Why I am a teacher.
Kath here! I’m so happy to be a part of the Esperanza Education team. As you already know, I am a teacher.
I’ve often said that I don’t like that moment at a party or informal meeting, when the the talk goes to what people “do”. I feel that this will sometimes distract from the sum of all of the parts of a person. Yes – they might be employed as an Administrative Assistant – but their real interest is in hang gliding and sculpting. Much of the time I’d much rather hear about a persons interests and passions than employment.
Of course there are also people where their identity and their job are one and the same. This is why I am a teacher. Teaching is as much a part of my personality and identity as growing up in Vancouver and enjoying green tea. Teaching is my job and teaching is also who I am. I have become more myself in the classroom.
When I speak, I use my hands, my face, my body and (if available) a writing surface. Working with newer English language learners extensively, you might say my physical expressiveness is well developed. Or I just speak with my hands, arms and eyebrows a lot.
When I am asked how I teach people that speak very little English if I also don’t speak their home language, I explain that I use all of the non-verbal communication available. And if you think about it – there is a lot.
As an experiment, think about all of the miscommunication that can occur over the phone – when you can’t see a person. Then think of all the reasons why it is better to “say something in person” – we are also receiving all of the non – verbal communication clues.
In the classroom, I use questions a lot. I ask students to make up questions, to ask each other questions, to ask me questions – then to think about their answers, and usually ask more questions. A good conversation is really just good questions and thoughtful answers.
People like to talk about themselves – it is how we share our personal experiences and relate to others. The habit of asking questions makes people feel important and gives them an opportunity to speak about a topic they know well – themselves.
Any social successes, and compliments I have received about being friendly or easy to talk to – this stems from the habit of asking questions.
Relating to People:
The language learning classroom, or any classroom, is a great leveler of people. No matter your background socially or economically, your chosen career, gender or age – you share one thing in common with the other people in the room – you are trying to learn something. And sometimes that something can be difficult.
Teaching a challenging subject is also difficult. Teachers want to support their students as much as possible. Building a rapport and relating to your students creates a positive learning environment. I build a rapport by asking questions, I build a rapport by listening attentively and remembering the things that students say. I remember people’s names, where they are from, if they have any family and what they generally enjoy doing on the weekend (it is not that hard though, because we usually discuss these topic a fair bit in class anyway!).
Building a rapport makes the working environment more positive and relaxed, building a rapport with total strangers makes new friends, which I’ve been known to do every so often.
Life Long Learning:
Teaching and learning go hand in hand. A good teacher should always be learning something new – fortunately, it’s easy. We learn from our students and colleagues, family and friends, formally and informally – its all about having an open heart and mind. Reflecting the value of learning is how I try to motivate and inspire learner because we are all in this together – teacher and student. I’ve said to learners that I don’t always have all of the answers, but I will always help them look.
This attitude has if anything made my life all the more richer, I am on a constant lookout for new learning opportunities, that I can bring back to class and into my teaching practice.
What About You?
So, fellow educators and learners – how is education a part of your identity?