Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, February 03, 2006

Starting Over

by AJ

Perhaps the thing I love best about teaching is its unpredictability. I hate routine. I subscribe to Clint Eastwood's maxim, 'You can beat me, starve me, hurt me.... just don't bore me".

As a teacher, everyday is different. Every class is different. Every student is different. What works one day may not work on another. What works in one setting may bomb in another.

This frustrates me sometimes (see posts from earlier in the week).... but also excites me. I love the challenge. Teaching forces me to be engaged in what Im doing. I cant do the same old thing and get away with it.

Up to now, Ive been copying the successful strategies I used at Thammasat. Ive used many of the same articles and themes I used there. Ive cycled through many of the same activities. Some have worked well.... but surprise surprise, many have totally bombed.

Another challenge-- I seem to have calibrated my language to the university level. At first glance I thought my current students were roughly of the same level as those I had at Thammasat. But slowly Ive discovered that they are, in fact, significantly lower.

Setting plays a big role too. Many of my students are here for the travel & cultural experiences, rather than language study (though this varies considerably from student to student). While my Thammasat students focused on the language... my current students are much more concerned about the culture and everyday communication.

Another factor is age. TU's students were of a uniform age, 18-22. Currently I have students in their teens (High School age), 20s, and 30s. Some are serious professionals who are completely committed to learning the language. Some come to school only to maintain their visa status and dont give a damn about formal classroom learning.

None of these are insurmountable challenges.

But addressing them means I must abandon my assumptions. What worked for me in the past will not necessarily work for me now.

In other words, Ive got to let go of everything and start from scratch again. Gotta dig deeper into my students lives, personalities, motives, needs, and desires. Gotta observe them more closely and listen more carefully. Gotta experiment with new activities and strategies. Gotta move well beyond the classroom environment to address their interest in this country, culture, society.

Now that Ive thrown my tantrum, Ill admit that I relish the challenge. I love the neverending dance of teaching/learning. I love dealing with different people-- their varying personalities, cultures, needs, desires, dreams. I like that I never know how my day will go when I show up to work. I like that my expectations are dashed so often.

I can't tolerate a job that doesnt have these sorts of challenges.

I imagine many teachers feel the same.