Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lessons learned and observations from teaching

After teaching for over five years now, I've made a few general observations about teaching.  I've also learned a few lessons along the way. These all include experience near Seattle (teaching swim), in Salt Lake City, Utah, Madrid and summer camps in Spain, and Jakarta.  My students have been as young as three and as old as, well, that's impolite to ask but let's estimate mid to late sixties. I've taught private classes and groups as large as 28, utter beginners and pros, general classes and information specific.

  • It's hard to be a student. A good teacher is often a student too, and remembers that.  Being a student doesn't mean we get to slough off other responsibilities.  Even kids have other things they have to do.
  • I learned that it's harder for  me to let there be silence and wait for a students answer than it is for them to think of the answer.  I have come along way as far as that is concerned.  I've also learned how to know if the student is going to come up with the answer or if they need a prompt.
  • No one wants to sit still for too long.  Breaks, class stretching, action activities (even with adults) are a MUST.
  • Everyone laughs when a teacher sings in class. It's hard to make yourself be a fun/funny teacher with adults but it keeps them engaged and interested.  Same goes for using drawings, actions and funny voices.
  • Good coworkers can make your life easier, but not as much as bad coworkers can make work a hellhole.
  • The bells at school are as much for the teachers as the students.
  • Kids thrive when given rules.  Being their friend, or the "cool" teacher, always backfires in some respect.  My students know what my expectations are, they know what the punishments and rewards are and those never change. Especially in Jakarta where nannies and parents rarely coordinate about discipline and the kids run amok, routine and regulations are a very necessary, positive part of school life.
  • It's not fun to make a kid cry, but sometimes thats the only way to come to an understanding and usually your relationship is better afterward. Ji Hyun had a week of tears with me early in the semester but he knows that I'm not going to be wishy-washy about my requirements.  He's grade 1 and he gets it.  He says hi to me everyday in the halls and even likes to chat between classes. If I hadn't cracked down on him, we would both have pulled our hair out by now. 
  • On a related thought, kids don't hold grudges like adults do.  I can discipline a kid in class and when he sees me in the hall and hour later still waves and says hi. Kids bounce in all regards (emotionally, physically, in attention).
  • Everyone likes to be praised.  It costs nothing and when given in earnest, it means the world. Additionally, everyone needs help.  We can't be good at it all right away. Just knowing there's someone there to ask might be all they need, but maybe they need you to catch them, lead them, even push them along.
  • I love teaching.  I'm a great teacher.  I don't feel overly prideful to say that.  I put time and thought into what I do, I know why I do it and I enjoy it.
  • It's fun to see the similarities and differences in teaching different subject and different students.  In most ways, the idea of teaching is the same, but a wise teacher will be sensitive to the subtle differences (like the fact that Indonesian learners and Spanish learners of English will have different pronunciation errors) and adapt to them. 
  • It's true that teachers get more holidays than other professions but tell me you can work with ten year olds all day every day and you don't need more time off! This is why most teachers in the States burn out after four or five years.
  • I'll take dealing with kids over dealing with parents and administration any day. 
  • Lastly, I thrill at my students successes as much as they do.  Anyone who's meant to be a teacher does.
If I get the job I'm trying for in Seattle I'll be transitioning into adult training, which is teaching of a sort. I will miss the kids but have started to think maybe some coaching is in order to make up for that. (No, I don't miss kids enough to have one of my own!)

No comments:

Post a Comment