What is it to be a teacher?

  • Categories: Teaching

I have been a teacher for more than 17 years back in my country Bulgaria (teaching ESOL to adults) and in the UK (teaching ESOL to adults). I intend to continue running ESOL courses as this has always been my beacon and I could not resist following it. No one can teach you to become a teacher…You need to naturally be born with the passion needed, with the heart needed, with the patience needed. Everyone can learn a subject, can go deeply through a particular science but this is far not enough for them to become teachers, to get them ready to be able to pass the knowledge on to the students. To be a teacher, to dare call yourself a teacher means first of all for you to be thirsty for knowledge, to be eager to learn something new on a daily basis in order to make yourself richer and only then you can pronounce yourself a teacher.

I have been teaching with passion but it has always been difficult for me to assess my students. For example if I can see that the student has put a lot of efforts to do their tasks but the result is not to high standards I have always given the benefit of the doubt to them so that I can encourage them for future.

My responsibilities as a manager, administrator and teacher were both to my employer and organization – Mont Rose College of Management and Sciences and the students.

My area of teaching – ESOL – requires for me to check 4 different skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

I usually take my teaching materials from Teacher’s Book related to the relevant level of ESOL. My assessments have always been individual knowledge-based assessments of understanding.

During my teaching practice I have met numerous students – with different backgrounds, religions, personalities (shy, timid, hesitated, determined, average, self-centred, role model or reserved, introverted and extroverted). Some of them were visual learners, some – auditory or reading/writing and others – kinaesthetic (learning through a physical activity) so the tests should be tailored to each one of them.

I could give some examples based on my experience.

Case 1 – Audio test – Listening Comprehension.
I had a class with the majority of auditory learners. Most of them were very good at listening and completing the answer sheets with True/False questions and gap filling. So for the Exit test I chose to give them audio test – Listening Comprehension. The duration of the test was 2 hours – 22 students at the high school where I used to teach. This was their final exam as they were about to complete their 12th year at school. As our school was one of the elite schools of the region, our principal had invited teachers from other schools as guests and to gain experience on how to run classes like this. Everything was ready. My students, MP3 player recording on pause, work sheets, guests at the back of the classroom. The school bell rang to announce the beginning of the lesson. I handed the work sheets out to my students, gave them some instructions on how to proceed and played the recording for them to listen to the text for the first time without writing anything down. Then during the listening for the second time the students had to start answering the questions. But it was challenging because the electricity was cut off at the 2nd minute of the recording and at that time there were no batteries in the player. You can imagine how I felt at that particular moment. I was lucky as I had prepared the listening text on paper and it was with me. So I took the paper out of my bag and acted as a player. I read the text twice for my students to do their tasks and the exam was taken.

Case 2 – Simulation – Role play.
In most of my classes I have had a lot of artistic and talented students. So simulation assessment or role play assessment is perfectly suitable for them. I have given them different situations to recreate – like for e.g. at the airport (one of them being an officer, the other – passenger); at the shop – one sails assistant and a few customers; a journalist interviewing people about their jobs and my favourite is the situation where one of the students (the assessed one) is in the role of a teacher who needs to explain a grammar unit to their students like the meaning and use of the Present Perfect Tense compared to the Past Simple Tense. Thus I could easily assess my student’s knowledge related to the above mentioned module.

Case 3 – Peer Assessment.
The students love it. They love to be in the role of a teacher and to be able to take the responsibility to assess their classmates. I like it too as it cuts my assessment papers piles.

In this case it is better for the teacher to give anonymous tests to avoid embarrassment and frustration. The students can also be divided into groups and can be given one and the same anonymous test to mark and discuss the strengths and weaknesses. It is also recommendable to give time to our students to give a proper feedback.

As a conclusion I could say that all types of assessments are useful in class but we need to be able to decide which one is the most suitable for the particular situation and type of students. And the most important is how it benefits the individual students – for e.g. if the student is with fractured hand we cannot ask them to write. We can ask them to do the tasks orally but not while the rest of the students are taking their exam. We need to set another date.

I could mention one more case. I had a very good student – studious and diligent. He unfortunately broke his leg while skiing in a mountain resort and he was not able to attend classes for more than 4 months, which is actually a whole semester. So the school authorities assigned me and my colleagues to visit the student at home where we were teaching and assessing him.

I can give numerous examples based on my teaching practice – successful and not that successful but the most important is that the being a teacher is one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs one could ever do as you can see your students growing up, turning into adults before your very eyes. And this is what I call a miracle of life.