TAKE THE HIGH ROAD
It's a rare teacher who can stay 'up' all the time. Your class gets out of control, a 'fun' activity mysteriously fails to create anything but blank stares, test results don't come up to expectations or the sheer repetition suddenly starts to get you down. At times, whole groups of students develop a resistance to all of your best intentions and it seems there is nothing you can do to win them back.
You begin to wonder if you are any good as a teacher and, if not, why on earth you are spending most of your life in classrooms full of students who – you half-seriously imagine – wouldn't notice if you got up, walked out and never returned. Such moments are probably unavoidable.
Teaching can be an exhausting and mind-numbing vocation. Because repetition is part and parcel of teaching a language, boredom is always just around the corner, and discouragement is right behind it.
How can you continue to be effective as a teacher, fulfilling the expectations of your school, your students and their parents, and still maintain the sense of adventure and discovery you started out with? It's a complicated question, and there are probably as many answers as there are teachers, but I would say that:
- the first line of defence is to take a step back, remove your personal feelings from the equation, and try to figure out why teaching isn't working for you.
- If it's a single class that's giving you trouble, give them a break from the routine and spend a whole class session doing group activities, playing games, watching a movie or reading a story or just talking.
- Select material or topics that will allow you to see your students in different classroom situations and talking about different issues.
- If you are attentive, you’ll observe gestures, attitudes, hear comments and have the chance to reflect on your practices, school facilities, objectives and so on.
- Ask them how they feel about the material you're teaching. Is it too easy, too hard, too young or old? What can be done to improve it?
- If at all possible, trade classes with another teacher for a session or two. Maybe they can give you some insights into the class dynamic that you simply can't see because you are too involved, and you can do the same for them.
- Most important of all, don't let yourself become isolated. Teachers who work at more than one institution sometimes have little contact with other teachers, and this can lead to problems. Make an effort to talk to other teachers, join forums, groups of teachers on learning platforms like Edmodo and social networks like Google+, Facebook, Twitter, . Knowing that they may be going through the same kinds of difficulties with them or feelings of discouragement is a help in itself, and exchanging ideas about how to liven up the classroom and rekindle your own enthusiasm can be invaluable.
- Create a network of teachers with an ongoing exchange of ideas. And don't listen to the little voice in your head that says you aren't a good teacher.
Everyone has it, and in 99% of cases it isn't telling the truth. The mere fact that you are aware enough to question your abilities means that you really care, you know what good teaching looks like and, with time and the support of community, you can regain the passion that will reward both you and your students with a positive learning experience.