Grammar or lexis? A wedding cake metaphor

cake-937234_1280In her latest post, Zhenya Polosatova presents a bunch of very interesting questions from all walks of our profession. Here are two examples which immediately captured my attention:

  1. Which mistakes are more likely to lead to misunderstanding – grammatical or lexical ones?
  2. Which do you think is more important – advancing vocabulary or teaching grammar? 

These are two questions I often ask myself throughout the academic year. Thus I’ve decided to explore them a bit in this post of mine.

To be able to solve riddle Number 1, it’s useful to explain the difference between a grammatical and a lexical error. Grammatical errors involve faulty structures which may include wrong verbal tenses, incorrect verbal forms, and syntax problems. They are also called usage errors. More specifically, these can include agreement errors (subject-verb and noun-pronoun agreement), tense errors (present, past, progressive, perfect, future), number (singular-plural) errors, prepositional errors (missing prepositions, redundant use of preposition, wrong use of prepositions), and articles errors (missing articles, wrong article use, redundant article use).

Lexical errors, on the other hand, are mistakes at the word level, which include, for example, choosing the wrong word for the meaning the user wants to express. Inappropriate lexical choices may lead to misunderstanding of the message. In writing, some lexical errors are a result of misspelling, others are caused by the student’s lack of knowledge (i. e. semantic errors). Based on my experience, in speaking, it is pronunciation which also comes into play, i. e. the speaker knows the word but mispronounces it, which may subsequently lead to communication breakdown.

The following example is a grammatical mistake Czech students tend to make:

They say: a) How long are you staying?

but they actually mean: b) How long have you been staying?

According to this paper and the results of a study it presents, grammatical errors are more frequently committed than lexical errors. More specifically, tense errors are the most frequently committed grammatical errors among second language learners of English. The above set of sentences is an example of this but it is primarily a result of a student transferring their grammatical knowledge from their L1. In Czech, we don’t have the present perfect tense and to express option b, we would simply use the present tense, i.e. option a. Such a grammatical error may lead to a major or a minor misunderstanding, depending on the situation. One way or the other, a respondent not used to dealing with Czech learners of English will probably maintain that the Czech is asking about the future, while, in fact, they are asking about the past up to the present.

I remember I once talked to a teacher from Canada. It was at an English summer camp. We were at a swimming pool and I asked her: You’re not going to swim? She replied: No, I can’t. I still remember my bafflement; I just couldn’t figure out whether she couldn’t swim because she didn’t have the ability or whether she was on her period. I was too young and stupid enough to keep inquiring. I asked ‘why?’ and was surprised I didn’t get a definite answer. She shrugged her shoulders and said: I just can’t. Then she went on reading her book, probably thinking I was an idiot. Now that I think about it, it was not merely a lack of lexical (or possibly grammatical?) knowledge on my part; it was also about cultural differences accompanied by my social immaturity. Provided she didn’t have the ability to swim, my why must have sounded pretty stupid and redundant. Provided she had a personal reason for not wanting to go for a swim, the why question must have sounded totally unacceptable.

I’d say that there is a thin line between grammar and lexis so it’s sometimes difficult to decide what is a grammatical and what is a lexical mistake. John’s uncle has much money. Is this a grammatical or a lexical error? It’s clearly the case of choosing the wrong word but also the case of violating a grammatical rule stating that much is used in questions and negative statements. One way or the other, this little flaw certainly doesn’t impede understanding. Take prepositions, for example. Although prepositional errors are listed among grammatical errors, to my mind, they are actually mistakes at the word level. But this is a question of perspective and it’s not something to lose sleep over because normally, these neither do too much harm to the flow of communication. What does it matter if someone says in the weekend?

