I’d like to start by being fair and making it clear that I possess no such evidence and indeed wonder what this evidence could be. If you google “good teacher” you’ll get plenty of links with multiple answers to the question of who a good teacher is. You may also learn what qualities identify a good teacher amongst other teachers, what steps are necessary to take to become a good one, as well as tips on how to become an even better teacher. And being a better teacher is being … who?
I can admit now that a few years ago I quite arrogantly considered that to be a better teacher is to be a teacher better than some other teacher. I’m not ashamed to be saying this because I don’t hold to this belief now. Also because, for some inexplicable reason, I feel sure that at some point many teachers might feel, if not verbally express, the same, even if for a fleeting, unflattering moment.
Well, finding myself in the blogosphere made me realize, with a well-deserved blow on my vanity, that there are teachers out there who are better, so much better, and the competition makes no sense. It took time, a supportive community and a blogging experience to come to the idea that being a better teacher means an ongoing process of becoming a teacher better than you were a year ago, a month ago, a group of students before. A better teacher is a better teacher in me and it is true that two years of blogging have helped me to realize this fact.
I like to picture blogging as a complex phenomenon which involves:
- actual blogging, that is writing posts;
- lurking on other blogs, that is reading without any interaction;
- reading and leaving comments that show you’ve read the post and would like to show your appreciation to the blogger;
- reading and leaving a comment that can contribute to the dialogue;
- sharing and promoting your posts;
- learning necessary tech skills on platforms you’re using to keep a blog;
- reflecting and taking dialogues further from comment threads to new posts, developed ideas, answers or more questions.
At this point, it’s interesting to me to examine how such aspects of blogging as reading, writing and engaging in a dialogue might affect my teaching, if at all.
This aspect, though looking to be passive rather than active, is the first and foremost factor to give an impact. The use of blogs offering practical tips for English language teachers (and learners) can’t be underestimated. There are blogs with worksheets, activities and exercises to take away; there are pages sharing tutorials on tech tools, app reviews, video and audio materials. There are class blogs and exchange projects open for everyone to see and take part. Finally, and most importantly for me personally at the moment, there are blogs providing insightful reading that leaves you pondering questions and might result in shifts of attitude or classroom behaviour.
- As a non-native English language teacher I keep getting benefit from blogging language-wise (which is also true for the reading aspect). That means I’m not losing the grasp of the language.
- Because I am writing myself, I know in practice what problems my students might encounter while writing (such as cohesion and structure, for example). So I think blogging spares me the hypocrisy of demanding from students something I can’t do myself.
- Blogging helps me get more confident about my ideas, that is shape these ideas and keep revisiting them. Once you write something it becomes real, tangible and thus clear. That said, writing in a blog seems to be a perfect way to go about reflecting on your teaching.
Engaging in a dialogue
Commenting on other blogs was not something that came easy. It took time and getting to know people to establish enough confidence for sharing my own views. Through the cycle of reading, analysing and writing I started to feel better about airing my opinions whichever side of the argument they are. Interestingly, I’ve recently noticed that a similar kind of confidence has transferred to my teaching (for example, regarding decision-making). Also, by learning how to engage in a conversation, listen to people and hear them, contribute to the topic, I’ve grown more competent in teaching my students to do the same.
While, as I said here, I mostly blog for my own pleasure, I still hope there are some positive shifts in my teaching to be seen and experienced by my students in the reality of our classroom. I wonder now how writing this particular post can or will influence what I do in class!
To read more thoughts by Ann about blogging read her article here: http://annloseva.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/7-thoughts-on-blogging/
Ann Loseva has been an ESL teacher for 8+ years. She has a specialist degree in TEFL from Moscow City Pedagogical University and is currently preparing to embark on reseach for a PhD degree. Anna is an iTDi Associate and also blogs at http://annloseva.wordpress.com/