Selfless or selfish teaching?

Selfless or selfish teaching?

Diary submitted by Laura D. Madrid

Different Ways of Teaching / Methodology

Teaching should be one of the most selfless acts there is in the world. The whole purpose of teaching is to impart knowledge to a student, adapting whatever this knowledge is to the needs and wants of the students. This can quite often make the teaching profession quiet difficult; lessons must be student-centred rather than teacher-centred, often leading to more work.

However, once teachers find the balance between selfless and selfish teaching it can be very rewarding for everyone. Teachers learn how to adapt to unprecedented situations, helping them to develop as a person, and students benefit from lessons tailored to their needs. As a result, I always try and make my lessons as student-centred as possible. For example, every time I receive a new student I always ask them why they want to learn English and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

I also keep an eye out if students are on the wrong level, whether it be too easy or too difficult. If I notice that their level is perhaps not suitable for them, I always ask them if they want to be moved and give them an example of the level I think they should be at. Additionally, I always check-in with the student about what they want and if they find certain aspects of the lesson helpful. However, these check-ins must not be over-used as quiet often students take this as a sign of lack of confidence and can lead to a power struggle.

Adapting lessons on the spot is also another skill I have acquired from this job. For example, if I once had two separate students, one who is in their 70s and another in their teens, but I was using the exact same text with them. I had to alter the questions I was asked them slightly to make it more relevant. I also have to adapt/ add additional activities slightly as teens are notorious for their lack of motivation and need to be distracted often. Although I enjoy the challenge this presents, I do wish that more information was provided about each student before the class so that I could be more prepared for their needs.

To sum up: student-centred lessons are always a fun challenge to tackle, yet a balance is definitely needed between selfless and selfish teaching as it doesn’t benefit the student to have an exhausted and stressed teacher. Therefore, each TEFL teacher needs to come up with their own coping mechanisms, something that you quickly learn after a few days on the job.



  • 19 Inservice Guest Blogger, ‘Five Steps to Create a Progressive, Student-Centered Classroom’, ASCD Inservice <> [accessed 31 August 2017].

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