I have been having my doubts about being a teacher since it’s been so hard to find a job here in Belgium (and for other reasons as well). However, I have to confess that I left the HUB that evening with a new sense of encouragement.
Thoughts like “I understand everything they are talking about!”, “I was a very good teacher. No, I AM a very good teacher!” and “I actually miss being in front of a class” populated my mind all day.
What I enjoyed the most were the topics discussed. They were current and relevant (the seminars I used to attend back home were a bit boring and meaningless).
These were the highlights:
Why do we need teachers at all?
Jeremy Harmer introduced us - or me. I didn’t know it before - to The Hole in the Wall experiment: a computer was put in a wall in a slum and soon the children started playing around with it and teaching each other.
I went ahead and watched Sugata Mitra’s TED talk. His idea is that children learn as a group and don’t need teachers. He also says that we don’t need to “stuff” our heads anymore, you just have to know how to Google.
Ok. I agree that we are able to learn things ourselves and pass it on to others, but there are things that only a teacher can do: guide and motivate, target weaknesses and pinpoint errors, impose structure, etc.
We can’t be replaced by machines yet.
Later in the day, Luke Meddings spoke about Dogme.
Dogme is a teaching approach I recently came across and became very interested in. It’s about relying less on materials and lesson plans. In the schools I worked this would never work since we had to finish the book by the end of the semester. Everything was planned to the minute. But imagine a conversation lesson with more spontaneity, more interaction, more flexibility and not having to cut your student off because you have to finish that page.
Two of my favourite workshops were about online teaching and I left the event full of thoughts involving online teaching, Portuguese, conversation, Dogme and jobs.
The only downside of attending an ELT event is that I have to explain why I haven’t found a job in Belgium yet. I’ve been searching for over a year and nothing. In part it’s because they are simply not hiring but it’s also because of the wrong idea that native speakers are better English teachers. Excuse me?! Do singers make good singing teachers? Can all writers teach literature? Not necessarily. The ability to do something doesn’t automatically translate into the ability to teach that to others. And that I can do.
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