This post is a part of the #youngerteacherself challenge started by Joanna Malefaki. I found this a very interesting idea, and Joanna’s wonderful post, as well as other great posts (linked on her blog) inspired me to write my own letter of advice.
Hope you’re doing okay. You’re 21 now, and you’re studying English and Italian language and literature at the University of Belgrade. As you always have your head in the clouds, and you were dreaming about studying musicology (or even astronomy !?!) a few years ago, you should know that you actually made a very good decision to study languages. I know that your decision was influenced partly by your love of languages, but a lot more because of that awesome English language teacher at the Grammar School whose classes you enjoyed so much (his teaching style and his accent were really fascinating :). ) When you enrolled at the University, you decided to study Italian language and literature, too, which was a really crazy idea, studying two languages at the same time, not at all easy as you thought. However, you’ll be graduating in five years’ time, and although you’ll teach only English later, you won’t regret studying Italian at all, because you’ll hugely enjoy reading books, listening to music or watching films in a melodious Italian language. This is maybe the most carefree period of your life, so it is a very good idea to enjoy life as much as possible travelling round the world, and spending summers with your boyfriend on the magnificent Adriatic coast, in Dubrovnik, Korčula and Hvar.
Teaching English will be an amazing experience for you. You’ll enjoy being a teacher, because of your curiosity and passion for learning, reading and sharing knowledge. You’ll be very surprised if I tell you that you’re going to learn a lot of technical aviation terminology and spend a lot of time exploring various technical reference books and sites about satellite navigation systems, aircraft engines and instruments, air traffic control phraseology and such stuff you have never dreamt of having to think or teach about (as you’ve been always more into art, music, film,…). But you’ll find teaching English and ESP (aviation English) to teenagers very interesting/sometimes daunting, and it is going to be your job for more than15 years. Don’t hesitate to ask your colleagues, aeronautical engineers, for help regarding a very difficult aviation terminology. You’ll help them later with English and they’ll be very grateful to you. You’re going to do your MA in ESP – about language-related misunderstandings in pilot/controller communications, and you’re going to write books on aviation English, too (this will be a very challenging experience for you, and you will have a lot of fun working on a book using the computer and the Internet!)
During your twenty years’ experience of teaching English to pupils of secondary state schools you’ll attend a lot of interesting ELT seminars and conferences and meet some great teachers there. You’ll breathe in and breathe out english language teaching, and you’ll be so enthusiastic about experimenting and introducing new methods and trying out new ideas. There will be some great moments and also some big failures, but you should know that it is completely okay in learning/teaching, don’t worry because of that, and always try to do your best.
Considering your idealism and your zeal for improving things I’m sure you won’t be very glad with the Serbian educational system at the beginning of the 21st century. Many English language teachers will still use old-fashioned (teacher-centred) methods, and they’ll stick to course books spending most of the time preparing their students for tests… Try not to be so disappointed with no collaboration between teachers, no good observation practice, no reflection about learning/teaching….; all in all, you should cope with a very slow pace the things are moving forward in your country (if the things are moving forward here at all 🙂 ).
Here is some more random advice I’d like to give you:
- follow your instincts and your heart (they will never disappoint you)
- be honest and never give up the ideals and ideas you strongly believe in (don’t use some popular methods and some quick efficient ways, as you know that they are not good/useful for your students in the long run)
- don’t be so sensitive and don’t take to heart all that students say (teenagers can say something impulsively because they are in a bad mood that moment without any intention to hurt you)
- try to be more patient with your students and give them more time to think before saying something in English
- check students’ understanding in many different ways (not only by asking: do you understand me?)
- don’t let anyone take advantage of you (e.g. do not do translating/interpreting for school without being paid for it)
- if you’re disappointed with your job (not only because you are not well paid), change it and try to find a better one that makes you happy
- connect with other teachers on the Internet through social media: Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc. , create your PLN and enjoy learning and sharing ideas with the likeminded people
- don’t stop exploring things or being adventurous, and learn something new every day
- and finally, the best general advice I can give you is: “Live your life well. There is nothing else.”