When I first started to teach I…

Back in early December 2014 started a Google doc and asked teachers to complete the sentence, “When I first started to teach I…” In what I saw as a successful example of crowd-sourcing I sent out a message on Twitter and in some Facebook groups and watched the sentences roll in. I’d planned to share the responses in a blog post or presentation or something but didn’t manage to do so till now. Below is what I wrote on the Google doc and below that are the responses I received. I am still grateful for the responses and pleased to share them with you here. I hope you get as much out of it as I have.  Any comments or additions are welcome.


In a recent #KELTchat the topic was “Reflecting on the Teacher Behind the Practice” which was based on a workshop delivered by Thomas SC Farrell. In the workshop participants were asked to complete a series of sentences, using “narrative frames.” One that caught my interest was frame that started “When I first started to teach I ….” During the Twitter chat there were a bunch of interesting responses and I thought I’d try to collect some more here. To be very honest, I am not sure what I will do them. Maybe a blog post or a presentation or something. Please feel free to use these for whatever purpose comes to mind as well. It is all for fun and development. 

Please feel free to leave your name (or way to be found online) or not. I’d love responses of around 140 characters but I will not be too picky on this.

Thanks!
Michael Griffin
 


When I first started to teach I knew exactly what I was doing and why what had been done previously was wrong.
@michaelegriffin

When I first started to teach, I used thermal transparencies and an overhead projector for lecture materials.
google.com/+JasonBurnett42

When I first started to teach I was chill and confident. The more I learned about teaching, the more doubtful I became.
@JosetteLB

When I first started to teach, I found what I had been looking for. My life acquired a meaning. I started to live. I ceased to be pretentious. Oh yes. I ceased.
@patjack67

When I first started to teach, Pterodactyls flew over Jurassic forests
@mrjollyenglish 

When I first started to teach I leaned on the textbook like a crutch.

When I first started to teach I didn’t know there even were textbooks for young learners
@patjack67

When I first started to teach, I had more temper tantrums than my students (aged 5).
@annehendler

When I first started teaching, I was told I must only speak English to my beginner level Korean middle school students.
@mrjollyenglish

When I first started teaching (Eng) I thought I’d be doing it only 6 mnths mostly as a holiday~there was some freedom in that…
@michaelchesnut2

When I first started to teach non-ELT I found it tough, and when I first started to teach ELT I found it tougher!
@muranava

When I first started to teach, I pored over teachers’ guides.
@hvvnam

When I first started to teach, I forced all of my students to take English nicknames.
@hvvnam

When I first started to teach, I planned and planned and planned.
@cl_oki

When I first started to teach, I didn’t have a textbook.
@cl_oki

When I first started to teach, I stayed behind after class to plan the next day. My boss didn’t like that, and asked me to come in in the morning instead.
@languagebubble

When I first started to teach, I used songs and many textbooks in different contexts.
Pearl

When I first started to teach, I relied on course books a lot. I learned to be with my students instead.
@zhenyadnipro

When I first started to teach, I learned from my students that they found repeating and repeating un-engaging and wanted to express themselves and practice through communication.

When I first started teaching I was so confident and my lessons were something like “G is for Grammar lesson” post by Scott Thornbury (An A-Z of ELT)

When I first started teaching I didn’t know much but I knew that connecting with my students was essential. Nothing I’ve learned since has been as fundamental.
@HadaLitim

When I first started teaching (adults), I was younger than quite a large majority than them. I’m now a couple of years older than most.
@DavidHarbinson

When I first started teaching, I felt like a bit of a phony in the classroom, and kept waiting for someone to come and tell me that they’d made a terrible mistake and it was time to leave. @DavidHarbinson

When I first started to teach I… was very naive and sensitive. I would take every little  uncomfortable moment in the classroom very seriously and think about it for days on end. I’ve learnt to let it go since then.
@annloseva

