After 20 years of teaching English and training future teachers, I have realized that most books and material that we as teachers are using provide guidelines and sets of activities that can be used in a context that is generally not the one we in South America have on our countries. For example, in Chile we do not teach ESL, as a matter of fact our reality is English as a Foreign Language with no more than 4 hours of English class a week, 30 to 45 students per classroom and no other teacher in the classroom. So, why are we still using books and theories that only apply to ESL settings? How do we teach all four skills, provide meaningful instances of practice for our students, give in depth feedback while keeping our sanity and passion for teaching?
Well for me, the spiral curriculum, student-centered classes, thinking outside the box and stepping out of my comfort zone and laughing as much and as hard as I can in classes have given me the answer to the last question. You see, the spiral curriculum allows you to relax and take the pressure out of covering everything at once, while thinking outside the box keeps your creative juices flowing, so you are never stuck in a rut. You should embrace stepping out of your comfort zone because it allows you to try the things your creativity came up. Laughing with your students keeps you young and lower the levels of cortisol in your body. Also, it reminds your students that even though there are moments when life slaps us on our faces, teaching and being around them is still the best thing in the world.
So, I will give you the same advice I give novel teachers or teachers in training «embrace your creative side and do not be afraid to try and fail». Because that is what we ask our students to do, isn´t it? Try to speak/write in English. So what if fail! If you fail, you try again and again until you are happy with the outcome.
Tamara Cortés Seitz
Escuela de Educación en inglés
Universidad Católica Silva Henríquez