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How can I become a good teacher?

Diary submitted by Corina, Madrid, 2020

A good EFL teacher

How can I become one?

One of the listening classes I had to prepare for my internship was with the show Extr@, it was for an A2 to B1 level class. Extr@ is a Friends like show. I was a part of a language education television program written by Louise Clover and co-produced by Channel 4 in the UK. 

I watched the episode that we were going to watch in advance, and I remember thinking: the performance is so exaggerated, the script is predictable, this is so 2000s, that’s politically incorrect,  and so on.

I prepared some questions to talk about, disregarding my personal opinion, of course. When the class began, it took a different course that I wasn’t expecting. The students didn’t care at all about the performances or the script, they loved the show so much.  

I was shocked. They were so motivated for the whole class, they were laughing at the silly jokes, they were actively participating, they were having a blast. The exaggerated performance of the cast and the predictability of the script was nothing but fully intended. After the class I talked with a few of the students to grasp the reason behind their enjoyment, and the main one was that they were ABLE TO UNDERSTAND. That was it. They were so happy they could understand so much of the show, they were in such a good mood that everything seemed to be funnier and easier. 

According to Buendia and Ortega, motivation is a key issue that must be researched upon. They insist that becoming aware of the sources of motivation and act accordingly could “determine success in foreign-language learning”. For me it was amazing how encouraging the show was for them, and how clarifying was for me. The students felt able to understand English on TV, they were sufficiently challenged, therefore motivated. 

But motivation along doesn’t make a good teacher. After reading Ten qualities of a good teacher article by Martin Sketchley, I would add and talk about some other characteristics in the fundamentals of good teaching, like for example,  knowledge and methodologies, clear communication, organization and planning, and reflection.

Knowledge and methodologies

To have information to share is mandatory. And also is knowing how to share information. They are both important and crucial for the content quality and class development.

Clear communication

If you have the knowledge and the methodologies, you are on a great way to success. But, finding the clearest way to talk to your students is also absolutely important. My first week of the internship I realized how complicated the words and the phrasing I was using were for B1 students. So being aware that you are talking to ESL students, it’s important to find simple and yet clear words to talk, be articulate and use gestures, to ease up the comprehension of what you are saying.

Organization and Planning

Having a Lesson Plan prepared is heaven like. It gives you confidence in what you are saying, you become more fluid and less nervous. It also guarantees the quality of the content you provide to your students.

Reflection

It’s important to understand that we are not flawless, and that we are constantly learning. But it is also important to be aware of the things we do well and not so well, to  improve the first ones and avoid the second ones. 

I was personally impressed by one of the teachers I was shadowing on my first week. His name is Axel, and he is the personification of patience. He is also very articulated and almost theatrical when it’s time to explain vocabulary. I think Clear Communication was his top characteristic. 

Axel not only taught me a lot from his way of teaching but he also helped me a lot giving very useful feedback after I did my first lessons by myself. 

I am just beginning this journey of being a teacher, but I can definitely see some particular aspects of my style, through the few classes that I have given and the lesson plans I have prepared. And I also know what kind of teacher I want to be. I can tell I love adding ludic activities to the lessons, I try to praise the students every time they improve or do something particularly good, I enjoy making and following Lesson Plans. One could say I am organized and enjoy motivating and challenging my students. I am currently studying to be stronger in knowledge, methodology and improve my  communication skills. The first step is to acknowledge, the second one to work on it. 

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