Monday, July 30, 2012

Suit Up and Show Up

When I wake up for work, I convince myself to get out of bed for the simple reason that if my students have the energy and motivation to show up each and every day, so should I. So that’s what I do. I suit up and show up, day after day, even (and especially) when I feel like just staying in bed, because I know that there are students waiting for me who truly want to learn something today. What great motivation is that!

I am a big believer in the idea that, as a teacher, it is not my job to transmit knowledge, but rather to facilitate learning. In doing so, I take full responsibility for creating and maintaining a learning environment, providing students with the skills and resources they need, and guiding them in practicing and applying these skills to the subject material. In each of these functions, I place great importance on the willingness of students. In fact, one of my favorite things to tell students is that I will match their willingness as far as it goes. If they do the homework I will be there to edit it. If they come to me with questions, I will be there to answer them. If they ask for extra help I will always do whatever it takes to provide it.

I think so often we underestimate the importance of just suiting up and showing up. I know that I can be incredibly hard on myself as a teacher, worrying that my lesson plan is not good enough or exciting enough or engaging enough. When I worry too much about being the perfect teacher, I forget that my main role is just to show up and support my students in their learning. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely simple. I find that if I remind myself of this in the morning, my day seems to go by much more smoothly. So just for today, I’m not going to worry about being the perfect teacher, I am just going to be of service to my students in any way I can be.

Friday, July 27, 2012

10 Ways to Recharge this Weekend

These days, I can honestly say that I love my job. I love what I do, and many days it doesn’t even feel like work. There are times when I find myself reading, writing, and preparing for work even in my down time just because I am interested in learning more, doing more, and becoming more effective.
It’s wonderful and refreshing to feel that way about work; however, I have learned in recent months the importance of putting my work aside from time to time in order to breathe, rest, and recharge. Weekends are a time when I sometimes have to force myself to turn off the “teacher mind,” unplug, and just do something different. I find that this actually helps me to be a more effective teacher in the long run, because I can begin each week with a fresh mind, spirit, and outlook, which students and coworkers alike definitely appreciate.
Here are some of my favorite ways to recharge:

1. Get outside
2. Read something for FUN
3. Take a bath
4. Enjoy a cup of coffee, tea, or a meal. Slowly.
5. Exercise
6. Take a nap
7. Clean up, get organized.
8. Spend time with loved ones
9. Do something creative
10. Take a moment or two to feel grateful

    It’s been a great week in the classroom. I plan to do most, if not all, of these things this weekend in order to rest, recharge, and refresh so that next week can be just as great.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Teaching a Multi-Level Class

This week we began a new session, and as a result of limited funds and classrooms, I am the lucky teacher of a “combined” class. A beginning level and an intermediate level have been combined into an ambiguous, level-less Speaking and Listening class, in which I attempt to effectively teach students at entirely different skill and language levels.

When originally presented with this challenge, I imagined a utopian classroom ideal in which the intermediate students would help the beginning students, thereby improving their own skills by teaching another; the beginning students would improve greatly by learning directly from their peer’s example. That was an unrealistic fantasy, I suppose, because what ends up happening is that half the classroom appears lost, while the other half appears bored. And in this case, lost students and bored students are one and the same: they are disengaged. A teacher’s nightmare. So, how to teach to a multi-level classroom? These are a few ideas I have come up with so far:

1. Always have a back-up plan
I am an avid lesson-planner, and I have found myself at a loss when my planned activities are far too easy for some and far too difficult for others. In these situations I have found it incredibly useful to plan pre- and post-activities. This way, I always have in mind one way in which to modify an activity for the lower level students, and another way to make the activity more challenging for the advances students.

2. Bounce questions and tasks from one student to another
This keeps the more advanced students engaged, because they never know when they will be called on, and also provides some relief for the lower-level students if they are struggling with a language item far beyond their level. Additionally, it seems to create a sense of camaraderie in the classroom and takes the pressure off individual students.

3. Keep the energy high
My number one rule, in any classroom. It is difficult for students to become bored if they are laughing. It is even more difficult for students to become bored if they are truly engaged in the subject matter. That means keeping things interesting, keeping things exciting, keeping the subject material relevant, and keeping my own energy at an all-time high.

These are just some of the ideas I have come up with in the last week of this new class. What are your go-to methods to teach to a multi-level class?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

“Love is a better teacher than duty” -Albert Einstein

Over the past few years I have learned a thing or two about teaching, about learning, and about life. This blog is going to deal with all three, with a little bit of love.

Any act is done better when it is done with love. Teaching, especially, requires a seemingly endless supply of patience and tolerance, which for me most often comes from a place of love. Love for my students, love for what i do, love for the ability to share knowledge, and love for creating an environment in which myself and others can learn and grow.

In my experience, both in and in front of the classroom, I have found that true learning occurs when a student has true motivation, appreciation, and a sincere interest in not only the subject matter but in learning itself. Curiosity about the world around us comes from love for the world around us, and I believe that a loving and open heart and mind are essential for any successful student.

People who do what they love are successful in life. Not necessarily rich people, but happy people. Those who follow their passion and, as a result, enjoy a rich quality of life that others may not. Love in this way can be seen as a driving force, a shining light post guiding us toward a more complete life. If you follow the love you can’t go wrong. In the classroom, in the waiting room, in life itself. It is unfailing and it is all around, always available to be tapped into and followed to the next great thing.

Do I follow these principles perfectly every day? Absolutely not. However, I have love in my heart, for what I do and for the world around me. Today, that is what guides me to grow, to develop, to improve myself and hopefully the world around me. I hope for this to be a place to share my stories, to share my experience on this path, and hopefully hear from some others who are doing the same. Just to share the love. A