One of my colleagues was surprised to hear that I did a teacher observation recently. This is something the newbies have to do, not someone like me who has been here 2.5 years.
When I first started working at lovely language school, I was required to watch a handful of teachers. But somewhere during my second year, I watched only two or three. And now that the completion of my 3rd year is around the corner, I felt like it was time to get the bean-bag-ball rolling again.
One of the reasons why I like the profession of teaching is it forces me to constantly improve. But, after my friend Mel told me she admired me for taking the time to observe a couple of teachers, I have decided not everyone must feel the same way. I mean, NOT constantly improving is an old-teacher* mistake.
*In the EFL world I’m an “old teacher” because I’ve been here for longer than a so-called gap year. But seriously, a lot of folks forget that we all had careers prior to living in Thailand (or wherever), and I was a grade school teacher. Anyway…
1. Becoming complacent. Even though lovely language school offers meetings for us to share and discuss ideas, I think all teachers need to make a conscious effort to “stay fresh” and keep the pond waters moving so to speak. I think your first year is about figuring out your style, what works for you and what doesn’t. Your second year is about fine-tuning, and anything beyond should be more fine-tuning, tweaking, and accepting new challenges.
2. Which leads into: Not accepting new challenges. After my second year, I started to ask for levels I had never taught before. This really woke me up: it was bracing, like my shower that can run only extreme hot or cold temperatures. Now, I like getting comfortable, and while I think this aspect of teaching is important, it is also important not to float about for too long.
3. Forgetting all the mistakes new teachers make. About a month ago I wrote about these, and I think if we are not diligent, we will fall back into bad habits of talking too much or talking too fast and the like. We get comfortable and we get sloppy or maybe too relaxed. Then all those good years and experience go to waste. The pond waters are moving but the water is murky.
4. Forgetting why you are a teacher. Being a teacher means you are responsible for the students in your class. Parents are usually shelling out extra play-dough (these days) and they are entrusting you to do a good job. Maybe I am highly naïve but I’m assuming folks have good intentions for becoming a teacher? Maybe even noble ones?
5. Not caring anymore. I realize the EFL teacher might have less noble intentions, than say, a teacher teaching in their passport country. But I’m going to get on the idealistic bandwagon and assume all new teachers started off trying, putting in the time, and making an effort. And all I want to say here is, if you are just collecting a visa stamp and a paycheck, please find another job. Some of us care and if you don’t, well, we all will be effected.
Someone could complain, we could be blamed, we might lose our jobs, etc, etc. We no longer live in a perceived single cell society or little bubble. We live in the age of technology, information and everyone knowing what everyone else’s business is at the push of a button. China, for example, can no longer hide its atrocities (like pretending rat is mutton) without the entire globe knowing about it.
Yeah, yeah, it’s the same old crap – we’re interconnected and interdependent – but it’s still true.