Intro

Some months ago I read Farrell’s book Reflective Practice in LT and wrote a post about it. Jim Fuller has also written an insightful reflection+review which you might want to read.

I’ve been thinking about applying Farrell’s framework since then. So in the last couple of months, I’ve been reflecting on my current:

Metaphors

For those who might enjoy metaphors, here are a few of my favourites:

  • This reflection/exploration is like X-raying yourself to see what’s inside of you as a person/teacher, at any level of the stack (Tessa Woodward).
  • It’s also like diving below the surface. It’s risky and dark down there and we have no idea what we’ll find! (Wright and Bolitho).
  • You’re disturbing the depths. This exploration may not be easy or pleasant. It may be unsettling. But it’s the only path to self-awareness (Wright and Bolitho).

2 options!

Option 1: If you don’t have time to read the whole post, here’s a rough summary!

Option 2: Read the whole post 😉

1. My philosophy as a person

It’s important to love and be loved. To respect and be respected. To inspire and be inspired. To appreciate and be appreciated. To help others. To lead by example.

To be humble. Like my sister once said, to be able to say 3 things:

  • Thank you.
  • I’m sorry.
  • Well done!

2. My principles as a teacher

I haven’t read Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed but I recently read this article and I truly agree with every single principle.

✔️Education must be democratic and dialogic.

✔️Education is an act of love, educators must risk acts of love. Education should create a world where it would be easier to love.

✔️Nourish hope. Believe in your students. Show them you believe in them.

✔️A sense of humor helps you laugh at yourself. Humor helps make the learning moment “real.”

✔️Silence: Truly listen to your students. They deserve your attention.

✔️Help students develop critical thinking.

I would add these two, taken from Maley and Bolitho’s MET article Thinking things over: axioms and principles for language teaching

✔️ Feelings and emotions are at least as important as cognitive aspects of language learning.

✔️You cannot hope to teach them until you start to reach them.

One more. Might be stating the obvious but I’ll say it anyway

✔️Smile. Try to make them smile, too.

A teacher who smiles and appears content will encourage learner participation and make them feel accepted

Makoelle, T. (2016)

3. My theory

There’s a lot to write about here, so I’ll just share my top 4!

I believe the following are absolutely necessary for language learning.

1) I’m a firm believer that teacher talk is an important source of input, so I no longer obssess over reducing all my TTT, just the unnecesary TTT. Teacher talk can be used as a verbal scaffold, by telling (modelling, explaining, clarifying) or asking students questions. I also try to base lessons around video/listening/reading input at i+1 (slightly beyond the learner’s current competence). If it’s too easy, there’s no stretch. If it’s too hard, it demotivates students. So, the right sort of input.

2)I don’t believe input is sufficient though and I’ll tell you two stories to justify this belief:

story n.1)

I studied French for 5 years and I even passed DELF B1. However, the first time I went to Paris, I couldn’t understand anyone and I could hardly speak any French. I think that’s because the lessons I had were very teacher-centred, and I don’t remember engaging in conversations in French when I was in class. Unfortunately, I can’t communicate in French.

story n.2)

When I lived in Spain, despite starting from a very low level, I was always eager to interact with locals. I pushed myself to speak Spanish, and from the mistakes I made and all the communication breakdowns, I improved and I gradually felt more confident. Even though I never got a B1 certificate, I can definitely communicate in Spanish.

3)I believe activities should be meaningful and rather than elaborate on this, I recommend reading this wonderful post Girish Mulani has written about what makes activities meaningful, based on Raths’ criteria (1971), Nunan’s hypotheses (2013) and the members of his community of practice.

4)Scaffolding is absolutely vital. I’m not a fan of deep-end approaches. The classroom is not the outside world. It’s where we are preparing students for the outside L2 world. We should do less testing and more teaching. Less teaching and more facilitating.

Rather than evaluating the learner’s answers, the teacher is supporting,
encouraging, and providing additional props. As the learner’s competence grows, so the scaffolding is
gradually reduced until the learner is able to function autonomously in that task and generalize to similar circumstances

Foley, 1993

4. What I do in the classroom

In this section I will not only reflect on my practice; I will also try to emotionalise my reflection as Farrell says.

