If you read Stories from the Front Lines of EFL, and thought, “I’d really like to be part of this project, but I’m not sure anyone would be interested in my story” then this post is for you.
Answering just a few important questions can give you the confidence to share your thoughts and ideas about teaching. It may take a bit of time, some reading and some effort, but anyone can do it. You can benefit yourself and all of us by taking this step in your own development as a teacher. Everyone has some great successes from the classroom to share, and all of us really do want to learn from you.
Here’s one way to get started:
I was a shy teacher for 16 years. I had learned so much over the years but was too timid to share any of it with my colleagues. I had so many worries: they would know that I wasn’t originally “trained” as a teacher, they wouldn’t believe what I had to say, they would ask me questions that I could not answer, and so on and so on. Even though I had years of experience in the classroom, and loads of common sense, I was lacking the theoretical background, in both the science of learning and the art of teaching, that always left me feeling like an impostor or a fake. For me, doing my MA TEFL was the way to become a complete teacher: but now, having recently finished, I realize that it is not the only way. I’m going to share a secret with you that can save you 1.5 million yen and make you feel equal to your educational peers if you’re willing to put in some effort.
There are only two small steps that you must take. In return, you’ll enable yourself to make a giant step in your own professional development and feel like a very well rounded teacher: define your theory of learning and your theory of practice.
A theory of learning (TOL) is simply an opinion about how people learn a language. There are probably 436,782,285 other opinions out there, so don’t feel like there is any one “correct” answer that you must follow. What I’ve learned from three years of reading about and discussing this topic in detail is: teachers who stop and think about how people learn have more success than those who simply teach from the teacher’s manual, or teach as they were taught. Simply writing down what you think leads to learning, and then giving reasons why you think like that, will put you way ahead of many other teachers who have yet to realize this simple truth.
The second step is to define your theory of practice (TOP). This is like making a list of all the things that you will do in your lessons to help your students learn. Of course, these TOP methods or activities should be directly connected to your TOL opinions. If you can decide to do more of what YOU believe leads to learning, and stop doing things that you don’t believe leads to learning, again, you will be way ahead of many teachers who unfortunately don’t know the power of this secret.
I ‘m happy to share examples from my own personal TOL and TOP. I’m always looking for new colleagues to share ideas back and forth with. Who knows, maybe we’ll work together on a classroom research project; maybe we’ll publish something together, or even better than that, maybe we’ll become friends.
Finally, the reason I wrote this is that I want to help those who would like to share their thoughts on this blog but don’t have enough confidence to get started. I think that is a shame, because I realize that some of my best ideas that I now share are the same ideas that I first used 15 years ago. Nobody at that time helped me to realize that I could share them with others. So now you know that you can!
Good luck and cheers for now! I hope to read your story soon.
Steven has an MA TEFL from Birmingham University. He believes that being a teacher means a never-ending commitment to learning. “First, we must connect with our students, then expect them to grow in some way; the rest we just work out day by day.” He is an avid collaborator and is always looking for new ways to grow.