A “normal” teacher

an unusual situation: academic committee. seven members.

couldn’t help noticing some of the appropriately casual, disinterested expressions. but who can blame them? wouldn’t get far without one, i suppose.

i’m sitting opposite. separated by two rows of desks and gaping emptiness in the middle.

how apt.

i was listening to myself explaining the reasons why i felt suitable for the post. a thought emerged and floated at the back of my head that i haven’t been in a similar situation since graduation.. seven years ago.

i let the thought dive back and tried to refocus on the question.

my present teaching post..?

explain the unbelievable..

Well, you see, we use no textbooks, have no particular curriculum to cover, apart from a project of one sort or another that is to be completed by the end of each term. The content of each class is decided upon and filled in mostly by the learner and determined by the previous class. We are using the language in a mutually agreed context that can (and unusually does) change from class to class. There’s no homework, but a lot of work that can be done at home, on-line, or in class – either way is fine, as the classes don’t strictly begin or end in the scheduled times, but continue through to any time of day. Or night.

their eyes get disturbingly empty..

..And, there’s no punishment for unexcused absences…

some of their bewildered looks tell stories of two misunderstood worlds.

there was a pause before someone asked another question, a pause that seems to have grown in my mind now to an unusually awkward length:

“Can you see yourself teaching in a more… normal way, instead of this…. peculiar one?”

After the interview, I couldn’t help feeling that I might have been seen as a weird curiosity, with a peculiar style of teaching. I went back to Film School with many thoughts in mind – one of which was that I would probably hate every single day teaching in such constrained environment.

There’s so much to be changed in the world of ELT here. Most institutions still see English teaching and learning as a factory production, where students are lined up and moved on a conveyor belt at an even speed, tampered with, manipulated, taught at, talked at, instructed, filled with knowledge, meaningless homework  and rules.. until they’re spat out at the end with a seal of achievement, and lined up on a neatly samey level.

There’s a lot to be changed here indeed.

Incidentally, it’s been over 30 years since The Wall.

7 thoughts on “A “normal” teacher

  1. LOL – I had wanted to add to my tweet (obviously you don’t need luck)“if that’s the profile they’re looking for” … seven years is too long out of the system. I am VERY VERY sad you didn’t play the system game… we NEED people like you inside because it can only change from inside. It so closely resembles my own career – but I did learn the rules – and there are more and more of us getting in in disguise. Basically though I strongly feel that academia has let slip a great opportunity :-(

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  2. Marian,

    Interesting read and dilemmas are what make us into who we are (I’m reminded of Rushie’s quip that, “our lives teach us who we are” but for you – might be an interview).

    I have to disagree with Elizabeth. My own teaching career, I’ve hit balls on both sides of the fence but would have to say that most most most benefit will come from a teacher that is happy and productive in their environment – not one chomping on the bit and dissatisfied, trying to change etc….. First, the later will take years off your life, second, it translates, can’t help but translate into the classroom. We teach how we feel, it oozes into it.

    My feeling is despite the money, despite the wish to “look eye to eye with our peers”, stick to an environment where you feel you are sure to flourish and be creative and “give” not constantly be asking “what can I get”.

    Yeah, I’m an idealist but hell, what’s a heaven for????

    David

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  3. But I totally agree with you David. I meant “play the system game” for the interview only, and I was only talking about getting in in disguise. Silly me – I guess other systems are not like ours and that my comment was too localised.
    The thing is that in our National Education system, once you’re in, wild horses can’t move you. You can do nothng and not be thrown out… which leaves lots of space for those who want to get on with things. I’ve really enjoyed my career – one of my favourite sayings being “give me the strength to change what I can, the courage to bear what I can’t, and the wisdom to see the difference” or something like that – VIVE idealists!

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    • I read your and David’s comments with great interest, Elizabeth! I know exactly what you meant by “playing” the system game for the sake of opening up certain doors that make more things possible – the “Shawshank Redemption” way, I suppose, although on a much less dramatic and much more common scale :)

      Also, I absolutely agree with David’s point, and I’m sure you do too, that the feeling from the work we do is the most important factor in how happy and satisfied we feel every day.

      I take it that you work in academic context and I’m sure you can find great possibilities of having the system work for your idelas and change things if you see a way of improving them.

      Certain things make us tick and it’s important to know what these are, and then appreciate and value them, so that they aren’t absent from what we do, if possible.

      As to your point about being an idealist, I’ve never considered myself as one, but can see now that I probably am:) If casual cynicism and “practical” approach are taken as a “standard”, then it’s only too easy to be considered an idealist! ;)

      Let’s keep it creative and free, whatever it is we do ;)

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