Enough of useless babbling. The question I really wanted to find an answer to was: Which mistakes are more likely to lead to misunderstanding – grammatical or lexical ones? Well, it depends. Intuitively, I’d say that it’s a matter of frequency. In other words, before familiarizing myself with the results of the study mentioned above, I would have guessed that lexical mistakes are more abundant simply because there are many more words and lexical chunks than there are grammatical rules. But L2 learners are cunning; they make do with little lexis if they need to. They use circumvention if necessary and thus avoid making lexical mistakes. They also have dictionaries. It’s more challenging to cheat grammar-wise, though. Anyway, as I showed above, one specific lexical mistake can cause as much misunderstanding as a grammatical mistake. But it’s also important to say that there are various degrees and types of misunderstanding. I mean, if a student chooses the word cooker instead of cook to talk about the profession, it will cause amusement and/or embarrassment rather than communicative breakdown.

And Which do you think is more important – advancing vocabulary or teaching grammar? Since grammar is inherently present in lexis, i. e. there are certain syntactic rules, such as the one that adjectives usually go before nouns and the usual word order in English is SVO, it’s not really clever to separate these two rigidly. You know, it’s like a wedding cake. You may ask: what is it that keeps the structure of a tiered cake? Is it the corpus or the filling? Well, I’d say that both are equally important once the cake cools down.

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The threat of becoming obsolete

IMG_20190624_121057These days, English learners (and L2 learners in general) can get as autonomous and independent as they wish. There is a plethora of mobile apps, movies, games, songs and books for them to learn English from. So I often ask myself what’s there left for us, L2 teachers? And, most importantly, to what extent does the feeling of uselessness influence the teachers’ performance and ultimately their attitudes towards their job?

I’m not a pessimist but sometimes, I can’t help feeling threatened. It’s not merely because I personally believe that language teachers may soon become obsolete, but because I fear our students start realizing this possibility too.

I’m now talking about the state system of education, namely here in the Czech Republic. The expected outcomes in English have become very low recently. To say the least, they definitely do not match the knowledge and skills students can or could realistically achieve if they were motivated to do their best. Quite ironically, I believe that the lower the expectations from the school system, the more threatening the environment becomes for the teachers.

What do I mean by this? You may have heard of the Pygmalion effect – the phenomenon whereby others’ expectations of a target person affect the target person’s performance. A corollary of the Pygmalion effect is the Golem effect, in which low expectations lead to a decrease in performance. I simply fear that if students believe there’s very little the teacher can offer, there will be very little the teacher will feel they can offer. Eventually and inevitably, this will decrease their motivation and effort to come up with something valuable. It’s like offering somebody a locally produced apple (which you know is juicy and healthy) when there’s a table full of colourful exotic fruit anyone can grab a piece of at any time.

Don’t get me wrong; there will still be lots of learners who will need us – those who don’t find it easy or possible to learn independently and those who see the teacher as a door to obtaining certificates and degrees of all sorts. The former will probably find the current state of affairs more and more frustrating since they will become the outcasts of the system. Actually, they already are; often very talented in other subjects, they are laughed at by their peers who, unlike them, find learning English to be a piece of cake. The latter lot will probably dump us as soon as they pass their high-stake exams.

This brings me to a hasty conclusion. I said I’m concerned that English teachers will become obsolete, mainly at the secondary level of education. Every teacher probably feels there is a threshold. Past this stage, it gets more and difficult to offer something useful and meaningful to everybody in the class. You can’t start teaching C1 language to satisfy your best students and leave the A2 students behind, can you? Well, yes, you can try personalization and differentiation and whatnot but why would you even do it when your job is to primarily prepare your students for their final B1 exam?

This isn’t to say that I believe teachers, in general, will become obsolete. As far as ELT is concerned, we’ll probably need to closely look at and possibly follow the example of Finland, for instance, where the focus is on work across school subjects, including English. This is something that is already done at some schools here in the Czech Republic. However, it will probably need to become more large-scale than this if we, English teachers, want to keep our jobs and find them meaningful and satisfying.

