Transparency Modified

Gremlins and the Mogwai Terror by 179 by JeanineAnderson on Flickr
'Gremlins and the Mogwai Terror by 179' by JeanineAnderson on Flickr

Don’t get me wrong, yesterday was a good day. I just felt like I was being trailed by gremlins. Technical glitches, miscommunications, and random interruptions ate up large swaths of my productive time and left more work undone this week than I was intending.

Unsurprisingly, I was a little frustrated. Still happy, just frustrated. I think it’ll be funny in retrospect – technical issues got in the way of watching The Wizard of Oz yet again, and we start a new unit next week. Oh well.

I wanted to note the way I was transparent as the gremlins attacked. Basically, I only told a partial truth. I didn’t get into a laundry list of what had gone wrong that day; I just thought out loud briefly about what we should do next, deciding upon a quiz game so that the rest of class would be lively. Then I had everyone get up and take a five-minute break while I modified KABOOM to be a pretty intense review of spelling and verb tenses.

So, for all my talk of transparency, I didn’t announce to my students that I’d about &#%@ing had it with the bad luck.  I shifted my focus and kept on going.

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.

Transparency and “Good” Applicants

Many thanks to for starting a discussion on the apparently heated debate of résumé length.  I was surprised at how many different (and vehement!) opinions were out there.  Great points were brought up about the number of applicants and experience level.

My initial thought: employers should state what they’re looking for.  They post jobs and qualifications, why not post expectations?  It doesn’t seem difficult.  And why limit this to résumé length?  Wouldn’t HR’s job be easier if every company had a page of their website called, “How to be a good applicant” or some such?  Kind of like a twitter landing-page that Beth Kanter blogged about a couple of weeks ago, or email etiquette pages like (thanks again, Lifehacker!) you can refer people to.  

What would we call it – an applicant splash page?  Why be so secretive about the basics of our organizational cultures?  Do the benefits of such passive-aggression outweigh the potential benefits of increased transparency?  Would it help or hurt efficiency?  Would applicants like this or be irked by it?  Do some organizations already use one, and if so how is it working?