Saturday, 17 December 2011

La enseñanza

So despite the fact that I came to Spain to teach, I haven't really written anything about how I'm getting on in the school yet. The reason is that I thought that with time I'd be able to gauge if things were going well or not, but to be honest, I'm still trying to figure out what a good teacher actually is.

Is a good teacher strict or lenient? Should classes be fun or serious? Should a language teacher focus more on grammar than on speaking and understanding? Is a good teacher open and personable or do they cultivate an air of mystery?

The response, as I'm finding, is that there is no set answer to these questions. Even when I myself was in high school, there were teachers who had very different approaches to their classes, but who excelled in their profession in their own ways. The common thread was that they were all passionate about their subject and wanted to transmit that enthusiasm to a new generation.

When I think about it, I owe a lot to my old French teacher for making me as interested in travelling and language learning as I am today. I swear to you, I took the decision that I was going to learn French and Spanish and live in both France and Spain when I was 11 years old. And it was all because I was mesmerised by the fact that my teacher could speak three languages fluently and was full of anecdotes about time spent living abroad.

When I think about what kind of a teacher I am, I can recognise both my strong points and flaws. On the plus side, I genuinely want my pupils enjoy my classes, to be enthusiastic about learning English and to be able to communicate. On the other hand though, I think I'm a bit too tolerant of less than perfect behaviour because I want all of the kids to be on my side.  It is, of course, very easy to exploit a friendly, likeable teacher and turn lessons into a farce, whereas a teacher who is hard on pupils pushes them to learn more and is essentially more effective.

So at the moment, I'm trying to find a happy medium between strict and lenient. This entails trying to perfect a stern, teachery tone to use with problem pupils, but it's difficult because I don't have a bad temper and hate raising my voice to anyone. The last time I gave someone a proper row in my class*, I had an uncontrollable urge to burst into an fit of giggles, but luckily he looked at me as if I'd just killed his dog and I regained my composure.

*  It went a little something like this:
* pupil who has written one line of given task is laying across his desk*
Me: Pupil, please take your head off your desk and complete your work.
* pupil raises head momentarily and then puts it back on the desk when I turn around *
Me: Get your head off the desk.
*pupil does as before *
Me: Head. Off. The. Desk.
Pupil: But I'm tired, miss.
Me: We are all tired. I'm tired too. But do you see me lying across a table with my eyes shut? No, you don't. Because this is a SCHOOL, not a bedroom. NOW GET YOUR HEAD UP OFF OF THAT DESK RIGHT NOW OR GET OUT!

Love for teachers: - A nice bit of slam poetry about 'What Teachers Make.'
I'll even let him away with hating on law school...


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