No two people have quite the same experience of teaching English. My own history includes mostly private sector teaching to adults and teens (so this post might not reflect your situation exactly). But regardless of the context you teach in, many of us, and this is undoubtedly true of any profession, might get to a time when we question why it is that we are doing it, or maybe we forget why we got into it in the first place.
For native speakers there is the added “I’m JUST an English teacher” issue to face as well, as in: I’m JUST teaching something that I didn’t have to put any real effort into learning myself, or Am I JUST taking the easiest option? Shouldn’t I be more of a go-getter in world of increasing “go-getting.” I would bet that this thought has crossed the minds of a fair number of you out there. Perhaps if you are a NNS (non-native speaker) of English you haven’t had this same feeling, and the things listed below are somewhat more obvious to you. If so, scream and shout about them! Kick up a fuss about your profession! And get your colleagues stoked about their job! Because there are a great many things to love about being “just” an English teacher.
Sometimes I feel like a treasure hunter when I travel. There are amazing educational jewels hidden in schools, and I love to find them.
It goes something like this: You visit a school and start to talk to a teacher or a headteacher. Nothing out of the ordinary so far. A normal school in a normal town. But suddenly you hear them say something that catches your attention, like the glimmer of a shiny jewel. Just follow it, ask the appropiate questions and…there it is!
A while ago I found one of these gems in a school called Betania-Patmos located in Barcelona. They had been asked by the regional governtment what kind of profile a teacher needs in this global era, but they didn’t rush to write down hasty conclusions as teachers. They did something smarter. They turned this into a task for their last year high school pupils. This is what they told them:
“Imagine you work in human resources and you have to hire a teacher. What profile would you be looking for?”
And those teenagers (you know, the ones everyone describes as being “lost”) worked in teams for a week, and then presented 11 ideas that demonstrate they might not be the ones who are lost after all, but the ones looking for someone who isn’t.
11 ideas about the Teacher profile required for a global era.
Recruiters: Last year High school students.
This first set of requirements had complete consensus amongst the group.
1.- Teachers commited to helping their pupils, who care for them, are close to them, and instill confidence through respect and generosity.
2.- Teachers with a deep, broad and up-to-date knowledge of their subject area.
3.- Teachers that can express themselves clearly and make themselves understood using structured methods.. Good communicators balanced and mentally organized
4.- Teachers that exude emotion about what they are explaining, and are enthusiastic and passionate about their subject and respectful of other disciplines.
Requirements with a very high level of consensus
5.- Teachers who have mastered different types of learning – from paper to the latest generation of technologies (drawing, writing, sound, image, and mixed media), following the idea of introduction not substitution.
6.- Teachers who have mastered different languages, with English being considered absolutely necessary.
7.- Teachers that teach critical thinking and promote alternative ways of doing things.
8.- Teachers with patience, modesty, energy and coherence.
9.- Teachers that promote participation, interactivity and practice.
10- Fun teachers, with a sense of humour that can make teaching and learning a pleasure.
Requirements sine qua non:
11.- Teachers that are punctual and don’t miss classes.
The first time that I read this I was struck by two things:
– When a teenager says that he is looking for someone stable and mentally organized…it makes you think about what he has seen
– Technology appears in a discreet second place. First people, then gadgets.
So, as you can see here, our youth are just looking for a stable reference in a confusing world. They are looking for educators that can teach their mind and their soul, someone who can maintain the essence of the educational experience even when all the elements keep changing. Because essencially our young generation is alone and we are letting them grow up alone with no tribe to guide them.
As usual Mafalda said it first and better: “Educating is harder than teaching. To teach you need to know, to educate you need to be” .
During the last seven years , I have trained English teachers in ICT in the public, semi-private and private schools from different regions.
Almost always I start the session by asking: ” In the classroom, your pupils use ICT primarily to develop which of the following skills … writing ? Reading? Speaking? Listening? The answer is almost always the same: ICT is mainly used to develop receiving skills, (reading and listening), then writing, and… least of all, speaking.
This is not to say that reading and listening are not important skills , but there should be a better balance between receptive (more passive) and productive skills (more active) Productive skills should be at the end of any task where the student expresses through written, oral or multimedia forms their outcome learning to their peers and the world.
In addition, all the international reports show that our students can read or understand much better than speak, a result that is not surprising , since the foreign language classes are still more focused on a grammatical model than on a communicative model .
We learn to talk by talking, and we can’t expect that the student suddenly is able to communicate verbally only after a few intensive sessions of comprehension and written exercises, unless we give them the opportunity to use and practice the language.
