Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Tao of Clint

by AJ

If you want to be a great teacher,
you must learn to follow the Tao.
Stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
and the class will govern itself.

The more prohibitions you have,
the less virtuous students will be.
The more punishments you have,
the less secure students will be.
The more rewards you have,
the less self-reliant the students will be.

--The Tao Te Ching

Many teachers over-emphasize planning. I know some teachers, for example, who claim they need one hour of planning for every hour of class they teach.

By planning, they mean developing a lesson, outlining the activities step by step, creating materials, copying handouts, defining objectives, etc., etc.

When I speak of Effortless Language Acquisition... I mean effortless for the students AND the teacher. Lesson plans, the sort you are taught to use by most teacher training programs, strike me as ridiculous. What a colossal waste of time. All that typing and outlining and copying. It seems like a lot of work for a very small payoff.

Likewise, many teachers invest great energy in maintaining a TOUGH persona. They imagine that the more rules they have, the more strictly they enforce them, and the more criticism they give.. the BETTER they are as a teacher. This too is a waste of time. The more you try to control students, the more they resist. In the West, this may take an active form. But often resistance is passive. Students refuse to volunteer. They show no enthusiasm for lessons.. however carefully planned. When speaking, they give only the shortest possible answer. They may wander in late, or skip class. Or they may put their heads down and sleep.

The control-freak teacher responds with still tougher rules-- furthering the cycle of resistance.

I try to obey a basic rule.. learned while I was a social worker: never try harder than my students. Ive found that the above statement from the Tao Te Ching is true. The fewer rules I have, the more orderly the class becomes. The more power I hand over to them, the more powerful lessons become.

Ive also found that my lessons benefit from LESS planning, not more. My PLAN usually consists of an authentic material and some general ideas of how to present, explain, and discuss it. Im not a slave to an outline-- which enables me to shoot off in any direction that shows promise. If students struggle, I slow down, repeat more... or, sometimes, quickly switch to something else.

My planning time per lesson hour is probably about 5 minutes.

This benefits my students. Im able to conserve and focus my energies on teaching... not churning out paperwork. Typically, I have a VERY high energy level when I teach. Its not because Im naturally hyper... its because Im not exhausted from planning and paperwork. Its because I spend my non-classroom hours doing enjoyable activities-- exercising, reading, writing, socializing... not chained to a desk.

Want to become a better teacher? PLAN LESS. Improvise more. Worry less about minute by minute outlines... and MUCH MORE about giving an energetic & flexible presentation. Focus much more on reading students & reacting to them... much less on pushing them to follow your predetermined plan.

In the words of Clint Eastwood: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome!

San Francisco, CA