Teach English in Yongan Zhen - Zaozhuang Shi

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Unit 2 of the “Teaching Young Learners” course identifies six roles a teacher may perform: instructor, facilitator, mentor, psychologist, counselor, and policeman. Early-career teachers need to think about these roles separately from one another, developing them, and linking them to their overall “calling” or sense of purpose as a teacher. Some teachers—especially those who have pursued a degree in education—may have already begun this work of self-definition, but my experience has taught me that many more are surprised by the difficulty of the task. I think this is due to the perniciousness—or, perhaps, the misleading obviousness—of a role that doesn’t appear on the ITTT list: enthusiast. Here I mean to acknowledge the fact that many teachers think of themselves of lovers of a content area (for me it was literary criticism and philosophy). To put it in another way: it is more common to find someone training to be and pursuing a career in teaching biology or music or 19th century American literature (me again!) than it is to find someone who “just wants to teach,” no matter the subject. I’m not an expert, but it may, in fact, be impossible to pursue the teaching profession thusly, which is a shame, because to develop your other roles as a teacher, you need to set aside the enthusiast role. Of course you must still communicate enthusiasm to the students, but early-career teachers must brace themselves to pause their own enjoyment of the subject matter that brings them to the profession. The early-career teacher must set aside this role because it tends to get in the way of the others. Permit me a list: • The instructor knows how to bring others into the body of knowledge, while the enthusiast “just knows.” • The facilitator structures the total experience of education, from planning and preparation, to classroom management, while the enthusiast thinks its enough for people just to come together around this fascinating topic. • The mentor models a way of life, a learning habit, cheerfully engaging mentees, “Do like I do! Try it out!”; by the same token, the enthusiast becomes embittered with students who aren’t already capable of appreciating the subject in the manner of the enthusiast. The theme here should be clear: the enthusiast can get in the way of the other personae. Moreover, to the extent that the six roles are meant to interact with one another and grow together into the canny gestalt deserving the title “educator,” the enthusiast, unchecked, allows for an amateurism bordering on immaturity that interrupts other interactions and growth of teacherly roles. I know, because it happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to other early-career teachers who it was my duty to mentor. I’ve spent a few paragraphs now speaking negatively about this problem (here is what can go wrong, what not to do), now I will turn to what I think is the best way forward. First, you take a deep breath (existentially speaking) and remember that no one can take away your love for you subject, not even the worst class ever. You’ve committed yourself to the subject already; know it is time to set that love aside and learn to love teaching in the abstract. The second step, then, is to find a home base among the six roles. This doesn’t necessarily entail choosing just one of them. Based on my own experience, I would say that the homebase is typically a constellation of a few of the roles, one where you feel confident, one where you feel competent, and one where you feel brave enough to grow. I will tie this theory to TEFL and provide myself as example in a final anecdote. I arrived in South Korea with a few semesters of teaching experience at the college level My enthusiast was still very much in the way when I transitioned from a disappointing year (because I don’t know how to teach!) as a high school NSET to a lectureship at one of Korea’s leading foreign language universities. I was hired to teach literature and culture classes, so my “instructor” didn’t need much work. I was confident in that role. I had been through a lot of emotional turmoil in my graduate school career and so I felt competent to serve the psychologist and counselor roles. I wanted to develop that competence into confidence and so I take on duties outside the classroom, advising students who were majoring in English. As I learned about the problems and needs of these students (beyond their needs in the L2 classroom), they began to paint a picture of a student body that wasn’t being facilitated very well. The learning environment was basically taken for granted. (I blame the “banking model of education,” as elucidated and critiqued by Paulo Freire.) I had a particular moment of insight when one of my advisees, in tears, was describing the pressure she was facing from her family, her peers, and her other professors to double major (in English and Education) when she really didn’t want to do so. It was a moment that shocked me at the time, because I suddenly knew that I need to grow as a facilitator. I needed to rethink my course structures, my handouts, my tests; I needed to make more efforts to professionalize, to share ideas with other teachers, and to learn about different kinds of learning environments. From that point on, I was able to pursue my development as a teacher-in-general without consternation about the lesser role (one among many) being accorded to the enthusiast. I still wonder where I might be today if I had come to that place a few years earlier, since all the greatest successes in my educational career came as an outgrowth of this change of attitude.