A Teaching Metaphor?

by Zhenya

I have been browsing through older files on my computer in preparation for an interview, and found a completed application form for a training course I once applied. I sometimes like reading documents like this because they are a good reminder of some beliefs I once had, or still hold on to. Below I am copying the questions and answers as they were, unedited, and will then add some of my reflections ‘as of now’.

Question 1: In your opinion, which of the following jobs would best prepare a person for language teaching to young learners (choose only one) and why?

Lecturer    Actor    Social Worker    Nurse    Nanny    Sports Coach

My answer from 2003: Personally I think that a profession of an actor is of great importance for preparing a good language teacher to young learners. An actor can imagine things easily and what is much more important, s/he can understand others. To me, actors are the people who still remember themselves as children or teenagers and who haven’t lost their ability to experience something new and to discover something extraordinary in their everyday life. That is what the child is doing. When a child is learning a language, s/he discovers a lot of new things and a good teacher can help him/her to understand many situations from inside by using their imagination, creativity and enthusiasm.

Thinking now:

  • surprisingly, still agree with the choice made. I think at the time of writing I was thinking in terms of the Method Acting, where an actor is preparing by ‘living through’ the life of the character, by learning to have his/her feelings, emotions, thoughts, deeds, etc. Constantin Stanislavskyi’s book, An Actor Prepares, is still one of my favorite [to my Russian-speaking readers: Работа актера над собой]
  • still believe in the importance of positive emotions while learning a language (or anything, really)
  • could add that seeing the world from another culture’s point of view (‘acting out’ another life perception) might be a helpful motivation for learning a language, and preparation to step into the ‘adult world’ of the 21st century
  • wondering what other jobs or roles can be added to the list: Mother? Doctor? Clown? Musician?
Maybe a teacher is like an artist? Or a waiter? Or...

Maybe a teacher is like an artist? Or a waiter? Or…

Question 2: In the light of the above, why do you think you are suited to language teaching to young learners? (about 50 words)

My answer from 2003: An actor is playing his/her part on the stage. I am a teacher, so neither ‘play’ my part literally, nor do I have any formal qualifications in acting. But when I am in class I play the part of a child myself. I don’t teach them but I play with them. I try to be one of them. I often feel as if I am able to explain anything by mime and gesture, or I can create the atmosphere of a fairy-tale for very small children. Actors work using their nervous system as a tool, and so do teachers. Actors adore their job, and so do I. We can’t imagine our life without it.

Thinking now:

  • even though it has been a while since I had Young Learner groups for extended period of time, I am still smiling and nodding in agreement when reading these lines. So true! Even now, when designing a sample lesson for teachers on a training course, and then asking them to pretend they are 7-year-olds, I ‘magically’ become the type of teacher who wrote that answer.
  • when checking acting qualifications and job requirements for this post, came across the following list  (looks familiar to us teachers/trainers — just put ‘lessons’ instead of ‘roles’)

good communication and listening skills;

punctuality and reliability;

the ability to interpret and analyse roles;

the capacity to work well in teams;

the ability to take instruction and criticism;

confidence to network and follow-up contacts;

self-discipline and stamina to cope with long hours and learning lines;

 resilience and determination.

 

What do you think? If you could compare a teacher’s job (the one you have now), what would it be? What were the most memorable application form questions you have answered?

Thank you for reading – promise to write something not on metaphors soon 🙂

P.S. Came across Teacher is a DJ post by Alexandra Chistyakova which looks at different roles teachers play – and loved it!