My teaching unprinciples

This post is being written in an unusual (for me) manner, place and situation, and to me this fact is at least just as interesting as the theme of my writing today. More about it at the bottom of the page, just a few paragraphs down. At the moment I’m curious myself about how it’ll go for me. If the end product (=the post) turns out to be of a disputable quality/ value, I’ll blame the change. Because the original idea in my draft, to my mind, was not that bad. :))

*****

In this emerging space of a personal blog it’s time for more personal truths to emerge. They might not be flattering, as personal truths are likely to be.

I have previously mentioned here that I oftentimes envy people who are strongly principled and follow clear directions in their life while making choices, important or less so. I’m probably not always one of them and now is the time to examine briefly and casually how principled a teacher I am.

Following my recent pet trend to look into dictionary definitions for words elemental to my post themes, here’s what Merriam-Webster tells us about a principle:
– a moral rule or belief that helps you know what is right and wrong and that influences your actions;
– a basic truth or theory: an idea that forms the basis of something;
– a law or fact of nature that explains how something works or why something happens.

Keeping those in mind, I want to lay bare some of my personal teacher truths, give comments and drag in the definition ideas where possible. This is going to be so random. Enjoy.

(1) Dialogue.
– Do you give your classes following the communicative approach?
– Mmm… Can you explain what exactly you mean or want me to say here?
– (what sounds and impresses like a word-for-word quote from the approach description)
– Well, there’s a lot of group and pair work in some of my classes, less of that in others. There’s interaction, focus on personal experiences, but, I mean, that’s maybe obvious…? I hope I mostly teach to communicate, yes. I don’t stick to the points of the method description.

It’s not a new talk for most all of you, I know. What’s my point? Maybe it is that feeling class, as in both whole teaching process and a particular lesson, makes more sense to me as a teacher who teaches to communicate than reading into the lines of methods and methodologies and being their slave. CLT is not the basic truth or theory behind my teaching, but neither is any other type of teaching on its own.

(2) I can’t stand being lectured. BUT I have been noticing myself sometimes turning on a lecturer mode while being too emotionally involved in something that I believe (at the moment of conversation) to be right. The realization of this contradiction to my own principled view, when spotted, is quite sickening. Lecturing on the brink of preaching (or is it the other way around?) is going a bit too far in my understanding of what an ordinary teacher should be expected doing in an English class.

(3) I say openly and loudly at presentations, webinars, blogs and meetings: Go for social networks with your students! Explore them, try out with your class, have fun or fail, reflect and try again – that would be pretty much the summary of my belief on the issue.
Just sneak a peek into the Students Connected FB group and judge, by its happenings, how much of that I’m doing myself these days.

Quite often I find myself unconsciously steering the conversation or course line in my class the way I would not normally do, discussing texts and topics I would naturally not want to include (for the reason that they’re trite, mostly).
Quite often I find myself wishing for the calm, regularity and boredom of a coursebook while claiming to be all too pro-coursebookless teaching style (I’m sure that is not a word).

Why did I call those points my “unprinciples”? Many a time I catch myself thinking, saying or doing something that I generally don’t believe to be 100% true or right. And maybe that is so because I don’t believe most things to be 100% true or right, most of the time. I doubt and then I doubt more, but this hesitation, aside from being refreshing, can also prove frustrating.
As anything is possible, I can expect any kind of a choice from myself in class and I’m not always too happy with those choices.

Maybe those uncomfortable un- and semi-principles could be called a compromise?…

Thanks for reading.

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@KateSpringcait, who can usually be found blogging here, today could also be found blogging when sitting next to me in a cafe in the centre of Moscow. This was her *excellent!* idea and I highly recommend it to others, too. It is fun, it’s the first time I’ve blogged outside of the comfort (and distractions!) of my home, and I want to do this again. In the end, writing alone is not really a principle I hold on to too passionately either.

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6 thoughts on “My teaching unprinciples

  1. springcait says:

    Hi Ann!

    Thanks for mentioning me here, I’m terribly pleased and sorry for being egoistic by saying nothing about the fantastic atmosphere I enjoyed working in with you today.

    Considering your unprinciples I’d like to comment on them separately:

    (1) I was asked whether I teach following the communicative approach or not but I’ve actually never asked what my interlocutor means by ‘communicative approach’. Usually I don’t ask it if I can imagine what definition will follow and avoiding unnessessary and shallow discussions and explanations, I answer what I am expected and we go further. I mean, I don’t lie, but I just say that I know what it is for me and mostly follow the approach (as far as I presume it to be necessary). Of course, in case I aspire to be told something out of the box or just something new and useful, I’m always ready for a discussion. So, don’t embarrass people by asking such questions))))

    (2) I love being lectured in case a lecturer is really enthusiastic and inspired by what they are talking about. If a person is excited to share something they wholeheartedly believe to be great I is usually at least worth listening to.

    (3) You inspire me to use social networks and I’m on the verge of doing so. I assume it’ll be a worthwhile contribution into my students’ learning process.

    (4) Telling me about your teaching style and preferences, you’ve provided me with food for thought and I value it a lot.

    Btw, we should spread the idea of blogging parties, I guess!

    • annloseva says:

      Hi Kate,

      It was indeed an exciting experience last Thursday. It made me think over my writing style and what can be written (what type of text) in which circumstance. Because in fact, I’m a lot of a nighttime “writer”)) I’ll be more than happy to explore my other, light side.

      My comments to your comments now!
      (1) “I just say that I know what it is for me and mostly follow the approach (as far as I presume it to be necessary)” – I hope that’s exactly what I did in my response to that question, that I laid out in the dialogue.)) I wonder who ever asked you about following the CLT approach? What was the situation?

      (2) I totally agree with you… unless “lecturing” changes its meaning and acquires slightly negative connotations. Like there’s a sense a person is trying to force you into thinking what’s right.. I’m not sure I’m expressing myself clearly enough though. Not a good lecturer anyway)

      (3) That’s wonderful to hear! I’ll be happy to talk about your experience whenever you like!

      (4) Thank you for being such a patient listener, when I get overly talkative and quite tongue-tied trying to tell about my style and preferences. Thank you for giving me food for thought, too. Both of us have work baggage to value, and your willingness to share yours is great!

      Certainly there’s a YES from my part to more live blogging parties. =)

      • springcait says:

        Hi Anna,

        So, the answers to comments on comments:

        (1) Who asked me about following the CLT approach? – mostly HRs and DoSes at job interviews and colleagues in a kitchen)

        (2) I think I understand your idea and agree that there is a border that it’s important not to cross.

        (3) I need to star doing it first to be able to talk about it) actually I’m choosing between Facebook and edmodo. Haven’t decided yet.

        (4) Thanks a lot, Anna. It’s a pleasure to listen to you)

        (5) FleshmobLBP:)?

  2. I still haven’t seen another teacher whose classes have been so exciting and talkative..)

    • annloseva says:

      Thank you, Dima 🙂 It’s very nice to hear and yet I sincerely wish you to have more exciting English classes in the future.

  3. […] Hitting “Publish” simultaneously is part of the deal. Part 1 of the series can be found here (blogging with @KateSpringcait). This post (part 2 of the series) was written sitting next to […]

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