What I have learned all these years

It’s been a while since I last blogged, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been reflecting on my teaching practice. On the contrary, I’ve almost died from overthinking. This is what I’ve been doing lately: I’ve been thinking about missed opportunities, failures, achievements, goals and dreams. I’ve called on my memories to reflect on what kind of teacher I used to be and what kind of teacher I am now and what I have learned during these years rather than only think about the things that I’ve missed. This self-inventory sometimes helps us put things in perspective and forget the daily hassles that drive us insane. So here are four things I’ve learned during almost three decades teaching English:

  • I’ve always enjoyed learning. I learn without pretense of condition. I just enjoy everything that’s involved in professional development: from reading and debating on a new theory to practicing it. I haven’t changed,but I’ve learned to use social media to my advantage. I look for learning opportunities everywhere. Social media friends have a lot to say about teaching even when they’re discussing something else. Math teachers and Portuguese teachers can also give us valuable insight on our own practice and I also learn during casual conversations with people who share their own experiences learning a second language. Because we’re always pressed for time, we tend to run on autopilot and we risk missing out on opportunities to learn. Keep an eye out for opportunities and make the most of them when they arrive;
  • I’ve become a better language learner. I’ve always loved reading but now I read more. I pay attention when I’m reading posts on social media. I look up the words I don’t know and I try to use them in my classes and right here. I’ve tried to learn French and I’ve learned how challenging it can be to pronounce a word that still doesn’t make sense to us; I’ve learned that it can be difficult to string words together in a new language and why we hesitate. I’ve learned to be patient and I’ve learned to allow students to make mistakes;
  • I used to think I was just teaching English and I used to think I was preparing my students for success and failure was not an option. Well, you live and learn and I’ve learned to accept failure. Today I see failure as a powerful reminder that we are humans and that, yes, we will fail. If we fear failure, it will loom over our entire lives. It teaches us to be humble and empathetic towards those who need help. I need to give my students opportunities to rethink their ideas of success and failure. Learning doesn’t come cheap. It takes effort and commitment, but it’s not a competition. I’d like my students to enjoy their journey no matter how long it may take because what really matters is that the learning process helps them understand themselves and the world better.
  • I’ve learned to see the human side of language learning; it’s not only about grades, pronunciation, grammar, or the curriculum: It’s about connecting with others, sharing and being accepting of others’ ideas. At the same time it’s  about giving our students opportunities to become independent thinkers and individuals. I share my stories much more than I used to and I listen to my students’ stories, too because we are the stories we tell.  Also, I’d like to help them see the classroom as a community of practice in which teachers and students work collaboratively and care about each other.

 

I harrogate talkhope that the things I’ve learned have made me a better teacher and educator but there’s still a lot more to learn. Like I said before, just keep an eye out for opportunities and make the most of them when they arrive. Whatever way you choose to learn new things — from new approaches and theories to new skills, just go for them and don’t forget to share your stories with your students even if you’ve failed big time. There is always a lesson to be learned.

Teresa Carvalho

Teresa holds a B.A. in Linguistics from USP and Delta Modules 1 and 2 Certificates. She has been teaching for over 25 years and has presented at webinars and at both local and international Conferences, including ABCI, IATEFL, and the Image Conference. She also holds a Specialization degree in English Language from PUC-Rio. She is interested in visual literacy and in language development for teachers of English as a foreign language. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Language Studies and is conducting research in the role of images in the construction of identity.

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