Diary submitted by Aoife B., Valencia, 2020
Section 2: As an EFL teacher, do you see yourself more as a leader, a mentor, or as a surrogate parental figure?
As a teacher, in what role do you see yourself? What do you think this is determined by?
This is an interesting topic as it is something I have thought about a lot thanks to the range of classes I teach. I chose to look at this question because I think it is important for teachers to relate to their students in the right way, to build a good relationship with them and encourage a happy but structured learning environment. However, the reality of what this looks like is very different in every classroom so teachers must be flexible and able to adapt to meet the needs of their students.
My teaching experience comes from teaching a variety of learners from primary school age to late teens. When I am teaching children and younger teenagers, I see myself as a leader figure and a teacher in the traditional sense. The lesson needs to be well structured, especially when teaching children, as it is important to keep them engaged, and so I feel a responsibility to lead the class. This includes leading students back to the topic when they get distracted and moving from one activity to the next swiftly to hold their interest. Looking back, I think I have seen myself in this role because a lot of the content we cover in class is new to younger learners, whether this is a new grammar point or new vocabulary, so I feel like I really am teaching them and presenting new content.
On the other hand, when I teach a C1-level class of students in their late teens, I feel more like a mentor to them. Firstly, I think this is due to the fact we are very similar in age and I can relate to their situation as a second language learner. Secondly, I believe that this is also down to the level of these students. They require less of the ‘teaching’ I referred to in the previous paragraph as they are able to freely and confidently express their ideas and opinions with fewer prompts and questions. Often these lessons are less structured and more led by the students. Any digression from the topic is conducted in English and can even be helpful.
On reflection, I think both approaches have their advantages in the different scenarios, however, I have noticed that the teacher talking time varies depending on the role I have in the classroom. In the case of younger learners when I see myself more as a leader/teacher, the time I spend talking is increased. This is mainly because I spend more time presenting or explaining something and also partly because I have found that children’s focus needs to be brought back to the topic more often than teenagers. Often instructions/questions need to be repeated or clarified, but it is important to try to reduce the time I spend talking and elicit information from the students to give them the opportunity to practise speaking, while at the same time making sure they are focused, that they understand the activities and that any errors are corrected.
In the C1 class where I see myself as a mentor, I spend less time talking, as the students have more confidence and discuss topics among themselves, with only limited questions or prompts from me. There are fewer errors to correct, instructions are usually understood the first time and I very rarely have to draw their attention back to the topic of the lesson. To minimise the time I spend talking, I often ask the students to read out any headings/instructions/questions on worksheets and I sometimes ask a student to summarise or explain something if another student is unsure or for example missed the previous class.