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An enthusiastic teacher of English

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A while back I published this post summarizing an interview with Milan Šácha, a freelance Czech teacher of English. Recently, on the same website, there has been another interview on an ELT related topic, this time with Bronislav Sobotka, an English and methodology teacher, a popular YouTuber, and a busy conference presenter. This ‘enthusiastic teacher from Brno who helps people to fall in love with English‘, as Bronislav likes to call himself in his YouTube videos, also shares his views on teaching English in the Czech Republic.

There are many similarities between what Bronislav and Milan say in their interviews, but I sense a big chasm between the ways they present themselves and their views on teaching. The former interviewee seems much more humble and also more mindful about what he says. For example, he doesn’t explicitly say that what others do is deficient or wrong in some way. In other words, he doesn’t claim that his teaching style is the best. To the contrary, he believes in a variety of teaching styles, which should primarily suit the students’ needs.

He’s a truly nice fellow (I once had an opportunity to meet him in person) and the crowds (read: female conferences attendees and his YouTube fans) love him, which actually makes me pretty biased right from the start. So don’t expect any harsh criticism from me this time. Seriously, I can’t really disagree with anything he says. So, let’s start singing the praises …

What I really appreciate about this person is the fact that he is so terribly optimistic and enthusiastic but still pretty serious. This is something you discover when you see him in action (I attended one of his workshops) or when you carefully listen to what he has to say. Also, his honesty is disarming. He claims to be so excited about teaching because he has a dream job – probably the best job he could ever get. And I totally believe him because, based on my own experience, it is possible to feel this way about one’s job. By the way, his definition of a dream job is ‘something you would like doing even if you didn’t get paid for it’. Sweet.

It comes as a shock when he calls himself a dummy with lots of learning disabilities. Yes. But this, he says, is one of his strengths as a teacher because he can easily put himself in his students’ shoes. In other words, he understands what they are going through during the learning process. What is also interesting is the fact is that he started learning English at the age of twenty, which, I reckon, must be quite motivating for all those people out there who feel too old to take up another language. It’s never too late, is it? Actually, now that I think about it, I was a late bloomer too; I started my English lessons when I was 15, which by some is considered too late if you want to acquire a near-native level of English, especially in terms of pronunciation. But this is not what Bronislav is promoting anyway – his aim seems to be to help his learners communicate fluently and efficiently (and to fall in love with English).

There’s no doubt that Bronislav is a very supportive teacher. Through his videos, he tries to make people feel more confident about learning English. I’ve never met any of his students but from what I’ve seen and heard, I bet they adore him. This is probably due to his generally optimistic mindset; he subscribes to the hypothesis that anyone who has acquired an L1 has the capacity to acquire an L2 provided they make the necessary effort and are motivated enough to keep going. He acknowledges, however, that some people just can’t help giving up along the way.

He also adds that learning (and teaching) must be enjoyable. Later on, in the interview, he describes what happens in his lessons: through challenging and fun games and tasks, he tries to lead his students into the flow state. During speaking activities, some music is usually on so that people don’t get distracted by the fact that what they say is heard and possibly judged, and thus they may feel more relaxed and comfortable. The best-case scenario is when the students don’t even notice that the lesson is already over. He adds, however, that it’s important to explain to students why they are doing what they are doing. This is a way of reassuring them that the lessons are not a collection of random activities but carefully planned units. Also, it’s essential to ask students what they want to learn. This way the students feel that they matter – that somebody takes into consideration their needs.

The most interesting point in the interview is when Bronislsav courageously but respectfully disagrees with the alleged claim of a highly regarded linguist Josef Jařab (a former rector and professor of American literature at Palacký University, Olomouc in the Czech Republic) that the best way to learn English is through reading. Bronislav’s response is that people who love reading will indeed learn best through reading – simply because they enjoy it. But those who hate reading will probably give up once they are told that reading is the only way to learn English. He mentions more suitable alternatives, such as learning through mobile apps, movies with subtitles, and PC games. He adds that to him, being able to use English means feeling comfortable in those situations when you need to use it. According to him, the fear of making mistakes is the main reason why so many people fail to learn to communicate fluently.