Therefore in the classroom we have to think … what reasons will I give my students so they feel the need to communicate in English? What and who should they communicate it to ?
My students have been using microphones , blogs , videos , talking cards , avatars, audio books , animation , … all the tools that can facilitate production at the end of any learning story .
And augmented reality is the perfect tool to increase language in the classroom because it can combine all of the tools mentioned above .
We all know that students learn a lot from the materials posted on the walls … but these materials are silent , they let you read, but not hear , unless we increase your content with audiovisual materials created by themselves, would create an augmented class.
Imagine a school where flashcards, displays, drawings or research offer augmented audiovisual information created by the students themselves, in which everyday objects such as tables, chairs or blackboards are brought to life explaining who they are or present hidden secret oral messages with challenges that arouse the curiosity of the students.
Learning corners can be explained by an audio or a video tutorial QR facilitating independent work of students who do not yet possess sufficient reading skills and might need oral and visual aids to understand the task presented in each corner .
On the other hand the increasing number of bilingual schools presents new challenges when teaching science, physical education or Arts and crafts in a foreign language . Hence it is also in these areas that AR can make a significant difference.
All this opens up a world of possibilities in which the student has a real and significant reason to communicate in a foreign language with the addition of that touch of magic.
But to put this into practice here you can find some resources and ideas that can help to increase the use of language in the classroom.
Each presentation is a different and “augmented” learning story. Hope you like it!
Bilingualism and multilingualism in schools are hot topics in different regions of Spain that are and have been implementing different plans in order to improve students skills, and all of them have chosen CLIL as the most appropiate approach.
I have had the chance to work for several years in a bilingual school that, thanks to its principal and faculty, has achieved great success in implementing this approach and demonstrating how reflection, planning, commitment, passion and profesionalism can make a difference.
During my stay as a teacher there, I actively collaborated introducing ICT in the project and after all these years and experiences I can really confirm that the symbiosis between CLIL and ICT works beautifully! Communicative Competence and Digital Competence is a perfect marriage.
Now, I’m collaborating with the “Marc per al Plurilingüisme a Catalunya”, a very ambitious plan that aims to use the communicative competence of their students as leverage. I have attended some meetings with the people in charge of the plan to set a common framework and It was very interesting to observe that they are not only focused on external exams but on a more profound methodological change.
I delivered this session in Tarragona and in CPR Navalmoral, and It was great to meet and share some of my experiences with such passionate teachers.
As promised to all the teachers attending the sessions, here you have my presentations. Hope you enjoy it, and if you do…don’t hesitate to comment and share it!
This first term of the school year I have been presenting a workshop called Learning Boxes.
The “Learning Boxes” idea comes from a conversation with a friend of mine called María Gonzalez, a great teacher now finishing her PhD. She has participated in a Comenius project with a Scandinavian school. They used boxes with learning stories inside where they could manipulate objects and discover facts. In the project, students would create and exchange boxes.
Soon after this conversation, in a TV3 program about teachers, I saw a great educational experience from a school called “El roure gros” located near Barcelona. They use the scientific approach based on questions, predictions, experiments, investigation, conclusions… and they also use boxes – in each box there is all the material needed to discover a scientific fact, and pupils explain their discoveries on a personal scientific portfolio.
That reminded how ten years ago we used to include learning corners in our classes presenting little boxes with materials such as word games, memory games, etc. and how this learning corneridea had evolved over the last few years.
Not long ago I also learned about the Learning Stories idea being developed in the iTEC project coordinated by the European Schoolnet which is framing and designing the future classroom.
So… I tried to join up the dots…what if we include learning stories in these learning boxes to train teachers in the use of the tools themselves and activities that can be done with them?
What if teachers could use those learning boxes to introduce PBL and IPBL in our daily sessions?
What if we include competence-based learning in each box?
And that´s how this workshop was born.
But then…I thought that since learning is so modular, I should publish it in separate boxes so that you can choose the learning story that best fits your needs and so we have created a section where we will put them all together, our own little Task-Based Learning space.
I was concerned about how to evaluate it, but my colleague Estrella López taught me how rubrics can help when assessing tasks and projects, so my next move is to include a Rubric in each box so as to help evaluate all this. I´ve been trying iRubric and I really like it since it offers embeding options.
The next move is now to create the rubrics firstand then the box…but I’m going to wait until the new educational reform is published for that one 😉
All this has been a great learning journey! I hope you enjoy the results.