Things I don’t care about #32: What you do in your class

You’d better sit down. You might even want to pour yourself a drink. Maybe a double. I don’t know how to say this so think will just come out and say it:

I don’t really care what you do in your class.*

It’s true. I just don’t care. I can’t even begin to. Teaching my own classes are challenging enough. There is so much to think about.  I don’t even know your students or your context or situation or beliefs, so how can I start to care about or judge what you are doing and what decisions you are making?

Seriously.

Use a book.
Don’t use a book.
Use a book and tear out the pages in order to make paper airplanes. It is really not my business at all, as far as I can see.

Feel free to pre-teach vocabulary. Or not.

TTT? Knock yourself out.  80% or 75% or 50%? What do I know? I do believe that not all TTT is the same and that simple percentages don’t tell us much but that might be a story for another day. The point is that it is not up to me.

TTT (The test-teach-test one) Go right ahead.

Neurolinguistic basic extra-sensory augmented reality programming? Why not? It makes no difference to me. I couldn’t care less. I could care less. It is not up to me. I wish you the best in all your future endeavors.

Languagology? Cool. Nice name. Best of luck.

VAKTification station. Sounds good.

Skills or knowledge. Knowledge and Skills. Skills and knowledge. Great.

New method? Old method? Designer method? Vintage-approach? Neo-Grammar Translation? Awesome.

Please feel free to be an anti-Luddite. Please feel free to ban pencils. Insist that students only communicate through QR codes if you wish. Get them to wear bluetooth earpieces and talk through those.
(Actually, you probably don’t want to do that. Nobody likes that.)

Demand medium for all I care.

Do your part to conserve A’s or contribute to grade inflation. Grade pass/fail. All fine in my eyes.

Extensive speaking! Intensive writing! Intense writing! Output! Input! Not my concern.

Meme? Theme? Rheme? The supreme dream team always up with a scheme? Sweet.

Develop professionally! Or don’t. Use the internet to do so! Or don’t. Use Twitter! Or not.  It’s not up to me and it doesn’t really matter to me either. In fact, feel free to not develop professionally as I believe it will make things easier in the job market for those of us that choose to do so.

Why is that we teachers (especially English teachers?) seem to care so darn much what other people are doing in their classes?
[Perhaps I am just misreading it? Comments on how our perceptions differ are very much welcomed.]

I mean, are accountants judging each other about using or not using different accounting techniques? Do they care if their competitors ARE DOING IT WRONG? I don’t think so.

Are plumbers being bombarded by their peers about what they *should be doing and how they *should be doing it? I don’t know. Maybe they are. I guess what I am sensing [imagining?] is that teachers (not just on the internets mind you) are emotionally invested in what other teachers do and how they do it.

I can’t really think of a situation where I would care all that much about the pedagogical or andragogical choices someone else is making. I just don’t see how it is my business or how there is much of an upside for me to care.

You might be saying that I should care about the children (or students of whatever age)  and that everyone deserves a better education. I can see where you are coming from. I truly can,  but, to be honest I just can’t bring myself to care. I can’t do it.

Even if the teacher is so bad (whatever that means), this is likely just one teacher of many that the students will have in their lives. Not such a big deal.
Yeah, exams and careers and college and everything. I fully realize these things exist and are important. But I didn’t hire the teacher or sign up for their class or have the government decide that this  teacher was suitable or participate at all in whatever random events conspired to put that human in the classroom to teach. It’s not my business.

I have been thinking about this for about 6 months.
Not constantly. Off and on, like.
I just can’t think of any reasons to care about how another English teacher conducts their business.

The only things that came to mind were sexual, emotional or physical violence. In that case I’d probably feel most comfortable contacting the authorities.

Anything that might be considered bad teaching in some circles does not concern me. I think some people would be more inclined to care about how other teachers are teaching if they are going to have the same students after the “bad” teacher. While I suppose I’d prefer it if the students learned something and were not continually placated with hangman and candy, I just figure that every class is going to present some challenges so I don’t need to get all up in someone else’s business on the basis of potential damage caused to a group I might teach some day. I think it is my job to teach the students I have and that worrying about how their previous teachers teach is not super productive.

