The toughest step
Ever been to a party with an empty dance floor? That party is waiting to get started, but unless someone steps onto that dance floor first, nobody else will. It takes guts to be the first, especially if you are alone, without a dance partner. Can you imagine it? Most would be scared of being the lone nut, the center of attention, but believe me, whoever does go out on that dance floor, they are the true leaders, they are the initiators. Without them, parties would suck. You’ll be criticized, people might mock you, or stare at you like your crazy but that is exactly what needs to be done to jump start that party.
All you need is one follower, and then surely another will come, and once you reach that tipping point, everyone will join.
The thing about leading is that it’s uncomfortable, not many people like doing it. It is precisely why we don’t have enough people taking the initiative and bringing change, because they are scared of the ridicule and the resistance from friends and colleagues. It’s that fear that prevents us from accomplishing and reaching our potential.
It’s easier to just teach to the test, ensuring compliant behavior and using fear as a motivator. It’s the fastest, easiest way to get a kid through school. The stakes are high, so you need to play it safe, demonstrate consistency and color inside the lines.
It takes guts to walk onto that dance floor alone, it takes courage to not teach from the course book, to not teach to the test, to not settle for just taking orders and staying in line. However, once we face that fear, something amazing happens, we grow and learn and make strides. Because real change only comes when you yourself change. That’s the reality. So don’t teach to the syllabus, don’t follow the course book your language school is using. If you find yourself at a school that insists on these things, then walk away and find a new school that believes in what you believe. Or start on your own. If you really believe in what you are doing, then you have nothing to fear.
So how do we start the movement?
By taking that first step onto that dance floor, actions speak louder than words. Don’t complain, take action. You want teaching to be better, then do it. It starts with you. Initially there will be resistance, there will be criticism but stay the course. See what I did there? Hehe
Leading through Teaching
Hey language teachers, how are those course book topics working for you? Are they age appropriate? Are they topics your students are interested in? Because my experience tells me that some are outdated, boring and irrelevant and don’t really provide the vocabulary that is practical in real life. So here’s an idea. Get your students brainstorming on topics they CARE ABOUT. And prepare lessons on that.
I teach a leadership class and when we get to project work, I ask my students to choose the issues they want to tackle and discuss, the ones they actually care about solving and talking about in class. Phone addiction and relationships with people, drug use, bullying, public safety, selfishness, laziness, lack of creativity in school, and corruption just to name a few. Boom, build a lesson on that and get them locked in and engaged.
I’m not going to spoon feed you the lesson. It’s right there for you. Research some vocabulary on the topic, find a relevant text, cut it up, pass it out, get them to share and exchange information, find a ted talk, play a clip of it, have some questions ready… Find some quotes, statements on the subject. Post them around the classroom, get them to dictate the sentences to their partners and then discuss them. Ask for solutions, build momentum and don’t allow complaining. Anything else? It think you get the point. Don’t settle for mediocrity, demand better. Schools have tried to offload all this admin onto us teachers. Are you kidding me? Focus on what matters, helping students become better human beings and being accountable for their learning, one lesson at a time. Something amazing happens then, job fulfillment, job satisfaction, pride in the work and sense of purpose.
If you hear my idea but don’t believe it, that’s not your fault; it’s mine.
If you are student in my class and you don’t learn what I’m teaching. I’ve let you down.
It’s really easy to insist that people read the manual. It’s really easy to blame the student/follower/client/boss for not trying hard. For being too stupid to get it or for not caring enough to pay attention. But none of that is helpful. What is helpful is realizing that you have a choice when you communicate. You can change the way you teach so your students learn, I can write a better blog to get you to believe in what I’m telling you. It’s taking responsibility, plain and simple. Be accountable, teach your students to be accountable. It starts with us. Till next time my friends, be legendary.