Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wangsta, Beyonce, Youth

by AJ

When stuck... hopelessly out of ideas... frazzled.. the best course of action is to find new blood.

This week, I did just that. Im fortunate to have an observer in class this week.. someone who is interested in becoming a language teacher. Yesterday, he led a tongue-twister activity. Today, he helped me explain a Beyonce song (that one of the students brought in).

Students get sick of me, and the same old routine. And Im not too fond of routine either. So it helps to break things up sometimes... let a student or outsider lead the class.

Today we had great fun deciphering a hip-hop song... which was chock full of slang. Its not something Id do everyday... but it was a great change of pace today. We discussed hip-hop culture, dance club etiquette, American dating customs, and other issues related to the song. All in all, lots of fun... and they learned a good amount of (standard English) vocab/phrases too.

I wish I could do this more often.

As a social worker, I did this all the time because our agency always had interns. They always had fun/strange ideas, and tons of energy. And so, whenever I got stuck, Id invite them to my group and let them lead it... encouraged them to try anything they wanted to. They got experience & feedback (from me and the group members), the group got a fresh perspective, and I got new ideas. Everyone won.

In fact, I started at that agency as a gung-ho intern. Oblivious to "my proper role", I took on every project I could get my hands on. The agency got a berserk worker for free. I got valuable experience, and a job upon graduation.

We should do this more often with teaching. Experience is generally useful. Overall, an experienced teacher probably does a better job than a first timer. But experience can lead to routine and boredom. Innovation often comes from those who dont know "how things are done"... people clueless enough to try anything. They are the dynamos of creativity. We need them as much as we need experience.

I liken the situation to a Championship (American) Football team. Most great teams have a mix of tough veterans and energetic youngsters. The veterans provide leadership, vision, and demanding standards. They are graceful under pressure. Decision makers & problem solvers. The youth provide raw talent, boundless enthusiasm, audacity, energy, and ferocity. Properly balanced, experience and inexperience are unstoppable.

Too much emphasis is placed on teaching experience. A great many "experienced" teachers are, in fact, boring burnouts. Likewise, "qualifications" rarely translate into excellence. Many schools would benefit by adding more youth and artistry into their teaching mix. Why not hire an art school graduate for the next open position? Team her up with a veteran mentor, to help her learn the TESOL ropes... but turn her loose to try any/every off the wall idea that comes into her head.

Contrary to the cliche about "age & wisdom", I find that enthusiasm and persistence beat experience every time.

San Francisco, CA