At one point, the interviewer, playing the devil’s advocate, is a little doubtful about Bronislav’s enthusiastic methods and their place in the state sector of education, particularly in regard to assessment. Also, according to the interviewer, not every secondary school student is highly motivated and wants to learn. Bronislav is not easy to discourage though; he strongly believes in positive feedback and lots of encouragement on the teacher’s part and step-by-step improvement on the student’s part. In his mind, Bronislav tries to picture all students as motivated. He always imagines the best possible future ‘version’ of a particular student which, he believes, they will gradually grow into. At this point, he mentions The Golem effect (a psychological phenomenon in which lower expectations placed upon individuals either by supervisors or the individual themselves lead to poorer performance by the individual), which is something he wants to avoid in his teaching.

What I also appreciate is the fact that he doesn’t dismiss coursebook completely. This, to me, would be just another publicity stunt (which there are so many of out there) and possibly over the top, given the fact that he is also a secondary school teacher.

Towards the end of the interview the reporter, in a futile attempt to find some weak spots in Bronislav’s theories, suggests that it may actually be him, the teacher, who is the weak spot since it’s clearly not possible to be enthusiastic all the time. Well, as I said before, it’s not easy to shake Bronislav’s convictions; he maintains that upon entering the classroom, it’s his obligation to take on the role of an enthusiastic, supportive teacher. This is how it should be in other professions too. So, if you have a bad day, it doesn’t mean your students (or customers) should have it too. It’s not faking it – it’s only professional.

Anyway, I was glad to hear that his students are doing well and have passed the standardized final exams (which is the ultimate proof that alternative methods and approaches work – even in the state system of education).

Congratulations! 🙂

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Holidays and a leave of absence

IMG_20190620_102812Today, summer holidays have officially started for me and some of my colleagues. Well, I should probably say ‘a leave of absence’ instead of holidays to make a clear distinction between what students get over the summer break and what we working people get. You know, I don’t want to goad other working people more than necessary. 😉

Anyway, now that I have some spare time on my hands, I also have a lot of time to think – about where I’ve come from and where I’m headed. In this post, I’ll start with a little bit of retrospect. I don’t want to structure it too much though. Since I don’t really believe life should and can be strictly divided into two categories – personal and professional – it will rather be a mixture of random insights.

It’s been a good year. As usual, I should humbly add. I started well because I took up yoga classes back in September. Everybody who does yoga knows it was a very clever move on my part. Actually, I believe yoga should become a compulsory part of the school curriculum. I also started jogging, which gradually won my attention over swimming, cycling and other types of exercise.

IMG_20190620_104027I recently said goodbye to an extraordinary group of senior students – a class I had been teaching for eight years. It was a sad but proud ‘goodbye’. On a rather bitter-sweet note, this class made me realize how little a teacher means to students. Obviously, you are there for them, ready to help, but most of the job is done by themselves. And honestly, most students stop needing you completely at some point, at least academic-wise. It’s sometimes quite frustrating, you know. But most of the time, I felt like an orchestra conductor – someone who understands how music works but is definitely not a better musician than the orchestra members themselves.

A proof that life happens in spirals came to me a few days ago, when I had a unique chance to meet a former exchange student I once had in my class for one academic year. This student, three years after leaving back to Hong Kong (which I obviously thought was for good), decided to come to the Czech Republic for a short visit. Life rocks!

One of the happiest personal moments of the past academic year was when my 11-year-son got a place at grammar school (the one I work in!). The competition was tough this year so I can’t say I wasn’t worried. Another proud moment was when my middle son started studying medicine back in October. And he’s been doing really well. But not everything is perfect. My oldest son has failed an important exam so he may well drop out of university soon – in his third year. But as my yoga teacher and John Lennon say “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

I hope I’ll have more time for blogging over the summer break. There’s a lot lurking on my mind so stay tuned. 🙂

 

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102 Little Drawings – a product review

pencil-37254_960_720Can you draw? You can? Good for you. Well, I wish I could but I can’t. 🙂

But, fortunately, it doesn’t really matter because I have my 102 Little Drawings That Will Help You Remember English Rules FOREVER (Probably)written by Gabriel EA Clark and Lisa Miller.

