Are you a teacher all the time?

“A teacher sees the world in a par­tic­u­lar way, and it is not only when he is in a school. I am a teacher all the time.” (Christopher Rogers)

This quote is what I use as a signature in my personal emails. I got it from a blog I read  about a month ago – sorry, can’t remember whose blog, or where, just remembered to get who wrote it so as to rightfully credit it. I chose it as my signature because it speaks to me, I strongly relate to it (my previous quote was “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius). I am a teacher all the time, it’s not just something I “turn on” when I am working. I see ideas for activities everywhere: something people next to me are talking about – yes, I eavesdrop, sue me -, a song I listen to, a controversial piece of news, an advertising or commercial I see, things that happen to me… Well, that’s not exactly new to teachers, is it? I think in one way or another we all do this – some more intensely than others, but we all do it.

No..that's not my daughter :-)

What got me thinking about this, and wondering whether this was a good or a bad thing was something that happened this past week. I was sitting on my computer, working, and my 9-year-old daughter was showing me her homework. She’s not what you’d call a great, committed student. She finds studying boring, almost a waste of time (yes, I do believe God is trying to teach me some lesson by making my daughter this way about studying – still trying to figure out what though. So far it has only aggravated me). And so, I was doing my motherly duty of checking her homework before she went to bed. As I read it, I noticed she had answered a “Why?” question with one word. So I told her she had to rewrite that, because just a word was not good enough, she had to give a complete answer (even though the word she had written was the key of the answer), express herself more thoroughly. As I was saying this the nanny was passing by and she said: “Yeah Gabi, it’s not easy being the daughter of a teacher…”. And that got me thinking. Am I being a teacher to my daughter, instead of a mother? Would a regular non-teacher mother require the same kind of work I do? Am I putting an extra strain on my daughter’s work?

And as I kept reflecting upon this, I suddenly became aware I do that in so may other aspects of my life. for instance, whenever somebody asks me how to pronounce a word in English (I’m talking about a friend. or a relative) I don’t flat out say it – I ask the person “How do you think it’s pronounced? Are there any other words spelled similarly you can remember?”. I try to make the person discover the pronunciation on her/his own. You know, avoiding spoon-feeding. Or if someone doesn’t know how to use a program or to program the TV… I don’t just go there and do it. I assist the person at doing it, giving some instructions but mostly helping the person infer, try it. I also catch myself (more often than I would like)  correcting people’s speech or something I read in my mind – looking for structure/grammar accuracy, better word-choice…

Now I have to admit realizing what I’ve been doing to everyone (who’s not a student of mine) around me made me quiver. I mean, it has to be annoying. Since then I have been making a conscient effort of controling myself and avoiding that. I don’t think I have been very successful at that, but at least I am trying. But at the same time, should I control myself? Is it really that bad?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this… Do you behave like this too? Do you think it’s bad, that it should be avoided/controled?

My First Post

After much thought on what to write on my first post of my blog… I came out with nothing. So I decided to write about what made me take the step and start writing. For people to understand me better, maybe it would be nice to give you a little background information.

I’ve been an EFL teacher in Recife (where I was born and raised) since 1993. At first I didn’t think I wanted to be an English teacher forever. I have a BA in graphic design and teaching English, up to a couple of years after I got my degree, was something I really enjoyed but that I did on the side (on Saturdays to be specific) while I got through school and later worked at an advertising agency. But one day I had to choose between teaching and design – and I couldn’t leave teaching, because it was what I really loved doing. I taught at the university for a couple of years, the history-related subjects of design. But something was missing…it was not only teaching that I enjoyed – it was teaching ENGLISH. And then I really threw myself into it and committed to it.

I love teaching and I always put a lot of dedication and effort into it. But lately I had been feeling unmotivated. Stuck in time. Feeling as if I kept doing the same things, reading the same texts, listening to the same ideas. Any teacher needs to feel like she (or he) is constantly evolving, changing, questioning. And I missed that. It got to a point where I started questioning whether I shouldn’t think about switching careers. THAT is how desperate I was. Until… I discovered Twitter.

Now, don’t think I hadn’t heard of twitter before. I had. I even had signed in already. But I only followed a couple of friends and while it was fun, I didn’t see how it could be a source of profesional development. But during the Braz-Tesol conference in São Paulo last July I discovered a new side to Twitter. I met Jeremy Harmer who knows what Twitter can do for a teacher, and started following him. He encouraged me and told me of some educators I should follow. And as I started reading those people’s tweets I discovered more interesting people, engaging discussions about teaching and ELT. I was introduced to the wonderful world of blogs written by educators. I was given links to great articles, activities… And most of all I met so many inspiring teachers from all over the world.

Being presented to this new world turned my world around. It was a breath of fresh air, new life, new energy. I know everybody says that, but that’s because it is true, and I can think of no better way to put it. I have read more about teaching and English than I can remember ever doing. I have learned, reflected upon my practice, upon my beliefs. I’ve learned about so many great tools available to help us teach better. I’ve made new friends, who share my enthusiasm and interest in teaching. I learned what a PLN was and started building one.  And most importantly, I have shared. I believe sharing is such an innate characteristic of teachers, we just can’t control it. And the sharing among educators on Twitter and the blogs is unbelievable. Powerful. Enpowering. Now all I can think about is “How hadn’t I heard of this before?”. Was I the only one who didn’t know what a PLN was? How many teachers all over the world haven’t heard about this? And after asking myself these questions I’ve made it my mission to help spread the word and get more teachers aboard. After all, I can’t refrain from sharing, right?

So, my first blog post is actually a big THANK YOU to my PLN, my new friends. Thank you for helping me, encouraging me (thanks @cerirhiannon!), challenging me (this one is for @englishraven!), sharing with me, teaching me… or just having some much needed fun. May everyone who hasn’t discovered the world of Twitter and the blogosphere be as lucky to have such a great PLN. :-)