I’ve turned 41 today. It’s a weird number and when looking at the two digits, I can’t believe they have something to do with me. But I’d better face the truth: I’m no longer a young lady. It’s no exaggeration to say that I’m slowly entering the category called ‘middle-aged women’ – a period beyond one’s adulthood, around the third quarter of the average life span of human beings. However vague this age category may seem, the one thing I’m sure of is that as a middle-aged woman I already know something about life. And I know a lot about teaching. So I think it’s high time to look back at my career and ponder a little about my future as an educator.
I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years now and I would define myself as an experienced teacher. I rarely feel nervous when I enter the classroom, and I face no difficulties when planning the activities or managing the class. Twenty years ago, when I started teaching, I was strongly influenced by CLT in its purest form; I was convinced that all my students needed was to learn to speak the target language fluently. I didn’t care about errors very much at that time and I didn’t interrupt my students while they were speaking. I didn’t find it necessary to provide error feedback because I believed that all learners ultimately master the language if they are exposed to plenty of meaningful input. I didn’t crave for accuracy and precision in my students’ production skills; the only thing that really mattered to me was that the kids had fun and enjoyed the lessons. I remember that one of my specialities was trying to squeeze too much into one lesson, which sometimes resulted in mere chaos. But I was a talented teacher; my colleagues and administrators said so and I could feel it myself – I knew I was on the right track. In other words, teaching was a calling for me and I just needed to work on a few things to become really good.
I’ve changed a lot since then. I still believe that the ultimate goal and outcome of ELT should be fluent speakers, or rather fluent users of the language. What has changed, though, is my view on the way of achieving this goal. I believe in the enormous power of error feedback if it is provided wisely and at the right time (especially in homogenous classes, where all the learners come from the same L1 background). I believe in the benefits of decontextualization of language items, i.e. if we want our students to learn things, they must notice them first. I believe that learning English in chunks is a must, but we sometimes have to analyze chunks to help learners understand things. I believe that L2 learners need a lot of meaningful input but also a lot of meaningful output in order to become proficient users of the language. In other words, practice makes perfect. Of course, I still love when my lessons are interesting and fun but not at all costs. What has changed dramatically is my approach to lesson planning; my lesson plans are not as detailed as they once were. The reason why I’ve ditched thorough lesson planning is that, from my experience, the best lessons are those containing elements of spontaneity. Although I always keep in mind what my objectives are, I believe in creativity, improvisation and the power of the present moment.
I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me. What I know for sure is that I’d like to keep learning and sharing what I’ve learned. I’d like to keep moving further away from my comfort zone. Inspired by #30GoalsEdu I started writing this blog – something I had never dreamt of before. Since then I’ve met a lot of wonderful, supportive people in social media and I’m slowly extending my PLN. Thanks to my PLN I’ve come across various amazing articles and blog posts. I’ve attended interesting conferences, webinars and workshops. And all this, I believe, is an effective way of making my plans come true …. Cheers!