The experiences we have with teachers while learning different disciplines can have a profound effect on how we look at that discipline in the future. We can all remember back to our school days and recall a favorite teacher; that one with whom you saw eye-to-eye, and didn’t treat you like a student, but an equal. The flip side to this, is we can all recall that terrible teacher, too; the one who called you out every time you spoke to your friends, or embarrassed you in front of the class.
When we become teachers, we constantly wrestle with that double edged sword in our own approaches. We want to make every student feel special, and nurture every student to become a better English speaker. We want to encourage and praise, keep the classroom a positive atmosphere. Looking back it is hard to imagine how that “bad” teacher from your past could really mess it up so bad and make you feel discouraged.
In reality, no teacher sees themselves as a ‘scary monster’ but some just come across that way. When you start teaching, you have to realize that it is impossible to make every student like you, no matter what your intentions are. Just as it is impossible to make everyone at a party your best friend, or to be a politician and have everyone vote for you. The thing to understand is that it is not about being a good or bad teacher, it is about connecting with the students as best you can.
You may have a prepared a lesson that you know students will enjoy, as you’ve done it before. You might clear your throat and do vocal warm-ups to make your voice clear and loud. You may check over the class register mentally prepare to help each student. However, there will always be an anomaly, an X factor, or an unforeseen circumstance. One of your star students might be sick, the video won't play, or the students are all tired from studying all night. As the teacher, you need to face these challenges and do your best.
Near the end of the lesson, most teachers begin asking evaluation questions to check how well students have taken on the knowledge of the lesson. This is where you really judge the value of your efforts. In almost every circumstance, some students will still be struggling, some will have forgotten the key points of the grammar and a few will know exactly what’s going on.
In the long run, a teacher can begin to focus on the negative and get frustrated when students don’t completely follow the lesson the way you plan. Stress can set in and every lesson can be a challenge to get as many of the students to follow every step and this can have a negative effect on the way students respond overall.
A better approach is to take joy in the students that do get the lesson, and overall you need to realize that learning a language is a journey of many steps (and many mistakes). It doesn’t matter if students occasionally have problems with certain areas, or even if the occasional lesson falls flat. The important thing to understand is that you are an example of good language use and through your use of language, you need to ease students through English language education in a friendly comfortable way.
What approaches do you take to teaching? Share your experiences in the comments section below.