I can’t really see the point in worrying about what any other teacher does.

*I guess the disclaimers/potential exceptions here are: 
1) If I care about you as a person and I want you to be be successful and happy.
2) If I am paid to care about your teaching and development I will then care.
(Currently accepting offers)
3) If you are sharing your experiences in a way (BLOGGING!)  in a way that can help me learn and develop more I do care about that, but if I am being really honest I’d say I selfishly care more about the sharing and the thinking than what you actually do in class.

Updates/Apologies/Clarifications:

a) I was not talking about anyone in specific or any group of people.
b) I was not really talking about a trend I have seen on the internet.
c) I was perhaps talking to myself (or previous versions of myself) and convincing myself not to care so much (read: judge) what other teachers do.
d) I was trying to have a bit of fun.
e) I wanted to say (was trying to say) that I think it is great when people blog about teaching English. I am amazed at all the amazing blogs out there. I think sharing such experiences as well as strategies, techniques, methods, memes, approaches, techniques, ideas, thoughts and feelings is wonderful and I have gotten a lot out of it.
f) I wasn’t saying I don’t want to hear about what people do, just trying to say that I don’t have a say in the matter. In the comments below @TOMtesol compared “interested in” and “care about” in below and I suppose that is an apt comparison. I am very interested in what teachers do and are doing but the specific choices they make are not something I feel I have the right to care about or judge.
g) ) I suppose my main point is simply that it is not my place or my concern to care about how other people do the job that they are hired to do so I will do my best not to judge them or try to convince them that my way (which is based on my beliefs and experiences) is the best way.
h) Sorry to make you read all this way before finally getting to the point. It seems to me that in this field there is a lot of shoulding and judging without knowing the situation. I don’t think this is helpful (although it really comes easily to me) so I am going to do my best from refraining from it.
i) What you choose  to do is up to you. 🙂

A story:

A long time ago I worked in a country that was not Korea. I worked with 5 other teachers. I was among the youngest 2 teachers there (so you can get a sense about how long ago this was.) We worked in the same location but taught separate classes, which means that my students always came to my class and never went to someone else’s even though we were teaching the same pages from the book or the same language points or whatever. For whatever (possibly silly) reason the teachers with the most experience were assigned to teach the highest levels. In case you care, I was assigned the lowest level. The teachers assigned to the highest level included an extremely experienced teacher who had taught a foreign language in the states for around 20 years and a not so experienced teacher who had just received her MATESOL. She mentioned it so frequently that the experienced teacher asked her once if the ink was dry yet. For a variety of reasons they did not get along. One day she was doing some sort of vocabulary teaching and perhaps her students found it challenging. Her counterpart decided to share materials with her during the break time because she was “quite obviously struggling with the vocab part.” She didn’t take too kindly to this and a shouting match broke out in the staff room. I was mortified as well as worried about coffee being hurled all over my brand new computer. I remember wondering to what extent it is really my job to care about how other teachers are doing their teaching.
(In retrospect, perhaps he didn’t actually even care about the students and just seized an opportunity to twist the knife on someone he didn’t get along with)

Now, this is obviously an extreme example and there were a variety of factors beyond simply caring about the students of another teacher but it has stuck with me for a long time.

A (non) example:

A friend who happens to be a reader wondered if an example might help make my point more clear. I don’t really have a clear one except to say that I sometimes get a strange feeling when I read about/hear about/see teachers doing things that seem “wrong” to me. Some kind of emotional reaction. Why are they doing it wrong? Why can’t they see the light, I wonder. This post was in some ways an attempt at convincing myself that it is not really up to me to ensure that everyone agrees with me or is doing their job in accordance with what I believe is good teaching. My job is to worry about my students.

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27 comments

    • tomtesol

      Sorry, I don’t care if you see my point, but I think your last (and maybe only ‘really honest’) item 3) sorta undermines the rest of this post. Sharing experience is how we become aware of what someone else does, and our understanding of the world as a hub of dialogic interaction would seem to make it impossible to separate the “sharing and thinking” from the “action” (hello TS Eliot). So my point is that you can say “I don’t care” all you want, but in all likelihood, this just means you don’t understand (or are in denial about) the extent to which you can’t help caring. And I don’t care whether you agree with me or not. 🙂

      • mikecorea

        Interesting comments!
        It is highly likely I am in denial of many things or perhaps trying to convince myself of what I wish were true rather than what is true. Your response led me to wonder if we can simply decide not to care about something.

