How often do you ask yourself this question: What kind of teacher do I really want to be? If you were supposed to come up with a list of adjectives that would describe the ideal you = teacher, what would it include? And then, if you were to choose just one adjective that would describe the kind of teacher you want to be now, what would it be? Mind you, I don’t want to hear any clichés or evasions, such as a ‘perfect’ or ‘great’ teacher. I want to know what your priority is at this present moment. I’m deliberately zooming in on the present moment because as we change, our priorities do as well. My cline expressing the gradual change in the way I have viewed my ideal teacher-self might look something like this: popular/entertaining/passionate > nice > creative > knowledgeable/resourceful > organized/systematic > ??? I believed that at each point of my development I focused on something specific; I tried to work on a limited set of aims. When I became that kind of teacher, I realized (or something made me realize) that it wasn’t the whole story and I moved on. Where am I now? I can more or less definitely say that I’ve become a popular/ entertaining/ passionate/ nice/ creative/ knowledgeable/ resourceful/ sort of teacher. Presently I’m becoming an organized/ systematic teacher. But where do I go now?
Yesterday I escorted Ann to the regional competition in English conversation. Ann, 17-years-old, is a lovely person and she’s brilliant at English. I don’t teach her now, but I used to be her English teacher two years ago, for about six months. She was already outstanding back then. I remember I felt a little guilty because I knew she was well ahead of her peers and I suspected the lessons were not challenging enough for her. However, being a nice person, she did her best to keep herself busy by helping her friends with English whenever she could. She was sometimes a little dominant in the class, but I didn’t want to restrict her in any way and feel even more quilty.
Anyway, she did very well at the competition yesterday and I was proud of her. As we were chatting happily, she suddenly mentioned her current English teacher saying that she really appreciates her approach to teaching Ann’s class (demanding, strict, firm and consistent). She added: Nothing against you but you know, back then, when you taught us, it was far below my level.
It hurt. She meant well but it hurt my popular/ entertaining/ passionate/ nice/ creative/ knowledgeable/ resourceful/ organized/ systematic self. I know I can never please all my students but still, it suddenly dawned on me that it was time to redefine and reshape my beliefs in terms of good ELT practice. I need to demand more from students. Of course I don’t have to dispose of my hard-attained popular/ entertaining/ passionate/ nice/ creative/ knowledgeable/ resourceful/ organized/ systematic attributes but I need to add one more ingredient in order to feel I’m doing the right thing for my students.
Although I’ve been familiar with the Demand High approach to teaching for some time, it was what Ann said that made the idea finally sink in. I don’t want to be nice and popular at all costs any more. On the contrary, I’m ready and willing to sacrifice some of my popularity for the sake of my students’ learning and wellbeing.
Ann Loseva, Chuck Sandy and others have written wonderful posts on ‘the whole teacher’ on the iTDi.pro blog. I’ve read them all with enthusiasm. However, I don’t think we can become whole teachers at once. We need to work hard, pick up the bits and pieces all along the way, and put them together gradually, one by one, as we grow. We will probabaly never become perfect teachers but we can feel at peace with what we’ve become and work on what we want to become in the future.