Teaching is not only about qualifications and experience. A common misconception is that those are the credentials that matter most but actually it’s the soft skills and ability to connect with students, which are just as valuable regardless of what the topic you teach. When we step into the classroom we too often are trained to focus on preparation and make sure we follow the book we use for the class. The problem is that when we do this we end up making our students bored and disengaged. So here are the things that I personally feel are also important and are not visible on my teachers resume.
One aspect of life that has become a regular hobby/activity is the frequency we journey out of our comfort zone,well, residential zone more like. There are many kinds of travel and if we choose to go on an all-expenses paid trip then we immediately eliminate a whole bunch of experiences we can have in our new surroundings regardless of how short they are. When I traveled in my 20s I backpacked across the Americas, New Zealand, Australia and Europe. Most of this was done on my own or my girlfriend/wife and so I was in the unique position of forcing myself to be in situations where I had to interact, meet, converse and ultimately learn about the places, cultures and people I visited. It’s a position that can be quite challenging and at the same time incredibly rewarding. Being in such circumstances allowed me to grow and learn about myself and others as well as have an open mind about the world and my place in it. Such an experience gives an individual perspective and that perspective is incredibly valuable in the classroom because it allows a teacher to share their unique experience and knowledge about people, cultures and places with their students. Students of all ages will be surprisingly intrigued and curious of their teachers experiences and insight into the places they have visited and can help put language learning into the right perspective for students to understand it’s true power – culture, communication and ultimately connection.
In today’s ever changing and rapidly innovative world knowing how to sell yourself is incredibly important. It’s not only about the job interview but also about what we can offer other than the skills that we list on our resume. You don’t have to show off that you are special but it’s about the work. I am my work! If you spend time always experimenting, innovating and putting new ideas in action you allow yourself the opportunity to not only learn and grow as an individual but also, and more importantly, gain a unique perspective on strategies, techniques and approaches to the work you do and how it makes a difference to the people who choose to work with you or hire you. They see the work , and the work is who you are. If you have that opportunity then you’ll be in a position to show how you can make a difference in someone’s organization and it’s people within it. The further out of my comfort zone I have gone, the better teacher I have become. This has resulted in understanding that the longer I teach, the better I get at it. My work is my resume, and I practice it everyday.
What’s your value? Most of us don’t know. But our work, if we share it with the world shows people what we are about and what our goals are. I built this site from scratch, started a YouTube channel, and built my Facebook page to over a thousand followers and still growing. In order for all that to happen I had to commit time and effort as well as experiment through trial and error to discover how and why I was creating these platforms and content. As a teacher it’s quite unusual to have such content and platforms to share your work, experiences and knowledge with others who also care about learning and teaching. My commitment and drive were also a big part of this, which allowed my passion to shine through. These attributes show value because when an organization or individual is interested in hiring me they will be able to see all the work that I have put into the teaching I do. It’s a direct reflection of the value I can offer to others because it provides real examples of what I’ve done and how important it is for me personally. When it is personal, it’s valuable.
Innovation is all around us and constantly changing and improving our lives. Are you innovative? Do you try to find new ways to improve and do your work more effectively or efficiently. It’s not an easy question. I spend a significant amount of time reading books, watching TED videos and learning from professionals in different industries in order to adjust my teaching methods and approaches as well as develop myself. If we just sit back and consume mindless media on social networks or TV we become the product, idle and lazy. The key is to utilize the tools and information at our disposal for personal growth and development and the only way that can happen is through a constant interest in finding a better, newer, unusual way of doing things. By reading and watching from professionals who want to share knowledge that can help us grow I try to put myself in a position where I can share and help others grow as well. As a teacher this is the ultimate goal. It sounds like a familiar story but it’s not, not for teachers. Innovation is very closely linked to creativity, only significantly harder because it requires something completely new not just improving what already exists. I am constantly on that path, looking and seeking out how to teach and learn in newer better ways. I like to say it’s a process that I incorporate into my lessons in order to continuously test new ideas for teaching better.
A real connection
In this day and age we associate the word ‘connection’ with the internet, WiFi and a network in the cloud. But that is not real. What IS real is the human connection that so many of us long for. It’s our nature to be around others and talk and be close and share difficulties, accomplishments and unknowns. The only way this can be done is through language and communicating face to face with our peers. I’ve learned from being a citizen of the world, a waiter in a restaurant, a solo backpacker, a student in a foreign country and now a teacher to teenagers and adults of all ages, that this is the essence of who we are. When I harness that experience and it’s importance I feel a true sense of fulfillment as a teacher, and one who will continue to do it for a long time. This is my special sauce, my secret recipe. The reason I do what I do. By improving the way we listen to people, the way we speak to each other and how we react verbally and physically to what is being said to us, we improve ourselves and ultimately allow ourselves to continuously grow and learn. Real connection, real people, listening to each other, understanding each other.
Let the learning begin.