        Whether you care or not, I believe I can in fact see your point about the difficulty/impossibility of separating the action.

        I guess my simple response to that would be something like “I don’t care which specific actions (out of the multitudes) you choose to do in your role as a teacher.” (And as far as I can see it it’s really none of my damned business how many CIs you ask, how much teacher talk you do or how/if you set up assessments).

        I am assuming that you taught a class today. Let’s say it was part of a teacher training course.
        Why (beyond a desire for you and your students to have a pleasant day and a positive learning experience) would I care how you go about doing your job as a teacher? I don’t care about how bakers in shops I don’t go to perform their art so I am not sure why I would care about how you choose to perform yours.

        If, however you share it on your blog (whether I “agree,” “approve” or would do any of the things you have done) then it becomes real to me and something I can learn from.

        Thanks for the response!

  1. nakanotim

    To paraphrase an old Carlsberg ad that Orson Welles used to voice, “Probably the best rant on the web.”

    • mikecorea

      Among my favorite comments ever. Thanks. I suppose this in some strange way actually ties into the feelings teachers might have when they hear that some teacher down the way is “Restricting Creativity” in order to promote better writing. Perhaps my new reaction would be “that is interesting, I wonder how he or she does that?” rather than “That is clearly wrong and goes against my experience and intuition.”

    • tomtesol

      Actually, I had no idea what you were on about (read before your example/explanaton posted), I just thought I saw a hole in a dyke through which to catch a glimpse of something. Now I get that this is sort of a piss take. You’re not a baker, so I’m not sure if that analogy, either. But maybe I now understand that you make a significant distinction between ‘interest’ and ‘care’ — the rational vs the emotional, in a Mr. Spockian sense?

  2. Ben Naismith

    Great Mike. Possibly my favourite post of yours. The image of plumbers critiquing their peers’ techniques with a pipe wrench cracks me up and may well find its way into a session of mine somehow. I may also be muttering “Meme? Theme? Rheme? The supreme dream team always up with a scheme?” as I observe lessons today.

    • mikecorea

      Thanks Ben!
      I appreciate it. It is always nice to imagine someone enjoying this stuff. 🙂

      I’d love to hear how the plumbers find their way into your training session. It seems I talk about plumbers and accountants a lot!

      All right, Ben. Your positive feedback leaves me no choice but to set the dial to random more often on my posts!

      Cheers,
      Mike

      ps- I can’t take all the credit for that great line:

      (rap video)

    • Tyson Seburn

      Rereading this just reminded me of HGTV shows like Holmes on Holmes or Income Property or any number of them where a previous contractor did a shoddy job at their task (could easily be a plumber) and the homeowners reach out to these shows where the experts evaluate the problems, make many comments about the poor craftsmenship (or at least tools, strategies etc used by previous contractors) and then fixes them. Critiquing there does happen, just not directly to someone’s face.

      • mikecorea

        The elusive plumber feedback/correction… there it is. Thanks Tyson. I can’t stop thinking about the parallels and differences between teaching. I am thinking there is more of an accepted right way or best practice in these areas (could be wrong of course) and also wondering about the personal investment people take in others’ craft. This is to say I think teachers (esp English ones?) seem to be pretty fussy about what others are doing. Thanks very much for revisiting the post and sharing this (which prompted a revisit of my own).

  3. Jennie Little

    Seriously clever, (except for the “I could care less”, but maybe that’s just my pet peeve). I’m left wondering, though. Are you ranting against other teachers who are trying to tell you about their superior methods, or against other teachers who find it necessary to critique their peers? Or, both? Either way, I think your words could apply to a lot of different subjects- parenting comes to mind. Well done.

    • mikecorea

      Hello and thank you very much for reading and commenting!
      (I am guessing you are the Jennie Little I know on Facebook who is rapidly climbing the ranks of the vaunted favorite people I have not met yet list. If not, sorry, never mind.)

