Thank you to Joanna Malefaki for inviting me to contribute to her ‘A letter to my younger teacher self’ blog project. I love writing. I work as a writer so am privileged to be doing my dream job. But this project gave me an opportunity to do some serious ‘thinking’ too (and some not so serious), which is always a valid pastime if you ask me. This letter is to my younger teacher self, when my children were toddlers, we were living in Madrid and the Basque Country and were rushing around like blue-arsed flies, trying to teach enough classes to make enough money to make ends meet.
How are you doing? What do you mean you haven’t got time to read a letter? Make time! Life isn’t all work, work, work … and this is from Me, the most important person in your life! Besides, it’s about work … ah, that got your attention. I’m here to help. Advice from an older you/me. Read on, take heed … and life might be a tad easier. If I remember rightly, you’re obsessed with numbers right now so I might keep your attention if I organise this letter into 10 neat points. Are you still reading? … Good, thatta girl!
You might want to invest some time practising your board drawings in your spare time. If you haven’t got much time, just concentrate on your ‘bananas’ and ‘sausages’ … and maybe use a flashcard when you want to show a rocket.
Ditch that paranoia! Your teenage students are not whispering about you and they aren’t laughing at you either. In fact you are one of the least important people in their lives right now … however important you might think you are.
Speak up when something isn’t right! Your silence will be taken as complacency and the people around you are probably feeling the same. Change won’t happen until someone speaks out.
Get a Spanish teacher otherwise it will take you approximately 25 years to master the subjunctive. Seriously, get a Spanish teacher! No, seriously …
Keep a diary of your own children’s bilingual and trilingual developments. I know you think you’ll remember everything but you aren’t as super human as you think you are … and memories are selective.
You are spelling ‘pronunciation’ wrong! Yes, that’s right … there is no ‘o’ after that ‘n’. How can you be so daft? Don’t worry too much though. Someone will take great delight in telling you in about 20 years’ time and it’s always nice to brighten someone’s day.
And while we’re on the subject of spelling and pronunciation …
It isn’t ‘gaze bow’, it’s ‘ga zee bo’. And (you might find this bit hard to believe) you’ll actually say this word one day … in a very public place!
Coming back to the classroom …
Don’t worry so much about your students using their mother tongue in class. It is happening in every English classroom all over the country. If anyone tells you differently, don’t believe them! They lie!
Speak to experienced teachers about ‘the O word’. The main objective of an observation isn’t to catch you out … and the more O’s you have, the better teacher you will become.
And just to finish …
Don’t worry about spending approximately three hours preparing materials for each one-hour lesson. In the future there will be course books and resource books and a whole load of ready-made supplementary materials.
And besides, all this experience in materials writing might even come in handy one day!
Have a great life!
p.s. You’re doing an excellent job!
Katherine is an ELT author. She writes for OUP, Macmillan, Richmond, Burlington and others. She also writes English courses for the BBC and the British Council. In her spare time she writes other stuff. She doesn’t write her own blog at the moment but she’s made an art of hijacking other bloggers’ blogs.
Thanks for writing Katherine