Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Effortless Teaching

by AJ

Full of grand ideas and compelling visions. Imagining a beautiful classroom, full of artwork, plants, warm lighting, comfortable chairs... a place you'd want to spend time in. Imagining an individualized curriculum... each student delving into their unique passions-- using them as springboards to greater English proficiency. Imagining a rich and constantly updated stream of authentic, real-world materials-- timely, interesting, visually stimulating, fun, fascinating.

But each day the harsh reality-- my class is no where near these lofty visions: the source of endless agitation, maddening frustration.

Perhaps its my level of commitment. Im not one of these workaholic teachers who spends 5 hours a day planning classes. I have a life outside work and I prefer to keep it that way.

This dilemma echoes a similar crisis from my social work career. Gung ho, working at a youth shelter.... given the task of facilitating groups for abused/neglected teens. I did a decent job at first, then began to imagine a bigger & better program. I thought, "we can reach more kids, we can create a mentor program, we can expand the peer-mediation program". And so I took on more groups, more kids.... and stressed about my counseling skills.

But couldnt reach those lofty goals. Frustration grew. Fatigue crept in. The agency Director finally intervened. She loved my ideas and pointed to the obvious-- I couldnt do it alone, "You need to change your focus AJ. Stop trying to do everything yourself. Think of yourself more as a leader and coordinator. Do less. Get help."

And so I radically REDUCED my counseling load... used the extra energy to write grants, recruit interns, fund another social worker, and network with school counselors. The grant was accepted and funded another fulltime social worker. We got 5 enthusiastic interns from the University of Georgia. The program exploded. Quality improved. Our reputation grew.

My goals were realized by doing less, not more.

And so a sense of deja vu. Right back where I was at the beginning of my social work career: filled with great ideas, overwhelmed by the work necessary to actualize them.

Do the same principles apply to teaching? Is less, more?