      I knew a girl called Jenny Little in college. She was very nice.
      Perhaps you couldn’t care less about that little factoid.

      I do have to tell you that the “I could care less” bit was mostly a joke or an Easter egg for a friend.
      This friend is British and wondered why Americans say that. I assured her that I don’t say such things but then I went and wrote it in my blog. I wanted to highlight that it was intentional but then left it as is. Perhaps I was too clever by half..

      I love your question regarding who I am ranting against.
      I honestly don’t know. What I am thinking at the moment is that I am really ranting against that part of me that wants to judge and wants everyone to see and do things my way. Likely not a recipe for success or happiness I think.

      To be more specific (thanks for the question) I don’t have an issue with folks sharing ideas but perhaps sharing them as these ideas are the best or only ways might rankle a bit.

      I think it can be very easy to exert peer pressure on teachers/parents/whoever and to judge them according to our own very personal criteria.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  4. Sophia

    Hi Mike! Despite the name of your blog, this is the first dummy spit rant of yours that I’ve seen! I very much enjoyed it, but I didn’t quite understand where you were coming from at first. I’ve seen the flare ups over the “right” way to do things on Twitter and also enjoy a good rant about such things (all intolerant people should be shot, etc). I didn’t understand until you posted your updates that you were also talking to yourself. I agree no one has the right to judge another, that really all that matters is what *you do with *your students. I liked the parallel Jennie drew with parenting. But I do find it almost impossible not to judge if something really does go against my experience or intuition. I moderate it by choosing carefully if or how I share that feeling. However, I think your idea to try and cultivate the practice of thinking differently when you read/see/hear something that gives you that “uncomfortable feeling”, of trying to ask a question instead of just react, is an interesting and worthwhile one. I will try. To be honest, I will always think some things just ARE wrong…but those things are usually pretty obvious to anyone. Any teacher keen enough to blog/tweet about their classes is probably not the sort of teacher I would worry about.

    • mikecorea

      Hello there,
      A belated thanks for the comments. While I am always interested in/happy with the responses I get on blog posts this post probably got the most interesting responses. It was interesting to note that some people took away a totally different point than I intended. What is also interesting to me is that I Wasn’t really sure if this was a rant. I guess I don’t really know what it means. In any case, as you might expect I was also trying to be a bit funny.

      The judging aspect is something that really catches my attention these days. I can really feel it boiling over within myself sometimes when I read and hear people talk about teaching.

      For me I think a key consideration is to remember that mostly we are talking about beliefs and that these can be flexible and changeable. I am not so sure how many universal truths (or rights or wrongs) there are in language teaching. I also think that by focusing so much on the right way and the wrong way we might be missing out on a whole lot. I suspect you already know that

      I guess the other point that I had a hard time getting to is the idea of ownership or responsibility or influence or whatever in someone else’s class. Maybe it is just the way that I read things and perhaps certain things strike me differently but… I think I would much rather read (and thus think about and perhaps maybe take on) a blog post/presentation/discussion/whatever about “here are some ways I am using ipads” than “The 14 ways you need to be using ipads” or something like that.

      I hope I am making a bit of sense.

  5. Tyson Seburn (@seburnt)

    In the grand scheme of things, I don’t care to judge what others do or don’t do unless it’s my job to or it affects my classes in some way, but I do care to hear their opinions about what they do. I do care to hear their opinions about our industry. I do care to reconsider what I do in light of what they do. This happens less than one might think, but it does happen. I do care to read blogs that have an opinion or share an idea or suggest something that worked well for them.

    Fun read, Mike. Made me think as I was reading it.

    • mikecorea

      Thanks for the comments, Tyson.
      (I think I wrote on twitter I’d be responding soooon, but I suppose it wasn’t soooo soon)
      I really like what you wrote here in the comments about what you do care to do and not just because I fully agree!
      I suppose what you wrote here is what took me a whole post to get to. 🙂

      Just to throw one more thing out there…You wrote that you do care to reconsider what you do in light of what others do. I think that is great and is part of my interest in reading what others do. I think the disconnect and realization for me is that it doesn’t really matter to me at all if you choose to do the thing that I do. It is still in that zone of not caring what someone else does. Of course I wish you happiness and success but doing it my way doesn’t really provide me with any extra joy.

