When new acquaintances ask me about my profession, I often jokingly reply that I am a professional chatterbox. Indeed, after a quarter century of teaching I can deliver a ninety minute lecture on various topics even in my sleep so to speak. And naturally I have a stock of stories to fill in any lull in a conversation if needed. To wit, most of our work is indeed talking, but not all of it.
Writing is greeted enthusiastically by younger pupils because for them it is a new challenge. They revel in their ability to construct a whole sentence from the recently learned words, and proudly present their efforts to the class and to the teacher. In primary school three sentences are already a story or an essay. “The soldier walks to the palace. He wants food, drink and the princess. Three magic dogs help him”. Recognize “The Tinderbox”, a fairy tale by the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen, originally published on May 8, 1835, under the title “Fyrtoiet”?
The future professions, the choices and the challenges, the importance of having the basic ICT skills and speaking English in today’s world is practically a must if you are teaching senior classes and young adults. It does not mean that they are ready and willing to talk about their hopes and aspirations, their worries and uncertainties. Some students are always open while others prefer to keep their wishes to themselves. We need to find a balance, a safe way to discuss those important issues, to help them formulate their thoughts and ideas, and to cope with their worries.
As a student at Moscow University, I was part of an experiment conducted by the head of the English Department. After our first semester and examination session, she insisted that those who got straight A’s should be enlisted into the same academic group. Nobody asked our opinion. Thus when we returned from our winter break we learned that we were now members of an elite group of eight students.
A few years ago I witnessed the following little scene in Barcelona, Spain. A city guide was telling her little group of obviously rather rich tourists about Sagrada Familia, (the Holy Family), the celebrated basilica begun by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. An irritated woman’s voice rang out loudly into a pause: “Why don’t you tell us what kind of family it was, who were its members?” On a par with this question was a comment overheard in Florence: “Can we see that church, its façade looks like waffles, it’s quite pretty, it has that ancient dude’s statue nearby”.
A real live meeting with colleagues is one of the most motivational annual events for me. In January 2019, the regional Winter Methodology School organized by the local ELT Association turned fifteen. More than two hundred EL teachers and educators from Siberia, Moscow, the Far East, Longman-Pearson representatives, Cambridge International Exam specialists and two English Language Fellows from the USA gathered together to make their presentations and conduct workshops, to discuss the current problems, and simply to socialize.
We have been doing international internet projects with students and teachers for more than twenty years; I have written about them many times. For our new topic, I would like to share our ongoing positive domestic project. Several years ago a few well-equipped schools, the local education authorities and parent-teacher associations suggested an innovative usage of the numerous internet classes. What if we could work at bridging the generation gap by bridging the digital divide?
It’s the New Year! 2019 is upon us, and we got wonderful new topics. The very first one made me smile, and my fingers started itching at once. I mean, is there anything really strictly planned in our work? Don’t we always come against unplanned situations and expect the unexpected? When working with children this is rather the rule than an exception, isn’t it?
It seems to me that every year brings more and more demands on teachers. Without getting any significant pay increase we are supposed to master many new skills and impart them to our students: creativity and imagination, digital literacies, critical thinking, collaboration, citizenship and leadership. The big question is, who is to teach us? How do we fit in all the new requirements into the national curriculum and our traditional lesson plans?
EL teachers: Native Speakers or not?