Teaching Do’s and Don’ts

by Zhenya


My friend and colleague Mike Griffin is presenting at the 2014 KOTESOL National Conference this weekend. The title says ‘You are Doing it Wrong. Maybe’, and you can read the abstract and some preliminary thoughts about it on Mike’s inspiring blog post here. (by the way, if you don’t follow Mike yet, time to do so!)

Let me only quote the sentence from the abstract that encouraged me to look back at my initial training course I took fifteen(!) years ago. ‘Participants will ideally walk away with a sense of freedom to do consider using what are known as bad habits in class or at least a stronger conviction to avoid the “bad” behaviors.’

First, I decided to list as many ‘rules’ as I could remember.

 give verbal/board instructions first to a task, handout next

 always repeat a word/phrase three times before letting your students to repeat by themselves

 always monitor students from behind, never from the front

 if you do approach students from the front, bend your knees or even kneel next to them

 sit down in class as much as possible

 always bring a worksheet to your lesson

 always ask another student to peer-correct before giving the right answer yourself

 avoid echoing (repeating answers after students)

 avoid running commentary (saying what you are doing now, e.g. I am taking these handouts to give you)


Then, I went back to Mike’s post and checked what he wrote, plus the comments and saw if I repeated someone else. Surprisingly, I did not (except for the last two, which are teacher talk, and this was mentioned) but noticed that the list got considerable longer since the last time I read it last week!

However, one comment from @AnthonyTeacher was the opposite of mine: stand up in class and avoid sitting down. Interesting!

For all the years of my teaching and training time that followed the course I quoted below, many things changed: new course books, new technology for ELT classrooms, more methodology books written, more conferences held (and attended!), courses taken and run, etc. A lot of ‘rules’ above turned into beliefs, or options, and stopped being the ‘right answers’ for all the time. At the same time, many of them are still being presented as ‘the’ rules for any teaching context (I really hope that I am wrong). I am now thinking that I could perhaps make a new list, a list of beliefs I hold as a teacher and trainer and that I hope to ‘plant’ to the course participants on the courses I run. Hm, just thought that the first one would be ‘there is no magic recipe for all the situations’, or something like that.

I am not able to be in Mike’s audience this weekend, but I am so grateful for raising this topic. Mike, you are doing it right. For sure!