I’ve done a lot of self-observation while teaching online which has revealed I use an eclectic approach, highly influenced by humanism.

  • Influenced by Heron, Egan (counselling). My words convey empathy– I often say: I understand, it can be difficult etc. Teachers who take the emotional state of learners into consideration are more likely to build good relationships with them (Makoelle, 2016). 
  • Making conscious effort to control my body language and voice. I need to look and sound relaxed, so that they are relaxed too.
  • Positive remarks to praise and encourage such as briliant, lovely, wonderful, etc. My teenagers used to call me Miss lovely, because I might have overused this one. 😄
  • Dogme moments. Letting the student take the wheel when they want to. I need the structure though, so I don’t go 100% dogme, because it kind of scares me.
  • Using translation, students’ L1 (when I know it). On an emergent basis or planning a range of activities.
  • Awareness-raising. Focussing on the process. Micro-dictations, guided discovery, step-by-step noticing. Display questions when guiding the student, e.g. ‘what do you notice between X and Z?’ I feel very comfortable setting up/running these activities.
  • Trying to teach lexically. Lexical collocations, pre-fabricated chunks, islands of reliability.
  • I don’t enjoy teaching grammar. Especially the difference between the past simple and the present perfect!
  • Promoting interaction and social construction of knowledge. Mediation. Jigsaw tasks, dictogloss, web-searches. I love these techniques!
  • I use scaffolding techniques. Useful language box, questioning, group brainstorming, monitoring and feedback. Lots of mind maps.
  • I ask a lot of questions (sometimes, too many). Especially since I completed the NILE Trainer Development module with Martyn Clarke!
  • My TTT in some one-to-one classes is sometimes almost 50%. These classes are like a 60-minute dialogue. I usually doubt myself when this happens. I wonder if this is normal/OK? Have they benefitted from this dialogue?
  • Remembering what students say. Caring about their lives. Referential questions. E.g. What happened with..? Did you manage to ..? How’s your ..? Guess what. They care and ask me questions too.
  • Making conscious effort to recycle language with my teacher talk. Teacher talk is a tool, not the enemy. Do you remember that expression from our last lesson,that you can use to …?
  • Correcting sensitively, I tend to worry (maybe too much) about the impact of feedback on students’ motivation. Worried about students’ vulnerable language ego.
  • Making students curious about language. Sharing websites and resources they can check out in their free time.
  • Using my professional knowledge not as an expert but to share what I know about the learning proces. To reduce anxiety. To encourage. E.g first you have to notice it, it takes many encounters, , practice and exposure will help. I feel students appreciate it.

5. Beyond practice:

Teachers are also learners: of their learners, of themselves, of their craft.

Maley and Bolitho, 2021

Having a mindset of inquiry. Getting feedback from students. Reflecting. Blogging. Reading other blogs. Re-reflecting!

That’s all for now

So these are, as I wrote earlier, my current philosophy, principles, theory+practice. I’ll revisit this post in a couple of years, curious about how these may have changed! 😀

Thanks for reading!

And as always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

References

Key concepts in ELT | ELT Journal | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

Rethinking Paulo Freire’s Dialogic Pedagogy and Its Implications for Teachers’ Teaching Yi-Huang Shih1

Thinking things over | ETp (modernenglishteacher.com)

Makoelle, T. (2016). Dialogical inclusion and exclusion: An analysis of hidden classroom conversations. In M. van der Merwe (Ed.), Inclusive Teaching in South Africa (1st ed., pp. 67–77). African Sun Media. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv1nzfxs4.13

https://www.eltconcourse.com/training/inservice/methodology/humanism.html

Woodward, T., 1997. Models and metaphors in language teacher training. Cambridge, UK.: Cambridge University Press.

Wright, T. and Bolitho, R. (2010). Trainer development. La Vergne, Tenn: Lulu.