikely to think of (or try) anything new. Itll be the same old textbook-centric crap... slightly recycled.

Read WAY outside this field. Read books on anarchy. Read about art. Better yet, take art classes. Try new sports. Meet people outside your normal social circle. Seek out radicals and oddballs in every field imaginable. There need not be a recognizable connection to teaching.

Take time, regularly... every day if possible.. to reflect on all this training, reading, links, & input. Look for interesting connections, fascinating patterns, possible hybrids. Reflect too on your students, and on your teaching. Whats working.. what has mojo? What doesnt? What totally strange path might you explore with them? How can you better meet their wants, goals, and dreams? How can you drastically boost their confidence.. and their emotional connection to the language?

Loosen up. Take down the barriers for a while. Forget "conventional wisdom".


San Francisco, CA

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