When I first started to teach I was 19 and created my own crosswords.
@annloseva

When I first started to teach, I had no idea how students learned and little idea of what I was doing. My students saved me with their generosity of spirit and good humor. I owe them so much. @wilma_luth

When I first started to teach, I did what I had been taught to do, and it seemed to me to be working pretty well, except those classes that I ‘couldn’t reach’. I had no chops, no thinking-in-action, other than this doesn’t seem to be working. And I planned like no tomorrow. Fortunately I had some vague unidentified sense of reflection, so I worked my way out of the rabbit hole after a few years. Thinking about those students still makes me smile.
@tanaebaugh

When I first started to teach (in 1989!) I couldn’t imagine how to learn the 300 names of the 300 children I saw everyday or what to do with them. I had a little cart and would go from room to room to spend 15 – 30 minutes with each group every day. Some of  my students called me the “Adios lady” (I was teaching Spanish). About 3 weeks into my first job,  a kindergarten teacher handed me a note and then said “These are the names of the children that you didn’t call on today. And you should do more than have them stand up and sit down for 15 minutes.” She dismissed me with her tone and her facial expression and I went to the bathroom and cried.
@MaryScholl

When I first started to teach, I felt like I was following instructions from a book and there was an invisible force dictating what was right and wrong to do in the classroom, but it wasn’t completely up to me to decide what was best for my students. Fortunately, that didn’t last long.
@LauraSoracco

When I first started to teach, I thought it was a huge buzz, I loved my students, I was confident, I still thought I was a real person not a teacher, and I wasn’t very good. These things have all changed. My students are better off – am I?
@sophiakhan4

When I first started to teach, I thought I had to follow the coursebook on every single page and not deviate at all – and I also thought I was not allowed to make mistakes.
@vickyloras

When I first started to teach I just wanted to run the clock down.
Thomas Topham

When I first started to teach oxen would walk through my open air classroom (in rural Sri Lanka)
Matthew Noble @newbieCELTA [Mg’s note: He is now @tesolmatthew)

When I first started to teach the teachable ‘content’ of English was like a ‘solid mass’ to me, and I didn’t have much any *pedagogical* language awareness to speak of – Matthew Noble @newbieCELTA

When I first started to teach I approached it as if the opposite of the below principles (of the silent way, as it happens…but at the heart of CLT/modern method generally) were sort of guiding truths. I was obsessed with teaching, and didn’t “see” learning. I acted as if imitation were the goal, not generation. I didn’t consider experimentation valid, and saw error as problematic. I didn’t understand any connections between L1 and L2. I thought that learning was subordinate to teaching. Very much not:

  1. Teachers should concentrate on how students learn, not on how to teach
  2. Imitation and drill are not the primary means by which students learn
  3. Learning consists of trial and error, deliberate experimentation, suspending judgement, and revising conclusions
  4. In learning, learners draw on everything that they already know, especially their native language
  5. The teacher must not interfere with the learning process

(principles of silent way from: http://ltsc.ph-karlsruhe.de/swstevick.pdf)
Matthew Noble @newbieCELTA

When I first started to teach, though, maybe #4 above was in play in my mind (though definitly not in a productive way, more of a crutch/making up for the lack of clear teaching kind of way) – Matthew Noble @newbieCELTP

I realized that there was a deep psychological aspect to teaching. My solo students would release their hidden secrets and fears.

When I first started teaching, I had no idea.
@joannalwarden

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8 comments

  1. HL

    I love the last one on the list!

    When I first started to teach (in a primary school in Naples), I planned this ‘great’ lesson involving drawing a pic of their bedroom. They looked at me blankly and told me they didn’t have a bedroom. Most of them slept in the living room/ hall/ random spare space/Granny’s room.
    #lessonlearned

  2. Tyson Seburn

    When I first started to “teach”, I spent 45 minutes asking each individual student “How are you?” and hoped for different responses.

  3. Sandy Millin

    When I first started to teach, one of the things which might cause you problems while preparing lessons was geckos short-circuiting the computers and frying themselves in the process!

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