As the ‘blurb’ of their new publication says, this nontraditional textbook and grammar guide in one it is a compilation of 102 funny drawings designed to help English learners understand English grammar and remember new English words. It is for intermediate and advanced English learners learning English at home, and it’s also a great resource for English teachers (effective pictures that you can show students or draw yourself on the board). It’s here to give teachers and learners inspiration, some “a-ha” moments and hopefully a few good laughs.

As I was virtually flipping through my copy of the e-book for the very first time, for some reason, I remembered another publication sitting on my bookshelf – a copy of English or Czenglish. This book, written in 1989 by Don Sparling (who, by the way, was once a revered member of my alma mater), probably came to mind because it’s also a sort of compilation, namely a collection of the most common mistakes Czech learners of English tend to make, accompanied by explanations and lots of examples (the correct as well as the deterrent ones).

English or Czenglish, however, contains no doodles. In fact, there are no images whatsoever. This may be viewed as a flaw, but that’s the way textbooks were written in the Middle Ages. Anyway, the main difference between these two publications lies in that fact that 102 Little Drawings has been created for the global market, so unlike English or Czenglish, which exclusively deals with the most problematic areas Czech learners usually struggle with, 102 Drawings tries to tackle some of the problems learners of English grapple with generally, i.e. regardless of their L1s. So, although many of the examples are quite useful (hats off!), some of them are somewhat redundant for a Czech learner/teacher.

IMG_20190514_162202Let me give you an example: in vs. on an island is not a big issue for a Czech learner since in Czech, we use the same preposition, i.e. on. In other words, there’s a slim chance that a Czech learner will ever say in an island. The same will probably apply to other chunks of language, such as on holiday, on a trip, on a journey, etc. I’m saying ‘probably’, but I can actually back up the above-mentioned assertion with evidence. Before writing this post, I made a gap-fill exercise to see if my intermediate students struggled with some of the areas addressed in the book at all. As you can see on the left, I discovered, for instance, that instead of saying in holiday, quite a few students went for at holiday

Anyway, as I see it, many of the drawings explaining the correct use of prepositions are helpful and practical, such as the one explaining the distinction between in the water/on the water/underwater. Another handy example is the one depicting the phrase in the picture. Czech learners tend to say on the picture since that’s the literal L1>L2 translation. The thing is, however, that no matter how much you focus on explicit correction or how many drilling techniques you use in class to eliminate this persistent error, Czech learners, even the advanced ones, still occasionally say it incorrectly, especially when under pressure. In other words, L1 interference is amazingly powerful in some cases and I’m not convinced that even high-quality visuals will help to uproot it for good. I guess that’s not what the authors are aiming for anyway. Just a point.

The publication is undoubtedly spot on in terms of acquiring and/or teaching idioms and phrasal verbs and my students truly enjoyed learning new words through the lexical mnemonics accompanying the visuals (e.g. mother/smother, crane/Ukraine, ketchup/catch up). And since I’m a fan of timelines, I was pleased to see some doodles explaining English tenses in the chapter called Big Grammar. Although it’s an area in which I’m quite confident as a teacher, the book offers a few inspiring examples I’d never thought of before. 

It’s also quite practical to have something to hold on to when explaining the differences between easily confused words, such as cook vs. cooker. This is something you can hear very often in a Czech classroom (and we usually have a lot of fun getting it straight). Still, I must admit that some of the grammar points discussed in the book seem a bit off to me in terms of the level of proficiency. From a point of view of a Czech teacher, some of the examples, such as the distinction between very and more or interested and interesting seem a bit redundant for an intermediate/advanced learner in my teaching context. I can imagine that this area can be problematic for some learners out there, but over here, the difference is pretty clear, even to an A2 Czech learner of English. Also, despite articles being a nightmare for most learners here in the Czech Republic, the difference between a cat and the cat is something that could have been omitted from the book too (I mean… if it had been produced for the Czech market). On the other hand, I’m well aware of the fact that the nuances my learners struggle with most when using articles would be too difficult to present in the form of doodles. By the way, I’d like to know more about how the authors shortlisted the grammar points they decided to address in their book. Was it based on their experience in teaching English in different parts of the world – to people with different L1s? Or is it a collection of random items? One way or another, it’s not easy to please everybody. 

