a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures
I’ve been teaching for quite a few years now – I was barely in my 20s when I started and I’m not mid-30s, so you do the maths – but the funny thing is, something happened to me a while ago and I only recently noticed. Like always having a cup of tea in the morning and then you stop but you only realise that you’ve stopped a few weeks later. It wasn’t intentional on my part, and I can’t put a finger on exactly when it happened, but at some point in the last few months (years?), I stopped learning.
Not all kinds of learning. I have always been a keen student, but that has been very intentional. I have made a point of making sure that I am studying something or other most of the time, which usually means I’m doing a course or learning a language or having lessons. What I wasn’t doing was paying attention to the learning situations around me. Until the universe kindly stepped in and gave me a gentle shove . It’s probably been trying to do that for a while but I’ve been to busy “learning” to learn.
What happened was this: I’ve been teaching adults (both students and teachers) for the last few years and my latest gig is back with the teeny tiny people. I taught kiddiewinkles way back when and found it fun and challenging, though I must admit that dealing with so much snot every day was not always awesome. Then I moved onto adults and embraced the challenge and conquered the fear and then happily stagnated, for years – very successfully and effectively, but stagnating nonetheless.
So when I was asked to go back into a classroom with a bunch of tweenies, I pushed aside my recurring nightmares of emergency bathroom situations and walked confidently in, only to be brought to my knees by a bunch of tiny hooligans with iPhones. Except that they’re not hooligans*; they were simply acting in protest. I was bringing my adult headspace into their colourful world and expecting miracles. Instead I got a natural disaster (and lots of blank faces).
Young learners don’t and won’t learn like adults and I should’ve remembered this. But I’ve been teaching for so long that I kinda maybe possibly thought I was invincible in the classroom. I’ve put in the hours and done the rounds; I’ve already finished with my learning curve, haven’t I? And of course the answer is a big fat no. It took a near state of emergency in room 9 and a healthy dose of stress and frustration for me to realise that the students were not the problem, I was. I needed to rethink my strategy because my current one just wasn’t the right one. I had to re-learn how to deal with younger minds. I had to remind myself of what the true meaning of a flexible teacher is.
Which just goes to show: old dog, new tricks, true story.
*ok, sometimes they are.