      Thanks again for the comments!

  6. Haejin Han

    Hi Mike!
    I like your guts to freely voice what you have in mind- ” I don’t care”. 🙂

    You seem to have a magic wand to make me stop and reflect on myself.
    I find myself caring about what others do and how do it when I am emotionally invested, that is, I am ready to be fully judgmental.
    I also find myself caring about what others do and how do it when I want to share different perceptions on teaching and learning with them.

    At first, I thought the two cases were different, easy to tell one from the other.
    But recently what I am finding is that my initial intention to share different perceptions sometimes ends up with being judgmental and vice versa.

    I, one of human beings, am hard to get out of the situation, “:caring” in either case, I think.

    • mikecorea

      Thanks for commenting, Ms. Han!
      Very nice to see your name in the comments.
      Thanks for the kind words as well.

      I think what you describe is quite normal and typical actually. I have struggled with it myself…wanting people to see things my way (also known as the right way) and to follow it. I don’t think that gets us very far though. If we are talking about peers in the same school it can be different than online colleagues but my thought at the moment is that what teachers do in their classes has almost no bearing on my life and I am much more relaxed and happy if I keep this in mind!

      I guess the real questions are
      1) why do we want to share perceptions of teaching and learning?
      and
      2) is the sharing any less valuable if the people we share we DON’T end up agreeing with us or following what we do?

      Thanks again for the comments!

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  9. annloseva

    *off to do/ not do all those things you care/ don’t care I do/ don’t do*

    That rap line up in your post is awesome.

    I think I almost didn’t care to read it back then when you published this, but now I have, and I’m so pleased. Or annoyed. You know there are some text messages or messages that invite no reply. They are like “I’ve said it all”. Your post is so beautiful and self-sustained I wish we hadn’t spoilt it with the comments.

    Thanks to Rose I’ve checked this.
    Say careless. Or caring.

    • mikecorea

      Hello Ann(a),

      Thanks for these comments. I enjoyed them very much.
      I think sometimes there can be a fine line between pleased and annoyed and maybe this post was around that line.
      When I wrote this post I think all I really wanted to say was something like, “cmon people let’s all chill out and not care so much what others do” but I think it turned into something else entirely. Perhaps another one of those moments where we can find out what we think through writing.

      Thanks again for commenting and i will do my best to be careless or caring. Or carefree. Or something.

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  12. Marc

    I broke my lurking seal.

    Erm, I care to an extent if people bring my agency into disrepute and then I can’t get more work from that agency. I care that my coworkers are not total incompetents because of that, but… in the classroom there are off days, people react to observers (formal and even people just passing by) and you never know whether what you see is a normal occurrence or an anomalous phenomenon and these may be positive or negative.

    I am super interested in TBLT at the moment. However, not everyone is. I see it as useful for *my* teaching but I don’t think it would suit everyone’s teaching style. I think it is important that we do not go around hunting for panaceas for everyone’s teaching (but if there is clear best practice [and I mean supa-dupa clear, backed-up-by-reliable-research clear] then this needs to be promoted).

    • mikecorea

      Hi Marc,
      Thanks very much for the comments. I appreciate it. Now that the seal is broken you might be running here frequently. Or to the bathroom. Or both.

      I like your point about others bringing your agency into disrepute and I think it highlights (at least for me) how we often don’t need to care. This care affects your wallet and sounds more than reasonable to me.

      I also like your point about TBLT being something you are interested in and that works for you but might not work for everyone. I don’t know if all this stuff is/was a reminder to me not to proselytize but it seems that it is very easy to champion ideas for no reasons other than “I like it” or “it seems to work for me” and I think this is something best avoided. Your point about super-duper clear best practice being supported/promoted also makes sense to me. Fun fact: I almost called this blog “Beyond Best Practice” but decided against it for a few reasons (not least cuz it sounds a bit arrogant!)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!
      No pressure for more comments but they are surely welcomed.

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