On Transparency

The Wings-Become-Windows Butterfly by e³°°° on Flickr
The Wings-Become-Windows Butterfly by e³°°° on Flickr

Writing about yesterday’s Advanced class made me think more about teaching and transparency.  By transparency, I mean behaving like Emily, not like The Teacher.  While I do have some answers, I don’t have them all, and I don’t pretend otherwise.

In the classroom, my bent towards transparency leads me to say things like “Hello everyone!  I didn’t know I was teaching tonight.  I’m sorry I’m not prepared, but I think we’ll have a great class anyway.  Tell me what you studied yesterday.”

Why would I say this?  Because I think that pretending is a waste of energy and that my students are competent adults who can handle the truth in all its imperfection.

Did yesterday’s class get derailed by my confession?  Of course not.  Also, it wasn’t a confession.  It was a statement that turned into a springboard into a truly authentic review exercise.  After an interesting but not-quite-concrete-enough discussion of symbolism in The Wizard of Oz, I announced that we’d move to a pronunciation lesson, which is my most-requested topic.  We also had a genuine conversation about whether they would prefer to end class with a conversation activity or a writing activity.  There is learning in the meta.

The meta continued during the conversation lesson (which was about experiences with pronunciation) – I told them why I did what I did.  “I asked you each to report back to the whole class because I want to give you good experiences speaking English to a group.  It will help you keep being brave with your English.”  I think that saying things like this builds trust and gives them some gentle guidance on metacognition.

Recliner Testing by DCvision2006 on Flickr
Recliner Testing by DCvision2006 on Flickr

Also, allowing myself to be frank about what’s going on, be it hiccups in the teacher schedule or practicing a soft skill, lets me be relaxed as I teach.  I don’t mean that I recline with my feet up; I mean that I’m able to think quickly and easily, and that it becomes easy for me to stop talking and be the kind of teacher that makes space for students to practice their skills and develop newer ones.

I hope I’m also demonstrating that it’s possible to be effective and professional without being perfect.  There is indeed room in this intimidating country of multiple choice tests and contracts for their personalities, accents, and talents to shine.

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