Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Private lessons and classroom teaching

Like most EFL teachers I do private lessons to supplement my income and I think that like most teacher I initially saw this as just simply a way to get more money to pay the bills.

If you love teaching then the classroom is your canvas, your stage, the chance to create and perform in front of others. It is the place where you can really express yourself and help others. The perfect amalgam of self - interest and aultruism. I love it. Rare is the class that I don’t leave feeling better than when I went into it. Sometimes I even feel guilty that I get that much out of my time there.

On the other hand private lessons take you away from that limelight and put you into a far more intense form of learning. When I first started doing a lot of them I found them intensely difficult. What exactly do you do for one or two hours with, say a 13 - year old teenager whose lifestyle, interests and attitudes are so different to your own ? Sometimes the time passed so slowly I could have sworn that that I’d discovered a new variation on Einstein's theory of relatively. It seemed to stretch endlessly.

However as I did more and more private lessons and spent more and more time with my students I started to realise that there were hidden opportunities here that I did not have in the classroom . First and foremost, I had the opportunity to try out new teaching ideas and techniques which would have been ‘verbotten” in most of the schools in which I had taught. Films, music, internet at first, then later on blogs, podcasts and so on. All of the things I love doing in class were tried out first in my private lessons.

On a more subtle and I guess, more personal level, private lessons gave me entree into a whole new world. A world which I would only have been vaguely aware of. Chatting and getting to know my students allowed me to see things through a whole new set of eyes.

In a way it reminded of the hitch - hiking I had done when I was a student. I’d get a lift from people who’d tell me stuff they wouldn’t have told their nearest and dearest. It was a unique way to gain insight into other peoples’ lives.

The upshot of this was a deepened respect for the people I teach, whatever their age, and a better idea of what it means to be a student, to stuggle with new ideas and meanings and all the other stuff people have to deal with.It also made absolutely convinced that there is no such thing as the perfect approach or method (including my own pet favourites). That, as a teacher I have to be able to call upon a whole range of techniques and methodologies if I want to help student achieve their aims in ways that suit them best


dorapap said...

Except trying your teaching ideas without critisism, you get this bond with the students. All of the sudden they trust you and tell you things about their lives, which they wouldn't even tell their parents!!!

teacher dude said...

Too true. It is a great way to connect with people much younger than myself. It's hard work sometimes, though.