I’d like to add that while most of the pictures are pretty self-explanatory, some of them are a bit confusing, such as the attempt to depict the difference between a colon and semicolon. It took me ages to figure out what the authors meant. The reason behind my confusion is probably that generally, I’m totally hopeless at decoding pictograms. Add to that the fact that semicolons are not used in Czech the same way they are used in English (in many cases, a semicolon can easily be replaced by a comma) and you’ll understand my disorientation. So, while a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, sometimes a few words or a short, clear example sentence is much better – at least for me.

In conclusion, I believe the strength of the publication lies in the fact that it makes learning and teaching new language items – and classroom life in general – much more enjoyable. Also, it seems to me that a literal depiction of idioms, such as be on the ball, on cloud nine, on the fence, get wind of, etc., makes them more memorable and thus easier to learn and teach. If the authors are planning to write a sequel, I think they should focus on this area.

Here’s a link to the authors’ blog.

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The drama of presenting

IMG_20190413_132401I started this blog nearly six years ago. If somebody had told me back then that one day I might present at a conference, I would have suspected they are drunk. Today, totally sober, I can proudly claim that since I started blogging, I have presented at two major ELT conferences here in the Czech Republic. Why is then such an important turning point? Because I believe this blog is the reason why I’ve been offered the opportunity to present. And although I’m not one of those big names, i.e. people who have achieved something in the ELT field and thus are well-known to conference audiences, some people believed in me and gave me a chance of a lifetime.

Both sessions I’ve given so far took place in Brno, at conferences I was familiar with. The first time, I presented at the IH ILC Brno conference a few years back. I could choose the topic but I had no idea how many people will turn up for my session because people didn’t register in advance. I wasn’t too hopeful, but it was the first time so no audience or a very small one wouldn’t have been seen as a professional or personal tragedy, right? Nevertheless, I had chosen a topic I knew would be interesting for the local audience so finally, a relatively huge number of people turned up (38 squeezed into a small room).

The second time was at the P.A.R.K Conference. David Koster, the main organizer of the event, suggested that I should talk about blogging and I almost immediately agreed because that’s the topic which I am passionate about. This time, however, I was a bit more nervous because, well, I had some expectations, but most importantly,  I was not sure how the local audience would accept such a topic.

Anyway, I started working on my talk straight away and it went well. First, I created a ten-page Word document where I drafted some of my ideas, questions and answers. It was an enjoyable process and at that point, I knew I had enough material to make a decent session.

However, at this conference, people register for the sessions in advance – online – so you can keep track of how many people to expect for your talk. And this turned out to be the major problem because in the end, only one person had registered for my session …

I panicked when I first discovered this. I took it personally (which they say you should never do). I suddenly felt like a failure. It was quite de-motivating too. It crossed my mind that maybe the session should and would be cancelled in the end. But what about that one person? It wasn’t fair to them. Plus I had already created my PowerPoint presentation which I was quite happy with. Then I got an e-mail from David who reassured me that even though only one person had registered, a few more people would come, namely him and Rachel Appleby, who had been very supportive on Facebook prior to the conference.

IMG_20190413_083140Well, that was the end of the darkest era but I should be totally honest and admit that I experienced a few more dark moments at the conference itself when listening to all those wonderful talks by Edmund Dudley, Frank Prescott and Philip Kerr. What on earth am I doing here? Look at all those speakers. They know their stuff. I have to speak for sixty minutes. I can’t do it. Then my time came at 13:45 (yes, the graveyard slot!). And you know what? I wasn’t as nervous as I was before the first session I had given two years earlier. I think it’s probably the fact that it’s the very first time and the number of people sitting there with high expectations that send butterflies to your stomach. But this was the second time and there were no people at 13:40 fighting for the last empty seats so I felt relatively calm (this calmness may well have been one of the fifty shades of hopelessness). On a more positive note, just before my session, I learned that Rachel Appleby had mentioned my name in her own workshop. I guess she wanted to do some last minute promotion and I thank her for that!

