Wednesday, January 21, 2015

An inspirational infographic It's all about being connected - in tune with the lastest trends in teaching, in sync with other like-minded educators, and in tandem with learners' needs.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Advice to the new at heart - what every new teacher should know

Note to the reader: These tips are based on my experience as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. All things considered, I believe the ideas shared here can apply to any teacher, regardless of the subject. 

Experience, with the kind collaboration of time, is the best master we can ever have. But what if you're new to the game of teaching? Your school principal or manager, your supervisor, and most importantly, your students, won't probably be interested in knowing that you're still coming to terms with the syllabus, the methodologies, the materials, and the classroom techniques. Here are six things you might want to consider: 

1. If you can explain it in different ways, then you can teach it. 
You probably have heard the expression "there is more than one way to skin a cat". With the pardon of animal rights groups, the same applies for teaching. Although there several ways to explain things - synonyms, mimes, analogies, real-life examples, songs, just to name a few- we tend to use the one that we are most comfortable with or the one that always does the trick. But sometimes when a student doesn't get the explanation, it might help to use a different technique instead of repeating yourself. For those who understood it the first time, it is a moment to drift off. For the student who asks for further clarification, it may mean that the topic is over their head. 

2. Pay more attention to the students and to what they say than to the syllabus or the textbook - listen, read and feel them 
Yes, we have lesson plans to be followed and schedules to be met. The content has to be covered for our students to sit the tests successfully. But, if our role is to help shape responsible and constructive citizens, we have to meet them where they are, listen to what they have to say non-judgmentally and, when possible, use their contributions as paints to form a learning canvas. 

3. Students want to hear what you have to say 
As teachers, we are a model for our students. Notice I used the indefinite article to stress the importance that we are not the sages on the stage (we never were, actually), so we should be careful not to use our privileged position to get our students to think exactly as us. Our students take into consideration what we have to say, so we should always present them with differing opinions, not only our own. By doing so, we unconsciously teach them the importance of respecting opposing views and looking at things objectively.

4. Learn to improvise and be spontaneous 
Teaching is probably one of the jobs that require large doses of improvisation. Our lesson plans, teacher guides, and syllabi don’t prepare us for the students we are going to interact with everyday. After all, each group is unique and each student one-of-a-kind. Do you remember tip number 2? We have to have the resourcefulness to take what students bring to class everyday and weave it into our lessons to make the learning experience meaningful for you and for your group. Not all of us are naturally spontaneous, but I believe we can nurture it when we are wearing our teaching hat. 

5. Trust your gut feeling - be willing to go out on a limb 
This tip is an extension of the previous one, but requires more boldness on our part. When the class is not going the way we had planned we have to be able to trash it and start from scratch. Find the right mix of content, adaptation, student motivation and learning outcomes. This may seem scary for a new teacher who usually depends on the teaching aids made available at their disposal. 

6. Share your successes and failures with a colleague. 
Spontaneity, gut feeling, adaptability come with time and with a little help from a colleague. Schools sometimes assign a one-to-one mentor or teacher coach for the new teachers. You can take the initiative and choose your own “mentor” to help you out. Having a more experienced teacher to talk to about how things are going in your classroom, as simple as it may sound, can work wonders for your skills and most importantly, your self-confidence. 

7. Watch and learn from fellow teachers 
Even better than having a “mentor”, one of the best ways of gaining confidence and know-how is being able to observe teachers like yourself – new or experienced. Most of the times newbies are recommended to sit in the classes of teachers considered more competent and who can serve as professional models. Teachers are teachers, so we can always learn a new trick to add to our personal repertoire. What’s more, we can learn what not to do.

To the not-so-new teachers: What would you add to this list?

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