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Do It Your Way (by Janet Bianchini)

A very good friend, Ehrhard, a retired teacher from the former GDR, recently wrote a letter to me, which made me truly reflect. He told me that he was so happy that he had taught English “his way” successfully for many years, even though his colleagues had changed their styles and methods to suit the trend of the day. He had remained faithful and constant throughout his long and illustrious teaching career to what he firmly and most importantly of all, passionately, believed in. By doing so, he had earned the greatest of respect from all his adult students of EFL.

“I did it my way”. These simple yet powerful words struck a chord in me. I realised that the only way you can really inspire learners, really motivate them, is if it comes straight from the heart. Your heart and soul, to be more precise. Your instinct as a teacher to teach in a style that suits you, that feels comfortable and natural for you and that is welcomed and appreciated by your students, is vitally important.

Teaching trends come and go, like the inevitable ebb and flow of life. For any learner, however, there is always a constant factor involved. The need to feel that one has gained insightful knowledge and the ability to know how to use it effectively in the future.

There is no set or prescribed way for every teacher to follow. The “right” way is individual and highly personal. What is “my way” you may be curious enough to ask. The answer is very simple. In every single lesson, I learn with my students. I do my best for them. I try to really listen to them. I look into their eyes. By looking into their eyes, I can tell if what I am doing is ok. I know that the day I see no light in their eyes will be the signal for me to retire gracefully. I do not want that day to come for a long time yet.


I have been a teacher of EFL for over 30 years. My passion for teaching and learning remain unabated.  I am thrilled and greatly honoured to have taken part in this series of posts and I would like to thank Barbara very much for giving me the opportunity to write down some of my thoughts on her fabulous blog.

You can follow Janet on her blog and on Twitter.

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15 Comments

  1. Barbara says:

    What an empowering message, Janet! With all the new techniques and methods we discover, it’s sometimes hard to maintain our own “voice” in teaching. What a gift to develop confidence that we best know our own students and can also trust our judgment in how best to teach them.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Great inspirational post! Students do sense and learn from the uniqueness each teacher brings with her/him. Thank you!

  3. ALiCe__M says:

    How can you teach in another way than “your way”? this is the best and only way. Thank you for stating this so beautifully.
    Students like to hear your voice, the teacher’s voice, of course, but also *your* own voice, as a person, with a very special life and unique fingerprints.

  4. So simple and so very perfect. Thank you Barbara and Janet.

    Karenne

  5. Dear Janet,

    Thanks for this wonderful post and thanks I truly admire your enthusiasm. and the way you show pass it to us. How true, if we have a way, our own way no matter what the trend is we sure will achieve our goals and that way our students will trust us more. I’m sure all the great teachers have thir own ways with that they motivate both thie students and colleagues.
    It’s always fun to read your posts.

    Eva

  6. Barbara
    Thank you once again for allowing me to share some of my thoughts on your lovely blog. I really enjoyed the experience!

    Tatiana
    Thank you so much for your kind words! Each teacher is indeed unique in their own very special way, and as long as one feels happy with what one delivers and how it is delivered on a daily basis, that’s what counts.

    Alice
    Thank you for your positive words. I appreciate them! I agree that our unique “voice” is vital in teaching and one can’t really be timid or shy in this respect when we are with our students. Our aim is to get our students to express themselves in the best and most natural way possible. As role models, we need to express our feelings in a way that inspires them to feel comfortable enough to do the same.

    Karenne
    It’s lovely to read your comment here. Thank you very much for all the encouragement you give me. It means a lot to me.

    Eva
    I’m very happy that I am amongst fabulous educators here, and that we are all learning and sharing our ideals, our aspirations, our situations and our innermost thoughts. In a way, this was not possible 30 years ago. Teachers didn’t share so openly, simply because there was no effective means to do so. In recent years, and in many countries, modern technology has dramatically improved the teachers’ lot, but it should make no difference at all to that powerful inner “voice” that is still there, however much the outside world has changed.

  7. Neil Barker says:

    So true. I often find myself confused and bewildered by different teaching trends. In the end, it’s all about communication and motivating learners. I think one of my main motivations for teaching is the struggles I’ve had and continue to have learning languages.

  8. Lovely post Janet!
    Simple, sincere, open-hearted.

    “I know that the day I see no light in their eyes will be the signal for me to retire gracefully. I do not want that day to come for a long time yet.”
    – by the way you speak, it will certainly take loooooong before this happen, if it ever does.

  9. Hi Neil

    Thank you for your comment. I agree that to really learn a language properly involves a lot of commitment and indeed struggles, as you mention. Painstaking efforts to memorize new words, to get to grips with new grammar are all part and parcel of the learning experience. It’s good to see this from our own learning perspective, as it helps us to identify our learners problems more easily.

    Hi Willy

    You are very kind! I have always vowed that I would give up teaching the day my students look bored or I guess, I am bored with teaching. Maybe they go together. It’s a case of always striving to prevent that day from coming and that’s what still keeps me motivated.

  10. Hi Janet and Barbara,

    I really enjoyed reading your post, Janet, and have to say I love this way of looking at teaching. It’s so simple, but so true. What works for me as a way of teaching is never (or rarely) going to work for you or anyone else (or rather, be as effective, maybe…).

    I read elsewhere that maybe the secret to teaching is to teach in a way that is worth teaching (gosh that was repetitious) and I think I agree. It’s got to be worth it for the student and the teacher in my opinion. It sounds to me like the way you teach is definitely worth it, and I hope (no, I’m sure) that you’ll keep the light shining in your learners eyes for a long time yet =)

  11. Hi Mike

    Thank you so much for your lovely words!! I hope I can continue to teach in a way that makes me as happy as the students. I admit, it’s not always plain sailing, however, as sometimes you have to work hard as a teacher/facilitator to make a class “gel”, for example. It’s essential to build up a bond which will facilitate the learning process and sometimes this takes time, but it’s worth the wait and patience involved!

  12. Janet,

    That is the best advice you can give any teacher because when we lose our passion we lose our impact and no amount of technology or knowledge of educational theory will override our passion. At the end of the day, students want to know you want to be there, because many of them really don’t want to be there.

    1. Dear Shelly

      Please do forgive the delay in responding. I agree with what you say wholeheartedly. It is indeed up to the individual teacher to make a difference and to instil their enthusiasm into their learners, who as you say, may not really want to be there.

      Luckily, I teach mainly adults who really want to learn, and so that is a big advantage, in a way. However, adults know what they want and how they want to be taught, so they would most certainly not hesitate in complaining if the teacher lacked the technical ability and expertise to engage them in an appropriate and stimulating manner.

      No matter the age group, it all boils down to whether the teacher can deliver lessons effectively and that comes with a lot of practice and great dedication.

  13. […] Bianchini, for Janet’s Abruzzo Edublog. Janet’s guest post, Do it Your Way, is an inspiring message of staying true to our teaching instincts in the face of changing […]

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