And then Lenka turned up – the only person who had registered for my session. I was so pleased to finally meet her. I think that with a large audience, you don’t really pay attention to the individual faces but Lenka was very important to me. She was a star to me. The centre of my attention. Isn’t that crazy? Well, not quite. I later discovered that Lenka had chosen the session because she wanted to set up a blog. Wow! I suddenly felt useful – like a real expert.

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To cut the drama short, there were six people in the end. David, Louel Ross Calleja, Rachel Appleby and two of my lovely friends (on the left) joined the session. It was good because they gave me some immediate feedback right after the session, which convinced me it had all been worth it.

To sum it all up, the session itself was OK, I think. The atmosphere seemed relaxing (maybe a bit sleepy owing to the graveyard slot) and I felt it was an informal chat rather than a formal session. When I dared to look at the clock for the first time, I realized that I only had 15 minutes left and felt I hadn’t said anything important yet. But my friends reassured me later it had been just enough information.

Now I feel like Frodo who finally managed to take the One Ring to Mordor.

Am I a drama queen? 🙂

 

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Let’s be honest this time!

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You know, I really, really, really love my job. But why do I absolutely adore my job while other teachers and colleagues maybe don’t? Is it because I’m an exceptionally enthusiastic person and see teaching as a calling rather than a job? Maybe. But let’s be honest this time. There are other reasons too. Some of them have more to do with outer factors and the situation I find myself in:

  1. I’m an English teacher and teaching English is fun. It’s gratifying because you mostly chat about stuff you and your students are keen on.
  2. Point 1 implies that most students like English (or at least don’t hate it). This is the default state and we English teachers just take advantage of it.
  3. The groups of students I teach are smaller than in other subjects. While a traditional class consists of 30+ students, I teach 14 -19 max. This makes a huge difference: less noise, more one-to-one contact, better classroom management, more opportunities for fun activities as well as less/easier preparation and correction.
  4. Being proficient in English means that apart from teaching it at school, I can do other things: I can take part in international exchange programs, have classes outside of my regular timetable, translate, interpret, you name it. Not that I do all of these, but I know I can and this gives me an immense sense of freedom.
  5. I teach at a secondary school (combined with a grammar school). This means that the students who come to our school are mature and/or talented enough to be able to follow me. This makes my work much easier and my classroom management skills rock.
  6. Related to that is that fact that there’s actually not much work left for me; the students learn English on their own, mainly through watching English movies and listening to English songs; I only watch their progress. If a student is exceptionally talented (read: done a lot of work on their own outside of school) and wins a competition, for example, I’m the one who is given the credit.
  7. My students’ levels of proficiency range from A2 to B2. So if I make a mistake or don’t know an answer to a tricky question, there’s still a chance I will get away with it. As far as the C1 learners are concerned, if I don’t know an answer, I ask them to help and everybody is happy. Alternatively, we go on Facebook where I ask my PLN. This looks really cool because we take advantage of technology to learn. Aren’t we fabulous?
  8. The fact that I have many English-speaking friends (mostly online) who I can always ask for help makes me look even more professional (I think).
  9. I can share stuff about my job in English and thus reach a bigger, international audience. I’d say that the ELT community is probably the biggest online international community of teachers you can think of. I don’t think there are as many connected biology teachers, for example, as there are English teachers. This makes me feel safe and really proud of my job.
  10. Finally, I can blog about my job and my international audience helps me reflect on it. This form of therapy is one of the things that really keeps my head above water. Also, the fact that I blog in English proves I really know my stuff, right?

🙂

 

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