Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Sunday, March 05, 2006


by AJ

As language teachers, we often worry about fossilization. We debate its causes, we debate the cure. We want to help our students. We want them to continuously improve... to never stop growing. We recognize that language learning is a lifetime process.

But what about us? I dont notice the same concern for TEACHER fossilization, yet I think its a more pervasive problem than student fossilization. Our field is full of clock punchers. And Im not even counting the temp teachers who are just doing it to fund a trip abroad [nothing wrong with that, by the way].

I see it all the time... teachers who grind out each day doing exactly the same thing they did the day before. Days stretch into weeks. Weeks to months.... months to years.

These teachers stop challenging themselves. They stop pushing. They stop trying new things. Maybe they chalk it up to "covering my ass"... the fear of "getting in trouble". Maybe its boredom. Maybe they no longer feel passion for teaching (or never did).

This is an insidious disease. Burnout creeps up on a teacher... slowly poisoning them. The signs are easy to recognize-- a dour demeanor, constant criticism of students, low energy, cynicism, dull routine. Cynicism has no place in teaching.

Luckily, there is a cure.... a powerful preventative: learning. Just as we expect our students to continuously learn.. so must we. Just as we hope they will experiment with the language, we must experiment with our lessons.

Even if every one of our experiments "fails", its imperative that we keep doing them. In fact, the "failures" are often the best catalysts for growth.

Innovation is a mental health necessity, and a career requirement. And by innovation, I dont mean a few tepid "experiments" with new lesson plans pulled off the internet. I mean periodic transformations-- radical experiments with ones approach. BIG changes. BIG questions. STRANGE ideas. To avoid fossilization, we've got to push beyond our current limits.

You know you're on the right track when you feel a mix of excitement and fear. If the fear is missing, most likely you arent testing yourself enough. Most likely you are holding back.. playing it safe. Go to the edge... ANY edge... and see how far you can push it.

Turn teaching into a personal adventure.... that's how you rekindle the passion.. assuming you had it. And if you've never had it? Find another field for goddsake! Why waste your life doing something that doesnt thrill you?

Today, right now, ask yourself... "What wild experiment would I love to try, but have been afraid to?", "What is my special gift, my unique strength... how can I push it to its farthest extreme?"

Contemplate these questions..... and if you like... post your answers in the "comments" section of this post.

San Francisco, CA